Friday, February 4, 2011

First A Valley Without Wind Screens And Video!

[Cary, NC] -- February 4, 2011 -- Arcen Games, developer of the cult classic and ever-evolving space strategy game AI War: Fleet Command, is excited to announce its third full title A Valley Without Wind, a procedurally-generated action-adventure game coming this year to PC and Mac.

AVWW is a complete departure from what Arcen has previously developed in terms of genre. Set in a post-ice-age world in the distant future, the game focuses on survival and exploration. As a random survivor of this harsh world, you decide what impact to make on it. In fact, nearly anything you do will shape your world in some way. Span regions, even continents if you desire. Form settlements and build shelters for safer travel. Map your world, and face its many dangers. Being procedurally-generated, the world is unique for each individual player and it literally goes on forever. No two worlds are the same, and your world permanently forms only as you discover it. Explore, scavenge, craft, cast (yup, there's magic), and fend off foes in a variety of ways. Better your world by aiding other survivors and gaining their help. Or don't, kill everyone in sight and deal with the consequences. It's all up to you.

While death for your characters is permanent, weapons, loot, levels and anything else you've earned while playing will always exist. If one character dies, the player simply assumes a new survivor and the world continues on from there. Not as if nothing happened, though. Those who came in contact with the now-deceased will eventually catch word of their passing, and may share feelings on the departed, for better or worse. Current characters can even pay their respects by visiting the player's own personal graveyard which will contain each and every deceased character played.
A public alpha of the game is planned for March. Those who pre-purchase A Valley Without Wind at that time not only get a discount off the beta version and full release prices, but will also gain immediate access to the alpha when it becomes available. Tools for creating custom content will come packed alongside as well, so pre-order customers will play an integral part in the development process from alpha to launch and can, if they like, create and submit content that may be added to the official game release. Development plans at present are to continue on well after post-release, so that there will always be new places to explore and new adventures to be had.

Accompanying the AVWW announcement are seven pre-alpha screenshots and a music and animations video from the game. They can be viewed on the main Arcen page for the game as well. For more information on A Valley Without Wind, please visit:

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 was a busy one, seeing the release of The Zenith Remnant, the first full expansion for AI War; Tidalis, an innovative block-based puzzle with casual appeal and hardcore depth; and Children of Neinzul, a micro-expansion for AI War with all profits benefiting the Child's Play charity, of which Arcen is a platinum sponsor.

AI War's third and largest expansion Light of the Spire marked Arcen's first release of 2011, and now the company has shifted its focus and excitement to the development of A Valley Without Wind. Originally a one-man shop, Arcen Games has grown to have half a dozen part-time or fulltime contributors to its various titles.


  1. This game sounds incredible. I wish you guys luck in seeing it through.

  2. Sounds absolutely awesome! I normally don't pre-order games (I'm too poor to buy games that haven't actually been released yet), but I think I'll be gathering some cash so I can pre-order it when it becomes available. Good luck guys!

  3. Firstly I want to say that I'm hugely intrigued by the concept, and I'm confident that you guys are going to produce a unique and worthwhile game.

    That said though, I really can't imagine what you were thinking when it came to the choice of perspective! My problems/concerns, in no particular order:

    1. It makes everything look really flat - particularly things like the big building and the jeep which appears in the video.
    2. The viewable area isn't very large, I'd be really concerned that this would make exploration completely reliant on a map, and really impact on the thrill of discovery. Stumbling across a gaping chasm (for example) is much less impressive if you can only see a 10mx10m section of it, surely?
    3. The zoomed in perspective seems likely to put a huge strain on your artists. Larger sprites take longer to draw in the first place, and need more frames of animation to look smooth.

    Obviously this is all just my opinion and other people might completely disagree. You're clearly bright folks and there might be very well thought-out reasons for the choice of perspective, but I'm struggling to think what they could be!

    I'll still be keeping a close eye on the updates over the next couple of months, and I'm still really excited about the possibilities for this game. Best of luck!

  4. Relevant links about the art:


    The perspective mimics that of the SNES classics (and mostly anything else with pixelart, such as the PS1), and in a 3D environment it allows us to do tiled textures on a single vertex and so forth that is far more efficient and thus allowing us to show more. In terms of it being zoomed in, it's actually further zoomed out than any top-down adventure game I've seen. I think the scale of the trees is throwing people off there.

    More coming before too long.

  5. I require this game. Post-haste.

  6. Thanks for the response Chris, I love that you are so involved with the public and it's one of the things that gives me a lot of confidence in you guys.

    I want to make it clear that I don't have a problem with the art style itself, particularly since you've gotten rid of the white fringing. Judging by some of the comments on RPS, quite a few folks do at this stage, but that may well change as more work is done on bringing everything together.

    So, back to the perspective stuff. Someone on RPS put it better than me when they said that it's the combination of a viewpoint which is looking down on the world, with art that is looking front on. For me, and others it seems, the perspective mish-mash is really jarring. I think it's something you can get away with more with low-res pixel art, but the more detailed the graphics become the more noticeable it gets.

    When you mention SNES classics, I can think of plenty which used a similar viewpoint, but all the ones I can think of had that reflected in the art as well! Almost all of the SNES-era RPGs I can think of fit this mold. Can you list a couple of examples of games you were thinking of?

    After a bit more careful consideration, I'll take back my point about the view distance, for now at least! :)

    Interesting technical point you make about tiling, though I'm a little surprised that speed is such a concern for you in a 2d game. My background is mobile games so perhaps I'm just overestimating rendering speeds on modern PCs. I guess maybe you're just aiming for a really low minimum spec, as with AI War?

  7. Chris -- sure thing.

    Basically every SNES game that was top-down used that perspective. Perhaps the best-looking example is Chrono Trigger, but Secret of Mana did as well. That's why the same sprite for Chrono could be used in the side-view prison tower sequences, and running around on the rest of the world. It's just one of those staples of pixelart.

    If you want a more recent example, check out PixelJunk Monsters on the PS3. Exact same perspective there, too. And that's HD-quality stuff, with 3D backgrounds (possibly prerendered) and 2D sprites that are so flexible they almost look like vector art, particularly in motion. I'll admit that with PJM there were times when the perspective was jarring to me -- but it was still a beautiful game and didn't detract from my enjoyment of it (or, from the success of it with modern gamers, with anyone else's enjoyment).

    There's simply no way to get around a fake perspective when you are doing this sort of 2D, unless you show the character almost from the top. Gauntlet and Demon Stalkers and so on did that, but that's generally not a look I like or that many other folks seem to be nostalgic for, either. To be honest, I think that folks may be fixating on the perspective as something that seems wrong given that they didn't like the overall composition, and/or the object borders are bugging them.

    In terms of the tiling, it's relevant for performance because we often have 600+ sprites on the screen at once even at 120x720 resolution (as shown in those screenshots), and many crazy players want to up it even more. The mobile market, by contrast, often being 320x240 or so, depending on what you mean by mobile. Certainly Retina is larger, but even that is finite. And most games use far fewer sprites in general. That said, yes, we try to keep the requirements as low as we reasonably can so that people aren't having to have the latest and greatest GPU to enjoy the game.

    We'll see what people think of later screenshots. To some extent, there's not a lot I can do if individual X doesn't like it. I'm the only artist on the project, we don't have money for more artists, and we're not moving to full 3D (as that would really crimp our game design ability with a game like this). And pixelart is expensive and out of the question as I don't have a lot of skill with that, anyway. So given that we're using 2D, that means it's going to have to have the fakey perspective, like every other top-down 2D game, and we're going to make it look as good as we can without breaking the bank.

    At the end of the day: that's all we can do. I mean, we don't have a magic way of getting more staff or budget. I have to say, the RPS topic thread has been extremely demoralizing to the point it was difficult to work yesterday, but I've got a new, better way of handling buildings, and I think that will really help with the fakey perspective looking the way that we want, etc.

  8. First off, sorry you found the RPS comments so demoralising. I can definitely relate to that, negative feedback always stings! Still, there were plenty of positives there, and if nothing else then the sheer number of comments, particularly for the first part of the interview, should encourage you that there is a lot of potential interest in the game.

    It's interesting that you bring up Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, as they were a couple of games which I could have mentioned as handing a similar perspective better! The crucial difference for me is that whereas the VWW art seems completely front-on, in both of those games you can see the tops of things.

    For example, if there was a jeep in Chrono Trigger in one of the non-dungeon bits you would have seen the roof and the top of the bonnet, as well as the side of the jeep. In VWW, you only see what you would in a side-on orthogonal projection. Likewise, the characters are drawn from an angle looking slightly down on them - you can see the tops of heads.

    Another key difference I think, is the height of the objects typically shown in the worlds. I think that the taller the object, the more obvious the perspective fakery becomes apparent.

    Does that make sense?

  9. Welp, object-height can make a different, certainly, but I think that places like FF6 in Zozo shows it can be done.

    In terms of a lot of the art coming up, especially buildings, we are using a slightly 3/4 front view.

  10. This is going to be fantastic...
    This is the kind of game I have been baying at the moon for for years... Virtually unlimited content and individualised adventure - the way many games used to be before the kids started demanding graphics, graphics, graphics, graphics, graphics - at the expense of every other aspect of a game.
    As an older gamer *cough* late 30's *cough* I find the art to be fine - in fact, the artwork is beautiful to me. I grew up on Atari (well, a faux contrivance thereof haha) in the early, early '80's, so anything above that is brilliant to me. I still play games, but have become jack of a game that takes 10 hours to complete because the developers have had to contend with making it look graphically 'right' for the younger market.
    Games should be about gameplay, not graphics - which AVWW appears to be.
    I absolutely can't wait!


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