Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays From Arcen Games!

I'm a bit late on posting this, but I just wanted to say thanks to all of our supporters who made this year our most successful yet as an indie developer.  We're all hugely grateful, and hope that you have a happy, restful holiday season with your family.  And that you have plenty of time to play some games, too, be they ours or otherwise. :)

To that end on our own side, every year between Christmas and New Years we're "closed."  We still check the emails and forums, but we're slower to do so, and we're not doing any active development during that week-long period.  This really helps us recharge to come into January with a bang.

Business will resume as normal for us on January 2nd.  In the meantime, thanks again and happy holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2011

AI War: Children of Neinzul donations to Child's Play reach $30,741.89

As of December 23rd, 2011, we have so far raised and donated $30,741.89 for Child's Play! That's $2,962.77 since our September update, all of which has already gone directly to the charity.  That closes out the year with $20,212.18 having been raised and donated in 2011 -- smashing our 2010 numbers, and well more than doubling our original goal of $14,000.00, which we could not be more pleased about.  

And sales of Children of Neinzul are still going strong, so there's a chance we might be able to hit triple our goal by the time 2012 is over.  We'll keep everyone posted on how the donations are doing. Once again, we're ecstatic to continue our on-going contributions!

More About AI War: Children of Neinzul and Child's Play

When you purchase AI War: Children Of Neinzul, you're not only getting an exciting new expansion, you're also supporting an important cause. Arcen Games has partnered with the Child's Play charity, pledging 100% of the profits from sale of Children of Neinzul (excepting any taxes and distributor fees) to helping sick kids in need.

The staff at Arcen has long admired the work done by Child's Play, and we're very excited to finally be able to contribute in a substantial manner. Our goal for 2010 was to raise $14,000.00 USD for Child's Play, but even after 2010 all of the proceeds from this micro-expansion are continuing to be donated to the charity.

At the moment, this micro-expansion is available directly through the Arcen Online Store ($3.99 USD), as well as through Steam, Impulse, and GamersGate.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.555, "Headshotting, Kneecapping, and Ice Pirate Patrols" Released!

This one is a really substantial release, so it took us a couple of days.

Enemy Weakspots
First of all are the new enemy weakspots, which really add a lot to the game -- shooting spells into a skelebot's head now does 2x damage, while shooting it in the legs slows it down, for example.  Not all enemies have weakspots, but most of the larger enemies do.  This really gives you a lot more tactical options in some respects, and also rewards skillshots in a much more substantial way.

In the future we'll be expanding this system to include things like "strong spots" where the enemy counterattacks you when you hit it in a certain area, etc.  With that sort of functionality, plus the coming multi-part enemies, we'll really have a lot of interesting things going.

New Enemies
In order to make compelling missions for players to complete, first we really need... more spells and enemies!  So that's what we're working on at the moment.  A lot of that has also involved expanding our engine's enemy-design capabilities themselves, which is pretty cool.  Already the work from the last two days makes a lot of new kinds of enemies possible, such as for instance the new Ice Pirate Patrol Ships.

The Ice Pirates actually can't be damaged by you directly, as they have this massive flying airship in the background and they shell you with big blocks of ice from a distance.  The only thing you can do at the moment is avoid the ice.  However, there will be missions available that specifically allow you to destroy the ice pirates as a result of the mission, which will be one of those opportunity costs to consider when selecting missions in the future.

We've got another half dozen enemies in the works now, too, most of which already have their art in place but not yet their code.  Keith and I are both working on this sort of thing for the time being, so we're able to really push into territory that is new for the game, enemy-wise.

New Spells
There are two new spells in this one. 

Summon Tornado is our second summon spell (the other being summon rhino), and this one is really different.  It doesn't do a whole lot of damage to enemies, but it does fling them into the air while damaging them moderately.  It also follows you around, versus just running off into the distance, so that can be really useful and fun as well.

In order to make summon tornado really work very well, we also had to completely redo the whole knockback immunity system.  Now enemies have varying degrees of knockback resistance, rather than a black and white "vulnerable or completely immune" system.  This breathes new life into the existing splash back spell, and makes a lot of other interesting things possible as we move forward.

The second new spell in this version was a really complex one to add, but again it adds a lot of new functionality for us with spells for both players and enemies.  This one is called Gold Boomerang, and it works much like you'd expect.  The cool thing about it is that it can be used to hit multiple enemies in a line, or even the same enemy more than once.  Thanks to Dizzard for suggesting this one all the way back in October!

Ow, Shrapnel!
This version also has barrels that explode, harming any players, enemies, or NPCs that are near to them.  Expect to see a lot more of this sort of thing with various background objects, which will help to make the terrain a lot more of a tactically-dense environment.

More to come soon.  Just as forewarning we'll be closed during the week between Christmas and New Years, but we should be able to squeeze in one more release before the holiday break.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

AVWW: Last Chance For IndieDB Top 100 Voting

There's just a few hours left to vote for IndieDB's Indie of the Year Top 100 competition. A Valley Without Wind has been in the mix and making a push toward the final stage where the ten top vote getters will compete the last week of 2011 for the right to be called IOTY.

If you've yet to have your say in the competition, head over to the Top 100 page and take a look at all the great games. Or if you'd like to vote for AVWW specifically head over to our IndieDB page, scroll down to the "Top 100 Game of 2011" section, and click on the red button that states "vote for this game."

Just over six hours left at the time of writing, so make sure to get your vote submitted in time!

AI War Featured Today In Steam's Holiday Sale Gift Pile Objectives

Our space strategy title AI War is featured today on Steam's Holiday Sale Gift Pile! For those participating in the mega giveaway contest, make sure to snag the holiday-themed achievement for a gift and/or another token to put into the drawing that will see one entrant walking away with the entire Steam catalog. Which is rather insane.

What's the objective you say? Glad you asked:

In The Midst Of A Cold, Dark Winter - Lose at least 30,000 ships in a single game.

Best of luck picking it up and adding the loot to your growing pile! Remember that both AI War (75% off) and our puzzler Tidalis (just $2) plus all DLC are on massive discount via Steam today through December 31st.

AVWW Beta 0.553 & 0.554, "Shield Dash" Released!

This one is actually a series of two releases.  The first was purely a bugfix version to avoid more people having issues with world corruption that could happen in 0.552.  The second release has new tweaks and features, mainly centering around mana recharge and how mana can be expended.

This will have an effect on a variety of spells coming up, but most notably at the moment it completely redefines how both Storm Dash and Rush work, and how the four different elemental shields work.  Players had found the shields really difficult to use in particular, and now they should be far more useful.

There are several other small-but-really-nice tweaks in here, too, such as a rebalance of the espers.

More to come soon.  At the moment we're working on things like weakspots for enemies, new enemies and environmental objects, and new on-death effects for various existing objects.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Steam Holiday Sale: AI War Products 75% Off And Two Dollar Tidalis

A quick note that our games Tidalis and AI War are on massive discount as part of Steam's Holiday Sale that runs now through December 31st. Keep an eye on the Holiday Sale Gift Pile challenges page during the duration of the event as well for a chance to win every single game in Steam's catalog and other prizes.

As far as our titles go, you'll be able to grab Tidalis for 80% off the $10 tag, and AI War plus all DLC for 75% off--or go for the Alien Bundle and get even more savings. If you or any of your loved ones are in for some two buck Tidalis and/or all of AI War for the cost of a fast food combo, best not to miss this great opportunity to pick up some copies on the cheap.

Interested in trying before you buy? Check out the demos on the Steam game pages, or download them here (AI War) and here (Tidalis).

Friday, December 16, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.552, "Parallax And The End Of The World" Released!

This one includes a number of new things, including various balance and bugfix items that players noted from the prior version.  The changes to fire touch and the way that the class-based spell cooldowns work should be particularly welcome.  And the reference info and other in-game text is now up to date with all the recent changes from our powercoding period, too.

Parallax Backdrops
The most striking thing about this release visually is no doubt the new parallax backgrounds.  This provides a welcome sense of depth, as well as really visually differentiating the outdoor areas to a degree not seen prior to now.  Making some of the forest-y areas really feel heavily forested has been a struggle ever since the switch of the game to side view, but the parallax backgrounds really let us nail that and more.

End Of The World (Well, Continent)
Mechanically speaking, the biggest change in this version is the addition of the Overlord's threat against the continent.  Every period that passes (ie, every mission that you do) brings the continent one step closer to destruction.  In a few releases, when missions are the only source of EXP beyond the overlord and lieutenants themselves, this will really come together into some interesting choices.

Each continent is essentially a cage match between you and the overlord, and the average completion time that we're expecting per continent is around the 13 hour mark once we finish with getting the missions where we want them -- in other words, about the same average as a campaign in AI War.  Some people will obviously be faster or slower, and there's no particular time limit. 

The destruction of the continent comes after a certain number of periods, but you can take your time as much as you want, and think as long as you need, between each mission you choose to undertake.  The impending continental destruction is very analogous to the AI progress in AI War, drawing a lot of parallels in terms of the sort of choices it presents to the player.

If you don't find that sort of thing fun, you can turn the strategic difficulty down to 1 or 2.  If you want it to be harder than the default, you can crank it up to 4 or (god forbid) 5.  Playing on strategic difficulty 5 means that you need to be prepared to take out the overlord while being barely the same level as him, or even being lower-level than him if you're doing any secret missions or dealing with any threat.  That's... really rough.

We may have to add some more difficulty gradations in there for the strategic side, but we'll decide that later once we're getting testing feedback on a fully-implemented mission system.  Right now this is still sort of the extended preview.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.551, "Power Coding Finale: New Crafting Model, More Missions," Released!

This one is the last of our power-coding releases -- at least in this stretch.  The framework of everything we wanted to accomplish in that stretch of power-coding is now done, and now it comes more to balance, polish, and putting some meat on the new bones.

New Crafting Model, No More Tiers
It was pointed out, and rightly so, that the older model of tiers in the game was something of a grind.  Every 10 levels your stuff would start to degrade, and you'd have to get new stuff to replace it.  Even the people who love the game felt like that was a very visible treadmill.

For us, the intent wasn't to build a treadmill, but it was to be able to have a sort of "many game progressions in one world" quality to the game.  And there are only two ways to have an infinite progression: 1) infinitely rising stats, which are murder to balance and tend not to work very well even then; or 2) periodically causing players to lose their stuff in some fashion.

And the simple fact is, losing your stuff is not fun.  Especially when it's on some arbitrary and predictable timetable as you play.

The solution we settled on, after much discussion with players, was to make it so that spells and crafting are all a per-continent thing.  You unlock spells on a continent by crafting them once, and then you get to keep them forever on that continent.  If you ever drop or lose them, you can equip a new copy of that spell for free at any spellgem workbench.  So can any other player, when it's a multiplayer server.

But each continent has its own magic selection, and so when you go to a new continent only a core of your spells will actually work there.  You can carry your inventory with you, so it's not getting lost or rearranged or anything, but you can't use anything beyond the basics on the new continent.  Your process of getting more powerful so that you can face the overlord will involve unlocking the spells that you think will best help you achieve those goals.

This has all the advantages of being able to play "multiple game progressions in a single world," without making for arbitrary degradation of spellgems.  There's a lot of other things related to this that changed for the better, such as making the crafting commodities inventory central per continent rather than being something that is per-player (so again this is great for multiplayer), and changing up the material costs for all the spells.  Definitely check out those release notes if you want the whole scoop.

More Missions
For details on how the new mission system will work long-term, please see this link.  There are several forum threads with older designs in them, so make sure you're not looking at something outdated if you look in the forums.

This new release makes it possible for players to rescue NPCs and raise wind shelters via the missions system.  The contents of both of these missions is incredibly temporary and boring -- it's identical to the rare commodity tower missions. 

One of the core next things that Keith and I are going to be working on is not only new missions in general (new things you get for completing a mission, in other words), but new ways for the missions to actually play out.  It won't always be fighting a bunch of bosses, or even fighting at all.  Lots of cool things planned there, but we just need time to actually get them in place!  You'll start seeing more of that in the next few days and week, actually.

No More Strategic Map
The strategic map has now officially been disabled.  There were a few things that you could do on the older strategic map that you can't do yet in the missions system, but that stuff is coming -- along with new things that had been planned for the strategic map but which had never been implemented.

The idea with the missions is that they completely replace the strategic map in terms of how they let you do your strategizing.  The result is more like certain boardgames -- Settlers of Catan and Dominion come most to mind for me personally -- rather than like a traditional turn based strategy game on the PC.

Worried About Freeform Exploration?  Definitely Don't Be!
We've had a few folks that expressed concerns that freeform exploration is going away.  That definitely won't happen! 

There's going to be all sorts of cool stuff to explore for and find even outside the main mission structure, and we'll be doing things like optional secret missions that you can only find via exploration, too.  We'll probably even get into world map stuff like secret islands that you can uncover out on the sea, etc, but that's a bit further off.

For me personally, being able to go off the beaten track and explore is really key to having a fun adventure game, so the exploration-minded need not worry.  During this transitional period most of the focus is going into the missions, so that does skew things temporarily -- but that's just a short-term factor of this being beta, not a new design direction for the game itself.

New GUI Graphics And Revised Logo
Phil did some awesome new GUI graphics for us months ago, and I just have finally had time to actually put them in the game.  They really make a huge difference!  Things are a lot cleaner and easier to read, and in general more attractive.

I also took this opportunity to improve the AVWW logo, while still keeping the identical shape of the text.  Now it just looks fancier and more crystalline.

Done Powercoding, But Balance Still Might Be Wonky In The Short Term

As noted above, Keith and I have completed our power coding phase.  So that's good news, we're now going to be working on content and other new stuff, rather than a bunch of tectonic shifts to the underlying game.  But still, given the scope of the changes, the balance is likely still off at the moment.  This is something we very much want to hear about, now! 

The missions still are in an incomplete form, meaning that some aspects of balance still won't be possible to completely finish yet, but in general we're getting there, I think.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.550, "Power Coding Round 4: Mission System Basics," Released!

This one is one that we decided to push out today because there are a few critical balance tweaks and bugfixes that players could really use.

Mission System Preview
In terms of the core feature of this new version, the missions: the general framework is complete and in place, but there is currently only one kind of mission rather than the four we had planned for our first missions release.  And that's definitely shy of the eight that we have planned for the next few weeks, let alone however many mission types we wind up with by 1.0.

So take this as sort of a preview of missions, more than anything else.  Longer-term, missions will be the sole source of EXP (aside from killing lieutenants and overlords), but since they are still in a preview state we've left in the EXP containers and the EXP from bosses for now.

In the brainstorming subforum, we'd originally talked about having side missions and core missions.  We also talked about making it a binary system and removing EXP all together.  In further design discussion, Keith and I came up with a simpler approach that meets all of the goals of the above in a more fun fashion.

How The Mission System Will Work
The mission system framework itself is actually completely done in the current version.  There will almost always be 7 missions, but right at the start there will be only 5 or 6 (this happens only when you are civ level 1 and 2 respectively). 

The release notes talk about the three general levels of missions: the "stretch" ones that are higher than your civ level, the middle of the road ones that match your civ level, and what Keith and I were calling the "cop out" missions that are lower than your civ level (but we won't really call them that in-game!).

Each mission that is shown only will last for a certain number more of missions.  Each time you undertake a mission, all of the other missions become unavailable until you complete that mission or abandon it.  If you abandon it, you can try that mission again, or any other mission.  If you complete that mission, then the mission and all its mission-specific dungeons disappear, and the counter counts down on all the other missions.  As missions disappear, new missions appear to take their place.

This means that there's an opportunity cost to any mission you do, because you can never do all the missions.  Some missions will focus more on improving the players' adventure options directly, while others will focus more on improving the civilization and thus helping out the adventurers a bit more indirectly (but still meaningfully).

So there will be all sorts of interesting choices that this system provides players with as they try to bend each continent to their will... but so far it's just a replacement for a way to get rare commodities.  The first eight or so missions we're planning are all actually replacements for other activities that you could undertake previously in the game outside the mission structure.  Things like rescuing NPCs, or building wind shelters, or destroying vortex pylons, are all planned to be missions and thus part of that opportunity-cost decision-making structure.

By the way, when you have multiple continents, you can have one active mission per continent, and the "mission time" is local to each continent, too.  So that's a way for multiple groups to do different missions in multiplayer, versus everyone having to either collaborate on the same mission or go off on side exploration.

Still Powercoding, Balance Still Might Be Wonky In The Short Term

As noted last week, Keith and I have both entered a power coding phase to follow the recent brainstorming/design phase, so there are a few metric tons of changes coming through last week and this week.  Given the scope of the changes, this means that the game is going to be in a moderate state of disarray during that time, in terms of general balance and such.  We're doing our best to keep things as clean as possible, but the difficulty in particular might swing up and down some substantially during this time.  The end result is going to be pretty darn cool by this Wednesday or Thursday, though.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.549, "Power Coding Round 3: Continents, New Mana Subsystem," Released!

This one is actually two huge changes to the game.

Continents
Previously, the world was just one big landmass, with smaller pieces of ocean stuck here and there.  It was consistent with the story mythos about a 4D-scrambled world, but it was only so interesting.  And worst of all, it made the dividing lines for where overlords were actively oppressing land, etc, really unclear.  This was another thing discussed in the brainstorming subforum.

Pre-existing worlds are handled gracefully into the new system, basically taking whatever land they had and treating that as the first continent (and adding to it if it would be too small).  With new worlds, you'll see the entire first continent as soon as you start up the world.  Then when you reach civ level 20, a new continent will be discovered and you'll start being able to use the seaports to sail the seas!

There's actually still a fair bit more we'll need to do long-term with continents, such as names for continents and some other things of that nature, but for now the basics are really solid and are a definite improvement over the past way of doing things.  It still fits with the mythos about a 4D-scrambled world, but each continent already feels so much more unique and interesting than the one big blob of landmass previously was.

New Mana Subsystem
This one was heavily discussed along with the health subsystem from the last release.  There were a lot of varying opinions, but overall there were a lot of trends in player tastes that we managed to meet in most cases, I think.

The general idea of the new mana system is somewhat related to what we did with the health system: finding mana potions periodically was kind of a lame chore, and essentially your only limiter to mana was how much time you wanted to spend grinding these sorts of potions.

We considered some ammo-style subsystems, and while those were an improvement they were ultimately prey to the same sort of problems: they added some "running around and collecting stuff repeatedly" time without adding any actual fun.  Even for really rare and powerful spells, having mana would be bad because players would tend to want to hoard that.  Plus, making something tedious to get doesn't mean that players won't get it -- it means that they'll get it and complain about how tedious it was.  We learned a lot about that from Knowledge Raiding in AI War.

So, the system we wound up going with treats mana as a tactical resource, while health is your "how far can I journey?" resource.  Thus mana is now regenerating, and you never need to go out of your way to get more of it.  Spell scrolls have mostly been removed (and the ability to craft them has been completely removed), and the spell scrolls we took away are now available as spellgems instead.

For most of the lower-power spells in the game, which is most of the spells in general that exist right now, this system plus cooldowns is all that is really needed.  For the ultra-spells that we'll add later, they'd have additional tactical or strategic penalties for use, such as blighting the land or giving new buffs to the enemies they are used upon, etc.  There's a lot of flexibility in what we can do, on a per-spell basis, to make them interesting and balanced.

THAT said, the spell balance as it is currently implemented is surely not perfect.  This is something we will be wanting feedback on, particularly later in the week as we get through our power-coding phase.  You'll notice that as part of this changeup, ride the lightning and storm dash have actually been nerfed a bit, now costing a lot more mana -- so you can use them perfectly well for navigating around many hazards, but using them during battle when you want your mana for offensive spells is going to be properly challenging to do.

Down To One Kind Of Crafting
So, as mentioned above, spellscroll crafting is gone -- though from time to time you'll still find spell scrolls like elusion or glpyh transfer, etc, in stash rooms.

The outfitter crafting is also now gone, and so when you need a snowsuit or heatsuit or wooden platforms, you'll actually need to go to the stash rooms and scavenge for them, as well.  Similarly, the upcoming crests and spellshaping gems (that go with crests) will no longer be craftable either, but will instead be exploration rewards.

We basically realized that if we were going to have loot drops and exploration rewards that were notable, that we needed to make those things not just be craftable.  Otherwise they're kind of lame as something to find!  And at the same time, it was a great chance to simplify down to one kind of crafting instead of 5-7 kinds of crafting.  Less overwhelming for new players, while not actually not removing any content -- just shifting around how and when you gain access to that content.

Still Powercoding, Balance Still Might Be Wonky In The Short Term

As noted last week, Keith and I have both entered a power coding phase to follow the recent brainstorming/design phase, so there are a few metric tons of changes coming through last week and this week.  Given the scope of the changes, this means that the game is going to be in a moderate state of disarray during that time, in terms of general balance and such.  We're doing our best to keep things as clean as possible, but the difficulty in particular might swing up and down some substantially during this time.  The end result is going to be pretty darn cool by this Wednesday or Thursday, though.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

A Valley Without Wind Voted Into IndieDB's IOTY 2011 Top 100

Yesterday we received the awesome news that A Valley Without Wind has been voted into the top 100 of IndieDB's Indie of the Year 2011, and is onto the second round. The game can be found in the "upcoming games" section under the "adventure" category.

We're both excited and humbled to still be in the running alongside some very fantastic/popular indie titles. The next step is the top ten. Competition may be stiff, but we plan on doing everything in our power to make a run and be there for the last leg of the event.

There's just over a week to garner as many votes as we can for AVWW. If you're interested in voting for the game, head over to our IndieDB page, scroll down to the "Top 100 Game of 2011" section, and click on the red button that states "vote for this game."

Thanks in advance to all who do cast their vote in our direction, and/or help get the word out for us. On top of that, perpetual thanks for the continued support received from our community. It's extremely appreciated, and never ceases to amaze us.

Time left to vote:

Friday, December 9, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.548, "Power Coding Round 2: New Health Subsystem," Released!

This one is another major game-flow changer.  First off, I should note that there are also some important bugfixes in here, mostly relating to multiplayer.  That's why we went ahead and pushed this out in the middle of the day, rather than just waiting until later in the day when the rest of our new stuff would be ready for one larger release.

At any rate, looking past the bugfixes, the really big game-flow changer in this version is the new health subsystem. 

The Old Health System And Its Problems
In the old model, you had a finite amount of health and that health could be replenished when you used a health potion or got minor floating health drops from enemies.  You could carry infinite health potions around with you, and upon death one of those potions would automatically heal you to prevent death.  This meant that the only way to have death even possible was to make a long cooldown on healing: if you died twice within a 15-20 second span, you were dead for good regardless of how much healing you had on hand.

That old model grew up organically from a lot of various design decisions that ultimately came together in a displeasing way.  The old system had a lot of problems, such as an inability for players to really accurately tell how low on health they really were -- the health bar was just part of the "how long can I live" equation.  And just the basic fact of juggling all those potions was annoying.  Not to mention difficult to balance, although the balance wasn't horrible.

The New Health System
The new model we're using for health is something that we arrived at through much discussion with players and our staff in several threads in our brainstorming subforum.  Our goal was to create a system that was simpler, less fiddly, and easier to balance... while still maintaining the general feel of what we'd been trying to do in the first place.

To that end, health potions and scrolls have both been removed from the game.  At the most basic level, you have a health bar, and as you explore around and kill monsters, they will drop health restoration floaty-things a lot more commonly.  You can also go back to town to get healed back to 100%.  At the most basic level, that's all there is, and the game thus uses health firmly as the "how far can I travel in one expedition" limiter.

That's not really enough on its own, of course -- there has to be a better way to have more health stores with you on an expedition, so that you can make a more-arduous-than-average journey or prepare for a big boss fight.  In Metroid games, that's usually done via the Health Tanks idea, whereas in most RPGs or adventure games it's done via healing items that you carry with you.  For a lot of various reasons including HUD considerations and the extremely large inventory in this game, we went with something closer to the Metroid model -- so there still aren't any healing items that you can carry with you and use in the field.

Instead what we have now are Vitality Stones, which you can collect in the field as you explore, and use in town.  Using 2 of these stones causes your maximum health to double -- kind of like adding an energy tank in Metroid.  Then using 4 of the stones makes your max health 300% of the base max health.  That pattern continues: 8 vitality stones make for 400%, 16 makes for 500%, 32 makes for 600%, 64 makes for 800%, and so on.

There is no limit to how buffed you can make your max health at the moment, but there is a catch: every time your health drops the equivalent of 100% of your base max, your current max shrinks by that same amount.  So if your current max is 400%, and your health drops to 299%, then your current max drops to 300%.  This was originally suggested by Hearteater in the forums, and then expanded upon somewhat, and the idea is quite clever because it makes for interesting decisions on how and in what quantities you use your vitality stones.

Still Powercoding, Balance Still Might Be Wonky In The Short Term

As noted yesterday, Keith and I have both entered a power coding phase to follow the recent brainstorming/design phase, so there are a few metric tons of changes coming in a week span or so.  Given the scope of the changes, this means that the game is going to be in a moderate state of disarray during that time, in terms of general balance and such.  We're doing our best to keep things as clean as possible, but the difficulty in particular might swing up and down some substantially during this time.  The end result is going to be pretty darn cool by the 15th or 16th, though.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.547, "Power Coding Round 1," Released!

There is nothing subtle or incremental about this one.  All the stats for characters and monsters have been reworked internally, and as part of that we've redone the general balance and flow of combat.  Enemy spells tend to be a lot slower now, but more plentiful and more frequent.  Trash mobs have a lot of health and now do substantial damage, but there are fewer of them.  And did we mention the eagles?  Yeah, the most-hated enemy should be a lot more fun and palatable for folks now.

Similarly, the terrain itself has been tightened, so there is less wandering through uninteresting space, and so there are fewer same-y buildings, and so there is less empty sky for espers and amoebas and bats to wander off into.  The result is really a different feel in the exterior areas, accentuating the existing differences in each region type through making them all more focused in general.

We also changed the multiplayer synchronization model around a ton, so now enemy positions and enemy shots will be synchronous between clients.  Let us know if you run into any issues with this, but based on the reaction to our other model this should be way more popular with players.  The one downside is that this does mean that sometimes enemy positions will need to correct themselves, and right now that means the enemy just jumps to the side and that might make you miss a shot against them.  But we'll have smoothing for that later, and the really good news is that still your shots and enemy shots never will have jumps of that nature.  Multiplayer details have been updated here.

There are also a variety of general bugfixes in this version aside from the above, and there's a new way that enemies flash when you hit them with a spell.  There are also some new room maps by Josh, and he's created a new wiki article explaining the maps for new players.

Keith and I have both entered a power coding phase to follow the recent brainstorming/design phase, so there are a few metric tons of changes coming in the next week or so.  This is the first batch of them, but there will be more batches as we can break it up.  Given the scope of the changes, this means that the game is going to be in a moderate state of disarray for a week or so, in terms of general balance and such.  We're doing our best to keep things as clean as possible, but the difficulty in particular might swing up and down some substantially during this time.  The end result is going to be pretty darn cool by the end of next week, though.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

AVWW: Multiplayer Public Alpha, Brainstorming Subforum, And IOTY 2011

Arcen Games is pleased to pass along new information regarding our procedurally-generated, post-apocalyptic 2D sidescrolling action/adventure title A Valley Without Wind.

The game has reached yet another major milestone as the multiplayer component has entered alpha and for the first time is publicly available for testing. For those interested in opting into co-operative play in the same server/world with up to a few dozen other players (perhaps even more), head over to the AVWW multiplayer wiki and check out the FAQ section along with other related notes, specs, and such. Arcen CEO and head programmer Chris Park chats about what's coming up for all the aforementioned as well in the latest post on his development blog.

We're also excited to have the game participating in IndieDB's Indie of the Year 2011 competition. To celebrate the constant support we and many other indies receive from the IndieDB community, we'll be holding game giveaways that people can enter into via the comments section of an upcoming/aptly-titled news post on the site. The news post will go live sometime Thursday evening, and drawings will take place from then on throughout the weekend. Supporters, well-wishers, curious parties, etc. are encouraged to stop by, enter the giveaway drawing, and vote for AVWW if so inclined.

The full version of A Valley Without Wind is available now on PC/Mac for pre-order at 50% off the launch price during early beta, with customers gaining instant access to the latest available build and all subsequent releases through 1.0 and beyond. The game can be purchased and downloaded directly through the developer as well as on GamersGate, Impulse, and MacGamesStore. A demo is available for taking a free look around, and grants full access to the game/multiplayer with the only restriction being a cap when civilization level six is reached.

AVWW is currently in beta and as such is still very much in development. It continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with new content and improvements added nearly every weekday as it progresses toward official launch in 2012. Follow the game and its updates/discussions on Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. To get more involved with how AVWW evolves in any and/or all of its aspects, be sure to stop by our recently opened brainstorming subforum and join in on the various design discussions. Additionally, anyone looking for hosted servers to jump onto and play with others are advised to stay tuned to the player-created "post when you host" thread on our forums.

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. For all the latest news, media coverage, and some of our other musings, follow us on our developer and individual game pages on Facebook or on Twitter: @ArcenGames.

Monday, December 5, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.546, "Multiplayer Fixes Round 1," Released!

This one has a whole list of fixes for multiplayer AVWW, to get rid of most of the small annoyances that have been reported.  In other news, we have plans for how to deal with the one major annoyance in the next few days, so stay tuned on that.  But we did want to give an update on what our plans are.

If you've not yet played multiplayer AVWW, here's a wiki article to explain all the ins and outs of it.  We really appreciate all the feedback we've gotten so far, and I think we're heading in a direction now that folks will be pleased with.

Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.545, "Multiplayer Public Alpha (Opt-In)," Released!

This one has been a long time coming -- in the works since October 7th, in fact.  Ever since that date, Keith has been working almost solely on getting multiplayer up and going, and so that's caused basically nothing to happen with the macro game parts of the game for that large swathe of beta.  The last time we had any form of functioning multiplayer for this game was back in March, when the game was still top-down, and despite having been coding to a solid multiplayer spec all this time, it's been a gargantuan task for Keith to get things all up and going to a point where we could show this publicly at all.

But today's the day when you can opt in to testing out multiplayer if you are inclined to do so!  Details on how exactly that works, plus known issues and all that sort of fun stuff, to follow below.

The Next Phase Of AVWW Development Drawing Near
Before I get to that stuff, though, one more note: the brainstorming subforum for AVWW has been abuzz all week, and there are absolutely tons and tons of changes coming to the game as a result of that.  I decided to take most of this week as a design week for my own side of things, because the core parts of the game have matured to the point where I could now step back and look at how they all fit together and decide better how to achieve the immutable design goals for the game.

The result is going to be a very different sort of game than what is currently implemented, but the prevailing opinion on the forums seems to be "awesome, that's a lot more like what I was picturing when you were talking about the game in the first place!"  Which seems to be a good sign.  In a lot of respects, I view this like the shift from AI War 1.0 to 2.0, or AI War 3.x to 4.x.  Same core game, same design philosophy, but some things cut and a lot of stuff added, and so much more refined.

It's pretty much all there on the brainstorming subforum if you're curious about what, specificially, is going to be changing.  Feel free to weigh in!

This isn't going to be affecting the pricing of preorders, just to set your mind at ease.  We're still considering this "early beta" for now.  So it's still a really great time to get into the game early, if you like that sort of thing!

All About The Multiplayer Alpha
This one takes a whole wiki article to explain all the ins and outs of, although there's only a few key parts you'll really need to read to get started in the alpha.  But we figured that since we're doing some unusual things, and since people were likely to have questions just in general, that we'd make a more inclusive document that has everything and which we could update over time.

Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.543, "The Black Wind Blows," Released!

This one is our first one since coming back from the Thanksgiving holiday -- hope everyone else who celebrates it had a great holiday also.

There are a number of important bugfixes to this one, including the "leveling up takes off my suit" bug that was causing a number of people to die a fiery (or frigid) death.

Windstorms have also seen a major expansion of their power, such that the wind is actually a force that you (and your projectile spells) can feel in a tangible way.  Thanks in particular to Armanant for his suggestions there!

On the forums, if you've missed it, there have lately been a number of threads where we're asking feedback on various things we're brainstorming about.  The first one was redesigning health and mana, followed by one on inventory, another on possible food systems, another one on allowing players opportunities for cleverness, another based around expanding the concept of permadeath in the game, and lastly a fun one where you can submit epitaphs to be shown on in-game graves!

There's also been a lot of progress on multiplayer, which seems like a really repetitive and generic thing to be saying at this point.  But lots more bugs were found and squashed, and Keith and Josh have been having increasingly successful tests.  I think Keith's list of must-do-before-first-public-alpha-of-multiplayer items is currently about 9 items long, but it goes up and down pretty rapidly.  Some of the recent bugs and regressions in single player have been results of the multiplayer heavy revamps, but that's settling down and really I think there's been remarkably little collateral damage there. 

My hope is still to see a first public alpha of multiplayer sometime this week, or next at the latest, but that really depends on what further bugs are found as the testing cycle continues.  Trust me, no one is more tired of that cycle than Keith, so we're really hoping that winds down shortly and he gets to do "something, anything else."  But it's exciting to see multiplayer coming together, and we're both really looking forward to being able to play with our wives, speaking for ourselves.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Steam Sale: AI War And DLC 75% Off, Tidalis 80% Off

Looking to pick up some great gifts for yourself or loved ones on Black Friday, but boarded up in your home as you rightfully should be? Great news! Online digital distribution king Steam is having an Autumn Sale, and we're participating big time.

Right now you can get AI War and all of its expansions for 75% off. That means you can get the base game for $5, small DLC for $1, full expansions for $2.50, and the whole AI War kitten caboodle together with some extra savings in the Alien Bundle for just $7.50. If that wasn't enough, Tidalis is 80% off, and goes for just $2 instead of the standard $10 tag.

The sale only goes through this Sunday, November 27th. So be sure to take advantage of these huge discounts now!

Monday, November 21, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.542, "Centurion AI," Released!

This one has been really quite a long time coming, hasn't it?  Unusually so, for us.  Well, it's packed to the gills with internal enhancements to both the enemy AI and multiplayer. 

We're really getting close to being able to start our first opt-in multiplayer public alpha testing, which is very exciting for us.  That's a major milestone for the game in general, and also it means that Keith will be able to do something else with his time other than toiling silently behind the scenes on the multiplayer code!  Not that it hasn't been fun... but, no, actually I think Keith is too polite to say it but it hasn't been any fun.  Fortunately, for players it should be quite a bit of fun!

The other big thing in this new version is a huge new AI behavior system, which is way more flexible and allows us to make enemies behave in much more interesting and complex ways.  A number of enemies take advantage of this at higher levels, and there are two new enemies which make particular use of the new features.  Many of the existing enemies are intentionally simplistic in their AI, since they are for the earlier parts of the game, but most new enemies will be using the more advanced AI options.

There's also new music in this release, a goodly number of new room map templates, some minor bugfixes, and a couple of minor balance tweaks.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

AVWW: MineCon Giveaways, New Starting Guide, And Beta Trailer #2

Arcen Games is downright ecstatic to share the latest information regarding their procedurally-generated sidescrolling action adventure title of infinite proportions, A Valley Without Wind.

AVWW's beta will be on display at MineCon this weekend (Nov. 18-19), and to celebrate we'll be raffling off over 100 prizes Friday and Saturday during floor hours including copies of the game, along with our other titles. For those in attendance, all you have to do is stop by our booth in the indie kiosk area of the convention hall and sign-up to be included in every raffle drawing all weekend.

For those not in attendance, you have not been forgotten! Stop by A Valley Without Wind's Facebook, Reddit, and/or Twitter throughout the event for several chances to win a copy of one of our titles.*

To mark the special occasion further, we have an updated AVWW Getting Started Guide, along with a brand spanking new beta trailer for all to view (at its best in 1080p.)

The full version of A Valley Without Wind is available for pre-order at 50% off the launch price during early beta, with customers gaining instant access to the latest available build and all subsequent releases. The game can be purchased and downloaded directly through the developer as well as GamersGate, Impulse, and MacGamesStore.

The game is currently in beta and as such is still very much in development. It continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with new content and improvements added nearly every weekday as it progresses toward official launch in 2012.

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. For all the latest news, media coverage, and some of our other musings, follow us on our developer and individual game pages on Facebook or on Twitter: @ArcenGames.

*Limit 1 prize per person during the event for both onsite and online contests. Name and valid email required to receive prize.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Show Me The Games Indie Sale

Our friend Cliff Harris has launched an awesome sale over on Show Me The Games. Aptly titled Show Me The Sales, you'll find Tidalis, AI War, and over a dozen other excellent indie games for a fraction of their standard price tag.

The cool thing about the sale, other than the nice discounts, is that 100% of all sales go directly to the developers. SMTG doesn't take a dime.

The sale only last 14 days, so if you're interested in supporting indie developers to the fullest and picking up some awesome titles (Frozen Synapse, Gratuitous Space Battles, VVVVVV, and many more), best take advantage of the offers soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.541, "Plasma Bolt," Released!

This one has some pretty major internal changes in terms of how the AI functions for the monsters in the game.  I'm not completely done with those upgrades yet, but already the AI has some cool new capabilities.  For one thing, enemies can now change behaviors as their level gets higher.  So, for instance, now icicle leapers start actually chasing you once they hit level 5, but not before.

The insect orb scroll was also ridiculously overpowered in the prior versions, and has been scaled back quite substantially.  It's still a really solid spell, especially against masses of enemies or really large enemies (more of the bugs hit larger enemies, doing more damage than they would to a smaller enemy -- also true of circle of fire and ice cross, by the way).

There's also a cool new plasma bolt spell suggested by KDR_11k.  Finally there's  a cheaper light-element offensive spell, like fireball or forest rage or similar in some of the other elements.  This one has its own slightly different flavor as well, but most importantly it gives you more options when you run into a boss that is weak against light but not much else.

There's some other bugfixes in here as well, yet more multiplayer internal progress, and... a new enemy in the lava flats.  I won't say what it is, but I think it has to be my favorite enemy so far.  I intend to do more enemies with... the general theme of this enemy.  It also has some of the more interesting AI behaviors, at least to me; it took a while to get that tuned right, but now I can reuse that general code in other enemies to make even more complex behaviors.

The next release is likely going to be an unusual stretch from now -- probably we're looking at Monday the 14th, so half a week from now.  I'm going to be out of the office until then with some personal stuff, but I'll be back and raring to go on Monday.  When I get back, one of the things I really want to work on, aside from yet more spells and scrolls, is increasingly complex and interesting enemies.  But for now I think there's a great amount of recent new stuff to experiment with, anyhow.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Steam Daily Deal: AI War, Alien Bundle, And All DLC 75% Off

A quick note that our massive co-op space strategy title AI War is 75% off as Steam's Daily Deal. That means today only the base game runs just $5 instead of $20, expansions run just $2.50/$1.00 instead of $10/$4 each, and the Alien Bundle (which contains all of the aforementioned) goes for a paltry $7.50 instead of the standard $30 tag. A great deal, and as good a time as any to jump into the fight.

Offer ends tomorrow, November 9 at 10 AM PT.

AVWW: New Intro Mission, MineCon Exhibiting, And IGF

Arcen Games is excited to pass along new information and details surrounding A Valley Without Wind, the game of infinite procedurally-generated 2D sidescrolling and so much more. The title has reached a sizable milestone, wrapping up series one of the beta patch releases. During the period the game saw 40 individual updates over 43 days, with 640 distinct changes made in all. Check out all the beta series one statistics for a full picture of what's been added since the game's public arrival six weeks back. Special thanks goes out to AVWW's community for all the feedback and help to get us to this point.

The conclusion of the beta's first phase is marked by the release of an all new Intro Mission for the game. The goal of the mission is to give new players a linear way to get acclimated with the game before they ever encounter the world map, take on broader decisions, etc.  It offers a more traditional intro for any sort of platformer, with players starting out with no ability to do anything except run and jump, and rapidly gaining new abilities that have to be used immediately. The new addition should allow players to be more comfortable navigating around the world in the side view, become familiar with how buildings, surface areas, and undergrounds all work, and have the confidence to head out onto the world map on their own.

In other news, AVWW has been entered into IGF 2012, along with the upcoming Indie Games Challenge. We're very excited to be competing in both, and wish the best of luck to all those who entered. Also, we're heading to MineCon! We'll be in Las Vegas November 18th and 19th to exhibit at Mojang's event, and are extremely excited to have a chance to share our game with some 4,500 attendees. Those who are making the trek are encouraged to stop by for a hands-on session, enter our game giveaways, and participate in some other fun stuff we're still currently cooking up.

The full version of A Valley Without Wind is available for pre-order at 50% off the launch price during early beta, with customers gaining instant access to the latest available build and all subsequent releases. An updated demo--complete with the aforementioned intro mission--is out now for download, and a huge batch of screenshots showing off what's new have been released as well.

AVWW is currently in beta and as such is still very much in development. The game continues to evolve, with new content and improvements added nearly every weekday as it progresses toward official launch in 2012. Follow the game and its updates/discussions on Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter.

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. For all the latest news, media coverage, and some of our other musings, follow us on our developer and individual game pages on Facebook or on Twitter: @ArcenGames.

Monday, November 7, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.540, "Whips, Bursts, And Insects," Released!

This one has two new spell scrolls and one new spellgem.  It also has a couple of tweaks and bugfixes.

The most interesting thing about these new spell scrolls is that these are the first two that are offensively-oriented in a direct fashion.  Previously scrolls were all logistical, healing, or movement type effects, except for the summon rhino -- which, while offensive, is fairly indirect.

Insect Orb and Ice Burst are both as directly offensive as they come, but they are unique from any of the spellgems.  That's something that we plan to do more of, as it's interesting to me to have limited-use offensive spell scrolls that are nonetheless having the advantage of costing no mana.

Right now there's still only about 9 spell scrolls in general in the game (compared to 34 spellgems at the moment), so there's really a lot more to do on scrolls to even get them caught up to the spellgems.  I'm still expecting to have 100+ of each spell scrolls and spellgems by the time we hit 1.0.

The new Miasma Whip is a particularly fun one for me, as it's a refreshingly fast entropy-based attack that isn't quite so short-range as Death Touch.  Given the elemental strengths and weaknesses that bosses now randomly have, it's kind of important to have a lot of offensive options in every element.  We're still not quite there yet, but there's lots more to come soon!

More to come tomorrow!  The rest of today is going to be spent on updated installers, some new distributor setups, and so on.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.539, "In-Game Reference Window," Released!

This one isn't what I'd planned on doing today, but I'm really glad that I took this detour -- and I think that even experienced AVWW players will be, too. 

The big new feature in this version is the "reference window," which lets you get at full stats for crafting, civ-level unlocks, and materials.  No enemies yet, but that will be coming sometime down the road along with a related "scan" spell.

Also included in the reference window is an advice and tips section, which basically replaces the adviser guardian functionality with an available-anytime tips section broken out by category and subject line.  That's SO much better than a bunch of paragraphs that were sequential and semi-ordered (since only so much ordering could be done).

The reference window, on the one hand, might be seen as being geared toward new players.  And I certainly hope it will help new players quite a bit.  But actually, I think that this will become something that even experienced players use on an ongoing basis as more spells and recipes and so on are added.  The reference window essentially saves you from having to run back to town every time you want to look something up -- and it saves you from having to find some external wiki about the game, too, which was another goal of mine.

I had planned to spend today adding a bunch of new spells and enemies, but I really felt like the reference was something that was needed first.  It's something that a lot of different players have asked for the various component parts of, and it's something that can be extended over time in terms of the tips it offers, and adding in things like icons and whatnot later rather than having it just be textual like it currently is.

There's also a couple of bugfixes in this one.  The GC exception one should be particularly welcome.

More to come tomorrow, although some of my day is going to be spent putting together a new installer build since it's been a while and since we're going to be having the game come to some new distributors.  But my goal is to also get some new spells in there tomorrow, too.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.538, "Intro Mission At Last," Released!

This one is one that I've really been looking forward to ever since beta began: the intro mission for the game is now complete!  Pending feedback and further testing, of course, but so far it seems pretty good to me.

Intro Mission Notes
The goal for the intro mission is to give new players a linear way to get acclimated with the game before they ever encounter the world map or have to make broader decisions, etc.  This is a more traditional intro for any sort of platformer, really: you start out with no ability to do anything except run and jump, and rapidly gain new abilities that have to be used immediately.  My inspirations for this ranged from the original Metroid, to Braid, to Limbo.

Other goals for the intro mission included to make it so that it has some goodies that you want, some side (fairly mild) secrets to find, and some optional challenges to face to get ahead in the game if you want to tackle them. 

Oh, and another goal was to make it so that if you want to speedrun the intro mission, you can do so pretty quickly.  I just clocked myself at three minutes and three seconds on a speedrun, and I: 1) detoured to get storm dash; 2) took two very minor wrong turns; 3) took the time to stop and kill the optional miniboss in the last surface chunk just to get the EXP.  I imagine that if someone were so inclined, they could shave as much as 30 seconds off my time, if not more.

For an actual new player who is playing through the intro mission for the first time and who is stopping to read the tombstones, explore all the little caverns, and so forth... I'm not sure what the completion time would be.  I imagine it would vary; anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes seems likely to me, but that's just speculation.  There are 24 hand-crafted chunks to explore, but about half of them are completely optional.

But the important thing is that a new player isn't just sitting there reading a boring tutorial, or doing boring tutorial-style things.  This is why I'm not labeling it a "tutorial," although it does serve that purpose.  It's more like the first 10-30 minutes of Metroid, where your character has fewer powers and fewer options on where to go, but still full autonomy within those constraints.  This is also where the inspirations from Braid and Limbo come in, is that they weave their tutorial into the main gameplay in this way, too.

Once you complete the intro mission, will you be an expert at AVWW?  Of course not.  But you should be comfortable navigating around the world in the side view, and familiar with how buildings, surface areas, and undergrounds all work.  You should be able to feel comfortable striking out on your own to explore the world map -- which is kind of the point.  People were getting to the world map too fast before, and feeling intimidated by it rather than excited. 

Hopefully this changes that first encounter with the world map in a fundamental way, but I guess we'll see.  Whatever the case, the new player experience is vastly better now than it ever was before, anyhow.

Oh Yeah, There's Other New Stuff In This Version, Too
Well, there's a laundry list of bugfixes and tweaks that I won't just repeat verbatim here -- check out the full release notes for those.

One big change is that enemies no longer die from environmental factors like walking off the side of the chunk or falling into water/lava, though.  Instead, at the side of chunks they just turn around, and with the water/lava they now have a little meter that quickly fills up before they shrink away to nothing and respawn at some random monster spawner.  This style of respawn, in practice, isn't much different from what the game was doing before, but it will have some major positive ramifications for multiplayer (and several smaller positives for solo).  See the release notes for some details.

The next really big change is to how damage gets calculated for your equipment.  The details are once again in the release notes, but the general message is that way-outdated stuff is now worse than it was before, while better-than-your-current-tier stuff is now more useful than it was before.

More to come tomorrow: I'm excited to finally be able to get back to some content development, so expect some new spells and possibly some new enemies.  This week is going to be a quite odd schedule for me, as I have some personal stuff going on and I'll be out of the office from this coming Thursday through Sunday; so this weekend I'm getting in some extra time to get ahead of things.  Anyway, I know folks will be pleased to see me working on stuff for existing players rather than new players again.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

AI War Beta 5.020, "Nanoswarm Fortress," Released!

This one has a couple of pretty significant balance tweaks that folks should really appreciate.  Firstly, the Fallen Spire exogalactic strike forces are a bit better tuned.  Secondly, the youngling nanoswarms now really are better at their job of hitting a lot of targets.  And thirdly, the AI fortress health has been halved, making them not remotely such a grind as they were.

Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 4.000 or later. 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. If you don't have 4.000 or later, you can download that here.

AVWW Beta 0.537, "Elemental Resistance," Released!

This one is a pretty sizable one in terms of what it changes about the "feel" of the game.  The big new thing for existing players is the elemental damage system: spells each belong to one of six elements (fire, water, earth, air, light, and entropy), matching the colors of the gems used to create them.

Enemies then have weaknesses or resistances to specific elements, meaning that (as in many games) lightning attacks are more effective against robots, and you can't hurt a being made out of fire by attacking it with fire.  Beyond that, bosses also now get randomized elemental resistances mixed in with their other unique-to-the-individual health/attack/casting-speed bonuses.  And lastly, the various shield spells that were introduced a month or so ago now have proper elemental resistance bonuses tied to each of them.

There actually was a sort of elemental "combo system" that we'd implemented, too, but as the very savvy Jerebaldo1 pointed out from the release notes before the release even came out, it was possible to exploit.  We have some other ideas about elemental combo systems, but coming up with something simple, fun, and non-exploitable is going to take some more thought and discussion.  I overlooked one major class of exploit with my first pass at such a combo system, but that doesn't mean that a combo system of that general sort is impossible.

There are also two new enemy types in this new release.  The first is Red Slime, which is a stationary enemy that you'll only encounter (for now) in the intro mission.  I imagine that the slimes will make some appearances elsewhere in the game in the future.  The second new enemy is the Water Esper, which is now mixed in with Lightning Espers to show a bit of what can be done by mixing "identical" enemies that have differing elements but little else.

Let's see, other stuff... There's an awesome new ocean music track in this release, and there's a goodly bit of new furniture/objects, particularly in the ice age areas.  The intro mission has another two surface chunks and a new building with ten rooms in it.  Coffers are now used in some stash rooms throughout the game now, rather than being exclusively limited to the intro mission.  And there were a number of bugfixes.

Keith is still completely immersed in the multiplayer aspects of the game, but that's getting to a point where I expect we'll be able to do some internal testing with staff within a week or so.  There's still a lot more to do before a public release even after that, but it's a promising step.

More to come tomorrow: my ardent hope is to wrap up the last segment of the intro mission (which takes place underground) tomorrow.  Knock on wood, I think that all of the major game extensions that are needed for the intro mission have already been put in place, so I should be able to wrap things up.  Then I'll be back to new content for the main game itself, which I'm really looking forward to.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.536, "Snake In The Window," Released!

This one is another one that has been several days in the making because of the intense number of internal changes that have been a part of it.  The recently-revised multiplayer model is continuing to get further along, and as a part of that we've done some refactors to help make for (longer-term) fewer bugs in both multiplayer and solo.

The intro mission is also progressing nicely, and you'll notice some changes to the first three sections of the mission that were previously released (these changes will only be in new worlds, not existing ones, FYI).  Actually a fourth screen has now been added, and the first four (of ten) rooms inside a new building type for the intro mission, but since there were six missing rooms that lead more or less into black holes, all those new screens are disabled in this build.

More to the point for this release in terms of existing players, there's a number of bugfixes and tweaks.  The light snakes are now a lot more exciting and useful as they move faster, go further, and reveal the minimap as they go.  A lot of buildings now include some interior windows looking out at the sky when they are aboveground, making structures feel less enclosed unless you're actually underground.

More to come in the next couple of days, including an easy new enemy type that will be used in the intro mission.  Thanks for bearing with us during this period of work on the intro mission and multiplayer -- we'll be back to the features that are likely to be more exciting to our existing players soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.535, "Audio Epitaph," Released!

This one has been a couple of days in the making, and the release notes are still pretty short even so, but it's been a busy few days for sure!  Keith has been hard at work on the multiplayer stuff, and that's coming along well although it's still an uphill thing.

For my part I've mostly been working on the intro mission, both in terms of the framework for it, and the actual implementation of the mission itself.  A very foreshortened version of the intro mission is now in place for when you start a new world; it gives you three screens that you have to get past before getting to the settlement.

Those three screens themselves are pretty much what I'd consider "final pending feedback," but there's intended to be a lot more to the intro mission than just that.  And the actual first-settlement logic still needs some updates, too.  But it's getting there!

My favorite things about the intro mission thus far are: 1) the epitaphs, which I think is a really fun and thematically-appropriate way to give hints to new players about how to get through the mission; and 2) the fact that the very very start of the mission reminds me a little bit of the starting area of the original Metroid game.  You have to really look to see it, and maybe it's just me, but I get that same general vibe from the start of this game now, which I'm really pleased about.

There's also a lot of new back-up related features in this one.  Now backing up your worlds doesn't have to be a manual-in-the-OS process.  The game asks you if you want to do a backup before you load any world (and you can turn that prompt off if it bugs you).  And there's an option for manually backing up a world folder any time you please.

In the last few versions there's been a few crashes, mainly out of memory crashes, experienced by a few players.  I strongly suspect that has to do with the way that the audio playback was altered in 0.531.  Well, as of this version, the audio playback has been altered completely, and now uses a method of playback that will use vastly less disk I/O, that will use a bit less memory, and which should solve the crashes if that's really what they were caused by.

Oh, and I finally got rid of those ice age vent pipes that everyone hated, and replaced them with some more-attractive icicles.  More to come most likely on Monday.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.534, "Settlements Ahoy," Released!

This one is our third and final release of the day. 

The thing I'm most excited about it is the work that's been done on the intro mission framework.  The mission-as-implemented-so-far is just a tiny cave that you walk out of (yay), but what that tiny cave represents is pretty substantial for my ability to now move this mission design out of the word processor and into the game.

The thing that I expect many existing players will be the most excited about in this one is the changes to settlement seeding logic -- there are now hard minimums on how infrequently settlements can seed on the world map.  That wasn't previously the case, so we had some players who were level 60-70 before seeing their second settlement, while other players were finding their second settlement easily by level 20.  That was definitely too much variance!

There are a number of other fixes and defensive coding bits added in this version, too.  If you have one of the few kinds of graphics cards that supports shader model 3.0 or higher, but which doesn't support vertex fragment programs, it will now auto-disable the dynamic skies so that you see the nice static skies instead of a hot pink sky backdrop.  Destroyed rooms are also now the thing that are the most likely to be missing if there's a missing door in a building room, which is another big plus.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

AVWW Beta 0.533, "Rockslide and Meteor Shower," Released!

This one is our second of what looks to be three releases for today.  There were a couple of bugfixes in it that we wanted to get out to players ASAP, so here we are.

Also included in this release, aside from the bugfixes, are a whopping 24 new stairwell-type room templates and 2 new spell gems.  Rockslide and Meteor Shower are like launch rock and launch meteor, except that they fire four projectiles up in a fixed arc rather than firing one projectile at a player-set angle. These are much more friendly to keyboard play, and are extremely handy for things like masses of enemies, too.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

AVWW Beta 0.532, "Bugfix Collection," Released!

This one simply has some bugfixes that we wanted to go ahead and get released before tonight's later release.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

AVWW Beta 0.531, "Glyph Transplants and Abandoned Settlements," Released!

This one doesn't have hugely long feature list, but it includes several things that have been on my to-do list for what seems like forever.

First up is the new Glyph Transplant spell scroll, which basically lets you do a body swap with any NPC you like.  You become them, and they become you, and you continue on with their stats, name, and appearance. 

Thematically, this is actually passing your blue, floating "glyph" (and all the associated inventory that goes with it) to another character.  This is actually what happens when you die, too, but when you die you always pass the glyph to a "wandering" NPC that hasn't yet shown up in any of your settlements or other locations.  This lets you actually become someone you've already met, which has been a goal for the game from the start.

Next thing is that there is finally a solution for the abandoned settlements.  Previously if you found yourself with literally no NPCs in a settlement, well, that settlement was just dead because you normally need at least one NPC to use to recruit other NPCs. 

Now if there are literally no NPCs in a settlement (and all the monsters have been cleared out), go and talk to one of the guardian stones of the settlement and they'll call a wanderer to the settlement.  You can then use that new resident to recruit more residents, and you're back off to the races.

There are a few other things in this release as well, including a fix to that lighting issue in the prior version.  But the above were the high points.

Notes On The AVWW Multiverse
Today was a hardcore design day for Keith and I; it's been over a month since we last did this, I think, and it was definitely overdue.  We got a number of important middle-term things planned based on what we've each been thinking about lately and what we've learned from the beta.

One consistent theme from what we were talking about today is that the concept of a multiverse is really getting increasingly central to this game.  The idea of a string-theory-type multiverse has always been one of the founding ideas of the AVWW mythos, but it's been a much more subtle thing up until now. 

It's why all the instance of the world are called Environ, for instance, but each one is completely different in the details.  Each one exists in a separate universe. It's also key to why all the time periods are able to co-exist in the newly re-formed universe that now exists after the cataclysm. 

A lot of that gets into backstory and explanations that are really something that we want players to be able to solve and figure out through piecing together clues in the game, but most of those clues haven't actually been added to the game yet.  That's another thing on the list prior to 1.0, and is also heavily related to the future return of the memory crystals.

Anyway, I don't want to spoil much, but we've come up with some new gameplay ideas that tie several existing gameplay elements together better, and which weave in more of the story, too, and even which tie into multiplayer in a wholly unique way.  You'll start seeing the results of all that coming up in the next weeks and months. 

The one that I'm most excited about are the new "personas," which are an idea of Keith's that I won't spoil.  But I will say that these will provide yet another way of customizing and improving your characters, among other benefits, so that's some welcome news I'm sure.

Notes On The AVWW Multiplayer
Keith has gotten the multiplayer functioning to the point where the main barrier we were running up against is the simple speed of even LAN networks versus the amount of precision demanded by pixel-perfect, shmup-style projectiles and dodging ability. 

The networking model was getting really refined, but still was a definitively inferior gameplay experience to solo play, which obviously isn't an acceptable state of affairs.  There's a reason why there are very few networked multiplayer shmups, particularly those of the 2D pixel-perfect variety. 

Traditional action-game networking just isn't sufficient for the precision that they demand in order to avoid frustrating players with wrong collision hits.  Minor client/server disagreements where there is as little as 200ms worth of difference in entity positions can mean the difference between a hit and a miss at this sort of scale and this sort of projectile speed.

So what do we do when we meet a seemingly-intractable problem like this? We redefine the problem.  I don't want to get into the details yet because there's a lot we still have to actually implement and test out how it works, but the bulk of Keith's and my time today was spent redesigning the networking model based on some ideas we'd batted around way back in early alpha in the event that the traditional approach couldn't be smoothed and predicted into as precise an experience as we wanted.

Our core goal with this redesign was to make the multiplayer combat experience absolutely just as precise and as much fun to the solo combat experience regardless of network conditions or lag, but still while maintaining the ability to have co-op and PVP styles of play.  That said, the design for PVP play has really changed for the game, and even the way that the co-op aspects will work is now really unique from any other game I can think of.

This is a big shift for the multiplayer modes, so I felt I should give a heads up about that before we actually fully unveil it later.  It's kind of like the shift from being a 2D top-down game to being a 2D sidescroller in terms of the scale of the change, but this change only affects multiplayer play; solo play isn't changing one iota in response to this.

Still no ETA on multiplayer actually becoming publicly available.  A majority of what has already been done for multiplayer actually will be retained, but now we have a bunch more logical complexity to set up and add in on top of that stuff.  But shifting this to being a logical design problem rather than something primarily bound by the speed of the Internet is something we're really happy about, to put it mildly.

More to come soon.  Enjoy!

This is a standard update that you can download through the in-game updater itself, if you already have 0.500 or later. 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. If you don't have 0.500 or later, you can download that here.