Author Topic: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)  (Read 8140 times)

Offline doctorfrog

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2013, 05:07:46 PM »
Thanks much!

And haha, doctorfrog. Bear in mind that of course we keep track of performance metrics like this, because its pretty vital to us continuing to make good decisions. It does get overly business-y when looked at in bulk like this, but I guess that's just the nature of it. If you want to quantify how a business is doing, you have to actually look at the numbers!

Of course, I meant my comment in a very positive way! It's rare in my experience for a games company to be this open with their finances. Fascinating post.

And in a way, I do feel like a shareholder in Arcen games, and I don't think I'm alone in this. It's not easy to engender that feeling in your customers.

Offline x4000

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2013, 05:51:52 PM »
@Castruccio: All good, and understood. In terms of not being feature complete... well, I would argue it is not feature complete now. Neither is AI War. That might sound like a disingenuous answer, but the reality is that none of the features implemented post 1.0 on skyward had been thought of prior to 1.0 (aside from the random maps, which I had forgotten about). With AI War, you might be surprised to know that FRD mode was a player suggestion post 1.0. So was auto scouting and a ton of other "core" stuff. It's stuff that I didn't think of, or things that I did but not until players sparked an idea based on a complaint, or a mix of the two.

To me, if there is NOT a rush of new features and tweaks after the first really large audience gets their hands on it, then something is up. Ten thousand players will always always find many things that 50 do not. Burning more time in alpha is not a guarantee that we'd collectively have caught any of those things. Or at least not most of them.  That might sound like post-hoc reasoning, but honestly it's what I've observed every time. Except with the releases that tanked (hmm).

@doctorfrog: Ah, that's a very good way to put it, now I see. :). Glad you enjoyed it, and I'm glad to share.
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Offline Aklyon

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2013, 11:14:30 PM »
I think thats the first time I've seen the same graph 4 times in the same message. But its an important graph!, and it was generally interesting to know about, especially the 1.000 page. I didn't know you had a page for that! (I'd gone tinkering with the url of the release notes page before and only gotten back to the 'current post-4.0 release beta' page :) )

Offline mrhanman

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2013, 11:48:20 PM »
I feel like I'm in a shareholders meeting!

I was thinking this very thing the whole way through!

I was one of the ones who bought AI War during the summer sale.  I had seen it a few times on Steam, and was curious about it.  Ashamedly, I was scared off by what I thought was a steep learning curve (thanks to AI War, steep learning curves are attractive to me).  But there was an achievement, which led to a ticket, which led to a prize I probably didn't care about.  Nevermind all that, it led to one of the most awesome strategy games I've ever played.  Honestly, in my eyes, Warcraft, C&C, MoO - even the venerable Civilization franchise - can barely measure up to the awesomeness contained within this unassuming game.  You won an instant fan in me, and I'm sorry for not yet being able to purchase the latest expansion.  It's something I plan to resolve very soon.  I've gotten so much enjoyment out of your games, that you could stamp your name in a turd, and I'd preorder* it first day just to have a chance to throw more money at you.

Anyway, I wish you continued success far into the future.  Though, if you ever tire of making games, may your IP sell for millions to the highest bidder!

*Not a true statement.  Please don't do this.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2013, 11:50:53 PM by mrhanman »

Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #19 on: June 19, 2013, 02:54:37 AM »
What I'd suggest, Chris, is calling this the four year anniversary analysis of AI War. Postmortem makes it sound like AI War is doing badly and is dead.
I just want to give Tidalis a hug after seeing this thread. 3%? Now I'm not very good at the demo or anything but it deserves a lot more than that. I must do my part and buy it full price sometime later. Skyward Collapse is doing REALLY well by the sound of it. Incredibly well. I'm really happy to hear that. If only you really could compare it to AI War at the time. But... AI War at that time of release was at 100% of your revenue I imagine.

Offline x4000

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2013, 08:48:28 AM »
Thanks again for all the kind words, folks.  It really means a lot. :)

As far as the term "postmortem," guess this may not be well known but it's a general industry term: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/postmortem/

Aka, often developers do postmortems for games like God of War or whatever right as soon as the game comes out.  It's referring to the development of the game being done, I believe, rather than anything else.
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Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2013, 10:26:53 AM »
Ahh, I didn't know that. I've more applied it in the more conventional uses outside of the games industry, so that's what made me a little sad.

Offline x4000

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2013, 10:40:16 AM »
For sure, I understand. :)  Definitely not dead or dying in any sense, though!
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Offline Billick

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2013, 01:02:36 PM »
Thanks for posting this Chris.  I find this sort of stuff fascinating.  It's nice to see that niche type games can be profitable.

For those who are interested in this type of stuff, the guys from Hitbox Team (Dustforce) did a similar blog post a couple months ago:

http://hitboxteam.com/dustforce-sales-figures

Offline x4000

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2013, 01:16:27 PM »
Nice, and yeah -- I've seen that Dustforce article before.  I love seeing the various data from people as well, so that there's a bit more out there in the market in terms of earnings from various developers.  Helps everyone understand the market better, know where to set goals and expectations, what is reasonable, etc.
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Offline TechSY730

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #25 on: August 20, 2013, 09:33:25 PM »
Aw man, how did I miss this awesome post for so long and thus had to resort to what would of been a large-ish bump if it wasn't for the fact this was already stickied (as of this writing).

I will warn you that this is perhaps excruciatingly long of an analysis

Hooray!

I love excruciatingly long analyses! (as you can probably glean from some of my own posts. :D)

Thanks for the detail, and the very frank analysis.

Of course 2013 looks depressingly low if you take it out of context

Um, yea, I can think of a very good reason for this. As of this posting, 2013 is less than half way through. ;)
(You do mention that earlier on, so that was covered, but still, I found this "warning" amusing)


I'm still amazed though, that while some of these games may have been financially questionable to downright financial failures, NONE of the games have been bad games from a design or a gameplay perspective. Probably the closest to a "bad" game was Valley 1, and even then, IMO, that was more of a "lack of extra polish" due to that game's model being "hard to polish" (I guess that's one of the reasons why Valley 2 changed a bunch of the core mechanics). The concept and most of the implementation of the game was pretty solid and fun. (In fact, I think I want to do some "spelunking" again soon, if for no other reason than "scratching" my exploration "itch")

Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #26 on: August 22, 2013, 08:04:24 AM »
A very interesting read.. gonna just add my 2ct's because... well *reasons* ;p

Imo the problem with Shattered Havenwas the lack of a demo. Even after watching a gameplay video I had absolutely no clue whatsoever what the game was about. And even reading about it here didn't help. Of course, had someone told me it's pac-man with exploration, dialog, combat and inventory i'd have laughed and called em a madmen ;p

And A Valley Without Wind..... well lot's of talk about that in the past. AVWW1 was *fun* if slightly unpolished, and AVWW2 was something I don't think should even have been made. What that added in polish it basically lost because by the time people were aware of it.. well we had seen Dust: Elysian Tail ;) Not particularly identically games but after that I will never again want to read "We can't do idle animations" Dust is one of the prettiest and smoothest 2D-Sidescrollers there is. And it made me, who doesn't much like (modern) Sidescrollers, appreciate the genre.

Imo AVWW2 could have been a better (and it's own titled) game with a more unique mechanic, maybe a simulation style town building element where rescuing people and finding cool stuff in a random dungeon and world for the town would have been the main drive. Alas, it has a strategy element very much unlike that... I didn't like it ,/ Now AVWW1 owners got AVWW2 for free, and that was very nice. But I would have bought a new game with a much more unique take on the idea.


AI War and Skyward Collapse are by far the most interesting games in the bunch. I like both, although I don't own Skyward Collapse simply because the gameplay style itself doesn't appeal to me. The game seems very well balanced and fun though. It just isn't for me. AI War is for me, and I love it. Though I still didn't get the last expansion.... ought to get around to that at some point.

And Tidalis... I loved Tidalis. But I hope nobody was surprised that this didn't sell so well. It was a hardcore puzzle game at heart and a very good and unique one at that. But not a lot of people want to puzzle with a reflex element. And some of Tidalis' puzzles require reflexes and precision that no casual player will ever have. Which is why I loved it :D

Either way, I hope to see more strategy/tactics/dynamic/emergent games from Arcengames.  ;D
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Offline Cyborg

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Re: AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)
« Reply #27 on: August 24, 2013, 04:15:10 PM »
AI War is still the reigning masterpiece. I can't get into skyward collapse. Part of it is the appearance, and the other is I feel annoyed by the gameplay. Trying to get enough of this resource, or enough of that resource, and convert those into something else all the while the numbers going around the board…I don't get that "pay off" as a gamer.

But apparently, a lot of people like that! More power to them and congratulations on another profitable title. As long as we still get our AI fix, doesn't really matter. Someday, when it's not profitable anymore, I hope you implement modding so the war never really has to end for good.
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