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AI War: First Four Years Postmortem (And By Extension Arcen History)

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I don't think the precedent of the games you mention is all that worrying, really -- it would be if we weren't learning from it, but that's why we've shifted development styles starting with Skyward. Smaller base games like that means its easier to break even.

Also, there's the matter of engine work. We've always had to do tons of that with every game, but no longer is that the case. So that helps enormously with keeping costs lower.

We've also taken more direct control of our art pipeline, so we can do that more efficiently as well as driving toward better and better art without breaking the bank.

For Valley 2 the ROI is really hard to separate out. It's very poor in the main, probably much worse than Valley 1. That said, that's just the initial release data from it. Longer-term I think it was a good move for a lot of reasons: repairing reputation, financially, etc. And I just think it's a lot of fun, too.

Two years from now there's a chance the Valley games will have broken even. And Shattered Haven may yet break even by the end of this year (still ignoring my labor from 2008). So if that happens, then in the end Tidalis would be the only one that was a loss, even though Shattered Haven would still be the lowest earner overall.

It's hard to project that far into the future with any accuracy, though. We'll see what happens!

Really really interesting write-up. A game that sort of shares a similar model might be Killing Floor. Killing Floor has had great success, selling over a million copies since 2009 by mixing free content with paid for DLC -- this is not identical to your model in that the KF paid for DLC is predominantly skin packs, cosmetic stuff, but it does show that continual free content updates can keep driving sales.

It seems like a nice way to keep the game fresh, it also helps generate a little extra regular publicity for the title, and of course over time the game itself should continually be getting bigger and better which can't be bad.

KF has quite an interesting development history, it actually started as an Unreal Tournament mod in 2005. Tremendous game, albeit getting a little silly lately. I still find it far superior to Left 4 Dead, though. Going a bit off-topic so I'll just say thanks for the interesting postmortem... that does sound a bit grisly.

Very cool to know on Killing Floor. I still need to try that at some point, as I love both L4D games.

The Left 4 Deads are great games. The thing that elevates KF for me is the gunplay which is some of the best I've ever played. There is no proper story/campaign mode, though. You just select a map and have at it. The perk system is pretty good too, so you can choose to be a Support specialist, a Commando, Firebug etc. This helps vary your role in the team a bit and makes things far more tactical in co-op. In single player, L4D has the advantage I think, but for co-op it's KF all the way for me.

Oh... and to make this post not completely off-topic the development model is interesting and stuff.  ;)

A great read Chris, thanks for typing all of that up. A very interesting perspective on how your games have been doing.


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