A quick note that almost all of our library is on sale this week as part of Steam’s latest week-long deals, with discounts ranging from 51% to 86% off individual products. Starward Rogue isn’t included this time around due to its recent release, but the game will carry another minor discount in the coming weeks.
Category: A Valley Without Wind
Well hello! I’ll have more information on Stars Beyond Reach later in the week. But for the moment, I wanted to give a quick important announcement about our wiki. Previously it was invite-only, and mainly edited by staff. Consequently it was often out of date.
Now it’s open to anyone to edit, although you do still have to create an account (to hopefully keep spambots out). There are certain pages — mainly release notes — that are protected from editing by anyone except admins. Believe it or not, I didn’t know how to set any of that up previously, hence us never really having this open before.
Thanks to Dominus Arbitrationis for setting all this up, and getting things upgraded and kicked off at all. And teaching me a thing or two in the process, as well. You can PM him through the forums or contact him through the Special:EmailUser page on the wiki. He wanted me to emphasize that this is a work in progress at the moment, so some aspects of it are still being set up right now.
There’s also some sort of slowdown on the wiki itself performance-wise right now, which I think is probably database-related. I’m working with Rackspace on getting that figured out.
But if you’ve been wanting to update stats on AI War ships, or write a tutorial for TLF or AI War or whatever, or provide strategy advice on whatever game — now you’re more than welcome to! A good wiki is the lifeblood of a lot of other similar games, so I’m really glad that we finally have something properly set up here.
Wanted to drop a quick note that all of our releases are now available on the IndieGameStand storefront. To celebrate, we’re running a week-long promotion with the site carrying the following discounts:
- AI War Collection (2014) — 75% off
- Tidalis — 80% off
- A Valley Without Wind 1 & 2 Dual Pack — 80% off
- Shattered Haven — 85% off
- Skyward Collapse Complete Edition — 80% off
- Bionic Dues — 80% off
- The Last Federation — 50% off
Sale ends Tuesday, November 4th. Shattered Haven is also available as part of BundleStars’ Halloween-themed Carnage Bundle — offering 10 horror/zombie Steam games for $2.99.
This one brings official linux support to the game for the first time, as well as a 64bit build for OSX. There is also one minor bugfix in there, too.
License Keys No More
Another nice thing about this version is that the license key that was previously required is now optional instead. If you have the game on Steam, or you get the new tri-OS package from our store, it won’t ask you for the CD key at all. Steam won’t even give you a key, and our store gives you a Steam key now. If you buy it from us or any other source, then you can use that CD key to register your game on Steam. They can, of course, still be used to unlock the demo versions of the game into the full version, as well. You just don’t HAVE to do that anymore.
As with Shattered Haven, Skyward Collapse, and Tidalis, we’re running a 75% off sale on our site in celebration of the linux launch. This will last until the 30th for all of these games!
This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. When you launch the game, you’ll see the notice of the update having been found if you’re connected to the Internet at the time. If you don’t have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.
Last June I wrote a postmortem of AI War, which also wound up being a form of history of Arcen as a whole. But now a whole year has passed, and we’ve released Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura, Bionic Dues, and The Last Federation in that time. We also have a lot more data on Skyward Collapse, Shattered Haven, and A Valley Without Wind 2.
Rock Paper Shotgun picked up that postmortem in their Sunday Papers yesterday (they may have previously, too, but neither they nor I remember for sure or can be bothered to go back and check, so anyhow). One of the readers who popped over to check out the postmortem, Alban, had a great followup question:
Just coming here late following RPS’ Sunday Papers. As this post mortem is one year old there’s no data for Bionic Dues.
How does it fare? Will you apply the same kind of long term free/paid support as AI War ?
I’m going to get to his question, but first some background. And in general an updated view of the company.
Creating any sort of game or other creative work is a bit of a funny thing, because there is a certain amount of luck involved. There are a lot of examples from the past of great games that inexplicably didn’t sell well. I want to say System Shock 2, but I can’t recall if that is correct. There were some others along those lines.
And then there are some that are clearly the recipient of good luck, going above (sometimes even far above) what you would expect them to. Not that they aren’t good games, but that they simply were the recipient of good luck in the same way that the other games were the recipient of bad luck. Angry Birds and Minecraft are two examples of games that are great, but that also were lucky. AI War I also feel like was lucky, in that same sense. I feel like Skyward Collapse was, too, frankly.
I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, but here’s how I would rate our games and expansions in terms of their luck (among other factors):
- AI War (base game): Very lucky, and also the right game at the right time for the market.
- AI War expansions: Not particularly lucky, as they don’t get press coverage much. However, they are steady earners because they build on something else that was already successful. (There is some further clarification about what I mean on this in the forums).
- Tidalis: Moderately unlucky, but also just really the wrong mix of casual visuals with hardcore depth. This game had tons of chances to do well, with excellent reviews and lots of coverage, so really I think a lot of this is down to our blowing it more than luck.
- A Valley Without Wind: Quite lucky in the main, but not as successful as we needed because we spent too much making it. And misread the signs after it had been out for a while.
- A Valley Without Wind 2: It’s hard to really gauge the luck here, as I handled the game in general so phenomenally stupidly. We gave it away to all the customers of Valley 1 because of a promise I had made about a free art upgrade to the first game (which later turned into the sequel), and while I am glad I kept my word I am quite sorry I made that promise in the first place. It’s hard to know how this game would have done, since we gutted our potential market by literally giving it away to most of them. That said, the reviews were in the main pretty decent (certainly above Valley 1), but at the same time there was not all that much other coverage (compared to Valley 1), so I would classify its luck factor as middling in general.
- Shattered Haven: This game has seen only niche success, mainly I think due to the graphics (which I am really frustrated how those graphics turned out, the criticism there is deserved), and with how slowly the game “gets to the good stuff” (which we later adjusted in post-release patches to get you to Stantonsburg quicker, but a lot of people gave up prior to that). This game is one I’m quite proud of, but in general it just doesn’t connect with most of the market (though some people really love it), and I don’t think luck really has anything to do with it.
- Skyward Collapse: This was just a fun little project, and a really quirky idea in a small package. That this got as much coverage as it did, and sold as well as it did, definitely smells like a lot of luck to me. I think that the game is fun and good, don’t get me wrong, but I think there was also a confluence of events that helped make this get more notice than on average a game like this would.
- Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura: Blah, this was extremely unlucky. We thought that if we followed the AI War model of just putting out expansions to something that was already successful, then people would show up for that. Turns out that was not so much the case — or part of it, really, was just how insanely inexpensive this title is, which makes it very hard to break even on it. More on this later, but I think there was some lack of luck here as well as some substantial stupidity on my part.
- Bionic Dues: Boy this project was just a model of perfection internally. We just did everything right, I feel like, and were firing on all pistons across the board. We were SO fast, however, that we didn’t have time to really do any advance marketing, which was… a problem. But there was also just a distinct lack of luck with this one. I’d classify it as extremely unlucky, to be honest. Some things were in our hands, but others were just out of our hands.
- The Last Federation: This project was a longer and larger one than I had intended, and the combat model in particular was something we struggled to get right, burning up a lot of development time on that. We ran ourselves down to our last dime (and then some, literally), making this game, and had to shrink from a fulltime staff of 7 to a staff of 4. Which is frankly more inline with our income, anyway, but not something I wanted to happen. Then the game came out and was just a phenomenal hit for us, far and away above anything we’ve ever done. I think we made a really great and fun game here, but at the same time, as with AI War I recognize that there were some distinct places where we also got really, really lucky. It’s kind of the inverse of the Bionic Dues situation, where some things were just out of our hands, but went very very much in our favor.
What sorts of things do I mean by “luck?” Well, we try to pick release dates that make sense for purposes of the wider market, but there is a lot of luck in that, anyway. Bionic Dues got squashed by other releases on launch and disappeared from view before people could really evaluate it well. The Last Federation dominated the Steam front page for days, which was partly based on the high clickthrough rates to it but also based on just being at the right place at the right time.
In terms of getting the attention of people in forums, of reviewers, of press in general, etc, there’s also a luck factor. Skill in PR/marketing, too, but also luck. Some games we put out are loved by major reviewers or youtubers, and they tell us this privately, but then they never wind up having time to actually do a review or video, because of other titles that are more pressing in terms of their audience and what will make them money on views, etc. Then by the time they do have time for a theoretical review, the game is old news. That happened to Bionic Dues in multiple instances. But for TLF, we had the opposite luck, where a lot of big names just jumped on it immediately and wrote or did a video about it immediately, rather than having a delay.
You could argue that that is partly due to the degree to which they connected with one game versus the other, and that is surely partly true, but I think that anyone who denies the role of luck in books, movies, games, and basically all creative things is kidding themselves. You can’t get lucky if you aren’t prepared and actually having something worth talking about, but it is possible to do everything right and still fail. There are indies all over the place where that is the case. The most notable recent example of that, to me, is Source by Fenix Fire. That game got a ton of press attention, looks gorgeous, seemed to do everything right on Kickstarter, had a hilariously modest goal for a game like that ($50k), and yet still failed to get funded. WTF? That’s just bad luck, and something those devs need to realize and not feel too bad about.
Please don’t misunderstand and think that I think luck is the only factor that matters, though. There’s a lengthy followup discussion in the forums where longtimer ptarth raises a number of really interesting points and question (about both the role of luck and other things), if this topic interests you further.
Okay, back to the actual question.
AI War is now somewhere north of $1.3 million, I’m not sure exactly where. We’re at over 5 years of the game being out now, and our 6th expansion is in the works for release this August. There’s not a lot to really say here, this just continues to be a strong game for us. It’s fallen a lot in terms of how big a portion of our yearly income it is, but that’s mainly because of the rise of other games for us, rather than a fall of AI War itself.
Bionic Dues – Not So Hot
Bionic Dues, as noted above, was a recipient of bad luck. It hasn’t sold abysmally, it’s not like Shattered Haven or Tidalis, but it just hasn’t really been “discovered” yet, in a lot of senses. Overall it’s had a really solid reception, and certainly some major press. We bungled some things with Bionic in terms of advance press, but a big part of that was the fact that we weren’t really ready to show anything until the last second because the development cycle on Bionic Dues was so short. Our “luckier” titles had longer development cycles with more teasing of stuff prior to them.
Bionic is at a semi-respectable $95k(ish). It’s not something we’ve broken even on yet, although I have to go back and calculate exactly how much we spent making that one. We will break even on it eventually, but it’s much slower than expected.
We were planning on doing an expansion for Bionic, but unfortunately the support just isn’t there to make that viable. We had already done some features that we were going to include in an expansion for Bionic, and with the decision not to go ahead with an expansion we just rolled those out as new free features to the base game a week or so ago. There aren’t going to be many updates to Bionic aside from bugfixes; it’s a complete, self-contained game at this point.
That’s actually true for all of our titles now except for AI War and The Last Federation. Though we are going back and adding Linux support to everything that didn’t already have it (even Tidalis, after all!).
Our latest title, The Last Federation, just passed $500k in 10 weeks, so it’s our new most-amazing success. AI War has still earned more than twice as much, but it did it over 5 years rather than 10 weeks, and with 5 expansions as opposed to zero.
As noted above our 6th expansion is in the works for AI War, nevertheless — we’re not abandoning that game just because we have something newer and more successful. And naturally an expansion for TLF as well. TLF continues to go great guns, and is basically single-handedly funding our work on our next title, Spectral Empire, a 4x which will come out next April.
To say that we are amazed and grateful for the reception that The Last Federation has had would be a huge understatement. To put things in perspective, if you take an average of how the entire rest of our catalog has sold over 2014 so far, and then compare 10 weeks of that average to the first 10 weeks that TLF was out, TLF outsells everything else in our catalog combined by 7:1. TLF was expensive to make, but it broke even somewhere around 7 weeks after coming out. Skyward Collapse broken even much faster than TLF, but it also cost something like 1/8th as much to make.
Well, this is our worst-selling title ever, even “topping” Tidalis, which I had not expected to ever manage to do. We have a lot of disparate income from various bundles and whatnot now, so it’s harder and harder to collate exactly how much specific games are making unless we keep careful track of it. With TLF, you bet we were watching that with fascination (and it hasn’t been in any bundles, anyway). For Shattered Haven, we’ve not been watching the numbers super closely. I would hazard a guess that the total gross is around $30k total, based on the concrete numbers that I am looking at at then going from memory on the smaller gaps.
The Silver Lining On Shattered Haven (And Similar Games That Don’t Fare Well)
That said, I’m really gratified to see that some people do connect with it as much as I do, and come into the forums and say how much they love it. Here’s an awesome thing: every single game that we have ever made is somebody’s favorite game that we’ve ever made. In other words, even our “worst game” is one that somebody (that I’ve never met) feels is our best game. In some cases, we get people saying that our “worst game” is actually their favorite game ever in a genre — or even out of all games in general! That’s a huge honor, and always takes me by surprise.
Cynics will go “there’s no accounting for taste,” and sure, that’s true in a literal sense. I think all of us like certain things that are not popular, and it’s not because we’re hipsters. Shattered Haven’s gameplay was very inspired by both Zelda 1 and Lode Runner: The Legend returns, and I think that people who like the latter in particular (or games like that) are likely to respond well to Shattered. Story-wise, some people think that it’s not really a good story (and some say the same about Tidalis). But for those who connect with the emotion in Shattered, or the humor in Tidalis, it’s really quite wonderful. It comes down to taste.
I mention this because this is also true of lots of other games around the Internet. I see it in the forums of other indie developers all the time. They make something that the market hates, that the critics spurn, and that is a financial ruin for them. Yet there are strangers telling them how much they love that title. It’s an odd thing to experience.
In some ways, I guess I kind of feel fortunate to have both this experience and the experience of having something much more widely popular and accepted. Being able to recognize the nature of personal taste, and the role of luck as well, kind of helps take the sting off of my failures. Or at least helps me put them in some kind of context, if that makes sense. Very few people love every game we’ve ever made, and plenty of people don’t like ANY game we’ve ever made, but somebody loves every game we’ve made, and some games are loved by a LOT of people, and that has to be good enough for me; that’s the best anyone can really expect, I think, in all honesty. Think about it; even for someone like Stephen King, who is like the Notch of novels.
The gross total last year on Steam for the package that includes both this and Valley 1 was a mere $109k. That’s… pretty pathetic, honestly. Given the huge expense of making this game, the Valley 1 and 2 package has been pushed so far into the red that they are never going to climb out of the hole.
People always complained about the graphics in Valley 1, but then once we did Valley 2 (which is vastly prettier, I think), people started complaining about how they preferred the character animations in Valley 1. Go figure.
Valley 1 also is excessively more popular in terms of playtime. It gets played more than Valley 2 by about a 5:1 ratio. Valley 2 is the one that I actually prefer out of the two of them, although both are really fun. But it was a complete genre shift from being a Metroidvania to being a Contra-like. And the crafting and mild citybuilding from Valley 1 was instead replaced by procedural bonuses, character classes, and a semi-intimidating strategic layer in Valley 2.
A lot of fans of the first game didn’t respond all that well to the shift, because they basically wanted more of the first game, but prettier. Which I can understand. Valley 2 probably would have been better received as a completely standalone separate game with no connection to the first. Though critics did like Valley 2 better.
For myself, behind AI War, I think the game I have put the most time into playing recreationally from our library of games is a tossup between Shattered Haven (with my wife) and Valley 2 (with my 4 year old son). Go figure! This is kind of what I mean about there being no accounting for tastes. Sometimes my taste is really odd to the point the market goes “what?” and that’s something I’m having to learn to live with (and to try to avoid, where possible, as it really risks the company).
Skyward Collapse and the Nihon no Mura Expansion – Ehhh…
At the time this came out, it did phenomenally well. Its first month was not our highest-grossing launch, but it was our most units moved by a large margin. It broken even in 3 days, and was 6% of our historical revenue within a month. That’s more or less where we left things at the last postmortem, a year ago. Well, what’s happened since then?
Sales tapered off pretty fast, actually. The expansion came out to a resounding lack of interest from all except the core players, and gaming moved on. This seems to be what happens to most games — that’s why the initial launch is so important — but for Arcen the long tail has always been where the meat of our income comes from, so this was a surprise to me.
With the expansion, we deliberately released that in August just to see what would happen. That’s a real dead period in gaming, and we figured we could pick up some extra press due to that, and that we’d make up the initial shortfall in sales via long-term sales in discount promos and whatnot. It was a reasonable plan, although a speculative one, and we knew the risks when we tried it. It didn’t pay off.
Actually, by putting so much work into Skyward 2.0 and the expansion, we managed to UN break even on the game that broke even in 3 days. Facepalm. But, by the end of 2013 we had re-broken even on the combination of the two, although the role of the expansion in that was questionable at best.
Looking At Company-Wide Numbers – Strength In Numbers, Actually
Still, despite the above, overall Skyward Collapse did respectably for last year. The base game generated about $125k gross in that year on Steam, out of about $510k total for all our products on Steam last year, so Skyward was 24% of our Steam income last year. That’s no slouch at all! And frankly, Valley 1 + 2 were 21% of our Steam revenue from last year. By the end of last year we had 7 full games released, plus 1 expansion for Skyward and 5 expansions for AI War. That’s a lot of back catalog, and it’s not the sort of back catalog that starts to look stale after a few years like the latest 3D games do. Our graphics start out retro and stay retro, and I think that’s part of the long tail that we experience. And a number of other 2D or retro-styled games by other developers, frankly.
Anyway, aside from a dip in 2012 (I think it was the Q4 economy there, which hurt everyone), Arcen has always had at least around a 10% growth in year over year income. Our big problem was always having expenses that grew at that rate or higher, thanks to my bringing on more and more staff. So despite the constant growth, there was also a constant struggle. Anyway, last year Arcen grossed over $700k in all, and no one product was more than 40% responsible for those numbers. That’s a big win for us, given how dominant AI War has been in our history.
Our strategy in 2013 was kind of the opposite of what we did in 2011 and 2012, where we focused on just one or two really giant games. Instead we focused on a larger number of smaller titles, the two chief amongst those being Skyward and Bionic. That strategy paid off in some respects, but by the same token it doesn’t create titles with the longevity of AI War or The Last Federation. So 2014 has seen us swing back the other way, working on larger titles again, but with more of an emphasis of keeping steady pacing without runaway expenses.
Overall, Arcen has now grossed somewhere around $2.7 million dollars. $500k of that came from The Last Federation in the last couple of months. About $1.3m of that came from AI War over a span of 5 years. That leaves $1.8m divided amongst all the rest of our products combined (6 games). Valley 1 and 2 are the largest component of the rest of that, with about $500k in gross income between the two of them (since April 2011). Skyward and its expansion and complete version account for about $180k. Tidalis, something like $110k. Bionic Dues, $95k or so, and Shattered Haven at something like $30k.
So, we’ve been all over the map, in terms of financial success. I’m okay with that, so long as we stay solvent and free, though. I look at Maxis games from way back in the early and mid 90s, and I really admire what they did. They had some really hit games (SimCity, sort of SimTower), but then they also had a sizeable number of ones that never really took off. But someone loved all of their games, even the “flops,” and there was value and innovation in everything that they created. I’m okay with a track record like that.
That said, our next title is a semi-traditional 4x, so we are playing it somewhat safe. Granted, it has our own twists and uniquenesses on it, but we’re not mashing up two unrelated genres like we so often have. In the end it just boils down to being able to make what we’re most interested in making at the time, and then doing the best job on it that we can. With a lower amount of expenses, and more money shelved away for security, we currently don’t have to run around with our hair on fire quite so much. I’ve been basically in crunch mode for 5 years, and it’s really nice to be able to actually take a more reasonable amount of time to do things.
Anyway. For the moment, things are looking very much up, and I’m feeling very fortunate for the situation that we’re in. I had hoped to stabilize as a fulltime staff of 8, but ultimately we wound up stabilizing at a fulltime staff of 4. That’s the one thing that really kills me, but it’s just more realistic for a company of our nature. All in all, despite the many bumpy things last year, we managed to have a really solid year, and despite a very scary start, this year has now exceeded last year in every way. Here’s to the future.
PS: In the forums, I was asked about what I think about Jeff Vogel’s recent posts about how the indie bubble is bursting, and what that means. Unfortunately, I agree with him on most of his points. If you’d like to read that discussion, it is here.
PPS: The forum discussion continues to be wide-ranging and detailed on a variety of subjects, some only tangentially related. It’s an interesting read if you like this sort of thing.
While we’re on the subject of wallpapers today, here’s another one for you — this is my favorite image that I did for Valley 1, by far. Enjoy!
A really great question from a recent post:
Hi Chris – Is the last federation pretty much the final product now? Unless I’ve missed something the last update was June 6th to 1.24 -25
Before that you were changing every two or three days. Thanks
I’ve posted a few notes about this in the Off Topic section of our forums, and I think some bits on the TLF forum as well, but not everybody sees every post, and I didn’t ever collect everything in one place. So here we go!
What’s Been Going On Lately?
The Last Federation is not the final product any more than AI War is, in the sense that those games are intended to evolve over years. Others like Skyward Collapse and Bionic Dues are the final product, but these two — AI War and TLF — are currently ones that we consider in active long-term development.
The lack of updates on TLF has been due to a number of factors lately.
Some have just been scheduling things with trying to make sure that our other projects don’t languish — for instance, there’s not enough art for TLF to be working on, so I have to get design stuff in place well enough for Blue to be working on art for Spectral Empire, even though I’m not going to be doing heavy design there for a little while, and Keith won’t be starting coding there until early July. Since right now I’m the sole programmer on TLF, that means that sometimes I have to set that aside to help manage things with the other projects, since I’m also the designer and producer on all of them.
Another issue was some personal stuff that came up and impacted me for a week and a half or so there in a major way, so that set me back in general.
Another factor has been the website redesign, as well as the (still in progress) work on redoing our site store. That takes an amazing amount of time, but it’s been something we’ve sorely needed for a couple of years now. Now was finally a time where I felt like I had enough breathing room to do it (there’s always other stuff to be done with games, but if I never set aside time to work on these other side things then they simply never get done — I’ve been really wanting to do this site redesign since something like 2012, because Joomla really wasn’t working out for us).
Another factor is that I’ve been trying to work on better steamworks integration for our games, particularly for linux. TLF’s steam achievements don’t work on linux, and I also want to get steam cloud support on our steam games in general. Once I get that working, then I want to get Valley 1 and 2, Skyward Collapse, and Shattered Haven all ported to linux. Tidalis will remain PC and Mac only, and AI War’s linux port will come after 8.0 comes out in August. So that one will be more delayed.
Yet another factor is that I’m trying to plan an easier way to install expansion packs for our games, without requiring an actual installer. “Just unzip into your main game folder” works for windows machines, but on OSX and possibly linux there is not a merge-folders-when-unzipping natural behavior. Instead it just blows away entire folders, which is, ah, a big problem. It’s not remotely insurmountable, though, as our normal in-game updater already solves that. So I just want to make a form of expansion-unpacker that more or less does the same thing. This will be important for our non-steam non-windows customers coming up when with the TLF expansion, as well as with our other games that have existing expansions when we do updated packages for them that include other OSes, etc.
And lastly, when it comes to the actual updates to TLF itself, the time that I do have for that has been temporarily spent on the expansion. Some of that actually has gone to other changes to the base game, but there are substantial changes to underlying systems there, and so I want to make sure and get all of that in at once, and then do those as a beta update rather than an official update so that we can have a set runthrough of testing all at once rather than having to go back and forth between beta and official updates a lot, or stay in beta versions for a long time.
What Will The TLF Update Schedule Be Like In The Future?
As with AI War, that’s really going to vary depending on the time period. There were some periods in the history of AI War where we went 6+ months without an update because it was in good shape and we were working on other things. Then we came back into periods with updates every 2-3 days for a month or two. And then many other extended periods with a release every 1-1.5 weeks or so. That’s the current expectation for TLF from our end, given the level of interest the game has had.
When the TLF expansion comes out into its beta form, which should be within 2 weeks (I said that before, I know, but some other stuff came up as you note above — apologies, that usually does not happen), then expect a flurry of updates every 2-3 days again for a while. Focusing both on tweaking and balancing the expansion content, as well as making generalized improvements to the base game. When the expansion launches officially, most likely in August, then the base game will be considered 2.0 alongside the new expansion’s release version.
After that… right now it’s too early to say, but I’m expecting that we’ll likely be in a period of releases every 1-1.5 weeks for a while, as we’ll be working on Spectral Empire in the main. Assuming interest remains high in TLF, then at some point we’ll work on a second expansion for TLF, and during a month or so period there we’d see heavy development again with tons of updates to both the base game and then of course work on the expansion. If you look back at the history of AI War updates, you can see that’s more or less how it works out.
Completely as an aside, we tried the approach of not doing expansions and just doing tons of free updates to the base game with Valley 1. Valley 1 sold very well at the start, but partly because of our persistent post-release work without any sort of paid additions, we’re still very much in the negative for having made that game (aka, it cost us a hundred-ish thousand dollars more to make than we have made selling it). With AI War, we’ve been able to balance things out more, having it be very profitable on an ongoing basis (5 years now!) partly thanks to the expansions, while at the same time using that to help fund updates to the base game, free for everyone, all through that time. And frankly that covered the losses we took on other titles that were not financial successes — it let us have a bit more freedom to experiment. Some of which led to great results, and some of which led to results that the market at least deemed not as great.
Anyway, so that’s our update model and the reasoning behind it, which is all super familiar to long-time followers of AI War. Any questions, always feel free to ask!
Steam’s annual summer sale is upon us, and Arcen is once again participating with significant discounts on our entire library of games. These discounts will run the duration of the sale, ending the morning of June 30th:
The holidays are coming up fast, and so ’tis the season to start thinking about gifts for friends and family. Arcen’s catalog of games has really swelled this year, and you may have missed some of our titles. Or you may be new to Arcen, and may have overlooked our excellent older titles. Here’s a quick guide to finding out more about what we’ve got to offer:
A fast-paced, tactical rogue-lite that critics and players are calling Arcen’s best title since our original hit AI War: Fleet Command.
“What’s wonderful about Bionic Dues is that it manages to combine meta-strategy and micro-strategy… It’s like a fast-paced, mini-XCOM.”
Andrew Groen, The Penny Arcade Report
“Top game moment: Realising a momentary oversight has condemned you to almost certain doom, but then, with only a perfect set of well-thought long-contemplated moves, you pull everything out the bag, blow the rig, and get the hell out of dodge to receive a hard-earned mission successful.”
8.5/10 – Richard Nolan, Strategy Informer
“Bionic Dues delivers tough decisions, sweeping tactics and enormous mech battles; packing massive replayability and unpredictability into its budget price point. A ‘Rogue-lite’ to remember and to savour through numerous scorched-earth defeats and hard-won victories.”
8/10, Editor’s Choice – Jonathan Lester, Dealspwn
A truly unique blend of grand strategy with traditional RTS mechanics, pitting you against one of the most notable AIs in strategy gaming in a tense, fun, David vs Goliath scenario. Five massive expansions and counting over the last four years!
AI War breaks most of the genre’s rules. Which is precisely why it’s incredible… This out-of-the-blue one-man passion project is one of this year’s finest strategy games.
– Alec Meer, PC Gamer UK, November 2009
I think I’ve stumbled across this year’s Really New Thing. There’s a lot of 2009 to go, but I’ll be surprised if anyone else twists the RTS formula this dramatically and this effectively. And I’m hoping it’ll be the Next Big Thing, because it’s big, different, entirely unprecedented and an exciting way to play an RTS.
– Rush, Boom, Turtle: And Now for Something Completely Different, by Tom Chick (Crispy Gamer)
Having played this title at two distinct points in its life cycle what really stands out is the incredible dedication of Arcen Games in keeping one top of how the game evolves and expands. Even though a great many features have been added and tweaked and refined, it was possible for me to drop back into AI War after more than a year away and not find it to be a confusing mish-mash of feature overload. The post-release support is, quite honestly, the best I’ve seen for any game.
– Peter Parrish, IncGamers, Reviewing Light of the Spire
A completely unique subverting of the “god game” genre, this game turns the normal expectation of being able to control everything on its head. Instead you manage unruly subjects indirectly in this turn-based hilarity-generator. Also spawned a great expansion pack, Nihon no Mura!
– “It brings real innovation to a genre that’s seen little significant deviation from 1989’s Populous.”
9/10 – Rob Savillo , GamesBeat
“I can never play Skyward Collapse again. I work from home. Frankly, having it – and the accompanying temptation – within arm’s reach would be detrimental to my productivity.”
Richard Mitchell, Joystiq
A Valley Without Wind (On our site / On Steam)
A sprawling, infinite, procedurally generated 2D sidescroller. Loosely a “Metroidvania” title mixed with some citybuilding (think Actraiser) and SHMUP elements. Thanks to our loyal fans, we also include A Valley Without Wind 2 for free when you purchase it!
Every thought of “I’ll just give it five more minutes” turned into, “Wait, where did that last hour go?”
– Kate Cox, Kotaku
The thing that struck me first about A Valley Without Wind is that it is absolutely vast. This is a game that you can sink hours and hours into, and still feel as though you’ve only started.
– Amy Nelson, Brutal Gamer
But really, at the heart of what A Valley Without Wind is about, at least for me, is exploration and it does it phenomenally.
– Geoff Gibson, DIYGamer
A complete reinvention of the Valley franchise, set in a different part of the same world. Gameplay alternates between two complementary modes: brief, tightly-designed platforming segments with character customization and Contra-like combat; and quick strategic turns on the world map where you order your troops to fight, scavenge, build, recruit, farm, and use special powers.
“Its unconventional and addictive blend of classic platforming action and basic strategy segments makes every accomplishment more meaningful and every failure more devastating, and the very real possibility that you will fail to vanquish Demonaica raises the stakes enough to make everything more interesting still.”
“It’s a minor miracle that Arcen Games could revise Valley Without Wind 1 so completely without simply upgrading it, that they have instead made a completely separate game that plays so differently and creates a unique type of experience based on getting your ass kicked.”
A surprisingly deep block-based puzzle game that for once isn’t just another “match 3” title. Having more in common (vaguely speaking) with Panel de Pon and Tetris Attack, Tidalis includes a wealth of gameplay modes that can keep you engaged for dozens of hours.
“Tidalis is a match-3 game that doesn’t feel tired or repetitive: I actually want to play it, which says something considering how many puzzle games I’ve reviewed. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Tidalis is one of the best puzzle game I’ve ever played. Simply put, if you like puzzle games (and even if you usually don’t), you need to get Tidalis. Right now. Go!”
James Allen, Out of Eight PC Game Reviews (8/8 score)
“I can say with some authority that Tidalis stands apart… The bottom line is that Tidalis is a flexible, smart, refreshingly unique puzzle design, and it’s situated neatly into a large generous package. It’s far better than any mere puzzle game should be.”
Tom Chick, GameShark (GameShark Editor’s Choice Award, “A” Score)
“Overall, this is the most robust and interesting casual game I have seen in some time. There is so much to do and so many ways to play I don’t even know that casual actually suits it. Yes the gameplay is casual but this is a highly developed, well-rounded, offering from Arcen Games that puts many games of higher price to shame. It’s got numerous ways to play and very successfully takes an old genre, turns it on its head, and shows you just what can be done when you think outside of the box.”
Christophor Rick, Gamers Daily News (GDN Gold Award, 9/10 Score)
Shattered Haven (On our site / On Steam)
Our biggest undiscovered gem, this top-down 2D action-adventure title is a mixture of atmospheric horror storytelling an environmental puzzles. Features branching paths to multiple endings, a massive overworld split up into distinct thematic regions, and nearly a hundred hand-crafted levels with multiple difficulty levels and often multiple solutions.
“A different title from their previous games and may be Arcen’s strongest showing yet.”
There seem to be dozens of downloadable game discounts and promotions running this week, and it so happens that we are involved in a few:
AI War and Zenith Remnant featured in Bundle-in-a-Box — A bundle full of indie strategy games including AI War for a minimum of $1.99, with extras such as the game’s Zenith Remnant expansion. Portions of each purchase goes to charity and the Indie Dev Grant, which helps financially support devs who are attempting to finish their game.
Skyward Collapse featured in Indie Royale Sigma Bundle — This one offers Skyward Collapse and six other games (plus at least one yet to be revealed title, apparently) for a fluctuating minimum price. Currently right around $6.
A Valley Without Wind Dual Pack (1 & 2) Steam Sale — The Valley series is 75% off through the weekend on Steam, and note that purchasing either AVWW or AVWW2 will get you both titles. The four pack carries the same discount as well.
I think it goes without saying that we have the greatest fans in the world. Arcen Games has been around since 2009, and from the very beginning, we’ve had amazing fans that have continued to support us throughout the years. As a small token of our appreciation for the support you’ve given us, we’re releasing “Arcen Games Piano Collections, Vol. 1”.
Our Humble Bundle Weekly Sale, which kicked off last Thursday, has now surpassed 40,000 sales and $135,000 earned!
With three days* remaining in the sale (at time of writing), we’re still trying to get the word out to everyone who might be interested in owning our entire catalog for a Lincoln and change. So special thanks to all those helping with the retweeets, facebook posts, and other methods of spreading the news — it’s massively appreciated.
There’s been a nice outpouring of support from the press for the sale as well, along with some PAX previews on Bionic Dues and other new Arcen-related coverage to share:
The Game Design Round Table — Episode #39: Skyward Collapse, AI and Business. With Chris Park
Indie Game Magazine — Developer Chat: Chris Park On ‘Skyward Collapse’ Expansion ‘Nihon no Mura’
The Diecast Podcast Episode #26 (A Valley Without Wind discussed)
Bionic Dues/Humble Weekly Sale
Somnambulant Gamer — Bionic Dues: Mechs vs. the World
SquiiddishGaming — Pax Prime 2013- Bionic Dues Gameplay!
PC Gamer — See the first screenshots of Arcen’s next game: the roguelike-like Bionic Dues
Rock, Paper, Shotgun — Arcen Anounce Bionic Dues, Do Humble Bundle
PC Gamer — AI War, Skyward Collapse, and the rest of the Arcen catalogue are this week’s Humble sale
IndieGames.com — The humble bundling of Arcen Games
VG247 — AI War, Shattered Haven and more in latest Humble Weekly Sale
Examiner — Arcen Games in this weeks Humble Sale
EzPzJoystiq — A Valley Without Wind 1 Humble Bundle
Максим Соколов — Humble Bundle Presents A Valley Without Wind 2
Game Podunk — Review: Skyward Collapse (9/10)
Video Games Uncovered — Skyward Collapse Review (75/100)
Game Critics — Skyward Collapse Review
Blackman’n Robin — Skyward Collapse Review (3.5/5)
Nerd Maldito — Skyward Collapse: A game about war and free will (Portuguese)
War Gamer — Skyward Collapse Review (French)
Blue’s News — Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura Preorders
PC Games Network — Skyward Collapse expansion Nihon no Mura on its way
Rock, Paper, Shotgun — Skyward Collapse’s Nihon no Mura ExpansionPC Gamer — Skyward Collapse to get first expansion, Nihon no Mura
VG247 — Skyward Collapse Nihon no Mura expansion hits beta
IndieGames.com — The Japanese join the Norse and the Greeks on Skyward Collapse
Gamer’s Hell — Skyward Collapse Nihon no Mura Released and Trailer
Game 4 Me — Skyward Collapse expansion in beta and pre-order via website (Dutch)
Game Side Story — An extension for Skyward Collapse (French)
Pixel Perfect Gaming — Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura – Now Available for Pre-Ordering
Game Is War The Skyward Collapse Nihon no Mura Expansion Enters Beta (Spanish)
I Luv Games — Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura Expansion Beta Pre-order
JayPlaysIndieGames — Skyward Collapse Episode 4 The World Tree Returns
ZinthoGaming — AI War: Building up the Home World
Various Ren — AI War – Part 2: Swaphilia, the Love of Swapping my Bullets for their Systems
Infognito — A Valley Without Wind 11 Co-op with Denox (Russian)
Kikiokyo — Tidalis Adventure
My Play — Tidalis Review (Italian) (8/10)
*Sale ends Thursday, September 12th at 11 AM Pacific.
Six spellbinding games and an abundance of DLC. The Humble Weekly Sale features a new deal every Thursday. Be sure to jump on this amazing offer before it’s gone! This week, pay what you want for AI War: Fleet Command and 5 DLC packs, A Valley Without Wind, A Valley Without Wind 2, Tidalis, and soundtracks. If you pay more than $5.80, you’ll also receive Skyward Collapse, the DLC Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura, and Shattered Haven!
Redeem on Steam. Your purchase will get you six outstanding games DRM-free and on Steam for Windows and Mac. Full system requirements for the games can be found here.
Name your price. Pay anything you want to receive four amazing games plus five DLC packs for AI War: Fleet Command. Pay $1 or more to receive Steam keys. Pay more than $5.80 and we’ll also throw in Skyward Collapse, the DLC Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura, and Shattered Haven!
Support vital charities. Choose how your purchase is divided: between Arcen Games, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or the Child’s Play Charity. And, if you like this weekly sale, a tip to Humble Bundle would be greatly appreciated!
The Steam Summer Sale is live! Our discounts:
Skyward Collapse – 33% Off
AI War: Vengeance of the Machine – 40% Off
AI War Collection and All Other AI War Products – 75% Off
A Valley Without Wind Dual Pack (Includes 1&2) – 75% Off
Shattered Haven – 80% Off
Tidalis – 80% Off
I’d say more, but I must be off to offer up my wallet as a sacrifice to the Steam gods for what appears to be another bountiful harvest this year.
Press2Reset: Skyward Collapse Review (8/10)
Just a quick reminder that both the AI-war featured IndieFort Spring Bundle and the major Steam discounts on our full library of titles are available for just a few more hours, so act quick if you haven’t already!
Plenty of new coverage to share as well, including some in-depth interviews Chris took part in last week:
Co-Optimus: Indie-Ana Co-Op – Q and A with Arcen Games, Part 1 — Part 2
Sortiv: The next strategy game from “A.I. War” Developer Arcen Games: Skyward Collapse
IndieGames.com: Arcen announces two new games, 75% off library until tomorrow
OMGeek: Two Uniquely Thematic Titles From Arcen Games Coming This Year
BeefJack: Arcen Games Introduces Skyward Collapse
6AMING: Skyward Collapse Announced
TechnologyTell: Shattered Haven Review (4/5)
Invision Community: Arcen Games Catalog Steam Sale and IndieFort Spring Bundle
VG247: Shattered Haven, AI War, Tidalis and more on sale
Z-Giochi: Arcen Games Library Discounted for a Week (Italian)
Joystiq: IndieFort Spring Bundle on GamersGate; Arcen’s library 75% off on Steam
Steam Sale: Entire Arcen Catalog 75% Off
Steam’s put the whole lot on sale this time, and I mean everything. For the next week, you’ll find the entire Arcen library slashed down to very low prices. Sale ends April 22nd.
IndieFort Spring Bundle
Looking for something a little less Arcen-centric? AI War is in the latest deeply discounted GamersGate bundle, teamed with Sanctum, Zigfrak, Fortune Winds: Ancient Trader, and Underrail (currently in alpha). The offer is available now through April 21st, and will add bonus content as such as AI War and Sanctum DLC if specific sales milestones are reached.
Full Indie Summit
I’ll be spewing my nonsense at the Full Indie Summit in Vancouver, BC this Saturday (April 20th). More specifically, I’ll be giving a talk on indie game marketing plans. If you’re local to the area and are interested in checking it out, definitely stop by and make sure to say hello. The event goes from 10 AM – 4 PM, and admittance is dirt cheap ($10 Canadian) — plus I hear there’s a mixer or two going on afterwards. Should be good fun!
New Game Page Landings
I’ve set-up a host of new fan pages for Shattered Haven, Exodus of the Machine, and Skyward Collapse — for those interested in receiving game updates on sites like Twitter, Reddit, and others of the sort.
Exodus of the Machine
Press and Video Coverage
Plenty to share with the teasing of our two new titles, along with coverage still coming in hot from our recent releases as well.
PC Gamer: AI War developer announces Skyward Collapse, a turn-based 4X god game
Indie Retro News: Developers of AI War announce Skyward Collapse : turn-based 4x simulation god-game
PCGamersN: Skyward Collapse is a turn-based, 4x peacekeeping mission from AI Wars’ Arcen Games
VG247: Skyward Collapse is a turn-based 4X god-sim in the works at Arcen Games
RPS: Arcen’s Next Game Is Skyward Collapse
Strategy Core: A Godly Conundrum
Games.on.net: Arcen Games’ Skyward Collapse combines 4X, god sim and diplomacy
GamersBook: Another new title from Arcen Games
Gamer.no: Unique god game from AI War-makers (Norwegian)
Riot Pixels: AI War developer will release an unusual “simulator of God” (Russian)
Playground.ru: Arcen Games has announced turn-based god sim Skyward Collapse (Russian)
GameLand.ru: Skyward Collapse – another project from the developers of AI War and A Valley Without Wind (Russian)
Gry-Online: Skyward Collapse – creators of AI War announced (Polish)
Tyrant & Ogre: Arcen Games Announces New Game, Skyward Collapse
GamePlanet: A Valley Without Wind studio announces turn-based god game
TierraGamer: Exclusive Interview with Arcen Games – Creators of Haven Shattered (Spanish)
Gert Lush Gaming: Shattered Haven Review
Broken Analog: Shattered Haven Review (9/10)
Co-Optimus: Shattered Haven Co-Op Review (3.5/5)
Game Debate: Shattered Haven Review (7/10)
Edge Online: Shattered Haven review (6/10)
Z-Giochi: Shattered Haven Review (6/10) (Italian)
GameSpot: Shattered Haven Review (5/10)
Hooked Gamers: Shattered Haven Review (7/10)
IndieGameMag: Shattered Haven Review (65/100)
IndeeGames.cz: Shattered Haven Review (4/10) (Czech)
Game4Me: Shattered Haven PC Review (74/100) (Dutch)
IndieGameReviewer: Shattered Haven Review (2/5)
JustPressStart: Shattered Haven Review
Cross Platform Gamers: Shattered Haven Review
Technology Tell: Shattered Haven launches for Mac/PC
InsideMacGames: Enter A Shattered Haven at MGS
Northernlion: Let’s Look At: Shattered Haven! (Video)
AtherGames: This Can’t Be Real! – First Look at Shattered Haven (Video)
TekkorGJC: Shattered Haven – Quicklook (Video)
KingIsaacLinksr: King’s Shattered Haven (Video Series)
MrAmnesiaGameplay: Shattered Haven (Video)
Scheele Plays Shattered Haven (Video)
TheCometCE: Indie Spotlight – A Valley Without Wind (Video)
Psenci: Testing Testing – Episode 50 – Shattered Haven (Video) (Spanish)
NewGames357: Shattered Haven (Video) (Russian)
Gamasutra: Design Debate: Risky Rewards or Rewarding Risk?
Y3K Games: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review (Video)
Infognito: A Valley Without Wind (Video Series)
Weatherford Sons: A Valley Without Wind 2 – Let’s Play (Video)
Stry’s 1000 Game Steam Stream – [A] Valley Without Wind (Video)
ChthonicOne: Playing AI War with The Irritable Canadian (Video)
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