Category: Other Indies

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.

Enjoy!

The Dirty Dozen Sale on Showmethegames.com

Bionic Dues and 11 other indie titles are on discount this week direct from the developers, thanks to the inaugural Dirty Dozen sale collaboration with Show Me The Games.

Speaking on Bionic Dues, Keith and forum user nas1m (among others) have really helped breathe new life into the game over the past couple months. New options, new achievements, and lots of other good stuff that was actually never expected to see the light of day, once we had decided as a company to move on from the game’s post-release development. If you already own the game and enjoyed it at launch, I’d encourage you to fire it up again and update to the latest beta version (or just wait for the impending official release). There’s quite a few new switches to flip, and some nice improvements to AI behavior as well.

Here’s the full list of participating games, along with sale info (all discounted prices $USD):

  • Democracy 3 — 75% off ($6.24)
  • Loren The Amazon Princess — 66% off ($11.89)
  • Frozen Synapse — 50% off ($12.49)
  • Retro City Rampage — 50% off ($4.99)
  • Infested Planet — 50% off ($7.49)
  • Gone Home — 50% off ($9.99)
  • Beat Hazard Ultra — 60% off ($5.19)
  • The Blackwell Epiphany — 40% off ($8.99)
  • Defender’s Quest — 67% off ($4.94)
  • Sir, You Are Being Hunted — 50% off ($10)
  • Revenge of the Titans — 75% off ($3.74)
  • Bionic Dues — 75% off ($2.50)

Sale ends next Friday, August 29th.

Exodus Of The Machine Teaser 1

Exodus Of The Machine is a new strategic journey game by Arcen Games, set in the universe of the cult classic AI War: Fleet Command.  Lead a team trapped on a hostile planet and desperately pursuing a threat which could destroy humanity outright. 

Vicious predators, clashing armies, and political intrigue stand in your way.  None can stand before your modern weapons, but where do you use your limited ammunition?  Do you resort to diplomacy, or native weapons?  Will you fall to disease or run out of food stores?  Can you get to the end in time?

Exodus combines Arcen’s love of all things strategic within a framework reminiscent of our old favorite Oregon Trail.

This is a title we’ve been quietly working on.  It’s “coming soon,” which is a vague way of saying that it will be in 2013 but that we don’t want to commit to a date yet.  We wanted to share a bit with you about what we’re working on, but right now the above is all we’re comfortable revealing.  We’ll have something a bit more meaty for you next time!

A Valley Without Wind Selected For IndieCade E3 Showcase

We’re excited to share that A Valley Without Wind has been selected to be a part of the IndieCade Showcase at E3 next week. A really pleasant surprise, as it’s something we didn’t even consider as a possibility when we submitted the game to the festival earlier this year.

Along with AVWW, 19 other excellent indies will be on display including The Binding of Isaac, J.S. Joust, Prom Week, and a bunch of games I’m just now discovering and look forward to checking out.

The booth will be located in the Concourse Foyer at the Los Angeles Convention Center (level 1 in the West Hall entrance). I’ll be hanging around there all three days (June 5-7), so for those attending feel free to stop by for a chat, to check out the game, or both!

Check back next week, as we have some good stuff in store with the event coinciding with Valley’s official 1.1 release.

Frozen Synapse: Red Release And New Valley Reviews/Videos

Our good friends at Mode 7 Games have released the Red expansion for their tactical heaven Frozen Synapse. They’ve added co-op, and a new campaign, and a new multiplayer mode, and…well, a ton of good stuff. It’s absolutely jam-packed, and does more than just slap a fresh coat of (red) paint on one of the better indie games in recent memory.

Red’s available now both through Mode 7 themselves and on Steam (both offering 15% off during the first week of release). The base game is also 50% off through launch week.

In Arcen news, GameSpy included AI War on their 10 Great Co-Op RTS Games for Comp-Stomp Fun list, while A Valley Without Wind reviews and video coverage are still trickling in as well:

Gamebreaker — Indie Spotlight: A Valley Without Wind

Vagary.tv — Review: A Valley Without Wind (PC)

Game Side Story — GameTest – A Valley Without Wind (French)

Let’s Play A Valley Without Wind #1: Getting Started by Deihlanos

A Valley Without Wind Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 by 1331skippy1331

A Valley Without Wind 9 Part Series by izTheJack

A Valley Without Wind 7 Part Series by Lcron55

A Valley Without Wind [PC Gameplay] by SmugglerWeb (Finnish)

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)

Gratuitous Tank Battles Out Now (Also New Arcen Press)

Our good friend Cliff Harris of Positech has officially released his latest title, Gratuitous Tank Battles.

The game looks (and is) fantastic already, plus he’s aiming to provide a goodly amount of post-launch support for the title; with mod support first up on his list. You can purchase GTB now through Positech directly, on Steam, Gamersgate, or Impulse/GameStop.

On the Arcen front we have several new coverage pieces for Valley to pass along. Interviews, reviews, videos, and even some press showing up for our earlier titles.

G4 — A Valley Without Wind Interview: That Indie Column

IndieGameReviewer — Review: A Valley Without Wind – A Procedurally Generated Genre-Mashing Platformer

The Indie Mine — A Valley Without Wind Review

GroovyGamer — A Valley Without Wind Revew (PC)

Giant Bomb — Quick Look: A Valley Without Wind

Eurogamer — A Valley Without Wind Review

lagserv.net — Let’s Play A Valley Without Wind (Three Parts)

SnackbarGames — A Valley Without Wind: A world of fighting and foraging

Comics and Gaming Magazine — A Valley Without Wind (PC Game Reviews)

LordKaT — Indie Game of the Week – A Valley Without Wind

Gaming in Public — A Valley Without Wind

The Whitest of Rice — A Valley Without Wind

Absolute Games — Review of A Valley Without Wind (Russian)

PrisonTV — Max Plays : A Valley Without Wind

XxPhoenix147xX — Discovery: A Valley Without Wind (French)

Fyoucon — Let’s Disasterly Play: AI War: Fleet Command MP Episode 1 | Let’s go!

lpsn — Podcast Featuring Tidalis (French)

SavyGamer’s Anniversary Sale: AI War, Tidalis, And More

Our friend Lewie P. is celebrating the fifth anniversary of his bargain games site SavyGamer, and in effort to spread the love around he’s organized a nice promotion that has several developers offering significant discounts on their titles over the next week.

Using the coupon code “SavyGamer5” when purchasing AI War Alien Bundle (or any of its products) and/or Tidalis on the Arcen Store will net you savings on par with our past massive discount promotions. The same code (or in a few cases no code at all) will score you great savings on great indie titles from some of our good friends as well:

Frozen Synapse 2-Pack (Mode 7 Games)
Gratuitous Space Battles: Collectors Edition and Democracy 2 (Positech Games)
Eufloria (Omni Labs)
Time Gentlemen, Please! (Size Five Games)
VVVVVV (Terry Cavanagh)

…and more!

For the full list, along with pricing and links to individual developer stores, head over to SavyGamer. Sales end next Wednesday, May 9th.

GDC 2012 Wrap-Up

Earlier this month I attended GDC in San Francisco, it was my first time doing so and it ended up being quite an experience.

I was pulling double duty, covering the event itself and its happenings as a journalist for DIYGamer and MCV during the day, and talking Arcen and indie game development in general in the evening as well as other downtime periods.

The conference itself was fun, informative, and (as expected) utterly exhausting. Over 22,000 industry folk were in attendance, though it never felt overcrowded thanks to the layout. Despite seeing a few great talks, it felt like there were dozens of good panels I completely missed. Regardless, interesting developments tended to spread like wildfire, with plenty of new reveals to muse upon and advice to debate over seemingly everyday.

I spent a ton of time with Retro City Rampage developer Brian Provinciano, and went out quite a bit with Lorenzo Scagnolari and Marco Pivato of 93 Steps. I also caught up with my pals Terry Cavanagh, John Polson of Dejobaan, Paul Taylor of Mode 7 Games (huge congrats to them for winning the IGF audience award for Frozen Synapse), and Adam Rippon of Muteki Corp. Additionally I had the pleasure of meeting Rami Ismail of Vlambeer (way taller than you’d expect), Dan Griliopoulos (one of my favorite games writers), my new work affiliates at Indie Game Magazine, MCV, and Develop, and spend bits and pieces of the week with many other industry friends both new and old. Food, drink, and/or discussion nicely sums up the majority of these meetings.

A quick aside: Super Duper Burger is as advertised — amazingly good food. I ate lunch there a couple times and regret not going more throughout the week. San Francisco really has great food and drink in general.

As for A Valley Without Wind, I was able to set-up impromptu demo sessions with a few press that weren’t entirely swamped by their schedules, and talked casually about it to more people than I can count. On top of that, I had a few dozen people demo it at the very awesome POW party put on by Morgan Tucker (aka Crash Faster) at the DNA Lounge.

The venue was really impressive, especially when it was packed full of GDC attendees and San Francisco locals all beered up and ready for some excellent chip tune performances. Here’s a video I took with my phone right before the doors opened:

I took a few pictures that night as well. Next up: PAX East! (Which Arcen will be attending in much more of an official capacity, what with a booth and everything.)

Gratuitous Tank Battles Pre-Order And Beta

Wanted to drop a quick note that our good friend and excellent indie game designer/developer Cliff Harris has announced the beta launch for his new game Gratuitous Tank Battles.

As RPS notes, the game is a mix of RTS, simulation, and tower defense. It’s set as if World War I never came to an end — with trench warfare evolving through means of mechs, lasers, and more.

Those who pre-order through the official site will gain instant access to the current beta release and all subsequent builds. Have a look at the game’s shiny new trailer:

Show Me The Games Indie Sale

Our friend Cliff Harris has launched an awesome sale over on Show Me The Games. Aptly titled Show Me The Sales, you’ll find Tidalis, AI War, and over a dozen other excellent indie games for a fraction of their standard price tag.

The cool thing about the sale, other than the nice discounts, is that 100% of all sales go directly to the developers. SMTG doesn’t take a dime.

The sale only last 14 days, so if you’re interested in supporting indie developers to the fullest and picking up some awesome titles (Frozen Synapse, Gratuitous Space Battles, VVVVVV, and many more), best take advantage of the offers soon.

It Rocks When Indies Cooperate

The article UK Dev Gets Off Arse – Makes Indie Portal on Spong talks about showmethegames.com, something that Arcen — and 19 other indie developers, including Positech, 2D Boy, and many others — have been quietly working on for the last month or two.  Time flies, I forget exactly how long it’s been.

And I really shouldn’t say we’ve all been working on it, as it’s mostly been Cliff Harris, whose idea it was in the first place.  The rest of us made our contributions, fiscally and otherwise, but Cliff did all the heavy lifting and he blogs here about why he created the site and what he hopes to eventually accomplish with it.

Quoth Cliff:

Now I know what you are thinking, “why haven’t I heard about it then?” isn’t it usual form for me to go on a publicity blitz? When am I going to punch Keith Vaz on live TV? The whole point of SMTG was to prove 2 basic concepts:

  • You can get almost 20 indie game developers to co-operate, and actually pay money into a mutual project
  • You can make advertising work for indie developers, it we club together. (this is why we tested it as an ad-driven site at first)

I think the amount of success for the various indies in the first run of this probably varied, but it’s early days yet.  I also think that the amount of success for most of us with this made it close enough to cost-neutral (if not generating a return for some of us) that it’s worth future investment and investigation.  I don’t share the anti-big-portals sentiments that some indies do, but that doesn’t mean that an indie collective that is controlled by indies isn’t attractive.

As an early experiment, Show Me The Games has been a success, I think.  We — that is to say, Cliff — has in my mind proved out that the basic concept can work.  And we had 20 indies buying into this without squabbling of any sort, which is another miracle.  It’s a really good group of folks with games on that list, so that’s certainly part of it.  Now all that remains to be seen is where we take it from here!

Announcing… The Indie Strategy Bundle!

Indie developers Arcen
Games
, Cryptic
Comet
, and Positech
Games
have joined forces to bring strategy fans the ultimate
bundle: Gratuitous Space Battles + The Tribe Expansion, Solium Infernum,
and AI War + The Zenith Remnant Expansion. This weekend only, the
three companies are offering this special package for a mere $49.99
(for the math impaired, it would normally be $90).

“It’s a jungle out there for a lone indie dev: tired, hungry, low on
ammunition and surrounded on all sides by AAA monsters and flesh eating
zombies, and that’s why I want Cliff and Chris on my side,” says Vic
Davis, founder of Cryptic Comet. “I think all three of us share the
desire to prove that the little guys can really create some unique
games. It’s our business… and business is good.”

“If we were larger companies, and profit-focused, I think we’d view
each other as the enemy,” says Chris Park, founder of Arcen Games. “But
as tiny indies, that’s just not productive — time has already shown
that there are plenty of fans to go around. We’re here to make
innovative games, not corner markets. There’s a lot more for us to gain
by working together instead of by being antagonistic.”

“I can’t think of three games that go together better, or which appeal
to a more distinct group of gamers, than these three,” says Cliff
Harris, founder of Positech Games. “The reason for this bundle is
clear. We are like the Judean People’s Front from Monty Python. We need
to unite against the common enemy, and that enemy is obscurity, not
each other.”

Each game in the bundle is a fan favorite, having carved out a unique
niche in the strategy genre. Inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, Solium Infernum is a turn-based strategy game that
pits you against other players as you use diplomacy, deceit and force to
claim the Infernal Thrones of Hell. Gratuitous
Space Battles
turns real time strategy on its head, making the
deployment phase of battle into the game itself. AI
War
is built around a completely unique AI concept, with gameplay
best described as grand strategic 4X tower defense RTS (say that five
times fast).

Suffice it to say that none of these concepts would have seen the light
of day at larger companies, but each expands the genre in novel ways
that will likely influence more mainstream strategy titles to come.
But most of all, if you’re into strategy these games are fun (and
they scratch that special itch in the brains of grognards). The Indie
Strategy Bundle is designed to help strategy fans support the
originals, while giving themselves a treat if they haven’t yet played
these genre-bending gems!

This bundle will be available from March 4th until March 9th, 2010 at IndieStrategyGames.com

Playing Well With Others

Okay, so you’ve seen the post I made about the Indie Strategy Bundle, which was just a re-post of Cliff’s, Vic’s, and my press release. Cliff and Vic, naturally, made much more interesting posts on their own blogs, talking about the context of the bundle, their own feelings about it, etc. I thought I’d add a few words of my own along those lines.

For my own part, I’m not sure exactly where this is headed. Cliff and I created a perma-bundle of just AI War and GSB through Impulse starting in early December, and it was a successful thing despite how low the discount there turned out to be (well, c’mon, it is a perma-bundle rather than a time limited thing). When that bundle came out, Rock, Paper, Shotgun remarked that it was the indie equivalent of Guitar Hero and Rock Band offering a bundle together. Cliff and I both thought it would be a good idea to take it even further, so here we are.

Indies banding together in various ways looks like it may be a new trend. I certainly hope so. This Valentines day you had the Indie Love Bundle. More recently there was the announcement of the Indie Fund (which I think is a super terrific idea, and something I’ve blogged about in the past — I’m glad that someone else with the money to actually make it happen also thought of it). And I think there are probably other examples that I’m either just not thinking of at the moment, or wasn’t aware of for whatever reason.

I’m not including the distributor-led bundles because those are often featuring individual game prices so low that it seems like the largest benefit is to the distributor itself, rather than any one indie in there. Maybe those games are at the stage where they are no longer selling well, and the publicity of the deal (and whatever resultant cash) is a huge boon. There’s certainly something to be said for publicity, obviously, and in large part that’s the main reason for indies to band together — that, and funding.

The bottom line is that indies are coming together in various capacities to shore up their traditional weaknesses. You know, all that stuff that a AAA publisher manages for their developers. This is stuff we’re still figuring out, obviously. If you take three companies with zero or near-zero marketing budget and add them together, you still get a zero or near-zero marketing budget. So it’s not like even if we got a hundred indies together you’d see advertising on par with even one minor game from EA.

But on the flip side, indies that are successful all are good at drumming up a fanbase somehow. And we all have different methods, different contacts, and different existing pools of customers. There ought to be a way that we can turn this into something that is greater than the sum of its parts — and so that’s what we’re trying, in our grand experiment. I’ll be as interested as anyone to see where this goes.

If you haven’t yet tried GSB or Solium Infernum, I highly recommend them both. None of the games in this package are really substitutes for the other, and that’s what’s so awesome about indie games. In a time where a lot of the AAA strategy offerings are getting increasingly blurred together to my eyes, you still wind up with indie strategy offerings that are of a high quality, but which have various nontraditional foci that would probably turn off the mass audience in various ways. To me, that’s pretty special, and I’m really happy that I’m able to be a part of it — especially alongside such great talents as Cliff and Vic.

Indie XMas, And The Start Of A New Adventure

First off, let me plug the Indie Games Xmas 2009 Calendar. This was something originally proposed over on the excellent GameProducer blog, which we at Arcen quickly knew we wanted to be a part of. The idea is that this is an Advent Calendar wherein every day a new indie game, trailer, or similar is released. As it turns out, the first day (today) is revealing AI War. Be sure to check back every day of the month for more updates on lots of great indie games, however; the idea is to promote some great gems you might not otherwise have heard of during a season where the AAA games typically steal the spotlight.

In other news, coincidentally this is also my first day working fulltime for Arcen Games. Up until now I’ve also been holding down a day job as the CTO of a SaaS software company, but since our 2.0 release and release on Steam, Arcen is now doing well enough to support myself and our composer fulltime in addition to our artist, who has been fulltime since August.

My posts tend to be lengthy, but for this momentous (to me) post, I’m going to keep it quite brief. I’ve been at my past company for over 8 years, and I’ll really miss the people and the clients there — it’s been a great time there, and I’m a bit bummed to no longer be part of that great team. Of course, it was my own choice to leave, and at the same time as I am a bit sad about leaving my last post, I couldn’t be happier or more excited about moving into fulltime game development. There’s lots of exciting stuff brewing for Arcen in 2010, so I’ll be sure to post about that as they come up!

And, you know, I’ll post some more on game development topics before too long, too! It’s just been a very busy month.