Arcen Games

Games => AI War Classic => Topic started by: x4000 on January 04, 2010, 10:34:13 AM

Title: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 04, 2010, 10:34:13 AM
From Rock, Paper, Shotgun: Indieyeahosity: IGF 2010 Finalists Announced (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/01/04/indie-igf-2010-finalists-announced/)

In the comments, an interesting minor discussion on AI War, and how (to quote KG) "it’s not a very – er – IGF game." This is an interesting point, which I have to agree with in the main.  IGF winners generally tend to be very short and have a clear and immediate hook.  They might be hardcore-ish or casual-ish, but they're the sort of thing you could immediately pick up and play while walking around a convention hall.  Can you imagine trying to pick up and play AI War at a convention hall, let alone really learn what makes it unique?

The judging, from what I can tell, is done on pretty much the same sort of system: a large panel of judges gets a large selection of games each to review, and they play each one for as long as they can to get their impressions.  I had an email from one judge on the very last day of judging looking for a link to AI War, since it had temporarily been messed up.  This is not meant to be a slight on that judge in any way (everyone has other things going on in their lives), but I think it is indicative of the mindset of the judging in general.  If you can't pick it up and figure out whether a game is worthy in a spare hour or two, it's probably not worthy.

To be absolutely fair, that's typically more time than I'll give a demo of a game -- not that I'm a reviewer, mind.  When I look at some other game that I'm considering buying, I spend however long it takes for it to convince me that I don't like it, and then uninstall it.  Or, if I keep right on liking it, I'll most likely buy it (money permitting).  Thankfully the AI War tutorials alone have captured a lot of players' attention and have converted them into AI War customers, but by and large these are people with an affinity for the genre.  Strategy games are a uniquely niche genre in that they require a level of meta-knowledge about the game and the genre as a whole to enjoy; there are millions of strategy gamers out there, but to convert someone from outside the strategy genre is a real challenge for an hour or two of exposure.  Imagine trying to teach Chess to someone in an hour, and then having them enjoy it on any meaningful level.  When I was a little kid -- 7 or 8, maybe -- my dad tried to teach me Chess, but I concluded that it was pretty much just like Checkers but less interesting and more convoluted.  I played Chess a bit off and on through my youth, but didn't really get hooked on it until high school, when I later joined the Chess club.

Anyway -- so, to say that AI War is not IGF-ish is pretty obvious to me.  It doesn't have the immediacy that you need for a convention center or for everyone in the audience to be nodding along if it wins anything.  It's also not so stunningly beautiful to behold that it will draw non-genre fans; I think that the mere fact that it is in space is probably a turnoff to some, despite the fact that it is a huge attractor for others.  Taste varies, right?

The reasons why I entered AI War in the competition at all are twofold: first, I wanted to see how it would do, despite my misgivings about its fit for the contest.  Second, given the revolutionary AI, I figured it had a shot in the Technical Excellence category.  Of course, something so abstract as AI quality is really hard to judge if you aren't already good at the game the AI is in, as well as comparable games with AI opponents (so that you have some referent point), so once again it is not hard to see why this would be passed over.  The judges would have to have had just the right sort of prior experience in order to choose AI War, and while that was possible it is unlikely given the composition and focus of the judging panel.

This doesn't make me bitter or particularly upset: it was a longshot in the first place, as far as I was concerned, and the fact that this game wasn't a fit for IGF doesn't mean I won't enter anything else in the future.  Our two upcoming games for 2010, the puzzler and A Valley Without Wind, are both still quite deep in their gameplay, but are also vastly more immediately accessible.  Either one of those is much more of an IGF-ish game than AI War, even though they won't be so short as many indie games (bite-sized content in games with brilliant mechanics really bugs me, but I digress).  Anyway, as they say, there's always next year.  In the meantime, AI War is doing well enough commercially to support fulltime myself, our composer/sound designer, and our artist.  That's my first and only goal outside of making excellent games, really.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Echo35 on January 04, 2010, 11:48:12 AM
Yeah, I saw that this morning on Twitter. Not even an award for technical excellence? That sucks. Though I do agree with the discussion. Its quite a deep and multi-layered game. Much more so than most indie games, which tend to be simpler and more straight forward.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Spikey00 on January 04, 2010, 12:12:35 PM
Lame.  AI War is great the way it is--and IMO short games will always be overshadowed by the lengthy.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Lancefighter on January 04, 2010, 12:17:17 PM
I agree - Ai war begins to shine after you get a half dozen hours into the campaign and realize you missed your typical bedtime by 4 hours... and still havent had dinner yet  ;D
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 04, 2010, 12:19:30 PM
It's all about audience, I guess.  It's a shame there aren't any conventions of that sort for strategy games and gamers in general; or if there are, I don't know of them.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Spikey00 on January 04, 2010, 12:32:15 PM
Audience... bah, screw the audience!  =\
rofl

--

Most I see for RTS competitions are via game-specific online ladder.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: spelk on January 04, 2010, 04:45:30 PM
It does seem to favour more casual indie titles, more accessible and readily playable ones, which tends to exclude any depth in strategy, if any strategy titles get a look in at all. Most "casual" indie strategy tends to lean towards Tower Defense, or Advance Wars clones really, which is a shame.

However, I feel, the IGF as it is, is doing a great disservice to the term Indie, because the vast majority of innovation in Strategy is centered around independant developers!
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 04, 2010, 04:53:11 PM
I suppose that if the IGF were to be relevant to strategy and other niche genres beyond the "indie as a genre" concept, they would need to have a ton more categories as in Academy Awards or Golden Globes or what have you.  There you can have best actor in comedy and drama separately, and they get rated on totally different scales, by people knowledgeable on each.  Right now it's like IGF is just rating comedies and nothing else, anything larger or more serious is unlikely to do too well.

Having judges with more of a variety of backgrounds, who perhaps specialize in certain genres for rating, would also be good.  Right now it's set up to be a self-fulfilling cycle of always rewarding certain types of games only.  Again, some of Arcen's upcoming titles are designed in such a way that they might even do pretty well in that sort of judging that they currently have... but that still wouldn't make it a completely-relevant win even if we did win with one of those titles.

But, it's not my contest or my festival, so so it goes.  I think they're designed specifically to award and recognize certain types of games, and that's well and fine if that's what they want to do.  It just makes them a lot more of a niche "indie as a genre" award, rather than "any independently-produced game" award.  Seems like there ought to be room for both in the same contest, but I recognize they have their own scope, budget, and production constraints to deal with, too.  Maybe someday, if the indie market keeps growing as it has been recently!
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: eRe4s3r on January 04, 2010, 05:44:28 PM
The IGF is irrelevant ever since Braid won the awards, 2 years before it was released.  ;)

But then again, i am just a grumpy hardcore gamer,  ;D .. That AI War isn't ranked is the best compliment possible ;)

Also, the only thing IGF Awards care about are Smups and Platformers  ::)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Strider on January 04, 2010, 08:40:21 PM
For the most part, I've lost my trust in 'reviewers'...not all, of course, but the majority of them.  Back before the internet was so easily accessible (showing my age here :) I always picked up the magazine Computer Gaming World.  I found that when I got a game that had been reviewed by them, that I could agree with it for more than 90% of the time.  Then something "happened" to them...they began to give reviews that I found I could not agree with most of the time, either the positive or negative ratings they gave out.  I've looked at some of the web sites on game reviews, and from either the demo available or just the reviewers remarks, they are usually way off the mark for my perception.  For a lot of them, I get the impression that if the game can't be played without a manual, and figured out within 10 minutes, and the graphics aren't exceptional, then there's a flaw with it.  I can understand this type of attitude for games designed for console type playing, but something designed to be played on a PC, I "expect" to need a manual and need to think about what I'm doing.  Tutorials are nice, and almost always have a positive impact on the such games like AI War.
I can't remember the last 'mainstream' game that I bought...it's been years.  But, I have a number of 'independent' games that I've purchased.  I think there's a lot of gamers/reviewers who don't really have a concept of quality over marketing schemes. 
But then there's the attitude of the majority of youngsters "now-a-days".  I have four grand-kids and I work at a private Jr. college.  I mean no disrespect, this is just my perception of being around so many.  They have very short attention spans.  I'm thinking that has a lot to do with information-overload.  They're being raised with the internet being a common household and school item.  They "expect" to be online and being able to check email, social sites, and the latest news on celebraties (and such), while doing this at the same time they are working and studying.  I don't think they have all that much choice, but to adapt to doing this.  And until / if they can settle in to adjusting on being able to process all the info that is available to them, then what some of us consider quality programming (whether games or other software) will remain a niche.
But as long as we have sites like Arcen and quite a few others, then we'll be able to satisfy our own needs :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Shardz on January 04, 2010, 09:34:53 PM
AI War was exactly what I was looking for when I was looking for it; something that required some gray matter that I could really get into, but wouldn't scare me off with 2 billion buttons on the UI linking to useless graphs and stats. It took me about 10 minutes to really like what I saw and about 1 hour to realize I found what I was looking for. I don't want 6 gigs worth of game data on my drive, I don't want a quad core only game requiring a new video card, I certainly don't need 45 minutes of blue screened motion captured video depicting some sort of fictitious shenanigans with grade B actors. My search had ended and there was much rejoicing. It's just too bad that some don't know what they want in the first place. I bet half those judges go home and get hooked on AI War immediately after the contest. :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Baleur on January 04, 2010, 09:39:28 PM
Wow most of those games (all) are utter shit lol.
I could count at least 5 independent games more deserving than those :P
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: quickstix on January 04, 2010, 09:46:01 PM
I haven't had a lot of respect for the IGF for a while, for a variety of different reasons. The fact that prominent indie sites like the Indiegames Blog and TIGSource have never even given AI War a look at has also irked me quite a lot. Indie has gone from 'the small guy doing it for themselves' to 'art games, five minute games and developers who think they are just it'

What's up with the technical excellence award as well? In my opinion, AI War has better techincal design than most mainstream games, let alone indie games. Pretty much sums up my argument.

Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 04, 2010, 09:46:30 PM
Wow most of those games (all) are utter shit lol.
I could count at least 5 independent games more deserving than those :P

Let's play nice.  There are plenty of anonymous youtube hecklers who stop by the trailer for AI War just to say the same.  I delete those comments, only leaving negative comments by people who have actually played the game and aren't just stopping by to lob a mild profanity and laugh.  It's literally almost the same wording you used in your first line, and it's something that frustrates me to no end when people do that to me -- I'd rather not have people doing the same to other indie developers on my forums.  

Regardless of whether or not you or I like a given game, if it was nominated for an award somebody did.  There are those CoD:MW fans who can't understand what anyone sees in AI War, from the other end of things.  Tastes really do vary, and despite the fact that I may not think much of certain specific games (which I won't name), there are other indie-genre games that I think quite highly of.

I don't mean to be a wrist slapper or anything, and I know you didn't mean anything malicious by it, but on the off chance one of those indie developers stops by here, I'd rather they not come to a thread begruding them their existence, which is super demoralizing for anyone.  My comments here are more to forestall the further territorial rumblings that are inevitable once something of this sort is said, rather than to comment on your comment specifically.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand... ;)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 04, 2010, 09:51:37 PM
I haven't had a lot of respect for the IGF for a while, for a variety of different reasons. The fact that prominent indie sites like the Indiegames Blog and the TIGSource have never even given AI War a look at has also irked me quite a lot. Indie has gone from 'the small guy doing it for himself' to 'art games, five minute games and developers who think they are just it'

What's up with the technical excellence award as well? In my opinion, AI War has better techincal design than most mainstream games, let alone indie games. Pretty much sums up my argument.

Yeah... there is a lot of territorialism, for sure.  If you look in the forums at Indie Gamer, for instance, you'll see I got quite the reception there a while back -- they basically ran me out of there, and called me "one step up from a viagra ad," and all wanted to comment on how the concept of this AI really didn't sound all that different, etc.  Talk about demoralizing.  That's another reason I'm careful never to trash talk other developers, indie or otherwise.  Even the legends like Miyamoto and Soren Johnson and so forth are real people, just people like you and me, but since they are public figures to a degree people think they can just say whatever and it won't matter.  They may not go trolling forums looking for comments about their stuff, but I'd wager a lot of game developers read more such posts than you think.

It's as much a problem with random anonymous internet hecklers as it is with haughty indie developers who think they are hot stuff and everyone else is crap.  I mean, AI War's review in the indie games mag was a great example of that -- there's a lot of bad blood around in general with the indie scene, which is something that mystifies me.  For my part, I just try to stay out of it, and if there's something I don't like that another developer has created, I largely don't comment on it publicly unless it's in the spirit of constructive criticism in a design discussion.  Others are... not so polite.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 04, 2010, 10:00:58 PM
And by the way, Shardz, Strider, eRe4s3r, and others -- thanks for the support.  I was super bummed about not making it into the PAX 10 way back when, because I thought AI War had a much better shot there, but with IGF I'm not particularly upset, just a little disgruntled that there isn't a more representative indie contest around (though PAX might be the one, really).  Anyway, but the solidarity is much appreciated, I know some of the other staff are a bit more bummed about IGF.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Mikus on January 05, 2010, 12:15:44 AM
Bah, I think much of the indie awards are more of a fan-wank than recognizing excellence. X, you know that most of your success with AI War has come from word of mouth and to me that is probably the highest recognition, that people would endorse this game to their friends.  I and 3 of my friends are now playing this game and I would recommend it to anyone else who enjoys epic RTS games in the tradition of Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander.  There could be a couple more friends we might get into AI war now that we are playing it regularly.  Who needs recognition, when you can have actual success?   ;)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 05, 2010, 12:19:30 AM
I'd certainly rather have success than recognition, that is for sure!  Thanks for the kind words, Mikus.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Trurl on January 05, 2010, 12:26:23 AM
It sucks that AI War didn't get a nomination. It would have surely meant more revenue for you, and would have felt very good. But, like you said, AI War isn't really the kind of game that gets an IGF nomination. The IGF awards are full of games with relatively simple (yet good) gameplay and unique art styles, neither of which AI War has. Had you gone with an abstract art style  (e.g. like Darwinia), then perhaps you would have gotten nominated.

Anyway, my friends and I have been playing a ton of AI War and we love it. I wish you all the best, and hope that not getting an IGF nomination doesn't derail you too much.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Lancefighter on January 05, 2010, 12:41:35 AM
Personally - i just got off a pair of excellent multiplayer games (3ish people each.. one made it to 5 before we got pwned, one unfinished)

Frankly, I've yet to find a rts that matches those games, and really the only other game I could say I felt the same way about was Spring (rts based off TA, free), and then, only in the rare times when youve got a team actually synergizing..

I had a blast personally, playing straight from some 3pm till 11ish pm.... and Id love to do it again tomorrow :D
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 05, 2010, 12:45:31 AM
Many thanks, guys -- the outpouring of support is unexpected and much appreciated.  Don't worry though, the IGF thing hasn't derailed us at all.  You wouldn't believe the amount of internal work going on right now on AI War to get these minor AI factions completed (hopefully all of them will be released to public beta tomorrow).  These have been partly in progress for a few months now, more heavily in the last few weeks, and I'm so excited to be near the end of that road (and then ready to tackle the final polish of the expansion for the rest of the week), that it's hard to pay too much attention to IGF, despite how much I seem to have been discussing it. :p
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: RCIX on January 05, 2010, 01:12:24 AM
Sorry to join the conversation so late --

AI war is simply an impressive piece of technical design combined with a good artist and composer, with a matchless strategic gameplay. I think perhaps these people are taking the approach of it being an RTS game and thus failing to understand how to play it right. Combine that with the fact you usually need to spend several hours on a campaign to "get into" it, and you can see why it isn't liked by as many people (kids nowadays having shorter attention spans and all that).

Don't get discouraged, just remember that 10k+ number! :D
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 03:10:41 AM
Thanks, RCIX -- definitely not discouraged.  And, that number is 12k+, as it turns out. :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: RCIX on January 06, 2010, 07:02:26 PM
Thanks, RCIX -- definitely not discouraged.  And, that number is 12k+, as it turns out. :)
Wow! Glad to hear it :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Shardz on January 06, 2010, 08:15:07 PM
In my travels, I noticed that Gamespot had a little feature in the news about this and listed the finalists here;
http://www.gamespot.com/news/6244934.html?tag=latestheadlines;title;2

I checked out some of the games and it's hard for me to imagine anything coming close to the depth and scope of AI War...even in the slightest stretch of the imagination. I'm thinking perhaps bigger and better things are in store for the franchise as it doesn't really seem to meld well with what is on that list. To me, AI War is closer to a Europa Universalis type of game in that it is well done and offers great depth and re-playability...and even though Paradox Interactive is an indie developer, quite a few don't really see that franchise fitting into the mold of what we see on that list, either.

I have played many, many strategy games over the years and even in this genre. Galactic Civilizations, Master of Orion, Sword of the Stars, Sins of a Solar Empire, Homeworld, etc. are fantastic games in their own right, but nothing really comes close to the depth, scope, detail, and masterful crafting of AI War thus far. I don't recall the last time I was so delightfully bewildered at a plethora of options that enthralled me to the extent of not wanting to get up from my chair for hours at a time. It's actually a lot of fun to just put the game on pause and take a long survey of what is transpiring in the game world and to actually *think* about your moves and what to do next. Not many games are as exciting in paused mode as they are running and it's almost like a rather large chess game that requires you to back up and look at the big picture instead of lunging at the screen in micromanagement mode trying to click your way out of trouble.

I think when the time is right, AI War will have its time in the spotlight and will pick up much more steam ahead and claim some valuable accolades as being one of the best strategy games ever made. It will be a fun and adventurous ride along the way, but this franchise has just too much to offer to be ignored by any means and will be a major force to be reckoned with once all is said and done!
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 08:24:03 PM
Thanks, Shardz - that's very kind of you.  I do think that Arcen has a lot more in common with Paradox, that's for sure.  Even GPG started out more on a track like ours.  Hopefully we'll see success at all on the scale of what they've seen.  I'm very hopeful that we'll get some good coverage on the expansion when that comes out shortly, so that hopefully more players will be introduced to the game for the first time. 

In general, we tend to have a 15% growth in our playerbase even in our "off" months (compared to December, which saw something like a 40% increase), so if that trend is kept alive through word of mouth, news about DLC, and news about exciting new expansions over the next few years, I'm hoping that we'll continue to see the game build in momentum.  That would really be a trend counter to the norm, but then again that's the sort of counter-normal trend we're already seeing (and so much is atypical about AI War that I guess it's not a stretch to imagine that the trajectory of its popularity might be really different, too).

Anyway, so I think the future does look bright, IGF or no. :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 08:34:21 PM
Interesting email I just got from IGF, thought I'd share in case others are curious:

Quote
Firstly, thank you for entering the 2010 Independent Games Festival Main Competition!  With record entries topping 300 this year, it was another amazing but competitive year for the competition, and we really wanted to express our appreciation for putting your game forward.

Please accept our commiserations if you didn't make the finalists (and our congratulations if you did!). However, we've made a much stronger attempt this year to ensure that you all get significant feedback from the over 150 leading game industry judges (indies, mainstream devs, and indie-friendly game journalists). They voted and then left over 1800 comments on games this year, so we're delighted to pass them on to you.

You are welcome to quote them in public to support your game or for any other reason, and we hope that you'll take the comments and criticism constructively, as was intended. We're also highlighting what categories your game scored the best and worst in, for your information:

AI War: Fleet Command scored best in:  Technical

And scored worst in:  Audio

---

Since the AI is a key selling point of this game, it would have been nice if you found a way to expose it up front.

Also, you may wish to introduce some smaller maps. If necessary, speed up the action by speeding up the game and offering to automate certain activities for the player if necessary. Civilization is a game of relatively high complexity that has ways of making your first experience with it relatively compelling -- take inspiration from that.


---

for starters, your game has the most generic name in the competition.

i'll preface this by saying that i don't generally play this kind of strategy game. you clearly had a particular audience in mind for your game, and i'm not that audience. but i think that also makes my perspective valuable: i should be better able to evaluate the design of your game if familiarity doesn't make me take it for granted. and i believe that i should be able to appreciate good design even if i don't care for the game.

your game seems interested in complexity simply for the sake of complexity. i'm not just referring to the menus that sprawl forth whenever i click on any structure, or the piddling and seemingly arbitrary details of the game's manufacturing heirarchy (only a colony ship can build a new command post at a planet my army has already occupied), or the minutiae of special cases (a harvester exo-force-field exists just to defend a harvester) but just the way the game is played: right click on a location to send my troops there, except when it's a wormhole in which case i hold CTRL and right click, unless i want them all to move at the same speed in which case i hold G and CTRL and right click.

the game isn't very efficient at conveying information: there's a lot of zooming in and out (i can't imagine playing this game without a mousewheel), and even when fully zoomed out i have to pan to see all of a "planet." but when i'm zoomed out to see all my troops, i can't see a wormhole to CTRL + G + right click on it.

zooming is confusing itself, for a few reasons. the first is that the background doesn't scale. the planet in the background does, but it isn't fixed to the plane my ships are on and only scales a little. and my ships stop scaling and become fixed icons at a certain distance (not a very far one, either; the only time i can see what my ships look like is when i'm very close to them, and i'm never that close because the game always deals with huge numbers of units).

the scale of the game - the fact that the game never seems to expect me to deal with a group of less than forty ships - seems to me to be another symptom of complexity for its own sake, rather than for the sake of the game. a game with a smaller scale would be easier to manage, but this game seems to delight in endless details, which just serve to put more distance between the player and the game.

---

Here's the biggest problem with AI War - the learning curve. It's steep. Ridiculously steep. The tutorials help get your feet wet but it's still overwhelming when every option in the game is dropped on you immediately.

This steep learning curve tainted my experience with the game from the get-go. A feeling of overwhelming complexity came over me and in that kind of environment the first reaction is usually to give up.

Of course this being the IGF I pressed on but for many first time users that would be the first and last of their experience with the game. No matter how cool the AI technology is, dumping an overwhelming amount of stat types, unit types, etc. right at the start will push away many potential players.

This game desperately needs a campaign or some other way of introducing game mechanics at a slow but constant pace.

---

There are clearly some very clever things happening under the hood of this game, but it is just about as arcane as it can be, like trying to read Hemingway in binary.

The fact that most of the best information about how to play the game exists on a wiki, and isn't taught to the player in the game itself desperately needs some resolution.

Granted, the game's been quite popular with its niche, but it's terribly uninviting to non-genre fans in ways that Civ and the rest of its influences have evolved to encompass. I hope this gets resolved in time, and it looks like Park's been fantastic about continuing to tweak the game, so I have faith it will.

---

Easy Tutorials, manages well to wrap complex gameplay in a good learningcurve. It would be nice if there was also a singleplayer mission. RTS fans are gonna love this game

---

The developer is right that this game is difficult to judge, especially without trying out the multiplayer.  Overall, I think the game could really benefit from some interface improvements.  For instance, remove the requirement of Ctrl key when issuing commands.  Clicking on an object or near it on the minimap should take me straight to the object, rather than empty space somewhere near it.  You should add lifebars if even to the little info menu so that someone at a quick glance could tell how their unit is doing -- looking at the HP number takes longer.  The game could also use some nice sound cues whenever anything of importance happened.  Perhaps I didn't notice them, but you're selling this awesome world in space -- you should make the player feel like they're in space with their armies.

I really appreciated that you made a tutorial and for the most part it worked well, but at one point I got stuck and had to restart the game (though thanks to the save feature, not the tutorial) because I clicked on some text instead of hitting Y like the tutorial was expecting.

Nice work, overall.

Opinions vary, eh?  You give someone who's a fan of RTS games a complex RTS game, and they have one reaction -- give someone who doesn't really like the genre the same game, and of course they're not going to be thrilled.  Overall they are good notes, although of course some of them are quite off base as they aren't considering audience to the degree that they should; AI War isn't a game for people who want quick-clicky stuff any more than Chess is (well, there is speed Chess, but you still have to be damn good at regular Chess to play that).

Anyway, this isn't an invitation to start bashing the judges, just remember that not everyone is going to "get it" about this or any other game, and that's okay.  But it does speak somewhat to how out of place AI War was in the competition there, compared to what they were overall looking for, anyway.

Also, I just have to comment, since so many complain about the name AI War.  Which is the most generic in this list:

AI War: Fleet Command
Supreme Commander
Dawn of War
Total War

Or, you get others:
Civilization (which gets a first-mover bonus, anyway)
Empire Earth
Age of Empires
Age of Mythology

Even names like Rise of Nations aren't particularly jaw-droppingly unique and original.  The one thing I don't understand is how people decide a name is unique or not.  Certainly, A Valley Without Wind is vastly more unique and evocative than AI War.  But, giving a kind of squishy name to a hardcore RTS seems like a bad idea.  There are some very esoteric and clever names out there -- Sins of a Solar Empire and Sword of the Stars both instantly come to mind -- but those seem to be the exception, not the rule.  /end off topic rant.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Shardz on January 06, 2010, 09:23:38 PM
I guess I'll jump in here while my fingers are warmed up and try to add my opinion to this rather lengthy reply (and it's cool they did that as opposed to snubbing their nose with no reason).

I think most of us here like the lengthy scope of this game and don't mind playing 20+ hour campaigns. If we wanted instant gratification, we would load up C&C and play a meaningless 20 minute game with no recollection of memories later and no stories to tell. Epic is just that - it takes time like an opera to unfold and savor all the intricacies that are offered and to exploit your gray matter. Not many people have patience these days, and it's sad that this fact is reflected within their decision making, in my opinion. I enjoy long, enduring, epic campaigns and feel the game sets up a table of a 14 course meal instead of a Hungry Man microwave meal that most kids would be thrilled with in the long run.

Complexity is a subjective term I suppose and how much is too much varies from person to person. You can go as deep as you like in this game or just learn the basics and try to survive. The world is not a simple place and neither is AI War, but I don't find it overly complicated, either. I was up and running within an hour to get the basic gist of things, then I had ample material to sort through to keep my attention as I find it interesting that there is a degree of "rock, paper, scissors" effect going on here and knowledge is key to overcoming heavy losses in the long run. I do prefer the complexity of AI War to other mindless RTS titles that offer little depth and little replay value.

I am the proud owner of a wheel-less old school Logitech three button trackball (stand up for applause). I am not having all that much trouble panning and zooming as this reviewer who is using a mouse wheel states. In a split second I can get a full view and click a key to zoom to my cursor - not all that difficult. As far as controls go, there are a *ton* of hotkeys for this game, but I would rather have a lengthy list of hotkeys than to be very limited in how I give orders to units. I don't find the controls to be all that daunting and there are quite a few I don't use quite yet and I'm doing just fine.

This week I stumbled upon a new product of epic proportions; X3 Reunion. No tutorial, a 100 page manual, and not much detailed explanation of anything...or at least not much "how to" stuff that would have helped. I've been playing all week and have gotten nowhere...very little progress so far and I'm still very confused how to do anything. The X3 series is doing very well and is popular among the space sim crowd I might add. In AI War, I played through the tutorial with no problems, then continued to play through it after the lessons were over to finish the game and win. I felt I had a thorough understanding of the basic fundamentals to operate a game on my own after that. I did tone down the AI quite a bit on my first game run, but that first game is still going after 20+ hours and I'm having fun with it.    

There is one thing I definitely do agree with in the review here; AI War is not for everyone. It is a niche game and there is a degree of research that needs to done to hold your own in battle. Will the C&C folks dig AI War? Probably not. Will the GalCiv crowd like it? More than likely. There are times where I like to jump in a mindless game and tear it up for 10 minutes and bail out and forget about it. We all have these games and love them. But some of us need substance...some meat to go with our bread. There are times when I want EPIC and I want to be challenged and think within the realms of a complex game of chess with many more options. The indie market is FLOODED with stuff that refuses to test you in any way and I stay away from that stuff for the most part as I have my quick "rip and bail" games already that do just fine. It's all too clear that the panel of judges here want jump and run titles with high production values and little under the hood to keep your interest for more than 10 hours total. I hail from the great times of Civilzation and Heroes of Might & Magic and Galactic Civilization and I'm more than happy devoting time to a game that rewards me with the opportunity to think and plot my fate over time. You simply can't have that in a quick 10 minute slap and run session and expect a joyous experience that you can converse with your friends about for hours.

Regarding the audio comment. Ok...AI War doesn't offer 3D surround sound ala Crysis and probably won't win a Grammy for voice overs anytime soon. I honestly didn't notice the audio all that much as I was busy with 10 million other things in the process! LOL! I feel that perhaps there could be some minor improvements along these lines, but will it really enhance the game all that much? Probably not. The music is pretty slick, but I normally turn music off during games - OK, I'm strange and not the majority, but I don't think the sound effects and such are terrible. With all that is going on in the game and trying to keep the system requirements down, we really don't need 24 channels of audio flooding our ears when we are trying to think. :)

All in all, I think AI War is just in a class by itself and can't be ranked among the Mario Bros. clones that it went up against. It really wasn't a fair ordeal entering a quarter horse in a dog show and expect a blue ribbon in the end. Although, the Technical award is quite cool and it definitely deserves that in the very least. Heads and chins held high, I would simply market the game for what it is and not base its merits on what other games are doing - cause if they were all that great, I'd have them on my hard drive.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 09:31:14 PM
Good summary, Shardz -- I really can't disagree with anything there.  My favorite part: "It really wasn't a fair ordeal entering a quarter horse in a dog show and expect a blue ribbon in the end."  That made me smile. :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: RCIX on January 06, 2010, 09:34:39 PM
Basically what Shardz said at first --

I would mostly ignore the second review; that guy clearly doesn't like RTSes in general, which is kinda a prerequisite (no offense intended). Besides: Obviously enough people like "complexity for it's own sake" to buy it! ;)

I do however second the recommendations of the first review -- offering players a smaller, faster paced gameplay where small squads and even individual units can shine would be a worthy goal to add for a future game!

The third review is more or less me, i just can't seem to find a map and settings i like and moreover get into the campaign far enough that i don't just chuck it after a couple hours worth. Though the small "tutorial" campaign would fit the bill for what that guy wanted. And, as a result, we don't get to see your awesome AI :(

In short: You've made an awesome game which is doing great in it's niche, but in order to break out into the main market you'll need some sort of ramp for those not willing or able to scale the massive barrier to entry.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: quickstix on January 06, 2010, 09:58:00 PM
What is the big deal about holding down CTRL when you click? It's no different than selecting multiple files in an OS really, and virtually any RTS has a whole bunch of movement hotkeys. It seems to me that the IGF really doesn't have the criteria or approach to indie games that boast any sort of longterm complexity or knowledge.

Mind you, I'm the kind of person that just absorbs information and spends lots of time reading game manuals to brush up on my knowledge. Knights in the Nightmare on the DS was criticised by Gamespot for being too complicated and difficult, yet I find it one of the best games I've played in years and love the fact there is a complete encyclopaedia ingame of all the gameplay information. I can just spend ages reading all the information, then applying new techniques to my gameplay.

Nobody enjoys a challenge anymore. ::)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 09:59:35 PM
that guy clearly doesn't like RTSes in general, which is kinda a prerequisite (no offense intended). Besides: Obviously enough people like "complexity for it's own sake" to buy it! ;)

None taken. :)

I do however second the recommendations of the first review -- offering players a smaller, faster paced gameplay where small squads and even individual units can shine would be a worthy goal to add for a future game!

Could be, yeah -- though, things have been gravitating in that direction in general, honestly.  With the addition of the 10-planet maps, plus handicaps, plus multi-planets starts, plus fast & dangerous mode, plus the humans-have-faster-ships... if you want a blazing fast fight to the finish, the options are there to configure one in a variety of ways.  I bet you could play a 10-planet map with an 8-planet start in under an hour in a blaze of glory if you wanted to.  I've not tried it, but it would certainly be a very different campaign from the norm with AI War.

The third review is more or less me, i just can't seem to find a map and settings i like and moreover get into the campaign far enough that i don't just chuck it after a couple hours worth. Though the small "tutorial" campaign would fit the bill for what that guy wanted. And, as a result, we don't get to see your awesome AI :(

The third review, where the guy gives up due to the complexity is you?  Wow, I had no idea -- that's kind of shocking to me, honestly, given that you're such a regular and have been for so long.  You've had a ton of suggestions and comments and so forth for a really long time.  What's causing you to chuck it?  Are you constantly getting stalemated, or does it just become to easy?  If you're stalemating, I'd suggest a lower difficulty level.  If it's becoming too easy, I'd suggest pressing on a bit further into at least one campaign; it gets a lot harder as the AIP goes up, after all, and there's a big jump after you kill the first AI.  Perhaps all the new capturables, and/or the new minor factions, might make for scenarios that are more likely to hold your attention.  I'm not sure, but then again I'm not sure exactly what the problem is that you're facing, given how longtime of a player you've been here.

In short: You've made an awesome game which is doing great in it's niche, but in order to break out into the main market you'll need some sort of ramp for those not willing or able to scale the massive barrier to entry.

Here's the real crux of the matter, though: do I really want to break out into the larger market?  Or rather, what is the "larger market?"  There are a ton of people who play 4X-type games, or other hardcore strategy games, and I'm very interested in them.  But I think that trying to bend this game into a "4X for beginners" direction would just wind up not really bearing very good fruit.  

The best example I can think of is Magic: The Gathering.  I used to be very into that game, and it is very complex.  It's certainly not for everybody (even moreso because of its collectible nature, but also because of the ruthless, constant -- sometimes mean-spirited when it comes to card denial and such -- combat.).  My wife hates it.  I plan to surreptitiously indoctrinate our future kids with it when they're old enough.

But I digress.  The best example I can think of is how Magic: The Gathering tried to make a variant called Portal.  It was basically Easy MTG, with larger print, simpler explanations, and a whole lot less complexity in general.  A few of the simplifications were good, and eventually made it back into larger MTG design (the giant mana symbols in the description area of land cards, for instance).  But, by and large Portal flopped -- there simply wasn't a market for "a hardcore-seeming CCG that isn't hardcore."

In the case of AI War, there are tons of other games out there offering the "simple RTS" model, and doing a better job of it than I ever could.  Why?  Because I don't play those games for simplicity.  I don't know anyone who does.  I can't effectively design or test it.  And I'm not sure there's a market for it.  What I'm more interested in doing is capturing more of the hardcore strategy market, which we've hardly tapped despite what success we've had there.  That's the Target Market in a business sense.  Trying to muddy that by making the design so broad that it covers Everything And The Kitchen Sink generally leads to products that are too generalized to appeal to anyone.  I've had experience with that in the past, incidentally, in past business endeavors.

So with AI War, my goal was to target one specific audience and do so really well.  I think I've mostly succeeded.  Other products from us will have vastly different target audiences in many respects -- they may sell better, we'll see.  Not that I'm complaining overmuch about the sales of AI War anyway, but it's certainly not at AAA levels or even something like World of Goo.  But we're in the upper echelon for indie-developed games on the PC, which I think is worth noting.  I'd rather spend development time on continuing to attract more customers from that key 4X/hardcore strategy market for AI War (via DLC and expansions), and then court other markets with other products.

Granted, I know where you're coming from, and I do try to make AI War as accessible as possible when it comes to easing players into what it is.  Hence all the tutorials and other material, and the ongoing tweaks to the gameplay to make things simpler on the surface while more complex in the scenarios being simulated.  That's definitely a trend that will also continue.  But even if I wanted to, I'd never be able to compete with the C&C's and the Starcrafts -- those games are finely tuned for short pvp (which I don't play), and have absolutely gorgeous, amazing production values.  They're also hugely established brands, and primarily sold at retail.  AI War could never go head-to-head with those in a million years, so instead I do business in the niche that I've designed it for.  I'm gradually trying to chisel away at that niche to make it a bit broader and wider, but still the niche is what it is, and it's where this specific game will stay for all the reasons mentioned above.

Future Arcen titles, of course, are an entirely different matter -- I like games that make me think, but strategy games are uniquely hardcore out of the games that I enjoy.  My goal with future titles is probably a lot more mainstream, namely to make easy-to-learn but hard-to-master games with an appealing, simple surface and decidedly deep underlying mechanics for those who are interested.  It's that same sort of design philosophy that makes me love Nintendo, PixelJunk, and a number of other such brands.  Of course, I'd aim for more depth than those often have, but I am convinced that there is a sweet spot where it will satisfy my more hardcore-thinking-game urges while not being so surface-complex as AI War.

Anywho, thanks for the comments -- interesting discussion.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: RCIX on January 06, 2010, 10:01:13 PM
Nobody enjoys a challenge anymore. ::)
Except, of course, us "strange" people who like arcane games like AI war and such... ;) no offense intended!
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: dumpsterKEEPER on January 06, 2010, 10:09:01 PM
It is interesting to hear some of those perspectives on the game, particularly when they did seem to put forth an effort to say why they didn't care for it or specifically what they thought should be improved. That's always one of my personal annoyances, when someone thinks "It sucks!" is a complete and final argument as to why they don't care for a game. Obviously, it certainly does come down to personal taste. For me, the apparent complexity of the game was one of the things that interested me in it. And personally, in no way would I classify the game as overwhelmingly complex or "arcane" (although the comparison to reading Hemingway in binary made me laugh). I appreciate that the information is given to me straight up front and I'm responsible for responding to it.

However, I can see why AI War might not be perceived as a "traditional" indie game. Many of the indie games I've played (as I have several friends who really like them) tend to have an obvious, clever mechanic that is successively iterated on through the game (e.g. World of Goo) and if that's the mentality that an IGF judge had, then by comparison, AI War would probably have felt like diving into the deep end of the pool with a lead vest on. At the same time though, that's precisely why I typically get bored with most of those games once I tire of that that core mechanic whereas AI War has continued to hold my interest far, far longer.

Anyway, just some rambling thoughts from reading their response email, thanks for sharing it.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 10:16:34 PM
What is the big deal about holding down CTRL when you click? It's no different than selecting multiple files in an OS really, and virtually any RTS has a whole bunch of movement hotkeys.

Specifically, I think they were referring to going through wormholes.  It didn't occur to them that if you are fighting near a wormhole and clicking around to do so, that you'd accidentally send ships through if you weren't required to hold Ctrl.  The Indie Games Magazine that reamed us over also commented on that, but no-one else ever has to my recollection.  Suffice it to say, the Ctrl key in that instance is an amazing boon to usability, as I can tell you from the contrast (in alpha) before that was added.  We were always sending ships through wormholes when we didn't mean to.

Mind you, I'm the kind of person that just absorbs information and spends lots of time reading game manuals to brush up on my knowledge. Knights in the Nightmare on the DS was criticised by Gamespot for being too complicated and difficult, yet I find it one of the best games I've played in years and love the fact there is a complete encyclopaedia ingame of all the gameplay information. I can just spend ages reading all the information, then applying new techniques to my gameplay.

Nobody enjoys a challenge anymore. ::)

Thankfully, a lot of people seem to.  I mean, the 4X games do sell well, just not on the level of CoD or anything.  My best guess is that there is a market of at least 1 million players who would be interested in the vague sort of game that AI War is, just based on sales of other similar games.  Even if half of that market is turned off by graphics or complexity, or doesn't find it based on it not being on retail shelves in their area, or whatever, that's still a huge market that is largely untapped.  

I mean, that would mean that at around 12,000 units sold, we're conservatively at around 2% market penetration (if no one has yet guessed, my degree is actually in business, not computer science).  That's an absolutely huge amount of opportunity remaining.  If we sold even 100k copies of the game at a 70% price reduction, that would be 1.3 million dollars in revenue.  That's absolutely chump change to a AAA studio (many of them probably spend half that a month on salary alone), but for a company the size of Arcen that can support our operations for several years.  That's the nature of carving out a niche when you're a small business: you go after an under-served market segment and provide a superior niche product that makes you a healthy profit that is nonetheless too small for the large companies to be interested in.

If everything is designed too broadly, solely for the mass market, you get only a certain type of game.  Dwarf Fortress would never exist, and neither would AI War.  Probably a lot of the RTS genre would not exist, honestly.  Even the most successful RTS games are considered fairly niche compared to the larger market.  Then again, most people think that the FPS market is so mainstream, but it's only a handful of games there that are so successful, too -- most FPS titles lose money due to the oversaturation of that market.

I guess it all comes down to mindset -- I don't want to be the next EA, or even the next Gas Powered Games.  I want to stay absolutely tiny as a company, and make the sort of games that no one else wants to make, but that I want to play.  And I think that as we get increasingly well known for making games in a few certain styles -- AI War being just one of those styles -- I think we'll do quite well for ourselves.  I mean, our products are not cannibalizing each others' sales, so they all should be relatively cumulative for Arcen's income, and because they place gameplay over graphics and have lots of post-release support, they're likely to have a longer shelf life than most games out there.  So we could definitely hit that 100k units sold number over the span of a few years, I think.  And during that time, AI War would be thus helping to fund other projects.

Right now I'm banking on the expansion and the puzzle game funding A Valley Without Wind, which is going to be more expensive to make compared to The Zenith Remnant or the puzzle game.  Right now we have enough money to definitely make it through the puzzle game, and assuming that sales don't trail off significantly with AI War, and/or that the puzzle game and expansion sell well, we should be pretty okay for AVWW.

I guess that's really my benchmark for success: can I stay in business and keep the staff employed?  Can we make the sort of games we want to play while doing that?  If so, mission accomplished.  I don't have any shareholders to please, and I don't have any particular goals of being "teh numberz one bestsellers evah (until next year's replacement title)."  This got really tangential from your comments, quickstix -- but I think it's relevant, all the same.  I think there's a viable business model for small companies to satisfy smaller niches of customers, and even those smaller niches can be quite profitable if the company does a good job (and gets lucky, a bit).  So far so good!  I'm not mourning the fact that we don't have the visibility of World of Goo or anything.  Though of course I'd like more cash reserves to have a bit more security -- all things in good time. ;)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 10:25:33 PM
It is interesting to hear some of those perspectives on the game, particularly when they did seem to put forth an effort to say why they didn't care for it or specifically what they thought should be improved. That's always one of my personal annoyances, when someone thinks "It sucks!" is a complete and final argument as to why they don't care for a game. Obviously, it certainly does come down to personal taste. For me, the apparent complexity of the game was one of the things that interested me in it. And personally, in no way would I classify the game as overwhelmingly complex or "arcane" (although the comparison to reading Hemingway in binary made me laugh). I appreciate that the information is given to me straight up front and I'm responsible for responding to it.

Yes, I was gratified that they actually made an effort, too -- that's why I really don't want people to go into judge-bashing.  I may not agree with much of what they said (when literary critics review sci-fi novels that I like, I tend to have the same reaction -- it's just the wrong audience, and they don't get what appeals to the actual audience those books are aimed at), but it's still refreshing to see more than "it sucks."

However, I can see why AI War might not be perceived as a "traditional" indie game. Many of the indie games I've played (as I have several friends who really like them) tend to have an obvious, clever mechanic that is successively iterated on through the game (e.g. World of Goo) and if that's the mentality that an IGF judge had, then by comparison, AI War would probably have felt like diving into the deep end of the pool with a lead vest on. At the same time though, that's precisely why I typically get bored with most of those games once I tire of that that core mechanic whereas AI War has continued to hold my interest far, far longer.

Yeah, I know what you mean.  I have World of Goo and Braid, and I really do love those games.  But, they both leave me really wanting much more.  I love what is there, but to me it just feels like an appetizer.  That's my chief complaint with indie games on average, is that they are too small and just have one main clever mechanic, usually.  They are the gaming equivalent of really well-done short stories.  That's all well and good, and I appreciate them for what they are, but I'm really just a novel guy, plain and simple.  When I get into a game and love it, it's a major letdown for it to be over in 2, 5, 8, or even 12 hours.  A lot of people griped about how long Far Cry 2 was (and it did get repetitive at times), but that's just the sort of immersion and length I prefer.

I don't know -- it will be particularly interesting to see how A Valley Without Wind is received, by the wider public at large and the indie judges in particular.  That's a game that will have a ton of content (20-40 hours worth, hopefully, plus side missions), and tons of depth through optional challenges and a hardcore difficulty mode, but also still that simple veneer and clever mechanic that generally typifies indie games.  Hopefully having lots of content will be seen by most actual customers as a sign of a good value (that's how I look at it when I buy games), but I suppose we shall see.  I'm all about going where no one has ever gone before, I guess, and so it can be hard to predict results.  Honestly, I hadn't expected AI War to be nearly so well received as it has been, and its lifespan seems far from over.  In 10 or 15 yeas, I wonder how all of this will look in retrospect.

Anyway, just some rambling thoughts from reading their response email, thanks for sharing it.

You bet -- thanks for sharing back!
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: RCIX on January 06, 2010, 10:38:20 PM
The third review, where the guy gives up due to the complexity is you?  Wow, I had no idea -- that's kind of shocking to me, honestly, given that you're such a regular and have been for so long.  You've had a ton of suggestions and comments and so forth for a really long time.  What's causing you to chuck it?  Are you constantly getting stalemated, or does it just become to easy?  If you're stalemating, I'd suggest a lower difficulty level.  If it's becoming too easy, I'd suggest pressing on a bit further into at least one campaign; it gets a lot harder as the AIP goes up, after all, and there's a big jump after you kill the first AI.  Perhaps all the new capturables, and/or the new minor factions, might make for scenarios that are more likely to hold your attention.  I'm not sure, but then again I'm not sure exactly what the problem is that you're facing, given how longtime of a player you've been here.
It's more or less a mix of analysis paralysis and tactical overload -- i get into a game then i have to decide what to research, then scout, then build some stuff, make battle plans, oh shooot incoming wave i built the wrong stuff BOOM! I managed to get one long game going but haven't found another good one since :(

I do however try to play it now and then and am able to spot bugs and errors and -- I dunno, I've always been good at coming up with ideas, at least i think so... I want to get my money's worth :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 10:55:33 PM
Huh.  Well, I guess the meta game of helping to improve the game with your ideas is interesting in and of itself, come to that.  But, it's a shame about the analysis paralysis and so on.  You might prefer playing with half waves on as a modifier, or even no waves.  Then you get just a conquest problem, rather than having to balance so many things at once -- still an involved game, but without the worry of getting caught unprepared by inbound waves.  I don't know, it's a thought, anyway -- I'd like for you to get your money's worth, too. :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: quickstix on January 06, 2010, 11:04:18 PM
I'll be honest with you x4000, your attitude is a breath of fresh air in an era where I was losing faith in developers and niche gaming. I was already sold on the gamplay of AI War when I tried the demo, but when I read your articles and attitudes towards gaming, the decision was made right then and there.

AI War isn't just the best game I've played recently, it's one of the best I've played ever. Most of the games on my best ever list aren't there just because of the awesome game, but my respect towards the developers and their support and commitment.

You can buy publicity, but you can't buy respect.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 06, 2010, 11:10:19 PM
Many thanks, quickstix -- that really means a lot.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: Shardz on January 06, 2010, 11:42:33 PM
Yeah, I'll chime in again after reading the responses thus far here. The mission statement of Arcen is exactly what most of us here want to hear and have much admiration for as we don't want any clones of other things on the market, either. Like you mentioned with M:TG Portal, I've been into Magic for many years and I still even pop online to Magic Online to play with my virtual cards now and then. Portal flopped cause they attempted to expand their audience with a watered down version and nobody wanted that. There is that substance thing again...people want meat, not tofu (well, except for Vegans LOL!).

One tidbit I excluded about the review was regarding the comment of the title. In one sentence he says that you need to market the game with a focus of what the strong suit of the game is about; which is the AI. Then he goes on to say that the game title is too generic and doesn't work. Well, it's not Angelina sexy, but everything you need to know is right there in the title!  AI War: Fleet Command. The AI is the showstopper in which you obviously play against and then you command fleets to obtain your objective. I think those two comments offset completely and he just should have said, "I'd like to see a spicier title" and leave it at that.

It's really a big balancing act to produce the product that you want to make while trying to make a profit to continue on in the future; preferably bigger and better as time marches on. You have a really good mechanic going on so far that seems to work in your favor and that keeps the creative end flowing and the customers chirping. There is your initial brainstorm product, then a live forum open to suggestions and feedback, then we also double as beta testers (those willing) to ensure quality, then your retail outlets that take care of the peddling while you do the coding. You also have the DLC with some TLC to dominate NYC. LOL! I think what you will end up with over time is a supergame franchise that will become undeniable to the fans of the genre in general once the exposure falls into the right place (which I believe it will).

I think the attractive message here is that you are sticking to your guns overall for the sake of creating art in motion and to create something that needs to be made. Whether or not that becomes a massive commercially viable asset in the future remains to be seen, but AI War should always be around for those who finally come around. The selling points for me were system requirements, integral small developer, constant updates, communication with the community, frequent DLC, and a game that just plain kicks butt all over the place. I would never expect anything less from Arcen after seeing what I have in this time already.

Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: RCIX on January 07, 2010, 12:20:52 AM
Huh.  Well, I guess the meta game of helping to improve the game with your ideas is interesting in and of itself, come to that.  But, it's a shame about the analysis paralysis and so on.  You might prefer playing with half waves on as a modifier, or even no waves.  Then you get just a conquest problem, rather than having to balance so many things at once -- still an involved game, but without the worry of getting caught unprepared by inbound waves.  I don't know, it's a thought, anyway -- I'd like for you to get your money's worth, too. :)

Darn it, my cover is blown! Head for the hills! ;) :D

I didn't think about that, next time i fire it up i'll be sure to try :)
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: spelk on January 11, 2010, 11:53:28 AM
Troy from FlashofSteel.com, has a piece about the injustice of the IGF's (http://flashofsteel.com/index.php/2010/01/11/the-limits-of-igf-judging/) and specifically talks about AI War, and quotes Chris.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: eRe4s3r on January 11, 2010, 12:15:44 PM
To be honest, it really is a border that has to be crossed, i mean playing with the settings you like, not the ones OTHER people consider "good" or other people consider balanced, what YOU consider fun is what YOU have to choose. I am talking about handicap and AI Wave modifiers.

People seem to believe that theres only 1 way to play a game, but i can tell you AI war is much more fun to me at 200% Handicap for me - and at normal waves without astro trains. With the Zenith ships and changes in 2.600 specifically to the damage boost ranges theres no longer any blockaded wormholes you can't break though with a hearty push. If all fails, push through with a golem, that'll definitely get you through ;)

So the point is, if you like action heavy gameplay, turn up handicap for yourself to positives - that way 99% of the time you *are* fighting and you are going to win victories that other players can only dream of at normal handicap. Like for example pwning Golems with kiting fortresses for fun. Having a super fortress next to your home command station etc.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: x4000 on January 11, 2010, 01:20:07 PM
Very interesting, thanks for the link, spelk.  This has been a much more cited post than I had expected, but hopefully some good will come of it.
Title: Re: IGF Finalists are in (no AI War)
Post by: RCIX on January 11, 2010, 09:02:07 PM
To be honest, it really is a border that has to be crossed, i mean playing with the settings you like, not the ones OTHER people consider "good" or other people consider balanced, what YOU consider fun is what YOU have to choose. I am talking about handicap and AI Wave modifiers.

People seem to believe that theres only 1 way to play a game, but i can tell you AI war is much more fun to me at 200% Handicap for me - and at normal waves without astro trains. With the Zenith ships and changes in 2.600 specifically to the damage boost ranges theres no longer any blockaded wormholes you can't break though with a hearty push. If all fails, push through with a golem, that'll definitely get you through ;)

So the point is, if you like action heavy gameplay, turn up handicap for yourself to positives - that way 99% of the time you *are* fighting and you are going to win victories that other players can only dream of at normal handicap. Like for example pwning Golems with kiting fortresses for fun. Having a super fortress next to your home command station etc.

I totally agree! for some reason i can't get comfortable in a game with waves, but if i play against a turtle AI then it's easy to get sucked in to a 5 hour marathon :D