Category: Skyward Collapse

Hey, the Arcen wiki is now open for all to edit!

poweredby_mediawiki_88x31 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  Consequently it was often out of date.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.

 

Official forum post on this thread.

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Arcen Titles Hit IndieGameStand, Up To 85% Off This Week

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.

Followup to last year’s AI War postmortem (now discussing Bionic, TLF, etc).

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.

AirshipEternalConceptScreenshotThe Role of Luck (A long tangent, but something I’ve been thinking about)

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.

AIWarDestroyerOfWorldsWallpaperAI War’s Ongoing Performance – Solid

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

colour_sniper2_png_by_arcengames_d6fez36_by_cassiopeiaart-d6iirw6Bionic 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!).

moon collides with planetThe Last Federation – Phenomenal

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.

MacGameStoreBannerShattered Haven – Worse And Worse

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.

Valley2Wallpaper1A Valley Without Wind 2 – Sigh

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…

Zuess_finAt 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.

SpectralEmpireMock-7-14-croppedHistorical Performance, Updated

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.

Forum discussion.

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.

Major updates to the Arcen Store, plus discounts on Skyward and Shattered!

Skyward Collapse and Shattered Haven have both gotten official linux support this week, but that’s not all that’s been going on.

The Arcen Store has had a visual and functional overhaul and now both looks better and works better.  There are a number of things that are easier for me on the back-end, but more importantly for you it’s easier to manage your cart and see what you’re doing, etc.  Cart management has been extremely refined with usability in mind (the old system was pretty frustrating, actually).  The store itself (FastSpring) is also now branded the same as our new website, so you don’t have to do a double-take of “where did I just go?” when you click Add To Cart or similar.  It’s all a lot more seamless now.

Discounts!

In celebration of the new linux versions of Skyward Collapse and Shattered Haven, both of those games (plus the expansion and complete edition for Skyward) are on sale for 75% off until July 20th.  These both come with DRM-free builds as well as Steam keys.  Note that we are working on linux builds for our other non-linux games, so I’ll go ahead and give you a heads up to expect discounts on those at the time of those linux launches.  In this particular instance, only fair to warn you ahead of time. ;)

New Payment Options

Now in addition to credit cards and Paypal, you can also now pay with Amazon Payments.  Depending on your location, you can also pay with WebMoney, Giropay, iDEAL, and Sofort.  I know that some of our international customers aren’t able to use credit cards or Paypal for various reasons, so now there are actual valid purchase options for you!

New Products

The Last Federation is now part of our store for the first time.  You can still purchase it from the Humble Widget just like before (and we actually get a slightly better cut if you do!), but having it also be in our direct store gives us some added flexibility as well as giving you access to the other payment options noted above (rather than just Paypal and Amazon Payments).  Depending on your location, this may mean that The Last Federation is available to you for the first time — I had someone from Iran email me just a week or so ago about this, which I greatly appreciated having brought to my attention.

The Skyward Collapse Complete Edition, as recently mentioned, is now available in the store.

Steam Keys For All Games!

Every game and expansion on our store now lets you either register a CD key on Steam, or gives you a steam key directly.  Previously the following games did not give you any sort of Steam-registration option through our store:

AI War: Ancient Shadows

AI War: Vengeance of the Machine

Shattered Haven

Skyward Collapse

Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura

Now all of them include Steam keys along with the DRM-free builds that they already gave you.

A Handy In-Store Legend

First, an image for you:

StoreImage

The above is just an image, if the watermarks all over it aren’t invasive enough. ;)

In that image, however, you can see the new legend next to each game that shows its current status in terms of what is supported.  You can hover over each icon to find out specifically what it means (in the actual store, not the image above), but most of it is pretty obvious.  This is a lot better than our old system, because now right inline with the particular store item you can find out what platforms are supported, if it has a Steam Key or else a CD key that is registrable on Steam, etc.

A quick legend: the three OS icons for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux are pretty straightforward; the black steam icon means that you get a literal steam key, while the white steam icon means that the CD key that you get is registrable on steam; the little hard drive icon with the arrow means that you get a direct downloadable (aka non-steam) version of the game; and the little purple key, when present, means that a CD key is required to play the game.

There will also later be little green keys that mean that it gives you a CD key which allows you to do things like register on steam and/or unlock the demo into the full version, but that for the downloadable version it gives you the CD key is not actually required.  There aren’t yet any of those in the store, but I’m working on converting some of the games that are currently purple-key status into green-key status.

Note that the downloadable icon to me really means that you’re getting a DRM-free version of the game, but some people chafe at the mention of a CD key (there are no online checks!), so for the sake of semantics I’m just noting it as being a downloadable thing.

New Builds!

Bionic Dues, The Last Federation, Shattered Haven, Skyward Collapse, and Nihon no Mura all have new builds online for the downloadable version on our store.  In each case it’s the latest version, and it includes the Windows, OSX, and Linux versions all in one simple zip file.  We’ve stopped using installers, because those are both slow and platform-specific, whereas the zip files are smaller, blazing fast, and can be used anywhere.  99% of the files for each game are platform-agnostic, so if you want the game on multiple platforms there is no reason for us to make you download those files 2 or 3 times.  This way you get it all in one go.

Another benefit of having no installer is it makes it clear just how darn portable these games are.  You can throw them on a thumb drive and play them from there, if you want.  They don’t mess with your registry or store files outside of their own folder, or anything like that.  Makes it very easy to hang on to them.

What About Updates For The Last Federation And It’s Upcoming Expansion?

I noted this recently in an update to the announcement post for The Last Federation: Betrayed Hope, but basically I decided to take a break from that for a couple of weeks to get all these linux builds, store stuff, website stuff, and whatnot fixed up.  Then I’ll be back to my regular work on TLF, I promise!  There have been a lot of people wanting linux builds from us for years, and now that I have a relatively quiet period I felt like I owed it to them to finally make good on the promise of those builds.

Plus the website and store has been something I’ve been really feeling like needed to be improved since as far back as 2012, but I just never had the time to stop for a breath.  It’s one of those things that if you just keep putting it off, it never ever gets done.  So I’m taking a few weeks to “clear my decks” of all that sort of backlog clutter, and then I can focus on TLF and Spectral Empire without any distractions.  Thanks for your patience on that!

Enjoy!

Official forum discussion.

Skyward Collapse Linux Support in v2.500, plus new Complete Edition!

Version 2.500 brings official linux support to both the game and its expansion for the first time, as well as a 64bit OSX build.  There are also a couple of bugfixes in here, as well.

Not only that, but there is now a “complete edition” for Skyward Collapse that you can get from our store (and soon from Steam, as well).  This version includes both the game and the expansion (sorry Skyward fans, at this point I can confirm that’s the only expansion the game will have) for $6.99.

Why no more expansions for Skyward?  Well, as much as I absolutely love this game, I think we really accomplished everything that we set out to do, to be frank.  We could build more content, it’s true, but I don’t think that would really extend the life of the game for most people.  You can easily get dozens of hours of playtime out of the game (and some people get even more than that!), but by Arcen standards this is by definition a “small” game, hence the much lower price point than something like The Last Federation or AI War.  Josh and I had a blast designing this game, and we hope that you have been having as much fun playing it!

Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the  in-game updater itself, if you already have any version of the game.  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.

About The Recent Schedule, and TLF Updates

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 Summer Sale 2014: Arcen Titles 25-80% Off (Ends June 30th)

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:

Arcen Soundtracks Now Available on Spotify

A good portion of Pablo Vega’s OSTs have been added to music streaming service Spotify. Here are the albums that are currently available:

  • A Valley Without Wind 2
  • AI War: Ancient Shadows
  • The Last Federation
  • Shattered Haven
  • Skyward Collapse
  • Skyward Collapse: Nihon no Mura

Searching and selecting Pablo Vega as an artist brings up multiple individuals by that name at the moment, so for now it’s probably easier to search for the music by album name. More albums coming soon!

Deals Galore: Valley Steam Sale, New Bundles for AI War and Skyward Collapse

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.

Humble Update: 40,000 Bundles Sold, $135,000 Earned (3 Days Left!)

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:


Interviews/Podcasts
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’

Just Press Start — Humble Weekly Bundle Featuring Arcen Games!Game Debate — Humble Weekly Bundle From Arcen Games
EzPzJoystiq — A Valley Without Wind 1 Humble Bundle
Максим Соколов — Humble Bundle Presents A Valley Without Wind 2

Skyward Collapse

A Bear In Clothing — Skyward Collapse turns the god game genre on its head
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

Everything Else
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.

The Humble Weekly Sale: Arcen Games

Pay what you want for awesome games from Arcen Games. Support charity.

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!

Skyward Collapse Nihon no Mura and Bionic Dues Featured in PAX Prime Indie MEGABOOTH

Skyward Collapse Nihon no Mura Expansion Launches Ahead of PAX Indie MEGABOOTH Showing
Arcen’s upcoming tactical roguelike Bionic Dues also to be on display in Seattle

We’re pleased to announce the release of the Nihon no Mura expansion for our god game Skyward Collapse. The game is available now on Steam, GamersGate and the Arcen Store – and will land soon on various other digital storefronts.

The expansion adds the Japanese (along with its more than interesting mythology) as a new faction to the base game’s Norse and Greek line-ups, along with Hamlets – non-factional building constructions that enable several powerful new abilities. That leads into the additions of the Hamlet Idyll game mode as well as the Construct the Luminith Tower alternate win condition, and there are also new map and land tile types, new music from our composer Pablo Vega, and more.

Skyward Collapse 2.0 and Nihon no Mura will be on display in Seattle during PAX Prime this weekend as part of the Indie MEGABOOTH. In celebration of the launch and showing, both the base game and new expansion content are on discount through this week and all four days at PAX.

Along with the Nihon no Mura content, we’ll also be demoing our upcoming tactical turn-based roguelike –  Bionic Dues. The game features six classes of Exos – hovering mechs – and has players delving into a variety of facilities in Port City.


Press and video channel owners interested in preview codes, assets or more info on Skyward Collapse Nihon no Mura and/or Bionic Dues, please email us: arcengames[at]gmail[dot]com .

About Skyward Collapse Nihon no Mura
The floating continent of Luminith is now home to more than just the Norse and Greeks: the Japanese enter the fray as a playable faction.  The Japanese of Luminith have a very strong military and a very strange pantheon of gods: their gods are much more active and aggressive than their Greek and Norse counterparts, and each god has three unique creatures rather than three god tokens.  Learning to play this new style of faction effectively is a fun new challenge, because it changes the flow of everything: you can’t drop the usual god tokens for points, instead having to rely on lots of creature summons.  Given how powerful this then makes the Japanese military, the Norse and Greek god tokens have to be used in new and creative ways to drive back this threat.

Hamlets are the other major addition in Nihon no Mura.  These non-combative, non-factional villages can be built in the remains of the fallen towns of either faction.  Ignore the hamlets and they will be taken over by slums.  Tend to them and you can build up a mix of nobles and peasantry that will generate a new Culture resource for you.  Culture allows you to activate some powerful new abilities, such as enlarging the radius of your factional towns.  Amass enough Culture and Sunstone and you can even win the game via a new method: constructing the incredible Luminith Tower.

Features
Unique new Japanese faction with a completely new way of handling their gods.
Hamlets allow for non-factional building construction that enable several powerful new abilities.
New “Hamlet Idyll” game mode that lets you play with hamlets without the military side of the game.
New alternate win condition!  Construct the Luminith Tower via resources earned in your hamlets.
Several new map types, woes, land tile types, and a useful new Military Outpost building for all factions.
More music!

About Bionic Dues
Bionic Dues is a tactical turn-based roguelike featuring “Exos” — basically legless mechs that hover around. You play as one of six characters, and you remotely pilot any combination of four Exos pulled from six classes: Assault, Sniper, Science, Siege, Tank, and Brawler. The premise of the game has to do with these Exos. You were an ordinary citizen in a futuristic city… that was, naturally, taken over by robots. People still live in the city and try to go about their business, but frankly it’s dangerous with the robots all around, killing people and causing other problems. But the expense of moving from the city is way more than a regular person can afford. And the common people can’t even afford the bionic implants that would let them better defend themselves from the robots! Sheesh. But good ol’ corporations have a deal for the citizenry: they’ll give you bionic implants for free, so long as you do a tour of duty in the city, trying to wipe out the robots.
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 saw the release of The Zenith Remnant, the first two full expansions for AI War; as well as Tidalis, an innovative block-based puzzle with casual appeal and hardcore depth.
AI War’s third and largest expansion Light of the Spire marked Arcen’s first release of 2011, with the rest of the company’s focus being devoted to their most massive project yet: A Valley Without Wind, which released in 2012. The end of 2012/start of 2013 has been another busy time for the team, with AI War’s fourth expansion Ancient Shadows launching, A Valley Without Wind 2 hitting 1.0, and Shattered Haven’s releasing as well. The studio just launched its latest title, turn-based strategic god game Skyward Collapse, this past May and now turns its attention to developing its latest project Bionic Dues along with adding new content to both AI War and Skyward Collapse over the coming months.
Originally a one-man shop, Arcen Games has grown to have half a dozen part-time or fulltime contributors to its various titles. The team is also proud to be a platinum sponsor of the Child’s Play charity. For all the latest news, coverage and other musings, visit us on our website, Twitter and Facebook; as well as Arcen founder Chris Park’s Games By Design blog.

Skyward Collapse Free 2.0 Upgrade Launches Alongside Nihon no Mura Expansion

We at Arcen are proud to announce the latest version of our title Skyward Collapse has now gone gold.  As is typical for our titles, the massive 2.0 update is free, while a paid expansion pack with huge buckets of content also launches at an affordable $2.99.

At PAX Prime we’ll primarily be showing off Bionic Dues in the Indie Megabooth, but we’ll also have Nihon no Mura (the new expansion) and Skyward Collapse 2.0 to check out if you want to swing by.

What’s New In 2.0
There was a big writeup on the largest set of changes, which were originally released as version beta 1.4.  Anyway, the highlights of what has changed from 1.0 onward are:

– Complete rebalance of pretty much all the units’ bonuses against one another.
– Monster Caves that appear in addition to Bandit Keeps.
– 9 new bandit-only mythological creatures.
– 11 new bandit-only human units.
– Ally Camps, with 3 units from each faction moving here.
– 2 new land types.
– Soul imprints resource, and new related abilities.
– Currency resource, and revamped trade model.
– Building upgrades.
– Revamped resource costs for human units to better control production.
– Garrisons.
– Functional revamp of not only trade, but also embassies and flower gardens.
– New Insane and Torment difficulty levels for expert players.
– Visual upgrades to the fonts, particle effects, and various tiles.
– Improvements to Sandbox Mode.

And a whole lot more!

Nihon no Mura Expansion
The Japanese enter the fray on Luminith: their faction has a very strong military and a very strange pantheon: their gods are much more aggressive than their Greek and Norse counterparts, and each has three god creatures rather than three god tokens.  Learning to play this new faction effectively is a fun new challenge: given how powerful the Japanese military and mythology are, you have to be very creative in how you help the Norse and Greeks drive back this threat.  Remember, no faction is supposed to dominate the other!

Hamlets are new non-combative, non-factional villages that can be built in the remains of the fallen towns.  But it’s never that easy!  Hamlet buildings can only be placed from a limited queue that cycles as you place them.  Hamlet buildings generate (or lose) Culture depending on what pre-existing tiles were adjacent at the time you placed them.  Culture allows you to activate four powerful new abilities, including creating Large Towns or even turning back time.  Amass enough Culture and Sunstone and you can even win the game via a new Cultural Victory!

Features
* Japanese faction with a unique new playstyle both for balance and gods.
* Hamlets: construction of 11 non-factional building types that generate Culture via new adjacency rules.
* New alternate win condition!  Construct the Luminith Tower via Culture earned in your hamlets.
* Powerful new Culture abilities: Enlarge Radius of Town, Reverse Time, Stop Woe, and Super Smite.
* Hamlet Idyll game mode: play for score with hamlets without the military side of the game.
* For all factions: 3 new map types, 9 new woes, 2 new land tiles, and a useful new Military Outpost building.
* Ten new music tracks by Pablo Vega, including a new vocal track for win/loss music!


About Skyward Collapse

“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

“Skyward Collapse offers a unique twist on a stagnant genre”
9/10 – Rob Savillo , GamesBeat

How do you balance — and indeed encourage — a war between factions without letting either side obliterate the other?  How do you rule over gods, creatures, and men who refuse to obey you?  How do you build a landscape of villages when bandits and mythology are conspiring to tear it down?  Skyward Collapse places you into the role of The Creator, and frees you to tackle these problems your own way.  Brought to you by the developer of the modern strategy classic AI War: Fleet Command, Arcen’s second full strategy title is equally unique (but far easier to learn): a turn-based 4x strategic god-game.

Your task is to build and populate the floating continent of Luminith.  You create — but cannot control — gods, creatures, and artifacts from both Greek and Norse mythology.  The power you wield with these is immense: Heimdall’s horn causes everyone outdoors to drop dead, for crying out loud.  Your task is to keep both factions alive and fighting until The Master calls you home — but this is harder than it sounds.  Bandit Keeps pop up periodically, as do Woes such as floods, serial killers, guild strikes, and vegetarian uprisings.  Every game plays out differently, and you’ll need even the craziest of your powers in order to survive what lies in store for you.

Features
* A turn-based strategic god-game where you control neither faction, but instead strive to maintain the balance of power.
* Make towns and war as the boardgame-like floating continent continues to construct itself around you.
* Persuade your minions into doing what you want by controlling the circumstances of their (brief) lives.
* 16 gods, each with unique passive abilities and three active powers, help you further your goals as you pass into the Age of Monsters.
* Level up your player profile by winning games. Twelve unlockable buildings in all!
* Straightforward controls paired with an intuitive and helpful interface make this an easy title to pick up… but the strategy runs deep.
* Multiple difficulty levels let you play a very relaxed game up to a nail-bitingly difficult one.  There’s no one best way to win!
* Co-op multiplayer for up to 8 players.

Skyward Collapse 1.903 Beta “Release Candidate 4” Released!

If you’ve not yet read about the general changes in the 1.4 beta line, now is a good time to do so. It’s expected that we’ll stay in beta for the new features until we release the 2.0 version of the game in late August, alongside the new Nihon no Mura expansion.  A lot is different in the base game since 1.4, so we want to make sure and give this time to mature before we put this out to everyone.

This one just more last-minute tuning prior to the upcoming 2.0 release.  There was one exploit with cultural victories, but aside from that nothing serious.  Things are looking good!

This release is the fourth “release candidate,” which basically means we’re into fine-tuning-only mode until this launches this week.  Probably Wednesday, but we’ll keep you posted!

Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the  in-game updater itself, if you already have any version of the game.  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.

Skyward Collapse 1.902 Beta “Release Candidate 3” Released!

If you’ve not yet read about the general changes in the 1.4 beta line, now is a good time to do so. It’s expected that we’ll stay in beta for the new features until we release the 2.0 version of the game in late August, alongside the new Nihon no Mura expansion.  A lot is different in the base game since 1.4, so we want to make sure and give this time to mature before we put this out to everyone.

This one mostly is tuning.  The god-related mythological creatures have way better costs now, and the resource building upgrade progression makes sense now.  Beyond that, just a few minor fixes and typo corrections.  Things are looking good!

This release is the third “release candidate,” which basically means we’re into fine-tuning-only mode until this launches next week.  Probably Wednesday the 28th, but we’ll keep you posted!

Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the  in-game updater itself, if you already have any version of the game.  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.