Monday, June 28, 2010

Downtime coming tomorrow morning.

Just to warn folks, the Arcen forums will have about 1-2 hours of downtime (at worst -- could be as little as 20 minutes) tomorrow morning, June 28th.  Somewhere between 8am and 12 pm EST, but I'm not sure the exact window there.  The community wiki  will also be down during that time, but the rest of the Arcen site, including the store and the official wiki, won't experience any downtime at all.

We're switching hosts away from lunarpages shared hosting to the rackspace cloud sites.  It's amazing we've lasted so long on a shared server, to be honest -- we're routinely averaging 8000 to 12000 hits per day now even when there's not much going on, and significantly more when there's big news or events.  We switched our large file handling over to the Amazon S3 cloud about half a year ago, and that really staved off the inevitable of us needing a more robust hosting service for the site itself, but now we're hit the point where things are slowing down a bit, and with the release of Tidalis being pretty close at hand we had fears of the site slowing to a crawl or getting so overburdened there would be outages.

At any rate, with the new hosting service it should be a lot zippier of service, especially under heavy load conditions.  After the brief window of downtime tomorrow, there will also be 24-48 hours where the Arcen forums and similar are running on a different url other than (while the DNS transfers), so don't be alarmed when you see that.  It will be back to being for everyone by mid-week.

Should be a good improvement!  And we're also going to make use of these new servers to enable our own master server game listings for Tidalis, and later AI War as well (while we wait for Impulse Reactor V2).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

AI War and Zenith Remnant Bundle 66% Off During Steam's Summer Sale

Today through July 4th, there's an incredible discount on AI War: Fleet Command and AI War: The Zenith Remnant via the Steam "Perils of Summer" sale! We're experimenting a bit by trying out a discount rate of 66%, which is unusually large for us. We recently did something similar with Direct2Drive, and now we're trying it with Steam, but this deal definitely won't last, so make sure and tell your friends and family if you think they might be interested (or if you haven't yet taken the plunge, you might want to get to evaluating the demo while this deal lasts).

So what's going on with AI War, anyway? AI War is still very much a living and growing game, with a big version 4.0 + Mac OSX support upcoming in a few months, and our upcoming for-charity micro-expansion, AI War: Children of Neinzul. Those are both currently scheduled for release in August, but in the meantime we've also got a current beta version chock full of updates that will become the next official free DLC release within a few weeks (around the same time that preorders for AI War:CoN begin).

So, while it's safe to bet there will probably be other sales in the future, after this summer they probably won't go this deep again until 2011 at the earliest. Just fair warning!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tidalis Beta 0.854 Released (Gargantuan Updates) and New Videos

It's been a while since we've done an update to the installer for Tidalis, but if you've been following the Tidalis forums or the budding Tidalis wiki, you already know that the game has been seeing massive nearly-weekly public beta releases since mid-April. The latest version, 0.854, represents the culmination of everything we wanted to get done before the PAX 10 contest deadline. And look! We've also now done an official trailer for the game:

So what all is new since the last time we updated the installer build (which was version 0.407)?

Visually and Aurally
  • We've now completed all the visual/art themes for the game, though we're still adding animations and polish on the art. There are now 21 of these themes in all, counting three hidden ones that get unlocked during adventure play.
  • There are now over 50 minutes of music in the game, or 90 minutes if you count the "dire" versions of the tracks.
  • A lot of the music has been updated since 0.407; we had some trouble initially getting just the perfect sound, but now we think we've really nailed it.
  • A ton of the art has already been polished and animated to a heavy degree; check out the Title Menu, the Open Plains theme, or the Volcano themes for specific examples. Pretty amazing, if we do say so.
  • We're now up to 16 game styles for the game (counting the Normal style), which will probably be the final count for release.
  • We're now up to 31 special blocks for the game, which will probably be the final count for release.
  • The game now has items -- 25 of them -- which will probably be the final count for release.
  • There are now 74 (out of a planned 114) adventure levels, as well as 39 brainteaser-type puzzles. More coming on both of these.
  • The game now has achievements -- 20 so far -- with more coming.
  • There are now 19 story cutscenes out of a planned 40 or so.
  • Both co-op and VS play are available on the local computer, either with two humans or 1-2 humans against the AI.
What Isn't Complete?
  • We're still working on the networking, that will be done soon.
  • We still need to finish the last quarter or so of the adventure mode and story.
  • There are a few specific VS and co-op features that we still want to add.
  • More polish is still being added to the art, and we'll probably add a few more sound effects, too.
  • The VS AI is already pretty good in the specific game styles it is allowed to play in, but there are some tweaks we have in mind to make it better. All game styles are supported in human vs human play, but not all of them will be available for the AI; it's considered a fairly minor part of this game, by contrast with AI War.
  • Gamepad support.
  • Various other tweaks, polish, and bugfixes still remain, though our list is considerably smaller of late.
So, What's The Plan?
The beta is still in full swing, with the demo being free for anyone, and the full beta being available for anyone who preorders. Right now you can preorder at the main Arcen site, at GamersGate, at MacGameStore, and at myGameIQ. All of our existing partners who sell AI War will also be carrying Tidalis either at release or a few weeks ahead of release.

So when's the release? Right now we're looking at the week of July 12th, although we don't have a specific day nailed down just yet. We're still talking with our distribution partners and figuring out which day makes the most sense for everyone. But we expect to be materially complete with the game (including all the last polish, etc) by July 9th at the absolute latest, so anytime that week should be a possibility.

Check out the trailer if you haven't already, and if you're interested you might like to try the demo. Tidalis is available on both Windows and OSX (you get a license for both platforms when you buy it for either).

This game has grown incredibly far beyond what we had initially planned when we set out to make it, but that's largely due to the promise that the core mechanics showed and the team's enthusiasm for the project. Everyone on the team has the feeling that we've got something really special with this game, and so far beta customers seem to have that feeling, as well.

Definitely exciting times! We'll update with more news as the release gets nearer, and we'll also be having news in the next month about our upcoming AI War 4.0 (which will add full OSX support), and our upcoming charity-focused micro-expansion, AI War: Children of Neinzul. In the meantime, here are some other brand-new Tidalis videos that show off recent additions to the game:

About Tidalis
Tidalis is a block-based puzzle game with casual appeal, hardcore depth, and an addictive new "streams" mechanic. The basic rules of the game are this: blocks fall down into the board and have a color and an arrow direction. If a stack of blocks exceeds the height of the board, you lose. In order to clear blocks, you must right-click and drag paths through the arrows to set up chain reactions of like-colored blocks.

If this sounds simple, that's because it is -- you'll be lining up lengthy chains within minutes. But you'll be surprised how much brainpower it takes to set up combos of multiple chains, and the many brainteaser-style puzzles include some real stumpers. Tidalis has co-op and competitive multiplayer modes (offline only in this beta version); action-oriented modes and timer-less brainteasers; a lengthy, casual-friendly adventure mode; fifteen unique game modes providing innumerable twists to the basic gameplay; dozens of special blocks and items; and over fifty minutes of beautiful music to go with the painterly art.

In short, several games' worth of content are built on top of this core mechanic, which you'll quickly find to be as iconic as it is novel.