Recent News

AI War 1.003 Released (Free DLC)

Games is pleased to announce the release of AI War: Fleet Command
version 1.003. You can download
a trial version
of the game, as well as purchase a license key to
unlock the full version.  If you already have the game or demo
installed, just hit “Check For Updates” inside the game to get the
latest patch.

More Free DLC:  Two new missiles are now available at your
Missile Silos.  The Lightning Missile (shown right) is a comparably
inexpensive missile that heavily damages all nearby ships when
detonated.  Sending a swarm of three or four of these is a great way to
out a large group of tough enemy ships (even core or starships).

The second new unit is the Armored Missile, now the most expensive unit
in the game.  It basically works like a Lightning Missile except that it
has a smaller area of effect, and it is so heavily armored as to be all
but indestructible.  This allows you to do precision strikes deep into
enemy territory — if your gate-raids have been failing on a planet, an
Armored Missile might be your one chance for success.

There are also a few other small tweaks, and a fix to a crash bug that
was affecting some users in the prior version (the crash occurred when
starting new campaigns on a subset of maps, with certain AI types and
Simple ship types selected).  Most users were not affected by this
issue, but we’re happy to have this fix out and be back to zero known
issues with the game. More free DLC will be heading your way next week
(including something other than missiles this time). Enjoy!

AI War Comes To Stardock’s Impulse!

AI War is now available for purchase through Stardock‘s Impulse platform. Here is the direct link to the
game. Impulse is one of the premiere digital distribution platforms
for PC games, and working with the Stardock staff to get AI War on their
system has been a really great experience. What a dedicated group of
people. Be sure to check them out!

Starward Rogue Featured Spot

A roguelite labyrinth lodged in the side of a star. Dodge gorgeous waves of bullets, claim weapons and upgrades, defeat The Warden, and rescue… Rodney?

Genre: Action Roguelite with SHMUP elements.
If you are not automatically redirected, please click here.

The Last Federation Featured Spot

From the creators of AI War: Fleet Command comes an all-new grand strategy title with turn-based tactical combat, set in a deep simulation of an entire solar system and its billions of inhabitants. You are the last of a murdered race, determined to unify or destroy the 8 others.

Genre: 4x, Simulation, Turn-based tactics.


If you are not automatically redirected, please click here.

AI War 1.002 Released (Free DLC)

Arcen Games is
pleased to announce the release of AI War: Fleet Command version 1.002.
You can download a trial
of the game, as well as purchase a license key to
unlock the full version.  If you already have the game or demo
installed, just hit “Check For Updates” inside the game to get the
latest patch.

More Free DLC:  A new unit is now available in the CONST tab
of your Command Stations! Missile Silos are an expensive new constructor
that can build powerful missiles.  The first two missiles are the
Nuclear Missile (shown left) and the EMP.  Each add powerful new
strategic options for players, but there is a lot of risk involved with
using nukes in particular (see in-game explanation for details).

In addition, there are a couple of performance improvements that should
help with lower-end graphics cards and hard drives, and the usual milieu
of balance tweaks and small bugfixes. More free DLC will be heading
your way next week (including at least one new missile type). Enjoy!

More About

AI War 1.001 Released (First Full Version, Plus More DLC)

Arcen Games is pleased to announce the release of AI War: Fleet
Command version 1.001. You can download a trial version
of the game, as well as purchase
a license key
to unlock the full version.  If you already have the
game or demo installed, just hit “Check For Updates” inside the game to
get the latest patch.

More Free DLC:  A new unit is now available in your Starship
Constructors! Leech Starships (shown left) are basically an upgraded
version of the existing Raid Starship. The Leech Starships are the first
starships to have the Reclamator ability, which makes them take over
ships they kill (like parasites or core leeches).

The AI also has two elusive new units:  AI Troop Accelerators, and
Anti-Starship Arachnids. The arachnids might come out if you spam
starships at an AI planet for too long, but for the Troop Accelerators
you’ll just have to keep your eyes open.  There’s a small chance you
might see one on any given galaxy map — and there’s a chance that they
will even be inserted into your existing savegames when you install the
latest patch.

In addition, there are a number of small balance tweaks, the most
significant ones dealing with making the single player experience more
akin to the multiplayer experience in terms of resources available.
Lastly, the final two in-game music tracks are now in place (and they
are beautiful); there is also now victory and defeat music.  AI War is
now considered fully released — we’ll continue doing patches with AI
upgrades, free DLC, and any minor bugfixes/balance shifts that are
needed (like any other RTS game, players tend to find these small issues
over time). Enjoy!

AI War 0.940 Released (With First Free DLC)

Games is pleased to announce the release of AI War: Fleet Command
version 0.940. You can download
a trial version
of the game, as well as purchase a license key to
unlock the full version.  If you already have the game or demo
installed, just hit “Check For Updates” inside the game to get the
latest patch.

First Free DLC:  A new unit is now available in the DEF tab of
your Command Stations! Tachyon Drones (shown left) are tiny  mobile
tachyon beam emitters, great for discovering enemy mines and other
cloaked ships.

In addition, the AI has learned a few new tactics on difficulty 5 and
up — this happens from time to time, and makes your already formidable
digital opponents even more fearsome and realistic. The number of
in-game music tracks has also doubled, and more music is on the
way in Friday’s release of version 1.0.  Lastly, there were a few tweaks
to unit balance and a couple of minor bugfixes.  Enjoy!

Designing Games In A Vacuum, Part 2: Units, Walls, and Caps

Continuing the discussion from Part 1 of this series, we’ll discuss some of the unique challenges of a space-based game environment as it relates to unit design for the game AI War: Fleet Command. These difficulties actually helped to bring out some of the more novel features of the game, so in the end I’m quite glad I made the choice to set the game in space (despite all the headaches during the early stages of design and implementation).

Continuing the list of issues from the first article:

Limited Types Of Well-Known Space Ships
3. Variance between the kinds of spaceships people know about is kind of limited. I mean, even in a franchise as memorable as Star Wars, you basically have a variety of smaller ships, the cruiser/corvette/destroyer classes of ships, and then the really big space stations and weapons like the Death Star. Granted, there are a lot of differences between the various Star Wars ships in terms of handling, control, loadout, etc — these really shine in an action-oriented game — but in an RTS game where you simply order ships around with your mouse, all of those differences start to seem pretty minor.

I knew I wanted dozens or hundreds of ship types in the game, on the order of most terrestrial RTS games, and that just wasn’t looking possible by conventional methods. I mean, in a terrestrial RTS you have units with various bonuses (like pikemen versus cavalry), ranged units such as archers, various sorts of melee units, units that can fly, naval units, units that are good at moving through certain terrain, and on and on. The dearth of real-world examples of different kind of spacecraft with varying abilities was both a challenge and an opportunity for some unique design.

The opportunity was that I could do anything that I wanted, but the challenge was that ships would not be instantly recognizable in the manner of archers or cavalry. I had serious concerns that meaning might be obscured in the way that many of the units in Rise of Legends were difficult for me to remember (What is the difference between Sand versus Fire versus Glass units? What does the Scorpion guy do, versus the Manta Ray?). Don’t get me wrong, I did like RoL, and it’s uniqueness was one of its draws, but in the end there were too many units with too many esoteric groupings and names for me to ever feel really proficient at the game. I didn’t want players to come away from their first few sessions of AI War with that feeling.

No Walls In Space
4. There are no walls in space, but this was a critical element in most of my favorite RTS games. Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends had both excluded walls (presumably due to challenges with pathfinding?), and that had been pretty annoying because it was hard to protect core resource without committing so many military assets that I became weaker on offense. In my experience, when both players in a game were only lightly defended (no walls or force fields or what have you), that made it a rush to see who could crush the other faster.

I wanted to create a longer game with more emphasis on planning, maneuvering and scouting; to me, it’s always been more satisfying to think of a clever way out of a tough situation, as opposed to just having memorized a pre-developed strategy or clicked faster than my opponent. When I want to test my reflexes against others, I play a racer or an FPS (I do love and frequently play those genres, but they are distinct from RTS).

Population Caps
5. In most RTS games, there are arbitrary population caps that prevent players from building an infinite number of units. This means that players tend to gravitate towards the stronger units, which often cost multiple population points because of their strength (1 cavalry or heavy tank takes 2 or 4 population points, etc). I wanted none of this, since my game engine was capable of handling 60,000+ ships in realtime.

However, with no population caps of any sort, this meant that alpha players tended to find the strongest unit and spam it repeatedly. Weaker ships might as well not have even been in the game, for all the use they got. A lot of RTS games seem to have this problem, even the best ones — in Age of Empires III, when I played as the French, I never built anything but Musketeers and Cuirassiers, for instance. Even though I loved that game, the presence of that deadly combination in my favorite civ made the game a lot less interesting for me. In early builds, the same thing was happening to AI War.


Quirky Ship Designs
If all the units are too homogeneous, that will be uninteresting and will make the game feel smaller than it is. But on the flip side, if the units are too esoteric, no one will be able to get a firm grasp on what everything means and how it all fits together (my Fleaship kills your Dogboat, but your Dogboat kills my Trianglecraft — obviously, these are completely made up, but you get the idea). I therefore decided very early on in to go with a very practical naming scheme, where each ship’s name evoked its abilities.

For a few examples: space tanks are slow with a powerful shot, and have heavy armor; raptors are quick, cloaked ships that are able to pop out with a strong, sudden attack; laser gatlings are little ships with a rapid-fire laser attack; vorticular cutlasses are spinning masses of blades that crash into enemy ships. From the reactions of alpha and beta testers, most people have found it very quick to remember unit names and abilities, despite the huge variety of units that have no real-world or popular media counterpart.

Early ship designs were all over the place — I had no particular goals and so just tried out a variety of ideas to see what was most memorable, different, and fun. After a lot of playtesting and design iterations, I settled into what you see in the final game. There are 28 classes of mobile military ships currently in the game (not counting starships), and these make up the bulk of players’ fleets. Each ship type has some sort of unique ability associated with its name, or some other special combination of stats that makes it fill an individual niche.

This worked out really well, except when it came time to try to balance all of these ships so that they were inherently equal despite being so different — this seemed to be an impossible task, and the ships became more generic the more equal I made them. But when the ships were not equal, my alpha testers were great at finding and exploiting over-strong ships. I’d introduce some cool new ship type, and it would either be completely irrelevant or the powerful new thing that everyone would use and that I would have to quickly nerf.

But I was committed to having variety in this game, as I knew that was one key to longevity and replay value, so I pressed onward with many different designs: electric shuttles, which strike all nearby ships with weak bolts of lightning; vampire claws, which absorb health from ships that they crash into; EtherJet Tractors, crazy-fast cloaked ships that can grab enemy ships and drag them away (the AI is really mean with these on the upper difficulty levels); and 22 other ship types with various abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. I succeeded in creating variety, but unwittingly created a game that was too complex for much of anyone to play — people could remember what all the ships did, but it was paralyzing to try to decide which ships out of a stable of 28 would be the best in any given situation. This made for people just specializing in a few ships (bad), or building a bit of everything completely at random (much, much, worse). It took a few weeks of playtesting for my alpha group and I to come up with the solution for this.

Limiting The Number Of Ship Types Per Game
Up until a certain point in the design, all of the ship types could be built by any player at any time. This meant that players had a dizzying array of options (28 different main ship types to choose from at any time? Even I couldn’t make effective decisions with them, and I designed them). It was actually my dad, who is one of my alpha testers, who suggested that it would make a lot more sense if the number of ship types was more limited in each individual game.

I was initially resistant to the idea, but nevertheless he and I spent several hours hashing out the system for randomizing and unlocking “bonus” ship types that you currently see in the game. Once the design for this was complete, I immediately knew we were on to something. By limiting the number of ship types each player has available at any given time, there is a greater sense of progression to the game (since Advanced Research Stations are captured and new ship types are unlocked), there is greater variety between campaigns (since not every campaign contains every ship type), and the starting options for players are considerably less overwhelming.

If you think about it, this is basically the same sort of segmenting that you get in most other RTS games, where the different civilizations have inherently different units. But in most other RTS games, all of the various civs have to balance out with one another so that there is no dominant civ (and there still tends to be a collection of civs that all the best players use). In AI War you are allowed to select one bonus ship type to start with, but all the rest that you get are not discovered until several hours into the game. Likewise, the ships that the AI uses are dependent on the map you choose, and so are unknown at the start. This different-every-time feature was half of a key feature for AI War’s unit balance, but I didn’t realize it quite yet.

Unbalancing Units On Purpose
With the different-every-time features for bonus ship types, I suddenly realized that I was free to make the ship types as unbalanced as I wanted to. The idea of “fairness” is required in competitive multiplayer games, but many cooperative multiplayer games are unbalanced on purpose. Take a look at the co-op mode in Resistance 2, for instance: there are three distinct player classes, each with distinct strengths and weaknesses. This lets players fill unique niches, which emphasizes cooperation, and it also provides for more variability in each game.

I decided to do a similar thing with AI War, making it so that all ship types are useful in some way, but some ships are more valuable in one campaign than others (depending on what ships the opposing team may have, the strengths of your bonus ship types might be really helpful or not). At the core of this, I knew I wanted the rock-paper-scissors relationship between the standard Fighter, Bomber, and Cruiser ships. These three ship types are in every campaign, and one of those three units is strong against every other ship type in the game. Thus there is never a situation where one team gets a ship type that the other team is completely unable to counter.

Per-Type, Per-Level Ship Caps
One of my early design goals for the game was to make it so that all ships that you can build at the start of the game are still useful at the end of the game. Many other recent RTS games are also doing this sort of thing, but usually that’s with a veterancy system that seems a little bit too opaque for my taste (and which really only seems to work well with small numbers of units). By contrast, in Supreme Commander players would often still need to build Tech 2 units even when building Tech 3 units, just because the Tech 2 units were so much cheaper and faster to make.

Instead of putting so much scaling into cost and time to build, instead I implemented a per-ship-type population cap. Not only was this per type, it was also per technology level of each type. So you can build perhaps 180 Mark I Fighters, 140 Mark II Fighters, 120 Mark III Fighters, and 90 Mark IV Fighters, for instance — and similar ratios for Bombers, Cruisers, etc. This was the final piece of the balancing puzzle. By limiting the number of each type of ship that could be built, I insured that players would have to utilize ALL of their ship types, and all levels of each ship type, throughout the entire game. So even at the very end of a campaign, players are still building Mark I ships in addition to the Mark IV versions.

Real commanders quite often have to deal with outdated equipment or underperforming units, and I wanted to simulate that in a game. Choosing where to place your best units, and where to put your weaker, more outdated ones, creates a whole new strategic challenge (my favorite novel, Ender’s Game, also discusses this as an issue). Rise of Nations had done something similar with their increasing-costs per each unit of a type built, but those were irrespective of technology levels so far as I recall — it made you have a reasonably balanced army (unless you were really resource-rich), but it didn’t make you use older tech in addition to the new.

There were many other advantages to this system, such as making the acquisition of Advanced Research Stations even more important (they effectively increase your pop cap as well as the types of ships you can build). It also let me make certain ship types even more powerful, since I could then give them a lower pop cap to balance it out. And for the really weak, inexpensive, swarm-style ships like laser gatlings or infiltrators, I could give them a cap that was 6x higher than normal. All that contributes to some pretty impressive differentiation between ship types, and kept them from feeling too generic and similar to each other.

Space-Based Substitutes For Walls
In the context of an RTS game, what are walls, really?

#1. A way to prevent enemies from coming at your defensive positions from all directions.
#2. A way to slow down enemies.
#3. A way to choose the most likely locations for battles.

Before I started thinking about walls in these more abstract terms, I had actually implemented a unit called Magneto Lanes (basically space walls), but those never really felt right or made much sense. The better solution, the one that you see in the actual game, is tractor beams. Tractor beams are a familiar technology from literature and film, and they meet the criteria for #2 and #3 above. Tractor beams are not indestructible (neither are walls), but they provide a way to slow down oncoming hordes. Of course, each tractor beam can only block a limited number of ships, unlike a wall, so that changes the dynamics some while keeping the same basic idea — change like that can be refreshing.

The other part of the walls puzzle, the solution for criteria #1 above, was choke points. Basically, criteria #1 is just referring to player-made choke points, but if there are already choke points available then the players can just exploit those instead of making their own. As it happened, there were already excellent choke points available in the game in the form of wormholes. Without wormholes creating bottlenecks for entry into planets, tractor beams would be vastly less effective, but in combination they are able to provided all the same basic protections as walls in a slightly new way. Thus, tractor beams evolved from a tiny little ship with some side interest, to one of the core mechanics of the game.

In Conclusion / The Harshness Of Space
Being able to take a familiar genre niche (walls), and substitute something less familiar that nevertheless fills the same basic niche (tractor beams) has been really exciting. There have been a few other opportunities for me to do this in AI War, such as the way knowledge is gathered and unlocked (tech points are generally something that you don’t have to get from specific locations in an RTS game, but that is the case in AI War), the way build queues are managed (central controls make it easy to make quick, large-scale economic decisions), the way manufactories work (in place of a market), and others.

Not one thing on that list was in the original design documents for the game, but rather came about through playtesting and seeing how the space environment, the wormholes, and the multi-planet galaxy maps interacted. To me, this is pretty much the entire case for iterative development — I could never have thought of these things up front. Space is a harsh environment for astronauts to work in, and in a metaphorical sense that has held true for me with regard to designing this game. However, some of the best stuff is invented in space, out of necessity moreso than enterprising spirit. I’m glad I took the journey!

Designing Games In A Vacuum, Part 1: Terrain & Positionality

In developing the space-based RTS game AI War: Fleet Command, I encountered an unexpected design challenge: namely, I hadn’t anticipated the issues that would be caused by setting the game in space. I’ve played space-based games like Homeworld (which I didn’t care for) and Descent: Freespace (which I loved), among many others — all sorts of Star Wars games, for instance. Most of the games that I had loved which were set in space all had a strong action element to them, usually involving piloting smaller craft through asteroid fields, near planets and back, or around much larger enemy ships (Star Fox also fits this mold in many of its levels).

I’ve never been much into the 4X genre, which is also commonly set in space, but from what I have seen the appeal there appears to be detailed management of a lot of different colonies and planets and fleets, all of which have unique attributes. This was sort of along the lines of what I wanted to do in AI War, except I wanted more of a focus on realtime military management. The idea was that it would be similar in feel to my favorite terrestrial RTS games, except bigger (multiple planets, etc), and in space.

On the surface this might sound simple, and I delved into design and the early prototypes with gusto. Each early prototype introduced new elements, making the experience more fun and more of an actual game, but at the same time a whole slew of unanticipated challenges were appearing. I was accustomed to terrestrial RTS games, for the most part, and so was unprepared for some of the bigger issues that I suddenly found myself facing when I tried to translate what I knew into space. Here are the first two:

Shortest Path
1. In faux-3D space, where there are no obstacles that really block ships from traveling, the shortest valid path between any two points is always the line connecting them. This makes most of the space around planets pretty useless, because when you arrive at a planet you should just go straight at the enemy, and they’ll just come straight at you. Not exactly riveting.

2. Connected to the first issue, there is no terrain in space. In a terrestrial game you have water, which might contain naval units and block land units (that can’t hover or what have you). You also have forests, mountains, hills, rubble, neutral buildings, craters, and a slew of other environmental features to get in the way of your units. These help players create choke points, take elevated ground or cover for tactical advantages, and so on. In space there’s just… nothing. So all of that good complexity is out the window, unless you do something like have ships with bonuses in asteroid fields, nebulae, or other space phenomena — and that seems mildly contrived if overused, as well as not too workable for the general game concept.

It took many, many iterations of design for AI War to arrive at the state that it is currently in. My alpha testing team was invaluable in their feedback on what worked and what didn’t, what made sense, what was confusing, what was fun or annoying, etc. Here is some of what we learned:

Create A Sense of Position Where There Is None
In space, when any position is tactically as good as another, you need to have your units themselves create positional meaning. Early builds of the game had all AI ships on a planet immediately chase and attack any player ships that came into a planet’s system. While this was an effective tactic for the AI, it was not very interesting to play against. This gave rise to the concept of command posts, which AI ships guard and will not stray too far from, and which often have unique building-style units present that the players either want to capture or destroy. This makes pockets of enemies that the players must maneuver around to succeed.

I kept coming back to some of my favorite 12-hour marathon games against the AI in Empire Earth. The reason those were fun was the a constant flow of enemies attacking my team, as well as all sorts of semi-isolated pockets of units that they did not attack us with. This behavior was not actually part of the EE AI, but it came about due to AI transport limitations on “team islands” random maps. As players we used that to get the sort of game that we found most fun.

In AI War, therefore, I went with a similar sort of design, except that instead of the AI having semi-isolated pockets of ships based on not being able to effectively cross water (since that doesn’t exist in space!), I made most of the AI ships on AI planets have a guard directive as their primary behavior. They must protect the command post/station, never straying too far from it unless it is destroyed. The addition of “Special Forces” units (which don’t guard, but rather just patrol around planets at random) finished off this concept by adding the uncertainty of what and how many units are passing through a planet at any given time (reinforcements and the constant threat of incoming AI waves also help keep the players on their toes).

With a randomized distribution of resource patches on planets, a randomized effect to AI defensive positions, and a wide variety of auxiliary enemy structures that help to create secondary goals (Data Centers, Ion Cannons, etc), this made for the varied and interesting planetary maps that you see in the final game. Since there is no real terrain in space, the terrain had to be based on the position of resources, and how the AI is arranged to defend those resources. In some senses, that therefore means that the terrain is ever-changing in the game, since the relative strength of locations on any planet shifts as the AI reinforces and the player attacks. That’s not an effect you tend to get too much in terrestrial RTS games, so that was a differentiating factor that I was happy to stumble into.

Making the enemy planets randomly unbalanced also went a long way to creating the overall galaxy-wide terrain. Because some planets are impossibly hard at the start, they become semi-permanent blockers, like mountains you can only eventually tunnel through. This made it so that, on a galaxy scale as well as on a planetary scale, players could not always take the shortest path between any two points — usually there’s a better way, if the players scout and strategize effectively.

Let The Players Set The Pace Of Game Advancement
You might not think that game advancement has much to do with terrain, but in a game that is all about capturing and holding terrain, the issues are very much intertwined. In AI War, there is a numeric “AI Progress” indicator that increases by 1 every time you destroy a warp gate or take a planet (of which there is one each per planet). You can decrease it by 2 by destroying data centers, but there are comparably few of those. The higher the AI Progress level goes, the stronger the AI becomes, both in its defensive reinforcements and its offensive waves.

The AI Progress came about as part of my desire to have this be a thinking-focused game, rather than a race to tech up. The AI basically holds steady with its level of technology and the size of its individual raids and reinforcements if you don’t take any planets. If you do nothing it will still continue to bombard you and reinforce with the level it currently has, of course, which means that if you ignore an AI planet near your forces for a good part of the game, you might later return to find thousands of low-level ships waiting there. The AI Progress system also penalizes players who don’t plan ahead, because if they just take every non-valuable planet they come across, the AI will get too powerful and will probably kill them.

This overall pacing is helpful because it allows the players time to scout, plan, and carry out their plans, without letting them just turtle up and hoard resources and units. “Boom” was always my strategy against AIs in other games (yes, I’m one of those, but only because it was so effective), and I wanted to invalidate that strategy in AI War because it’s so much more interesting when your activities are constantly changing throughout play (a mix of military offense, economy management, military defense, and exploration). In other games there is often an incentive to just focus on one aspect of the game at a time, at least when fighting the AI, and I wanted to turn that on its head.

Coming back to the issue of terrain, the AI Progress system also helps contribute to the sense of place and differentiation between all the planets in the galaxy, believe it or not. Players have to decide not just whether they have the strength to take a given planet, but whether it is strategically wise to do so. Does this planet get us closer to a goal, open new avenues for expansion, or net us significant resources? Without the pressure of the AI Progress increasing with every acquisition, the strategic implications of taking any planet would be simple, as in most other RTS games: take it if you can. But the presence of the AI Progress meter can make it so that even a comparably low-level planet is “in the way” (in the sense of mountains or water bodies in other games), not because you can’t capture it, but because you think it would be unwise to do so.

In no other RTS game that I can think of are there so many subjective decisions that can have such a far reaching effect on the future of your campaign. I’d really love to see what some other developers might do with this sort of idea, really emphasizing opportunity cost at every turn. RTS players are used to having to make hard decisions when it comes to what units to build, but the strategic issues of how, when and where to expand have never been so difficult.

I designed and coded this game, and I have yet to find even a semi-consistent “best path” to victory, or any dominant strategy to use in the early game. That was one of my chief objectives with this game (since I’m basically done with an RTS game as soon as I find that best path). In the next article in this series, I’ll talk more about how the unique design challenges of a space environment helped make this happen.

AI War: Fleet Command is now available!

If you’re into smart, fun indie games for the PC, check out the website for Arcen Games, my new indie games development company. Our first title, a space-based RTS game called AI War: Fleet Command, is now available for demo or purchase! AI war has vast numbers of ships in every game — 30,000 or more in most — and it also has some of the toughest, most interesting AI in the genre.

The game is played in cooperative campaigns for 1-8 human players against 2 stronger AI opponents. With over 100 hours of content, there’s some serious replay value here! With so many features, and at $20 per copy, it’s a steal compared to our competitors’ games. We also regularly add free downloadable content (DLC) for our players, so there’s always something new to find and explore!

AI War Demo And “Advance Release” Now Available

Arcen Games is pleased to announce the general availability of AI
War: Fleet Command! You can now download a trial version
of the game, as well as
purchase a license key
to unlock the full version.

Our release date for version 1.0 of the software remains May 15, one
week from today, but the current build is quite stable and a blast to
play.  We decided to do an “advance release” of the pre-1.0 version of
the game in response to requests from gamers who weren’t able to be part
of the closed beta.

All future patches for AI War will be free, regardless of when you
purchase the game. We play this game ourselves (it’s replaced our other
weekly RTS sessions), so rest assured that we’re committed to
continually updating and expanding the game.  In addition to a pair of
planned expansion packs (pricing TBA), we’ll also be including free DLC
for all players. During the first month after release, we’ll have at
least one free new unit, gameplay mode, AI type, or game mechanic per week.
After the first month, we’ll be adding at least one of those new
features for free every month, even after the expansion packs come out
in 3-6 months.

AI War is already a huge game — it will take you well over 120 hours
to see every current feature if you play full campaigns — but we’re
committed to expanding it even further. So much of this game is about
exploration that we want you to always have something new to discover!

Release Date Moved Forward Again!

Our beta testing has proceeded exceptionally well, and at this stage
we are hovering at or around zero known issues.  Things have been going
so well, in fact, that we’ve decided to bump up the release

date once again — at present our target is May 15th, just ten days
away.  Not all digital distribution services will immediately carry it
on that date, but it will be available for purchase through our site at
the very least, and other services will likely follow in the weeks and
months afterward. More details on that as the date approaches; we will
also release a demo on or before the 15th, but we will not be accepting

Now that the game is more finalized, we’ve once again updated the
Gameplay, Features, and Mini Strategy Guide sections for AI War.  The
Mini Strategy Guide has seen the largest update, with the amount of
content in it almost doubling.  Also: if you haven’t yet noticed, we
added forums to the site a few weeks ago.

Updated AI War Information

We’re pleased to announce that development work on AI
War is proceeding ahead of schedule!  We now expect to hit closed beta
in late May, with a target for release to the public in late June or
July.  These dates are still subject to change, of course, but all
indications are presently positive.

In light of this, we thought
it was time that we updated you with the latest on the game itself —
the Features, Gameplay, and Screenshots sections for AI War have all had
significant updates.  The old screenshots have been completely replaced
(many of them shots were from very early versions of the game), and the
Gameplay and Features sections now have partial screenshots relating to
many of the topics on those pages.

Announcing Arcen Games

Since January of 2008, I’ve been working on a computer game called Alden Ridge — it was originally meant to be something of a promotional item for my novel of the same name, but it’s taken on a life of its own. Starting in November 2008, I’ve also been working on a game called AI War. These two games are now progressing to the point that I’ll be ready to release AI War within 3-6 months, and Alden Ridge in another 3-6 months after that.

With these goals in mind, I’m founding a limited liability company called Arcen Games. The paperwork is still pending for the company, but the website is open. Check it out: