Category: Interviews

Space Game Junkie Podcast recording LIVE tonight at 8pm EST.

Chris here! It’s been a few months since I last did the podcast guest thing, and it’s nice to be getting back on that horse, so to speak. This is a favorite show of mine to guest on, and they’ve moved to a new format with live chat and streaming going on during it.

Here’s the details:

Chat Room –

YouTube Stream –

Twitch Stream –

If you miss the show, don’t worry, you can still watch it later on without issues. The main thing you’d be missing is the ability to put questions in through the chat room, assuming the moderators are going to be passing some of those along. I don’t know about you, but I can’t read the chat room while also speaking coherently, so I tend to put it out of my sight as much as possible and rely on the hosts to bring up anything that people want me to address.

Version 0.900

Work on that new version is coming along well, but it’s HUGE in terms of how much code is being changed and how much it adds for players to find, do, etc. I keep coming up with more things I want to address, too, and Puffin and Badger also keep coming up with really good points.

Because of those shifts, most likely we’ll do a 0.850 release first, sometime next week, and only in the beta branch on Steam. It will likely be buggy as heck, and it will definitely be suboptimal in a lot of ways where we’re not remotely finished with some new aspect of the GUI or whatever. There are some GUI subscreens that are needed for the full 0.900 experience that there just isn’t time to do before next week, but it would be good to be getting testing and feedback for other kinds of bugs in the meantime.

Hopefully then we can spend a few weeks finishing the 0.900 work list, polishing whatever is wrong with the beta versions just from the sheer number of code changes, and so on. Various thing that might interest you in the new version:

  • Squads are going away, as I know people weren’t fond of that.
  • Hopefully by 0.900, but not right away next week, we’ll have some replacement icons for ships.
  • There’s a bunch of new ship variants available right out of the gate.
  • There is a new concept of Fleets, which is… kind of Stellaris-like in a vague way as I understand it, but also just kind of its own new thing. It will lead to waaaay larger effective ship caps for you, way more varied battle groups and defensive groups, and in general also a lot less micromanagement.
  • You can read about some of the details here, but those details are at least somewhat out of date, now.
  • You can read the kind of stream-of-consciousness flow of what’s actually changing here, but bear in mind that so many things are half-done that certain things are out without their replacements being in place yet. So please refer to the first document to see what is in general planned, despite the fact that some plans have evolved a bit as implementation has been ongoing.
  • One TLDR problem that this new update addresses is basically I didn’t like how exploration felt in this game. The factions and whatnot are awesome, but the feeling of actual exploration was completely missing from me and it has nothing to do with the amount of content. Throw in more content and it would have just felt more cluttered. Instead it was a matter of how exploration plays out really being suboptimal. So scouting is one thing that is being completely redone, but that’s not the only aspect to exploration that needed work.
  • The other big TLDR problem that this new update addresses was that there were a lot of various things when it comes to managing your empire — in this sequel and the original — that either couldn’t be done very easily, or at all, because of the UI or general design. You had too much or too little control in various ways, a bunch of stuff that needed to be automated in the first game because it was a pain, and a bunch of interfaces that were painful or text-heavy because of the underlying design. There are actually a substantial number of further improvements in these areas that are being discussed by Puffin and Badger and I that aren’t in either of the documents above, but those will most likely come starting after 0.850 next week so that you can comment on those as we go.

This project has been a strange one, because for a goodly while I’ve really loved the tech that we’ve built for it, and I’ve loved the AIs and the factions and a bunch of that sort of thing, but the actual act of playing this game… hasn’t really done it for me. I remember having similar feelings about the original game around this same time of year in 2009, as I was pushing on towards a 1.0 in May of that year.

I’m not sure if 1.0 is still feasible for May of this year or not, but one way or the other this is going to take a titanic leap forward in terms of just letting us all get on with it and enjoy ourselves at the appropriate level of strategic thinking, versus being bogged down in minutiae or not having the tools we need to properly exert control over a giant galactic empire.

Did I mention that this will probably up your effective ship caps by like 10x? So for those folks who have been feeling like things felt too small here compared to the original game, I definitely heard and agree with you. The Fleets concept was something Eric proposed over a year ago, and it’s bringing in some code bits that Keith put together over two years ago but which have never seen much use since then.

All in all, it’s an exciting time, and my enthusiasm for the project has really skyrocketed with the realization that some of those “intractable” problems actually do have solutions that can be resolved — and in the short term, even! A lot of the most key bits are already halfway implemented.

Thanks, as always, for your support!



Whatever happened to that Chris Park guy?

Right – so I took a 90ish day sabbatical from work. What the heck was that all about? I said I’d update you guys on that (and be coming back to work properly) in January, so here we are. This was a really tough video to make, but overall I’m doing well these days.

There is a new release that also just came out today, so things are getting back into gear production-wise, which is good.  That release is the cumulative work of the volunteers over the last month, they’ve been amazing.  Coming up this next week I will be able to actually get cracking on some creative work of my own, for the first time in basically a quarter.

Thanks again for your patience with me during this, everybody.  It really has meant a lot.

Announcing “Stars Beyond Reach,” a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.


It is with great pleasure that I formally announce this next game.  Finally, Arcen is doing a true 4x!  People have been suggesting that we do this for years, and I’ve wanted to, but I wasn’t really ready yet.  Even so, bits and pieces of 4x infuse a lot of our games, particularly AI War and The Last Federation.

What Is This Game?

The short: 4x, hexes, hex-shaped map, 14 races planned (8 playable), 3 leader options per race, no units (think SimCity), sci-fi but planet based, and (probably) with co-op multiplayer.

The even-shorter: Think Civilization meets SimCity meets AI War meets New Stuff.

The above isn’t a full-scale screenshot (it’s 75% scale), and it’s just a tiny snippet of the screen.  But it does give you some idea of what we’re up to.

Recent Name Change

Until recently, this game was known as Spectral Empire, which was a name that I really came to dislike.  It wouldn’t have served the game well.  A huge thanks to Draco18s for suggesting The Stars Are Beyond Reach a month ago.  We shortened that a bit, and we’ve added the tagline “This World Is Mine” (that’s a tagline, not a subtitle).  But the core title is just awesome and really does the theme of the game proud.

The above is a thumbnail of it zoomed very far out to show a large part of a midsize world with a normal map style (continents and islands and poles and whatnot, and all the season zones).  The pale green buildings are ones that have been modeled but not yet painted.  Note that also the per-race alien flora isn’t yet spreading here, either.

More Details!

Back when this was still called Spectral Empire, I did a preview of the alien races that will be in the game, and all of that is still pretty well accurate.

Also a bit back, I did a brief tease of the Planet Voice as a video.  The second video has a better version of the voice.

More recently, people have been quizzing me on various aspects of the game, and naturally I can’t resist answering (cautiously at times, since a lot of things are still subject to change, but still).

Above is a view of where the north polar zone is butting up against the northern temperate.

Snippets From The Above-Linked Q&A (Dear Lord It’s A Lot, I Know)

A comment from myself: Hexes are by nature abstract.  I feel like the more people try to hide that abstractness, the less the hexes have a point in general.  My direction to the artists for our own upcoming hex game was “let’s not hide the hexes, let’s flaunt them.”  I feel like having tiles that are merging things like coastline plus ocean are inherently messy and confusing both visually and conceptually (as a player), and so I prefer to have something that is inherently a little more abstract, but proud of it.  Hexes can be done in a really gorgeous way, and personally I get excited just seeing them…

Q from relmz32: Regarding how the planet is mapped in SE, how do you guys handle wrapping? The reason why I ask is that cylendrical wrapping, while popular and pretty easy to implement, doesn’t actaully do a good job of representing an actual spherical planet.

Answer: Basically, we originally had both x and y wrapping, and it was something that worked well, except it was pretty confusing.  If you went north, you’d pass a pole, then temperate, then tropical, then temperate, then another pole, then temperate, then tropical… wait, was that the north pole or south pole?  Etc.

Plus you’d get kind of odd things where you were looking at the “top of the globe” so to speak, but it felt like an island of ice rather than the actual polar ice cap because it’s all being projected onto a flat plane.

Those things were… annoying, but realistically the player would not spend that much time zoomed out and panning like crazy to where that would be a frequent issue of confusion.  And adding the minimap would solve the issue of “where am I.”

Well… we added the minimap, and that just compounded the problems.  Being able to zoom out crazy far was limited heavily by the need to not have the same tiles repeating on both sides of the screen, and the inherent difficulties of doing that in an orthographic projection rather than a literal top-down view.  I’m not aware of any other hex games that are in an iso view, but as Keith will attest it complicates things enormously from a basic viewport math point of view.

Anyway, so the zoom was a problem, but the minimap was absolutely the end of things.  Because of the nature of how the hexes fit together, we couldn’t make a square or a rectangle out of the minimap without repeating tiles.  We’d always have a gap at the top and/or bottom because of the way the things project.  So… yeah, that was a problem.

Adding up all of the problems, the wrapping simply wasn’t a good mechanic.  It caused confusion and troubles at every level, so late last week we decided it had to go.  Instead we are now using a hex-shaped world, where the internal angles are 120 degrees (as opposed to the sharper 90 degree corners of a rectangular map), and it lets us handle things far more gracefully.  It’s an unusual shape to have the world be, for sure, but it works out surprisingly well.  And the game immediately felt way more intuitive and so forth.

My big concern, and why I’d wanted wrapping, was to avoid the ability to “hide in corners” or “be stuck in a corner.”  But having 120 degree internal angles instead of 90 degree ones really does solve that pretty neatly.  The corners really aren’t too much of a corner.  And with the way the game has evolved, trying to turtle isn’t really a relevant thing, anyway.

AND, incidentally, not having wrapping lets us have greater distances between points on the far ends of the map than wrapping would.  With wrapping, half a world away is as far as anything is.  Without wrapping, it can be a full world away.  So you get a greater feeling of space without the wrapping, which was a complete surprise to me.

We’re going to be doing a variety of map types, not all of which depict all the zones in the first place.  Some just tropical or just polar or whatever other slices we want.  So what you’re normally seeing is a slice of the vertical axis of the planet, theoretically.

Above is a view of where the northern temperate is hitting the tropics slightly, as well as showing some resource-rich rocky crystal ground native to the planet.

Q from DrFranknfurter: 1 building per hex is hinted by the first screenshot?

Answer: It’s not always one building per hex.  Or rather, one hex per building.  Each hex has at most one building on it, let’s put it that way.  But sometimes buildings have footprints that are 2 or more typically 3, and one has a footprint of 7.  Most buildings are 1 hex, though, to keep things manageable.

Q from DrFranknfurter: What sort of resources will there be to gather/find/fight over?

Answer: As with Civilization, there are kind of two levels of resources.  One is the more direct stuff that you manage at a high level.  Those are things like money, energy, morale, and so forth.  But then there are resources like oil and minerals.

Unlike Civilization, those oil/mineral type resources are not hard gates to things (you can’t have chariots if you don’t have horses), but rather are pathways to greater efficiency.  This is one of the key tenets of the design of this game for me: make it so that players have a limited number of steps to do something in kind of the basic way, but so that the optimal way is a matter of debate as well as being more involved.  Keeping the civ example, you would not be blocked in building chariots without a source of horses, but when you got horses that would be a “large supply of horses” not “any horses at all,” and having those horses would either make the chariots stronger, or produced faster, or some other effect.

There are also some other “resources” of a sort, mainly involving making the atmosphere more to your liking, or spreading the sort of terrain of your home world.  The terrain that you see here is all the “vanilla” terrain that is native to the planet itself.  Each race will have 3 different kinds of terrain unique to themselves, though, and there are various benefits to them to surrounding themselves with their kind of terrain.  The early game will look very different than the late game, terrain-wise.

Although, I take that back: the Neinzul and the Spire are both flying races, and so they don’t have terrain.  Their “buildings” are actually floating living beings.

Q from DrFranknfurter: 14 races is a lot… considering that how are you planning them to look different?
will they share building artwork (sane) or do they get there own (Good but expensive, 14x the work is a painfully large multiplier) Or will the buildings be coloured with your race colour (cheap but effective) or something else to differentiate them? (Like red spiky crystals/forests surrounding cities of different races)

Answer: Some of each thing.

There are 6 races that are not-ever-human-playable out of those 14.  Those are the Acutians, the Andors, the Thoraxians, the Spire, the Neinzul, and the Yali.  All of these races work entirely differently from all the human-playable races.  Each of these races has something like 5-6 unique buildings for themselves, and they use their entirely own economic mechanics, AI, and everything.  They aren’t playing the same game as you at all.

The other 8 races are all human playable, and they share possibly all of their buildings, maybe with one or two unique per race.  Not sure on that yet.  There are some buildings that will be AI-only though (aka only used by AI players for these races), and some that are player-only.  Remember that the story is that the players are new to the planet, while everyone else is established.  So there are some differences there, and yet more asymmetry.

All of the races that are not flying have their three unique terrain types, which will tend to spread out from their cities.  So that kind of informs you that you’re coming in to Burlust territory, when you start seeing their red angry sort of plants and lava pools, etc.  You’ll see all those sorts of terrains clumped up around the race, so you don’t have to remember the terrains individually.  But in terms of those terrain types, with things like the Andors it’s not even living terrain.  Instead it’s these kind of golden robotic forests and fields that are much more mechanical.  For the Burlusts, it’s very lava-like, etc.  And so on.  Each set of 3 terrains has a very distinct feel to it, very different from any other race.

Each race also has a specific two-tone border color associated with them, too.  You can see the one surrounding the territory of the buildings in that first screenshot up there.  We’ll see if more than that is needed, but at the moment I don’t feel like it will be in terms of identifying which race a city belongs to.

Speaking of races, there are a variety of languages spoken by them, and you have to learn them before you can speak with races that speak that language.  Overall there are 8 languages, and which race you start as determines which language you know from the start, versus which ones you have to learn.  Starting as one of the races from TLF gives you a bit of an advantage because they all speak Solar Common.  Except for the Thoraxians, which are an older group that never visited the solar system in TLF.  These Thoraxians still speak Proto-Thoraxian.  The other languages are Zenian, Spirian, Neinric, Yalven, Fain, and Kronish.

And again speaking of factions, there are three possible leaders for each faction.  Each of these leaders has different bonuses, but also a different personality.  Taking the Civ analogy, basically Gandhi would not always be the leader of India.  Sometimes he would, and he’d act like the nuke-happy guy that people are used to.  Other times you’d encounter India under other rulers.  Overall that gives you 42 different leaders in the game, 24 of which you can directly play as.  This helps us to have differentiated sub-factions, only one of which is present in any given game.  So the Burlusts act one way in Game A because they are under Leader 1, and a different way in game B because they are under Leader 3.  Etc.

Q from DrFranknfurter: Will you be trading things with the AI? (assuming you know their language). I can imagine not knowing the other players languages could slow down diplomacy (5 turns to unlock breathing, 5 more to unlock grunting, 5 more to unlock talking) and push you towards ignoring it entirely in favour of conquest. Especially if the other players are actively damaging your terrain through hostile terraforming. That said, it would be interesting to have the diplomacy text be more and more detailed/unambiguous as you understand their language better, much like the spire conversations do in AI War. But perhaps having a little bit of diplomacy available at all times would be enough to prevent that worry from becoming an issue. (firing a warning shot is a solid form of non-verbal communication, giving a gift shouldn’t require anything more than dumping valuable gems near their border etc.)

Answer: Conquest in a direct fashion is something that is abnormally difficult here, or that’s the plan.  There are some other mechanics that I haven’t really mentioned, such as Planet Mood, which gets to the freaky guy you heard in that teaser video.  The languages are literally transcoded text, so as you use linguists to unravel the languages you don’t know (if you care to), then you can better piece together what is being said.  At the moment my intent is to make it so that you can take a guess at diplomatic discussions by kind of mashing buttons in languages you can half read.  ;) And then see the results if you want to take that sort of gamble.  That may not work out in practice, but I have some interesting ideas there that I want to play with, anyway.

Regarding diplomacy, that’s something I’d rather not talk about just yet.  That sort of thing is always one of the most unsatisfying parts of most 4x games, and attempting a traditional route is likely to lead to the same sorts of bad feelings for me at least.  Keith has had some excellent ideas about “implicit diplomacy” where your interests align with other races based on circumstances, and it’s really compelling stuff that I feel certain will make it in.

But then there’s also another layer that I want to have in order to give a sense of life and personality to the races and their leaders.  It’s a risky sort of potential time-sink, and so I’m trying to figure out a way to handle that gracefully.  If you want to talk about multiplicative math, THERE’s the real challenge in terms of coding and particularly writing.  But in particular after reading the Civ:BE reviews, the need for really strong personalities makes itself abundantly clear to me.  And honestly, thinking back to my time with Civ V, even there the less recognizable leaders were a problem in terms of me not feeling any connection to them.  So I have my work cut out for me in that area.  It’s not directly on my plate yet, though, as a lot of that boils down to vertical content rather than horizontal mechanics.

Q from DrFranknfurter: I’m a little sad that the player doesn’t get his hands on giant spire floating cities… But as both the Spire and Neinzul weren’t the main races in AI War either (by dint of their awesome power) I’m not completely surprised.

Answer: The main reason for certain specific races being AI-only is the way that they work so differently.  As much as I’d like for the player to be able to play a completely different game from the base one in terms of having floating cities of unique buildings, that’s just incredibly beyond scope, heh.  But having AI factions do that is really fun.  And being able to ally with them and get them to help you is something I plan (the opposite too, of course — naturally).

In terms of expansions… who knows!  I haven’t remotely gotten my head to that sort of space yet, but there’s plenty of room for more beyond the base game.  In the sense that the world is a wide one, and the mechanics are broad — not in the sense that there’s something planned to be missing!

Q from DrFranknfurter: Will there be any orbital stuff? I’m assuming there’s a reason they’re all stuck on the planet together… perhaps a reason that interferes with satellites/spaceflight.

Answer: There is not likely to be any orbital stuff, but I’m not sure if I’m really ready to say why just yet.  I’m not sure yet at what point in the story that reason is going to be revealed.  Possibly right upfront, or possibly as a reveal further into the game, not sure.  One of the victory conditions will be escaping into space, at any rate.

Q from DrFranknfurter: Are the flying spire and neinzul the orbital equivalent – how high do they float? I’m assuming it’s just an artistic representation of their buildings… is there any mechanical differences from them floating? (can they move, build over oceans, float over your cities?)

Answer: These are basically antigrav “buildings” that are still in the atmosphere, but high.  They can’t be positioned over the territory of other races, or above mountains, but they can go over water.  The Yali are actually completely water-based, incidentally.  And the Thoraxians dig tunnels all over the place, under water and land.  Aside from looking for resources with sonar, you also have to watch out for tendrils of Thoraxian tunnels.

As to whether or not the Neinzul and Spire “floating buildings” can move or not, I’m not yet sure.  I’ve considered it, but I’m not yet fully convinced either way.  There are pros and cons, given the other game mechanics.  At any rate, there are lots of flying craft that can go over mountains and whatever else, including the floating buildings.

Q from DrFranknfurter: What is planet mood? Will the planet get annoyed with your growth/wars/terraforming? Interactions with the planet was a core feature of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (SMAC, the beloved 4x of yesteryear) In it certain buildings and policies harmed the planet – which could then attack you with mindworms- and certain victory conditions involved communicating with the planet. Will the player be dealing with the planet in a similar way? How much of a similarity is there?

Answer: I’m honestly not prepared to fully comment on this one yet, as my designs on this have yet to be integrated into the prototype and thus I don’t have a good sense of what might have to change.  I don’t want to say something on this that might turn out to be woefully incorrect, particularly given the high standard that SMAC sets.  All that said… yes, you will be interacting with the planet in several ways, and the planet responds back in kind.

The broad concept right now, without getting too specific: To some extent, it is like SMAC.  In other ways, this is actually like AI Progress from AI War — even reverse AI Progress, depending on how you play.  The mood can be a force that is helpful or harmful for you and other races as well, and unlike AI Progress isn’t something that just works against you.

Take the above with a big grain of salt, because things like interface clarity, fun and understandability, etc, may cause revisions.  I’m familiar with how SMAC did it, and I think that was great, but I’m interested in a more robust system.  The trick there is making it more robust without making it complicated for the sake of complexity, if that makes sense.  That’s why I’m reluctant to talk too much about specifics prior to actually having a prototype I’m happy with on that part.

Q from ElOhTeeBee: (Relating to Terraforming) YES.  About how much of this post do you at least want to try to make work?

Answer: No satellites, but there are some ground-based buildings you can use to adjust the temperature on the planet, as well as the atmospheric mix.

Temperature fluctuations cause deserts to expand and contract, same with ice/snow, and for sea levels to rise and fall.  You can flood out coastal buildings with rising seas if you drive up the temperature enough.

You can’t raise mountains, and there’s no concept of height in the game (unlike SMAC, and like Civ:BE).  I know that bothers some people, but representing that in a way that was attractive and clear was something we tried and failed to do.  And in the end, we’re able to get at the same sort of resultant gameplay without that.

You can clear forests and certain other kinds of terrain, but you can’t raise back up natural forests.  However, depending on your race you have one of three kinds of terrain that is unique to your race that you can seed.  So you can draw all the phallic obscenities you want. ;)

I’ve thought about having land expansion onto water, but I’m not sure yet.  I have a couple of models in which it could work, but I worry that it would trivialize certain aspects of the game.  At any rate, if you find yourself stuck on an island, you can expand your empire via docks, airstrips, and helipads with ease.

In terms of making yourself resistant to atmospheric poisons, that’s an interesting concept, and not one I’ve thought about.  Although, I guess I kind of implicitly have.  The atmosphere is by nature going to be hostile to at least some of the races, because the races have a mixture of partially-compatible or completely-incompatible requirements.  Those that are ill suited to the atmosphere don’t just die, but it will slow them down a lot because of their need for rebreathers and other things.  So you can push the atmosphere in ways that will help you (and implicitly some other races that have some similar needs), while pushing out other races.  I suppose that part of that would be to potentially have some expensive tech to increase your tolerance of specific atmospheric elements, although I don’t want that to get in the way of the primary push and pull too much.

Bear in mind that I haven’t had time to actually prototype any of the environmental stuff yet, except for the temperature changes and how that affects coasts/deserts/snow/ice.  And basic clearing of land, of course.  But the more sophisticated atmospheric manipulation, and the planting of your own native flora/terrain isn’t something I’ve gotten to yet.  I have plans, many of them quite detailed, but it’s a matter of making sure that they actually survive the prototype intact based on them turning out to, in fact, actually be fun.  SOME form of those things will survive, I’m certain, because that’s really a cornerstone of how you can compete with the races non-militarily in this game.

Having other ways to interact with the races other than just military blows and cheap diplomacy is something I’m definitely driving towards.  So many strategy games focus on the military above all else, and kind of let the other elements wither.  Heck, with AI War I made the conscious choice to do almost nothing BUT military — there’s nothing wrong with that approach.  Here I wanted to make the military no more attractive of an option than any of the other playstyles, but at the same time not making it so that the factions are isolated — they should be in constant competition even when not militarily engaged.  Even if you never actually fight anyone in an entire game, it should be a bitter “battle” the whole time on at least a couple of fronts.

Above is a bit of desert and desert mountains bordering one side of it.

Further Discussion

Here’s a link to the discussion on the official forums for this post.


Podcast: Curating Games and Open Ended Development

This week I went on the excellent Perceptive Podcast once again, which is always a pleasure.  This time we discussed a variety of things:

  • Open-ended development and how that differs from traditional linear game development.
  • Why I think the new Curator system on Steam is the bee’s knees, and why I hope other stores do similar things.
  • Some of the recent flap with Spacebase DF-9 and other similar titles, and my perspective on that both as a developer and a consumer.


Space Game Junkie: Interview With The Last Federation Details!

Podcast #38 over at Space Game Junkie has a lot of great information in there about The Last Federation, our next title.  There’s only so much information that I’ve said publicly about the game prior to this podcast, so if you’re following this game there’s a ton of good stuff in there for you.  We do discuss AI War and other things related to Arcen for the first 20ish minutes of the podcast (or maybe slightly more), but then we get down and detailed about TLF.

What is The Last Federation?  Check out our first sneak preview about it, or our preview discussing simulations in the game.


Valley 2: Reviews, Podcasts, and Let’s Play Videos

Valley 2 1.003 is out now, if you hadn’t heard. As we let the game breathe a bit, our focus shifts to Shattered Haven’s official launch later this month (March 18th, to be exact). Before that, however, we wanted to highlight all the coverage Valley 2 (and company) has seen in the past month — specifically the reviews, interviews, and let’s plays.

Thanks to all these folks for taking time to play the game, and/or chat with the team.

Chris joined the GameSpot GamePlay podcast for its 30th episode to discuss both Valley 2 and PS4 (among other topics)

Pablo, Josh, and I chatted with The Koalition, keeping it together for a solid 45 minutes!

Chris was also on Just Press Start’s podcast to discuss a variety of gaming topics.

Game Wisdom’s talk with Chris is centered on Valley 2 itself, including an in depth discussion on the design aspects.

Reviews and Previews
GameSpot: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review (8/10)
QuarterToThree: Valley Without Wind 2 transformed by the winds of change (4/5)
Twinfinite: [Review] A Valley Without Wind 2 – Video Game Bouillabaisse (4/5)
Co-Optimus: A Valley Without Wind 2 Co-Op Review (4/5)
Pixel Perfect Gaming: A Valley Without Wind 2 (Review) PC (4/5) PC Review A Valley Without wind 2 (4/5)
Invision Community: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review (4/5)
Game Wisdom: A Valley Without Wind 2: A Mighty Wind
Indie Game Reviewer: Review: A Valley Without Wind 2 (4/5)
Indie Statik: A Valley Without Wind 2: Humiliating Swiming Shorts For Justice
GamersLandingZone: Along Came An Indie: A Valley Without Wind 2
Z-Giochi: Review: A Valley Without Wind 2 (5.5/10, Italian)
KokuGamer: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review (9.5/10)
Calm Down Tom: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review PC (5/10)
Game4Me: PC Review: A Valley Without Wind 2 (81/100, Dutch)
DealSpwn: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review | One Step Sideways, Two Steps Backwards (5/10)
PixelSmashers: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review (4/5)
Impact Gaming: Maylei Reviews A Valley Without Wind 2 (2/5)
The Koalition: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review – Hybrid Sidescrolling (75/100)
Space-Biff: A Valley Without Wind 2 Part 1: Before Demonaica
Proven Gamer: A Valley Without Wind 2 Review (6/10)
Gamersaurs: The Independence Movement: Goes to A Valley Without Wind, Reason, Explanation and Focus
I’m Not Doctor Who: 1140: Another Valley Without Wind
The Indie Shelter: A Valley Without Wind 2 – A missed opportunity (Italian)
Game Debate: The Joys Of Being A Game Reviewer (2/10)
Game Debate: Destroyer of Winds (8.5/10)
Just Press Start: A Valley Without Wind 2 – The JPS Podcast Review (Definite Recommendation)
Game Sparked: [REVIEW] A Valley Without Wind 2 (6/10)
KingIsaacLinksr: Videogame Review: A Valley Without Wind 2…

Let’s Plays and Video Reviews
NorthernLion: Let’s Look At: A Valley Without Wind 2! PC
ForceSC2strategy: First 40 : A Valley Without Wind 2
Deluxe345: A Valley Without Wind 2 Gameplay PC HD
MathasGames: Indie Snapshot – A Valley Without Wind 2
LetsPlayPoRusski: Review A Valley Without Wind 2 (Russian)
James Allen: A Valley Without Wind 2 Gameplay Impressions
HBHUD: Heads Up: A Valley Without Wind 2
Basstasticification: Bass looks at – A Valley Without Wind 2
Melcadrien: Mel’s Retrospective: Valley Without Wind 2
Eltoraz: Variety: A Valley Without Wind 2 and Game Review: A Valley Without Wind 2
ThePixelPosseTeam: PixelPlays – A Valley Without Wind 2

Other Games Coverage
AI War Included in PC Advisor’s 31 best OS X games
[Video] Tekk’s Pub Games | AI War: Fleet Command
[Video]ZimZoneLP: Zim Zockt – AI War – Fleet Command (German)
[Video] PlayNow: Tidalis Co-op/Splitscreen (Romanian)
[Video] A Valley Without Wind – cz.1 (Polish)

General Valley 2 Launch Coverage
Blue’s News
Strategy Informer
Xbox Plus (Portuguese)
I Luv Games

Indie Game Sales, Bundles, And AVWW Stuff

Big things happening these days. A Valley Without Wind has seen several more additions and refinements over the past week as we approach the 1.1 (and first official) update for the game. We also have a pretty cool announcement we’ve been sitting on for a few days that hopefully we’ll be able to share before the weekend, or at least by early next week. We’ll see.

One press item we wanted to highlight regarding AVWW: Vagary TV’s Indie Game Review podcast. In the inaugural episode the game is reviewed by the two hosts and then Chris joins for the interview portion.

Other happenings in the indie world we wanted to quickly mention:

The Because We May week has kicked off, where developers can and have freely reduced (or in a few cases increased) the prices on their games. There’s a ton of indie devs taking part, and although we’re not actively involved, you can be sure we’re passively participating by pricing our games at their normal price during the week; because we may. ;)

Our pal Gnome points us to the Bundle In A Box Adventure Bundle. That goes through June 6th and includes a bunch of solid indie adventure games such as Gemini Rue and Size Five’s Zombie Cow efforts. It also has The Sea Will Claim Everything, which people keep mentioning how awesome it is though I haven’t had a chance yet to play.

Here’s the press that’s come in for Valley over the past few days:

Armless Octopus — A Valley Without Wind Review: Beware of The Wind

Dark Zero — A Valley Without Wind Mac Review

Singju Games — Review: A Valley Without Wind for PC

Gamer’s guide to Life — Review: A Valley Without Wind

Mash Those Buttons — A Valley Without Wind [Review]

[VIDEO] A Valley Without Wind – First Impressions (Portuguese)

[VIDEO] A Valley Without Wind Part 3 and Part 4 (Russian)

New Reviews, Interviews, and Videos for AVWW

The past few days saw several new feature additions to A Valley Without Wind highlighted (at least I’d say) by the addition of the store in 1.009.

Tom Chick talks to Chris for a good two and a half hours on Quarter To Three’s podcast, chatting on AVWW, Arcen, some preferred genres, and gaming in general.

Also a reminder that there’s still a day or so left in the SavyGamer anniversary sale. Here’s the rest of the coverage that’s come in this past week for AVWW/Arcen:

[Just Press Start] A Valley Without Wind – Reviewed

[Gather Your Party] Interview: Chris Park, CEO Of Arcen Games And Creator Of A Valley Without Wind

[Gather Your Party] A Valley Without Wind Review

[XBLAFans] Downloadable games growing beyond their bytes

[Gamespot] A Valley Without Wind Review

[BagofGames] A Valley Without Wind Review

[Destructoid] Review: A Valley Without Wind

[2nd Opinion Productions] Arcen Games: A Valley Without Wind Review

[IGN] A Valley Without Wind Review

[Co-Optimus] A Valley Without Wind Co-Op Review

[Hidden Exit] Review: A Valley Without Wind

[I’m Not Doctor Who] #oneaday Day 838: Still No Wind Here

[Gry-Online] Straight from Indie #5 (Polish)

[PlayerAffinity] A Valley Without Wind – Review

Video Coverage

[Tenatios] Let’s Try – A Valley Without Wind + Steam Code Giveaway

[RockLeeSmile] Indie Impressions – A Valley Without Wind

[IZTheJack] A Valley Without Wind Part 4 – Our First Mission and Part 5 – Seeking Materials and Part 6 – The Endless Chunk

[SundayGamerHD] Let’s Play A Valley Without Wind Part 1 – Kinky Skelebot Dungeons!

[GryOnlinePL] Straight from Indie – A Valley Without Wind] (Polish)

[SoftpediaGamesReview] A Valley Without Wind – Softpedia Gameplay

[NightDiRaven] Let’s Play: A Valley Without Wind | Part 1 (Russian)

More PAX East 2012 Coverage For A Valley Without Wind

PAX East coverage for A Valley Without Wind continues to roll in…

Just Press Start’s Jeff Ortloff got the full tour of the Arcen Booth, posting audio interviews with both Chris and Pablo.

Gameinpublic posted the first ten minutes of the indie game talk I took part in. This was day two (we did a similar talk with different devs each day of the conference).

Andrew Whipple III of Gamer’s guide to Life seems very pleased we’re fleshing out a title in the sidescrolling action genre.

Patrick Lindsey put together a solid preview of the game over on BeefJack as well.

The Mash Those Buttons guys talk about the game for a decent chunk of their PAX East podcast.

Luigi Guarnuccio of Gamers Haven called AVWW ‘a gem of a game’ in his preview.

Matthew Jay discovers there’s more to the game than what can be gathered at first glance in his preview over on Snackbar Games

OnLiveFans’ Jeremy Burg mentioned us as one of the gems he got to play on the show floor in his round-up of the event.

Finally, GiantBomb snapped and posted a shot of the Arcen Games booth, check out those sweet banners. :)

Oh, one last item: 2nd Opinion Podcast’s Chris Dunham will be live streaming A Valley Without Wind today at 3:45 PM ET for a good couple of hours. Tune in then to his Twitch.TV channel for a longer form, on-the-fly look at the game.

Bits And Pieces From PAX East

Volatar on the forums reminded me that I needed to do a post about how PAX went — so here I am!  It’s been a whirlwind since getting back from PAX, and I still have an enormous backlog of emails that I’ve not yet had a chance to respond to.  I’m getting to them — if you’ve sent me an email and I’ve not yet responded, it’s nothing personal and I will get to it soon!  Just trying not to drown here.

I’m going to do a bigger writeup about lessons learned from PAX sometime in the next month, probably after the 1.0 because ohmygod-there’s-no-time at the moment. ;)  But some highlights for now:

Coverage is already coming in, as Erik posted earlier today.  That’s only a small slice of what we actually did, though, so every day there’s more that seems to crop up.  Which is great!

– People seemed to really love the game; we had almost universally people walking away happy, and an enormous percentage of them saying they wanted to get the game.  Caveat: people self-select, obviously, so the people who came into the booth or stopped were the ones with the most interest in the first place; not sure how much that means in terms of wider acceptance yet.

– We had numerous people bringing back their friends, though, so that was cool.

– It quickly became clear how much of an unknown Arcen is with the US press.  The UK press and other European press knows us really well because of AI War, but in the US strategy games just aren’t news unless they are Starcraft.  Out of some 30-40 interviews (not sure how many exactly), there were only 3 who had ever heard of me.  One of them was a certain major gaming TV channel, so that was wicked awesome actually. :)

– Given that basically nobody knew anything about us or our game there, that gave us a really good opportunity to figure out how best to explain the game to people who are coming to it cold.  We got really, really good at it.  I definitely plan to make a video with a short version of my explanation of the game with voiceover and video clips prior to 1.0.  Also we have some marketing copy adjustments to make based on what we learned.

– I felt like all but maybe two of the press that I interviewed with seemed really impressed with the game and excited about it.  The other two were hard to read, and so I just don’t know what they felt like.  With some other members of the press they were clearly telling other press about it because by the third day we were getting press stopping by and saying things like “I hear this is one to watch.”  And at least one guy who I had a really great session with sent his senior editor back later in the day, which was quite cool.

– Four or five people said, literally verbatim, “so this is like Terraria but better?”  That’s certainly positive, and I’ll take it, despite the fact that I don’t know that I agree with the sentiment — Terraria and AVWW focus on really different things and each fills a different niche.  I took those comments to mean that those people had wanted more on the adventuring side rather than the construction side, in which case AVWW is going to be the one that’s potentially more tailored for what they were looking for.

– We quickly learned that the first half an hour of the expo hall is just a waste for indies.  You can pass out some little things to folks as they pass, but nobody is going to stop.  At ANY of the smaller booths.  Everyone is running to the largest AAA games on the floor to try to avoid the super long lines that otherwise form there.  Then as soon as those lines fill up, the rest of the expo hall floods and it’s time to get down to business.  Even places like the Wizards of the Coast booths were pretty dead for that first half an hour simply because they were more open and not prone to lines — players were able to get at them all day, anytime they wanted, and knew it.  Kind of an interesting effect.

– We did indeed learn that dry air (compared to North Carolina) and talking for 8+ hours a day straight is a bad combination for the throat.  Erik and Pablo and I kept getting into a pretty bad way and really didn’t sound like ourselves a lot of the time.  Monday morning Pablo apparently couldn’t speak at all.  My voice still isn’t fully back to normal yet, but it was totally worth it.

– Personally I thought I would have been more nervous, especially with the video interviews.  Over the last three years I’ve gotten really used to audio interviews and podcasts, and I’m always super pumped up to meet and talk to people (introvert? me? well, yes, but in a somewhat nontraditional way).  But normally being on video would have been butterflies-city, and I had to do that maybe five or six times.  I’m not sure exactly.  Thing is, once that first half hour of dead time is past and players are in your booth and press is coming by at a good clip, it’s all one big thing.  You don’t have time to get nervous about anything, and there’s never the sense that all eyes are on you — to the contrary, even if you’re working the largest booth there, I think the scale of the expo hall still must drive home your own relative insignificance.  I mean, that place was absolutely enormous in all the best ways.

– Pro tip for anyone who plans to expo at PAX or similar: bring granola bars, power bars, or similar with you.  Friday we did not do this, and we wound up eating nasty pizza for $60 way late in the afternoon.  It was welcome, because there had been no break until then (and I had to eat during interviews anyhow, because they were so nonstop).  Saturday was even more busy, and I was constantly behind.  Thankfully the others started out the press sessions with the press getting some hands on experience with the game before I wrapped up my prior press session.

– There were at least two press sessions on Saturday that I just missed entirely because I was somehow double-booked (I think someone just showed up unscheduled, actually), but Erik took those and handled them really well.  Anyway, on that day there was literally no time for food at all, so it was just powerbars while still trying to talk and not be rude about eating.  People could see we were slammed and were understanding, though.

– Sunday was surprisingly more quiet, by comparison.  The last hour or so of the convention in particular, the expo hall was noticeably emptier.  A few companies were actually tearing down their booths early in violation of their contracts.  And by “noticeably emptier” I mean probably “only 3,000-5,000 people in the hall.”  So we still had people swinging by, but we were actually having terminals open more.

– Oh yes, the terminals!  We had four computer stations that people could play on for 15 minutes.  In all, we estimate about 300ish players were able to partake of this over the three day span, and there were another 300 that stood very close and watched intensely — friends or family, or just people who wanted to watch rather than play (some people get embarrassed they will do badly on their first try with a game and don’t want to check it out in an expo hall, even if they do want to watch, which I can understand).  Anyway, the terminals were a really big success.

– For that matter, so were the banners, the 32″ TV screen, the flyers, the AVWW cards, and the buttons.  The banners really grabbed people’s eye it seemed, and the TV in particular was something that people could see from the MTG booth and the Sega Aliens line.  Lots of heads looking our way, and several people mentioned stopping because they saw the video, even though they had no idea what the game was.  With the flyers, cards, and buttons, those were things people seemed genuinely interested in, and hopefully those are now things that people are finding in their swag bags and reminding them about our game.  We’ll see.

– I ran into perhaps a dozen or two players who were fans of AI War, which was super cool.  Never have met any AI War fans in real life before (this was my first gaming convention).  Actually, never had met anyone who had even heard of AI War before, so you can perhaps appreciate the scale of how cool that was.

– Also cool?  On the unpacking day (Thursday), I saw Jerry and Mike walk by, not 40 feet from me in the expo hall.  They were just walking along talking about something, and didn’t notice myself or anyone else right around there.  Probably for the best, as I would likely have gone all fanboy on them.  Seriously, I’ve been reading their strip since something like 4-5 months after they started.  I was in high school, and tried getting one of my best friends into the strip.  I made the mistake of showing him the current day’s strip, which involved a lobster, a handgun, and a wristwatch.  I believe his words were “it seems kind of low-brow.”  Gah!  Thirteen years later, I still hold that against him, a little. ;)

– If you are going to the expo hall to exhibit your game, don’t expect to see much other than the expo hall.  We had offers to go out with other indies, and we chatted with them some during the exhibitor meet and greet on Friday in particular.  But at the end of each day we were just beat, and we also had a lot of shop we still needed to talk on our own team; each person was learning different things about how best to handle the booth and how best to explain the game, and we needed those nights in order to collate all that data and make sure we were all on the same page.  We did manage to stop by the retro arcade, which was pretty awesome, though.  And we did catch a little bit of one concert, but it wasn’t one of the better ones; I would have loved to have seen the Minibosses in particular.  And why weren’t The Protomen there?  Seriously, they should have been there.

– Lastly, we really learned a ton from watching the attendees play our game.  It’s not a substitute for the forums and mantis and our whole beta process that we go through, but neither is our normal beta process a substitute for this, I’m learning.  They’re just two completely different bands of data, both valuable.  At this point I think that the cost of the trip (about $10k) was worth it even just solely in terms of what we learned and are thus able to improve about the game.  All the rest of the stuff makes it even more of a win on top of that, so that’s good.

And with that… I’d better get back to work!

PAX East 2012 Coverage For A Valley Without Wind

We spent much of our time at PAX East chatting it up with press, filling interview appointments and having them take a quick tour of A Valley Without Wind.

Here’s the coverage to come about from our trip to Boston thus far:

John Polson interviews Chris in an excellent piece on entitled Indie Devs Weigh in on Imitating Versus Innovating.

Platform Nation’s Gaming Hands On Quick Hits touches on AVWW’s surprising amount of depth.

Nearly 15 minutes of Front Towards Gamer’s latest Gametwerp Podcast is taken up by a live interview with Chris.

The intriguing Ditto Monster stopped by for an enjoyable and surprising interview with Chris.

Anthony of TryIndie was trying his backside off all weekend, providing a ton of coverage for us. He has written up interviews with both Chris and Pablo, plus recorded some video footage of the indie game dev panel I submitted and participated in.

Zach Martin of PikiGeek apparently enjoyed his time with AVWW on the first day. He went and published his preview just hours later. Awesome that we caught his attention!

We made Trouble Thinking’s list of The Stuff You Should Have Checked Out.

The Gamer’s Guide To Life Channel took a short test drive of the game, as well as recording a live interview with Chris on the show floor.

Thrifty Nerd’s preview concludes that they can’t wait for the April 23rd launch.

Lastly, we were also glad to finally meet Nick Puleo of Co-Optimus. We have several other interviews and coverage still in the works with other outletsso keep your eyes peeled for those in the coming weeks.

AVWW Interview On First Drop Show

Chris and I had a solid chat last week with Eddie Milanes on the First Drop Show podcast.

We cover a variety of topics regarding the design, development, and upcoming official release of A Valley Without Wind, including scrapped concepts, future possibilities for the game, why we try to only develop features in that we’d want to play, etc.

If you’re looking for some in-depth discussion about the game, or just have an hour to kill, definitely give it a listen.

Just Press Start Podcast And Gnome’s Lair Interview

With A Valley Without Wind emerging out of over a month of heavy construction and significant changes, we’re entering a phase where the game is settling into a stable enough state for us to start chatting with the press about it once more. This week we’ve had a couple new interviews hit:

Chris and I had an excellent time getting together with the gents at Just Press Start for a chat. In their latest podcast we discuss our games (specifically AVWW) give a bit about our backgrounds, and touch on various other topics.

Additionally, our friend Konstantinos Dimopoulos of Gnome’s Lair has posted an interview where I talk with him about the current state of Valley, how we’ve reached this point, and where we hope and expect it to go now that we can see a bit of light coming from the end of the tunnel in regards to 1.0.

We’re working steadily on some major items as far as providing new/updated media and info for everyone to check out. Stay tuned for that in the next week or two.

New Interviews, Previews, and LP Videos

So much has happened since we launched public beta for A Valley Without Wind back in late September. In some respects it feels like it’s been out forever, when really we’ve just reached three weeks. It’s been fantastic to have anyone interested finally able to play the game. We’ve received both a wonderful response as well as excellent feedback from players and press alike in such a short amount of time.

A couple of Arcen Games/AVWW items we’d like to direct you to, including a couple of new interviews. Chris chats comprehensively with UsedGameReviews in a just released piece, and Arcen is featured in Play Tribune’s Developer Chat audiocast (where Chris and I babble on for over an hour about indie gaming plus all the aforementioned.)

Plenty of Valley-specific stuff below as well. Thanks to all who took the time to talk with us and/or take a look at our game.


[Violent Gamer] A Valley Without Wind Beta Impressions
[Nightmare Mode] Beta Impressions: A Valley Without Wind
[Dealspwn] A Valley Without Wind Beta Impressions | Procedurally Generated Genre Smasher
[Quick Save Podcast] A Valley Without Wind Beta/Demo (8:00-12:00)


Hold [RESET] Gaming: A Valley Without Wind – Beta – First Look
Hyfrydle32: Let’s Play A Valley Without Wind
Onemegatongamer: I will beat a valley without wind
A Valley Without Wind: Beta Gameplay

Arcen Games on The Grey Area Podcast

Chris Park and I sat down with Jenesee of The Grey Area Podcast for an in-depth chat on A Valley Without Wind, gaming in general, indie development, and of course all things Arcen Games as well. You should definitely set aside the 90 minutes for a listen; it was a wonderfully casual conversation with such a prepared and professional host guiding the ship!

The show’s 26th episode “An Interview Without Wind” is available to listen to right now. Follow The Grey Area Podcast on Twitter and Facebook as well.

A Valley Without Wind: Setting, Interior Generation, Explorer NPCs, and Evil Outposts

Arcen Games is pleased to show off several new additions, improvements, and changes for our upcoming survival action-adventure title A Valley Without Wind. We have a variety of items to update on this week, including interior generation, a reworking of the game’s story and setting, settlement changes, implementation of new features such as Explorer NPCs and Evil Outposts, and much more.

To start, there have been some major shifts in AVWW’s story and setting that we’d like to share. We are keeping the broken-earth setting and former ice age focus for the title, but the real-world future setting has been replaced. Instead the game is now set in a purely fantasy world called Environ — taking place in the year 888. We feel that exchanging the reality-based future setting for a more fantasy/sci-fi mix (that still keeps elements from the real world) gives us a lot more flexibility as we put together the major themes of the title. More details on the new developments, including a basic timeline for the known history of Environ, can be found on our updated feature page for A Valley Without Wind.

Onward from that, we’ve made a rather significant breakthrough in terms of the creation and generation of AVWW’s interiors. Interior procedural-generation was a troublesome task that others have solved in various ways, but which nobody seemed to have solved in the specific way that was needed for the game. So our lead programmer Chris Park has come up with a moderately new approach to the problem, basing part of his work on how the issue in a roguelike is dealt with, resulting in some very interesting and varied interior floorplans at this stage. In a month or two when it’s further polished, Arcen will be releasing the C# source code for our interior generator as open source under the MIT license, so that others can make use of it. Chris has written up a technical outline in this developer journal thoroughly explaining the step-by-step process of the program for those interested.

Many other additions and improvements have found their way into A Valley Without Wind as well. The game now makes use of the helpful Explorer NPC’s and the not-so-helpful Evil Outposts, there’s been major progress to settlements and the Minimap, and lots of new and upgraded visuals have been added as well. We could go on all day, but the title’s new animation test video does a much tidier job illustrating some of the aforementioned items. While a complete explanation on everything that’s been touched on can be found in our latest Games By Design post.

For more info about the title and what else Arcen Games is working on, make sure to check out our recent interview on Gnome’s Lair. A Valley Without Wind is currently targeted for official release on PC and Mac in October 2011, with a playable Beta build available to pre-order customers coming this summer.

About Arcen Games

Arcen Games entered the PC indie scene in 2009 with their cult classic AI War: Fleet Command, which was named the 40th best-reviewed PC game of the year by MetaCritic. Their second year was a busy one, seeing the release of The Zenith Remnant, the first full expansion for AI War; Tidalis, an innovative block-based puzzle with casual appeal and hardcore depth; and Children of Neinzul, a micro-expansion for AI War with all profits benefiting the Child’s Play charity, of which Arcen is a platinum sponsor.

AI War’s third and largest expansion Light of the Spire marked Arcen’s first release of 2011, and now the company has shifted its focus and excitement to the development of A Valley Without Wind. Originally a one-man shop, Arcen Games has grown to have half a dozen part-time or fulltime contributors to its various titles. For all the latest news, media coverage, and some of our other musings, follow us on our developer and individual game pages on Facebook or on Twitter: @ArcenGames.