Author Topic: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...  (Read 66778 times)

Offline mlaskus

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 52
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #30 on: September 14, 2010, 04:22:49 PM »
Shardz, I was joking about sacrificing the soul. ;)

I agree with your concern about a flood of people though, but I think the community of any Facebook game could be hosted separately of the one we are enjoying here, preventing us from being flooded.

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,506
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #31 on: September 14, 2010, 04:26:33 PM »
Ultimately, what I enjoy about Arcen is integrity. That doesn't come often in this world and especially in this industry. The fact that AI Wars is indeed a hidden gem in the weeds makes it all that much more attractive to me; although, this doesn't parallel with monetary success, either. When I read statements like, "It might be worth sacrificing a small bit of your soul"...I get a bit worried cause this is one independent game company which has a "ghost in the machine" in all their products and I'd hate to see anything change too drastically.
Yea, I wanted to work at Arcen primarily based on the integrity I saw in how Chris does business (well, C# is nice too).  That's why I replied to the (joking) "sacrifice" comment with the word "Never" :)  Any economic decision where one of the costs is "Integrity" has an asymptotically high cost:benefit ratio ;)

As for problems with maintaining the community if there's a flood of new people... yea, that's a challenge, and it will basically be up to the moderators (like myself) to take the necessary steps to maintain the boundaries we have set, and up to the community to be a good example.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games? Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline KingIsaacLinksr

  • Master Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,332
  • A Paladin Without A Crusade...
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #32 on: September 14, 2010, 04:27:50 PM »
Thanks for letting us know, I never usually talk about what I'm writing for my blog next, but I'll be sure to push your games again within the next 24 hours.  I'll see if any of my FB friends might be interested.  I haven't brought anyone to your games yet, so I'll see if I can push a little harder on this.

:)

King
Casual reviewer with a sense of justice.
Visit the Arcen Mantis to help: https://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/
A Paladin's Blog. Long form videogame reviews focusing on mechanics and narrative analyzing. Plus other stuff. www.kingisaaclinksr.com

Offline Otagan

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 65
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #33 on: September 14, 2010, 04:30:57 PM »
If it says "Arcen Games" on it, I have three copies of it.  I've convinced two friends to bite on the AI War/ZR combo.  Looks like my evangelizing will have to continue anew.
...

Offline Shardz

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 149
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #34 on: September 14, 2010, 04:40:17 PM »
Shardz, I was joking about sacrificing the soul. ;)

I agree with your concern about a flood of people though, but I think the community of any Facebook game could be hosted separately of the one we are enjoying here, preventing us from being flooded.

mlaskus: Yeah, I knew you were being tonque-in-cheek about it...I wasn't coming down on you or your statement, but the actual ideal of that has been on my mind for quite a while now in regards to success versus commercialism. I guess it's like the baby bird syndrome or something...you love it so much, but you know you will have to let it leave the nest someday. I really hate hearing any financial difficulties with this company at all cause Arcen deserves the big budget treatment and has put something on the table with some meat to it. My worries stem all the way back to when E.A. killed Bullfrog (one of my favorite companies of all time) and since then have seen the good guys with the best tricks struggle in the industry for whatever reasons. I know there is probably a simple solution to all this...and it might even be a culmination of suggestions in this actual thread.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2010, 04:43:57 PM by Shardz »

Offline Lancefighter

  • Core Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,440
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #35 on: September 14, 2010, 04:48:58 PM »
I shall be as your messenger onto the realms of EVE! Let them hear my songs of praise and respond in kind..
But mostly, itll just be me and zeba going on about how awesome AI war is :( I'm afraid its been tried many times, and I am just not sure the people of eve are willing to convert to such a complex strategy game..   :-\
However, no effort shall be spared in the spreading of the Good Word!
Ideas? Suggestions? Concerns? Bugs to be squashed? Report them on the Mantis Bugtracker!

Author of the Dyson Project and the Spire Gambit

Offline superking

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,205
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #36 on: September 14, 2010, 04:56:37 PM »
the civilisation forums would be a good bet too

Offline getter77

  • Jr. Member Mark II
  • **
  • Posts: 79
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #37 on: September 14, 2010, 09:12:34 PM »
Given the, surely impending even moreso, release of the proper shiny new Unity3D 3---what about chatting them up to feature the ArcEn wares as something of a showcase title(s) as an early adopter?  I see no reason for them to have anything but gain to be had from being able to point to a visibly hosted trailer and whatnot showing off at least a rather solid portion of their featureset beyond a bullshot tech demo that doesn't quite carry the water of an already realized project.   ESPECIALLY given their aims to heavily target the Indie and Indie+ segment of folks out there.

They've got to be hungry for all they can get along these kind of lines up against UDK, the new CryEngine looming, maybe Torque doing something notable one day for a change outside of making people mad, etc...
The Roguelike Guy...also hopefully an overall skilled developer as time rolls on.

Offline Nimis

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #38 on: September 14, 2010, 09:15:47 PM »
Looking through the comments of the AI War post at RPS I noticed several people trying out the demo complain about the speed of the game on the default setting. I can’t help but wonder if this is having an impact on the willingness of players to purchase the game. I know when I first started playing I thought that the pacing was absolutely glacial, and this is coming from a long time Civ player. Thankfully, after quitting out of the demo from pure boredom, I thought to look through the options later and saw the fast and dangerous setting, which completely changed my outlook on the game.

As AI War stands, the player either needs to be aware the speed options exist, or stumble into them by pure happenstance as I did. For this reason I think the game needs to prompt the first time player, preferably with some kind of visual comparison, of the two drastically different speed options available in AI War. As speed has a drastic impact on play-style and fun, I think making this option clear early on would be imperative.

I’m sure that the speed option is mentioned at some point in the tutorial, but considering the amount of information being given to the player at that time, especially to an RTS player unfamiliar with TBS concepts, it is VERY easy to miss or simply ignore. Giving a prompt at the start of the player’s first game would eliminate the problem and actually make players aware that the option exists. This prompt would be an easy way to effectively eliminate the problem of the game feeling slow for RTS players and hopefully convince them to purchase the game.

TL; DR version: Make the game prompt first time players, asking them for their choice in speed setting while showing a visual comparison of the two modes. Would alleviate first time players concerns of the game feeling too slow and hopefully encourage more RTS players to purchase.

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,506
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #39 on: September 14, 2010, 10:08:49 PM »
Yea, having those speed features mentioned really early on could help avoid unnecessarily giving the wrong impression.  Say something like "if this is too slow, turn on fast and dangerous and crank up the speed to +2" ;)

Another idea for community involvement in all this is putting together some "featured" AARs.  Something like Boatmurdered (minus the boatload of swearing) could be pretty amusing ;)  A single-player succession game could be more manageable than an MP one, just due to scheduling.  Dazio's beta-feedback AAR was a great read (particularly for showing off the flavor added by many minor factions), etc.  There's also the possibility of an "extended tutorial" AAR-ish thing based on a scenario that a sane person would actually play, complete with save-games at each stage.  Of course, 3.189 has some issues that are worse than what we normally let persist this long (the Unity port is coming along, it just takes time), so this might be better for when 4.0 is done (or nearly so).  One thing to remember about these ideas is that they don't have to be done _right now_; we've got time to think and plan.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games? Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,279
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #40 on: September 14, 2010, 10:11:50 PM »
Update post: http://arcengames.blogspot.com/2010/09/wow-lot-of-people-love-ai-war-andor.html

Copied:

MANY, many thanks here, everyone.  A lot of great ideas came up through the forums discussion on this, as well as in the comments on my last post, as well as on Rock, Paper, Shotgun's post about this, as well as elsewhere.  Some great work has already been done getting the word out the press, a lot of it by our faithful fans, and a number of sites have picked up on this and have offered support in various fashions.  I expected a big response and a lot of posts from the core fans on our forums, but the amount of response outside the forums has been really unexpected; we're extremely grateful.

Clearly related to all this publicity, we've made around $1500 all of a sudden in one day today (so far), where recently it's been more like $150ish per day or sometimes even less (much too small when split essentially 5 ways, plus split to general business overhead and taxes, no?).  So, that's been a nice little bump in revenue already -- and we are exceedingly grateful -- but the main thing that we need is sustained revenues, rather than flash-in-the-pan one-day boosts from discounts, etc.  But it's a start, and certainly people are thinking about us a different way, which is good, I guess.

I've felt kind of weird talking about this at all, honestly, as in some ways it feels like asking for a handout, and it's not like we're imminently on death's door -- after all, we have until November, and a lot could change between now and then.  But at the same time, if I wait until the last minute, then it's too late for anyone to do anything to help, and we really are sunk.  As it is, I think the timing was right to breach this topic, but it still feels a bit odd.

Product/Company Visibility Is A Tricky Thing To Gauge
On the other hand, I think that a lot of times people fall in love with some product or other, and then just because it's good they think it's well-known.  That's been the downfall of more than one product, I'm sure, and certainly some indie developers.  The Big Download news item about this referred to Arcen as "one of the more well known indie game developers," which was a huge surprise to me, for a number of reasons.  For one, I have never once, ever, met a stranger who knew who I was or had even heard the vaguest hint about AI War.  When I think well-known, I think more like 2D Boy and those guys; the indie darlings. 

I don't really mind being thought of as well-known, that's fine and certainly flattering, but my point is that I think it is indicative of that sort of mindset that winds up letting companies like us languish in more obscurity than people expect; the people who already like our stuff and know about us naturally think that others with similar interests do, also.  Normally that's something that can be fought with marketing or advertising or something, but only when you have something that is really surface-accessible, which is not what our games are known for (well, Tidalis is, but we have the opposite problem of people assuming it's generic when it's not).

That's the scariest part there, is that we could fold as a company simply because there's all these potential customers out there who we never could communicate with about what we actually have to offer them.  Outside the gaming business I've seen that happen multiple times, and it was kind of scary to suddenly sense that happening here.

Did We Piss It All Away?
So, on RPS in particular there were a few folks commenting that they wondered how we could let it get to this point.  As in, we must have just been spending money like crazy, thinking that a rush of money after AI War came out would keep coming in indefinitely.  But it wasn't like that at all (and we're so cost-conscious that we don't even have office space, and delayed getting proper web hosting that cost more than $100/year until the servers were about to buckle, etc).

On the other hand, these folks are right in that if I'd just wanted to stay a solo shop, working with occasional contractors and largely churning out AI War expansions for pay, I'd be sitting fat and happy right now.  I'd have several years' worth of income sitting in my bank accounts gaining interest, and I could slowly start venturing out into territory beyond AI War.  Certainly there are indie developers who do that, and some are successful and others are not.  Most of them tend to remain one-man shops forever, though, and I just can't stand working in isolation when there's an alternative; and, frankly, a lot of what has been achieved in the last year has only been possible because of the amazing and talented folks who have joined me on the team.  I wouldn't trade that for being fat and happy and alone.

Momentum Can Make You Too Comfortable 
Until this problem surfaced, the momentum had been going strong for the last year or so.  For each distribution channel of the game (our site, Impulse, GamersGate, Steam, and then Direct2Drive, in that order of arrival), there had been a floor under which sales never dropped, and a ceiling over which they almost never rose, during the course of normal business -- except when we did a discount promotion, and those always had predictable results in terms of raising sales volume, too (though increasing in scale 10% to 20% with each sale, actually, as word of mouth spread).

That safe, comfortable pattern lasted from late May of 2009 all the way up to around April-ish of 2010.  I knew that might start tapering off at some point, and honestly expected it to happen long before the doldrums hit, but in the end I don't think that's what happened.  But anyway, Tidalis was expected to pick up whatever slack arose, and then some.  It was an ambitious game in a completely different genre, and wouldn't cannibalize existing sales, and had a nice broad appeal while still keeping my hardcore sensibilities, and all that.  I was feeling pretty safe about what I was doing.  And then the bottom fell out, inexplicably and without much in the way of warning.

Silence Isn't So Golden On The Internet
The scariest part was that nowhere on forums were people talking about Tidalis -- there were just the reviews, and that was it.  A few people talked about the game on our forums, but only less than 2% of the people who bought it.  People consistently talk about AI War in various venues, and tiny conversations pop up here and there all the time (Google Alerts is wonderful for catching all that, to gauge response), but Tidalis just wasn't catching on in forums.  That was one of the biggest things that led me to feel like something just wasn't right (aside from the fact we were bleeding money all of a sudden after 12 months of growth, obviously).

Q&A
To some of the specific questions/thoughts raised in forum threads and comment areas in general:

1. Trailers.  I plan to do a trailer for CoN, and one for AI War 4.0.  However, time is limited and I want to wait until all the new art assets are in place with AI War 4.0, etc, before I do that. The 4.0 version will look pretty markedly different in a lot of respects (the starfields and the HUD in particular, but also some of the special effects), and I want the new trailers to reflect that.  So, hence my waiting at the moment -- but, if other folks want to do trailers or just fun/exciting/interesting/informative videos in the meantime, oh my god would that be a help.

2. Facebook.  This is another case of the-grass-is-greener syndrome, I think.  "Make a Facebook version of Tidalis" is a popular suggestion.  People have this sense that if you put out a game on the iPhone, you make a jillion dollars.  I mean, Facebook/Android/whatever-trendy-thing.  You see my point.  Well, people have the same mistaken ideas about casual games, too -- I can tell you from experience, as can many indie developers, that making a casual game is in no way a cash-in; it's almost a harder road than the hardcore niche route, I think.  The problem is visibility -- there again, people look at the top 1% of games, and see how well they are doing, and assume everyone does as well.  Right now, to hear Gamasutra tell it, almost nobody but Zygna is making any money on Facebook.  Anyway, point is that I keep in touch with a lot of other indie developers in a variety of markets (though not many on facebook, admittedly), and they all complain about their markets just as much as I could complain about mine.  Except for the lucky darlings of any platform, everyone else is going to struggle to some extent.

3. Porting in general (Android, iPhone, Facebook, web versions, and so on).  So: I addressed this partly with #2.  But, that's not to say that I think the porting suggestions are without merit.  It's simply that this is never easy or simple.  Well, in the grand scheme it might be easy -- it only takes a month or two of effort, right?  But that's about all the time Arcen has left on the clock, unless things change (which, with all this recent press, maybe they will, I hope -- but it's far too early to tell).  Leaping into a brand-new platform on which I have no prior experience, and spending all the remaining time that the company has doing so, strikes me as far more risky and reckless than anything I've done with the company since founding it.  Some of the Unity-supported platforms (iOS/Android, mainly) could be a calculated risk that is worth taking if there is time after the AI War 4.0 porting work (which is a far more safe bet in my opinion), but that really remains to be seen.

4. AI War on mobile devices.  This has come up for years, and it's just a no-go.  A few RTS games work pretty well on the iPhone, I've played them, but by and large you only have games with a few small bands of units, and a really REALLY revamped UI.  Also, they are all inherently single-threaded, and have to run on processors less than half (at best) of the minimum that AI War supports.  In the case of AI War, it's just far too large a game for those platforms.  Our consideration of mobile devices would be limited to Tidalis and future titles like Alden Ridge Arcade, if they are a fit (that one would be).

5. A small web version of Tidalis, as sort of a free demo.  We've certainly considered it, but it's not something that can instantly be done because of the way we load assets into Unity.  Long story, but our way is better except when it comes to something like this.  But, it's something we're considering more seriously of late, to be sure.

6. Microtransactions.  Goodness, aren't these trendy?  They just seem a bit unethical to me, like players are being nickeled-and-dimed.  And for multiplayer games, it creates all sorts of challenges for which players have what smaller components, unless those are non-gameplay-affecting components like the infamous horse saddles or something.

7. Work-for-hire.  Some folks suggest on occasion that we do work for hire, rather than our own original work. And, we've been approached by some companies asking us if we're interested in that arrangement (both today, and in the past in general).  As sort of a last resort, we might consider doing something like that before getting booted entirely out of the gaming industry... but we're not indies because we couldn't hack it in the mainstream games industry, if you get my meaning.  I'm grateful that people think well enough of us to offer, but it's just not our bag.

Signing Out For Now
It's been a super busy day, and I haven't been able to talk to everyone I meant to.  I've gotten a lot of emails from folks from various businesses offering advice, support, or various potential opportunities, and I'm trying to respond to everyone, but it takes time.  There's still a pile of emails in my inbox waiting to be read and responded to (there usually is, seems like, especially now with the baby).  I'm not complaining -- far from it, I'm extremely grateful.  But, I did want to let people know that I'm not ignoring them if they sent me an email this afternoon and I haven't yet responded.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,279
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #41 on: September 14, 2010, 10:27:19 PM »
Yea, having those speed features mentioned really early on could help avoid unnecessarily giving the wrong impression.  Say something like "if this is too slow, turn on fast and dangerous and crank up the speed to +2" ;)


Yeah, having some first-time getting-oriented notices and queries might not be a bad idea, to be sure.  Maybe some form of "lobby basics wizard" or something, with the big questions.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Trurl

  • Newbie Mark III
  • *
  • Posts: 26
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #42 on: September 14, 2010, 10:38:05 PM »
Have you considering doing a crazy Tidalis sale on Steam? Like offer it for $2, which is cheap enough that most people will impulse buy. If you can make it cheap enough that 50% of active steam users will buy it, then you could make a ton of money.

Offline RCIX

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,808
  • Avatar credit goes to Spookypatrol on League forum
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #43 on: September 14, 2010, 10:43:12 PM »
I read the original post (and the update) but didn't catch the rest of them. Anyway, i do have a couple ideas:
 * Toss a few free keys out there. This wouldn't work though if you don't do any key checking with servers.
 * I could try and make a couple of banners people can use :)
Avid League player and apparently back from the dead!

If we weren't going for your money, you wouldn't have gotten as much value for it!

Oh, wait... *causation loop detonates*

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,279
Re: Love AI War and/or Tidalis? We could really use your help...
« Reply #44 on: September 14, 2010, 10:48:22 PM »
Well... we do hope to do some sales in the coming months, but there's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff with all that that I can't comment on.

That said, we've done Steam sales with AI War at 30%, 50%, 50%, and 75% off.  The second sale (50% off) was about 20% more profitable than the first at 30%.  The third sale (50% off again) was about 20% more profitable yet again.  And the fourth sale (75% off) was about 50% less profitable than the first sale.

So... I'm wary, you know?  Once somebody buys the game at $2, that's it -- they aren't buying the game again.  If we could sell 300k copies at $2, that would be awesome, but even if we sold 30k copies of it at $2 we'd potentially just be shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of destroying half the customer base for the full-price version... while at the same time making everyone else wait for the game to be $2 again.  Those sorts of extreme discounts are dangerous stuff to play around with, there's no going back once you do them...

Granted, before the company utterly failed we'd try something like that, but it strikes me as sort of a "going out of business sale" type of thing to do.  Most games with an extreme discount like that are, essentially, so old that they're going out of business, and that's their last hurrah.  I bought Bioshock for something like $4 or $5 off a Steam sale shortly before Bioshock 2 came out.  If that wasn't a going out of business sale for the first game, I don't know what was. ;)

So... at any rate, I remain wary.  People who try it seem to love Tidalis, in the main, but most just haven't heard of it.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!