Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Roundup

It's been an incredibly busy time here at Arcen in the last two months, what with Pablo and Chris coming on fulltime and all the paperwork and business stuff that entails, the ongoing development of The Zenith Remnant, our further pre-development of art and design for our next two titles (the first two previews for both of those will be out today), and our ongoing work with publicity, new upcoming digital partners, and our upcoming retail deals. Actually, this has been about as busy as time as we've ever had. So, more than a few things have fallen through the cracks on the announcements front, so our apologies for that. Here's a catchup post with a variety of stuff:

Recent Press
- Rock, Paper, Shotgun recently featured AI War as their December 18th entry for their "Games of 2009" list.

- Sugar Free Gamer recently selected AI War as the "top indie game that you should play this year."

- A.J. Hess from Diehard GameFAN picks AI War as his #7 game for 2009.

- DIY Gamer gave an honorable mention to AI War was one of the best indie games of 2009.

- Sandy Warnstaff over at Reclaim Your Game recently did a review of AI War: "One of the most methodical, challenging and unrestricted games I have ever played, AI War is the embodiment of nearly everything that can go right in an RTS game with few drawbacks... I've seen some good developer support, but Arcen Games really takes the cake... I hold Arcen Games up as the standard that all developers and publishers should be held to."

Expansion Update
Work on the expansion has been proceeding as we had hoped, and the current prerelease of the game (2.001ZE today) has 117 new ships for the expansion. That's considerably more than we'd been expecting to add (having previously promised "between 80-100" new ships), and there are still about 6 or so more ships that are going to make it into the expansion before our release in the second week of January (which we are presently on schedule for). We also have over 44 minutes of new music so far completed, with more on the way -- it's some really great stuff, and we're holding it until our official release day as something of a surprise. If you liked the soundtrack to the base game, you'll love this one even more.

So, what's not in the expansion yet? Well, the big thing is that there is still a lot of QA work to do, and many of the ships still need balance tweaks or various little fixes to them. There are also still more map styles to be added beyond the two new ones that are already in place, and the new neutral AI is something we're still working with along with the last player-controllable golem. The new expansion-specific achievements also aren't yet in place. And that's about it! This product has come an amazing way since October when we started on it, and honestly I think we're all a bit surprised at just how much we have been able to accomplish in such a short period of time. It's shaping up to be a really notable expansion, to be sure.

December/November Free DLC
One other thing that we've learned in the last couple of months is that it's pretty much impossible to release free DLC while we're actively developing an expansion to a game -- at least when the turnaround on the deadline is so short. Make no mistake, we've been absolutely packing the DLC into the beta patches all through November and December, and those are free to anyone who has the base game. However, we didn't do an official release of any of that DLC in November, and now it's become clear that we can't do one in December, either.

There is simply too much risk of introducing bugs into the official release from the beta work when things are changing constantly; generally we prefer to have a week where no major features are added before we do a release, so that that week can be spent on final QA and bugtesting. With the expansion in full swing, we just have not had an opportunity for that sort of downtime. Hopefully that makes sense -- we've promised monthly free DLC, but our first priority is to make sure that we always give you a quality product, not one riddled with bugs (not that the beta versions are riddled with bugs, but there are a lot of outstanding issues that we'd strongly prefer to resolve before making an official release).

But! Don't worry that you're losing out on anything DLC-wise, in the grand scheme of things. Our next DLC release will be by January 8th at the latest, and it will have 3x as much content as a normal one -- basically, all that queued-up content from the betas in November, December, and early January. There's a lot of cool stuff in that one, so it should be very exciting even for those who aren't ready to move up to the expansion just yet. And, if you want it sooner than later, you can always download the beta DLC at any time you please.

Lastly... Happy Holidays!
It's a great time of year to be a gamer, with games of all sorts having come out in the last month or two, and with lots of discounts all over the place. Look for discounts with all of our distribution partners in the coming weeks. Here at Arcen, we're largely going to be out of the office from December 24th through January 3rd, though Chris we'll be around for critical support issues, and probably some smaller balance/bugfix work on the expansion, along with some last work on the neutral AIs, etc, so that we're sure to be on schedule for our release in January. But, we're going to be around a lot less in general during that timeframe, anyway, so that we can spend time with our families and enjoy the holidays. We hope that you have a chance to do the same! It's been a really great year for us, with the company being founded and then amazingly growing large enough to actually support us fulltime, and we owe great thanks to all our fans for making that possible. In more senses than one, we couldn't have done it without you!

Previews Of Upcoming Arcen Titles

Work is still in progress on The Zenith Remnant, AI War's first expansion (due out in the second week of January), but Arcen is finally ready to show some previews of their upcoming projects for 2010.

The first preview is a bit brief, but gives you a sneak peek mainly at the art of the very next Arcen title, a currently-untitled puzzle game (formerly called "Feedback"). The basic premise on this one is that it's a new, as yet undisclosed, block-based mechanic that is fun and easy to pick up; miles away from the glut of match-3 clones. Arcen will have a lot more information on this one starting in January and February, and most likely a playable beta in February or March (demo for free, or full thing for people who preorder, same as with The Zenith Remnant).

The second preview is for Arcen's next next game, a tower defense game called A Valley Without Wind. Even if you turn your nose up at the casualness that is generally the tower defense genre, if you're a fan of Arcen titles this is a preview to check out. True to Arcen's growing reputation, this will be a title that doesn't sit neatly in a single genre, and which pushes the boundaries of what that genre is supposed to be (see preview for details). Most likely development for this title will not begin until somewhere between April and June (right after the puzzle game is released), with a release likely in Q4 of 2010.

As is always the case for Arcen, these titles will include co-op as a primary feature right alongside their single-player experience. The puzzle game will also have competitive multiplayer, a first for Arcen. Compared to AI War, both of these games have a more vastly casual veneer to them in terms of art and how accessible they are on the surface, but they'll also both have the same level of hardcore depth that fans of AI War have come to expect. More information to come on these exciting new games starting in January! And, don't forget -- the second expansion for AI War is still planned for late 2010, and free DLC for AI War is going to continue all throughout the year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Gaming Dead: Chris Park Talks AI War, Indie Strategy and Post-Launch Support

Gaming Dead: "In a recent interview with Gaming Dead, Arcen Games' Chris Park, developer of the eight player co-op massive RTS title AI War: Fleet Command elaborated on how he's implementing a post-launch support model in the form of free monthly DLC updates in the interest of seeing the game become the largest strategy title out there."

Read The Interview

Gaming Nexus: Chris Park Interviewed About Design And Development of AI War

Gaming Nexus recently conducted an interview with Chris Park about AI War, the Arcen Games design philosophy, and a lot of interesting questions about the development/distribution/support of the game itself.

Read The Interview

Design Mostly Right: Co-Op In New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Chris Park discusses his reactions to the co-op in the popular NSMBW game, and responds to the co-op review of the game in Co-Optimus.  NSMBW is not without its design flaws as far as co-op goes, but those who write it off too easily are perhaps making a mistake.

Design Mostly Right: Co-Op In New Super Mario Bros. Wii

Encapsulated Businesses For Indie Development

Chris Park discusses his thoughts on the ideal ecosystem for indie games development -- not for using indie games as a means to launch indie developers into AAA development, but rather to keep them secure and producing innovative, commercially-viable games as independent small businesses.

Encapsulated Businesses For Indie Development