Arcen Games

Games => Stars Beyond Reach... This World Is Mine => Topic started by: nas1m on July 24, 2015, 06:28:20 AM

Title: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: nas1m on July 24, 2015, 06:28:20 AM
Good read: http://indiegamesource.com/igs/interviews/developer-spotlight-an-interview-with-chris-pa-r235
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Cyborg on August 12, 2015, 08:51:11 AM
Great interview. Although the part about using less ships in AI war because of CPU constraints was a little scary. This problem should go away or be made multicore. Massive battles is a selling point, part of the special sauce of that game. That's originally why I bought it. That's the exact feature I purchased it for.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 12, 2015, 01:55:02 PM
The problem with having so many ships isn't just in the specific battles in local space, but more to do with how they exist on all the planets at once.  We're simulating the whole galaxy in realtime, which I don't think is really required.  Whatever you are interacting with directly needs to be simulated in realtime, sure, but more shortcutted sim logic should be possible on planets that aren't involving players.

We already do some of that anyway (using coarser simulations on planets where there are no scouts, etc), but things like the players putting scouts everywhere and keeping them there can still muck with things.

Shifting something like that to multiple cores only really works if the clashing results that would give don't matter or can be reconciled in some way.  And if that is either magically deterministic somehow (which is hard, but doable I suppose), or transmitted from the host to the other players.  For instance, the AI in SBR is really fast because we run it all simultaneously on all the various threads that you can muster (if you have 16 cores, it will use them all), and then the results are all reconciled at once after that.

There are a lot of fundamental things that would have to change about AI War in order for that sort of thing to work, though.  It would be a ground-up recoding, and there are certain gameplay tradeoffs that would have to be made, while at the same time other gameplay possibilities would open up.

I'm not a fan of just doing the same thing repeatedly, so if we took on a project like that, I'd want to go for something where we can hit a high framerate and more sophisticated ship physics (ala TLF) without things just going nuts from being too slow.  And then from there see what can be done with scale, and how AI-War-like it can be made to feel.  It's part of why I wouldn't really want to call it a sequel, potentially.

The other thing is that, past a certain point, the number of ships becomes kind of redundant.  We wind up having to combine the icons in far zoom so you can even see what the icons are.  When you are zoomed in, the battlefield is so wide that there's no point in zooming in, so you zoom out to the point that all you ever see are the icons.

On the one hand we could go to a smaller set of ships per battle so that we don't need the far zoom icons, but instead you're seeing things kind of like zoomin out on TLF.  But with a more spread-out battlefield.  That has its downsides.

On the other, we could just cut out the zoomed-in ship art and go to an all-icon approach (why try to do nice ship art if nobody actually plays while seeing it?  Resources could be better spent elsewhere, like making those icons and their environment look as awesome as possible).  Even if we did that, trying to change things so that so much icon combining is not needed would be really nice.  Then again, how many icons need to be combined is largely a matter of how zoomed out you are, so there is that.

Anyway, the main point is that there are a lot of factors.  I'd be interested in doing another RTS someday, and certainly I'd want to take a lot of the best lessons from AI War.  But I'd want to try to solve some of the various problems it has in the interface and performance department that are caused by sheer scale of certain parts of the game.

THAT said, if certain pieces of scale were solved, then other parts could be ramped up.  For instance, if the planets weren't all simulated all the time, then we could have a lot more of them.  The galaxy map could be something that you pan, zoom, etc, on.

It's something I've been turning over in my head with various permutations for half a decade now, really. ;)  I don't have anything I'm super excited about doing with it yet, so there is that.  But there are a variety of things that I could see becoming excited about doing if I have another flash of insight related to one of those things.

Plus, the longer I wait the better computer hardware becomes, and the less of an issue the performance is, heh.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: nas1m on August 12, 2015, 02:26:18 PM
Isn't' this one something for the blog btw? I only for it from the twitter feed and the blog kinda seldomly sees updaten anyway. You could even incorporate your thoughts from here to beef it up sa little. Just thinking this could be something for the next time your brain  needs to stretch it's legs...
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: crazyroosterman on August 12, 2015, 02:55:52 PM

I'm not a fan of just doing the same thing repeatedly, so if we took on a project like that, I'd want to go for something where we can hit a high framerate and more sophisticated ship physics (ala TLF) without things just going nuts from being too slow.  And then from there see what can be done with scale, and how AI-War-like it can be made to feel.  It's part of why I wouldn't really want to call it a sequel, potentially.
you really shouldn't give it a sequel tag if you do people are going to probably be expecting persifick things and not tagging it with that will let you do more your own thing with it in my opinion.(if what I'm saying makes any séance to you?)
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 12, 2015, 03:18:32 PM
Yeah, I should get this on the blog, I've just been so distracted with work on SBR.  I will be better about that coming up soon.

And yep, I agree on calling it a sequel, it would probably be unwise.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Traveller on August 12, 2015, 05:19:27 PM
Just my $0.02, the only time I ever zoom in to see ship art in AI War is when I'm trying to place my command center and shield very close to a wormhole or strategic item, close enough that the actual footprint matters.  Icons are more...iconic, and it's easier to tell what's going on.  I felt the same way about GalCiv, the game is way more playable zoomed out.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 12, 2015, 08:16:12 PM
Yep, same here.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Cyborg on August 12, 2015, 08:52:41 PM
The problem with having so many ships isn't just in the specific battles in local space, but more to do with how they exist on all the planets at once.  We're simulating the whole galaxy in realtime, which I don't think is really required.  Whatever you are interacting with directly needs to be simulated in realtime, sure, but more shortcutted sim logic should be possible on planets that aren't involving players.

We already do some of that anyway (using coarser simulations on planets where there are no scouts, etc), but things like the players putting scouts everywhere and keeping them there can still muck with things.

Shifting something like that to multiple cores only really works if the clashing results that would give don't matter or can be reconciled in some way.  And if that is either magically deterministic somehow (which is hard, but doable I suppose), or transmitted from the host to the other players.  For instance, the AI in SBR is really fast because we run it all simultaneously on all the various threads that you can muster (if you have 16 cores, it will use them all), and then the results are all reconciled at once after that.

There are a lot of fundamental things that would have to change about AI War in order for that sort of thing to work, though.  It would be a ground-up recoding, and there are certain gameplay tradeoffs that would have to be made, while at the same time other gameplay possibilities would open up.

I'm not a fan of just doing the same thing repeatedly, so if we took on a project like that, I'd want to go for something where we can hit a high framerate and more sophisticated ship physics (ala TLF) without things just going nuts from being too slow.  And then from there see what can be done with scale, and how AI-War-like it can be made to feel.  It's part of why I wouldn't really want to call it a sequel, potentially.

The other thing is that, past a certain point, the number of ships becomes kind of redundant.  We wind up having to combine the icons in far zoom so you can even see what the icons are.  When you are zoomed in, the battlefield is so wide that there's no point in zooming in, so you zoom out to the point that all you ever see are the icons.

On the one hand we could go to a smaller set of ships per battle so that we don't need the far zoom icons, but instead you're seeing things kind of like zoomin out on TLF.  But with a more spread-out battlefield.  That has its downsides.

On the other, we could just cut out the zoomed-in ship art and go to an all-icon approach (why try to do nice ship art if nobody actually plays while seeing it?  Resources could be better spent elsewhere, like making those icons and their environment look as awesome as possible).  Even if we did that, trying to change things so that so much icon combining is not needed would be really nice.  Then again, how many icons need to be combined is largely a matter of how zoomed out you are, so there is that.

Anyway, the main point is that there are a lot of factors.  I'd be interested in doing another RTS someday, and certainly I'd want to take a lot of the best lessons from AI War.  But I'd want to try to solve some of the various problems it has in the interface and performance department that are caused by sheer scale of certain parts of the game.

THAT said, if certain pieces of scale were solved, then other parts could be ramped up.  For instance, if the planets weren't all simulated all the time, then we could have a lot more of them.  The galaxy map could be something that you pan, zoom, etc, on.

It's something I've been turning over in my head with various permutations for half a decade now, really. ;)  I don't have anything I'm super excited about doing with it yet, so there is that.  But there are a variety of things that I could see becoming excited about doing if I have another flash of insight related to one of those things.

Plus, the longer I wait the better computer hardware becomes, and the less of an issue the performance is, heh.


It's all true.


I was just a little bit worried that you might forget what your fans like about ai war. We like having these giant space fleets that get into huge battles against the devious AI. Whatever the sequel happens to be, I'm on board. I just hope that you remember the fantasy that you're selling with that game. It's such an important game, and certainly to a few of us on this board it's among the top we have ever played, I can feel myself getting defensive about it. All the more reason that you are probably worried about a direct sequel- because of AIW superfans.           


If and when that project ever appears, I'm volunteering to be a paying redshirt.                                                                         
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: bormoth on August 13, 2015, 07:20:30 AM
Actually, it would be more wise to continue with AI war as it is, aside engine and code optimisations, the fun about AI war is macro level, Infact never cared about tose graphics concidered them more of something to watch while, I have nothing to do.
In fact if you'd ask me this game aged pretty well and still looks good.
It would be wise IMO, to go same way as Dominions series.(It is fourth part but aside graphics game not changed much (Yes Dominions 2 introduced supercombatants(Think unintended), Dominions 3 -- way to deal them, but dominions 4 thrones and better interface. (Well aside pruning and balancing). In fact your way of dealinng with AI war looks similar, the gamedoesn't changed much(Yes at some point there was no armor types only shield power(but on the other way there was, in way of ultra obscure damage bonuses table), at some points there was Crystal, but it served almost nothing in this game. In SC (gas same as crystal here) it was tech, here you just took it because you could, and even 1/10 of metal extractor when you don't need crystals, is better then untapped crystal slot, in comparison to unit costs), and introduction of hacking points insteed made better resource to manage.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Cyborg on August 13, 2015, 08:55:04 AM
Actually, it would be more wise to continue with AI war as it is, aside engine and code optimisations, the fun about AI war is macro level, Infact never cared about tose graphics concidered them more of something to watch while, I have nothing to do.
In fact if you'd ask me this game aged pretty well and still looks good.
It would be wise IMO, to go same way as Dominions series.(It is fourth part but aside graphics game not changed much (Yes Dominions 2 introduced supercombatants(Think unintended), Dominions 3 -- way to deal them, but dominions 4 thrones and better interface. (Well aside pruning and balancing). In fact your way of dealinng with AI war looks similar, the gamedoesn't changed much(Yes at some point there was no armor types only shield power(but on the other way there was, in way of ultra obscure damage bonuses table), at some points there was Crystal, but it served almost nothing in this game. In SC (gas same as crystal here) it was tech, here you just took it because you could, and even 1/10 of metal extractor when you don't need crystals, is better then untapped crystal slot, in comparison to unit costs), and introduction of hacking points insteed made better resource to manage.


I like dominions, but there needs to be a way to deal with water and land more effectively. The map also depends on your ability to understand supply management. Not to mention understanding combat resolution. The game depends on extensive game knowledge without much help from the interface, is what I'm trying to say.


AI, on the other hand, to me it's very clear when you look at the ships what you can reasonably expect from a battle. Maybe the only thing that would be more clear is if the ships HP resembled their sizing. One of the players best ships is also the tiniest!
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 13, 2015, 09:50:22 AM
Well, I definitely do see more AI War expansions in the future still.  It's been a while since the last one, but we aren't done with that.  So in terms of "keeping on with it as it is," I definitely see us doing that.  There's something really cool there that I don't want to revise to the point where it just no longer exists.

That said, when it comes to making a fresh RTS, I guess it's a matter of trying not to be TOO similar to the existing AI War, while still taking so many of the lessons from it.  I very much get what you mean about the fantasy that is being sold with that game, and it's one that I share (it's why I made it).  Someday I'd like the chance to explore a different avenue of creating that fantasy, is all.

Believe me, though, the last thing I want to do is pull a "Supreme Commander 2."  They pretty much did exactly what I think you're worried about me doing, and that game to me was just not even something I wanted to play.  My dad and uncle liked it, but I gave it a pass.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Bognor on August 16, 2015, 05:59:19 AM
Quote from: The interview with Chris
[stuff about Bionic Dues being hard to promote]
If there's any way to promote a game using a song, "The Home That We Once Knew (https://arcenmusic.bandcamp.com/track/the-home-that-we-once-knew)" should sell you like a billion copies.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 17, 2015, 10:08:15 AM
Quote from: The interview with Chris
[stuff about Bionic Dues being hard to promote]
If there's any way to promote a game using a song, "The Home That We Once Knew (https://arcenmusic.bandcamp.com/track/the-home-that-we-once-knew)" should sell you like a billion copies.

You would think so, right?  And we did use that in the trailer for the game, in a way I thought was really awesome (way to go Kevin Harland on the trailer!).  Strangely enough, most critic reviews are critical of the song not because of anything to do with the quality, but because they feel like it seems "anime-like."  Blah!
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Captain Jack on August 17, 2015, 10:33:35 AM
Quote from: The interview with Chris
[stuff about Bionic Dues being hard to promote]
If there's any way to promote a game using a song, "The Home That We Once Knew (https://arcenmusic.bandcamp.com/track/the-home-that-we-once-knew)" should sell you like a billion copies.

You would think so, right?  And we did use that in the trailer for the game, in a way I thought was really awesome (way to go Kevin Harland on the trailer!).  Strangely enough, most critic reviews are critical of the song not because of anything to do with the quality, but because they feel like it seems "anime-like."  Blah!
..."Animelike"? If anything it sounds like an 80s cartoon opening. Seriously do these people even know what anime music sounds like? Wait, stupid question, of course not.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 17, 2015, 10:43:30 AM
Valley 2 got that comment by a couple of reviewers that I otherwise respect very much, too.  I suppose that having a woman singing in that kind of voice automatically makes it anime?  I'm not sure what to think.

As an aside, I DO like anime music quite a bit.  If anyone knows of a good station for it on Pandora, I'd actually be grateful. ;)
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Captain Jack on August 17, 2015, 11:25:27 AM
Ugh, typical.


And sorry, I don't listen to much anime music. Not enough to know any Pandora stations at least. dotHack SIGN had good music though. I'll ask around, I probably know someone who has a channel.

Instead I'll recommend Powerglove, the videogame metal band. (http://www.vgmetal.com/) I'm especially fond of their FFVI cover (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03JzK6IbLbs). Oh, and Holy Orders (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUe9bPCQ5OY). But really, everything they do is gold.

Oh, I wanted to say, congratulations on the interview. And don't worry too much about not being able to top AI War; it's not like Notch will ever do anything bigger than Minecraft. ;) But hey! You're still in the game and you enjoy your work, which is more than he can say (from on top of his McDuck sized money pool, so it's not a perfect analogy....)
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Aklyon on August 17, 2015, 11:41:34 AM
I don't think outside of looking for song names directly, there actually is any 'anime music' category on internet radios anyway. Thats generally youtube and other sources' area.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 17, 2015, 11:44:23 AM
Nice recommandation on Powerglove!  They are new to me, thanks. :)

I love that sort of thing.  Epic Game Music (https://www.youtube.com/user/xtronzzzzz) is a favorite of mine, and I also really like Smooth McGroove.  Chromelodeon is a mix of stuff in terms of how I feel about them, but Chaosium Sword (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7O7qI8k2t4) is just freaking amazing, and Red Max (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsW4aZH736I) is as well.  Some of the awesomeness of those two are lost in the youtube versions compared to the higher-fidelity downloads.

Also, I just have to say: wait until you hear "For The Fallen" by Pablo for SBR, sung by his wife Hunter (and accompanied by him).  It's his best work yet, I think.  I say that with a lot of stuff, and it's true each time -- he just keeps getting better.

In terms of not being able to top AI War, I suppose that there are worse things.  But given just how niche that game is in a lot of ways, not being able to make something with a broader appeal does bother me.  Not that there's anything wrong with being niche, but I think that's like the third level of nicheception with AI War, and I'd like to at least get up to the first level. ;)  I never want to be in the true mass appeal area I wouldn't say, though.  Then you run into wanting to retreat from everything like Notch.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 17, 2015, 11:45:20 AM
I don't think outside of looking for song names directly, there actually is any 'anime music' category on internet radios anyway. Thats generally youtube and other sources' area.

The songs I did look for I had trouble finding.  I mean, they hardly had any Joe Hisaishi, and that should be the most obvious stuff.  Looking into anything more anime poppy and I just found nothing.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Aklyon on August 17, 2015, 11:57:06 AM
Well while we're suggesting things, have you looked at OCRemix, chris? They've got a station of somekind on Rainwave, though I usually just go looking for something on their site instead, like sixto sounds' stuff. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdhPe1udAHM)
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: kasnavada on August 17, 2015, 12:38:06 PM
Quote
..."Animelike"? If anything it sounds like an 80s cartoon opening. Seriously do these people even know what anime music sounds like? Wait, stupid question, of course not.

A lot of 80s and 90s cartoons were anime in Europe (US I don't know)... and personally the start of that song makes me think of city hunter.

Quote
The night is drawing closely, the shadows dark and ghostly,
As sunlight dies, you hear the city's howling cries.

That said, anime songs have changed since that time. Sadly, like most medias (video games, comics, anime, manga...) as the "tip of the iceberg" is for kids, idiots assume that it's all for kids. I stopped counting the quantity of idiots that placed carebears videos just next to "Grave of the Fireflies". For those that don't know it, you don't want to show that movie to most adults - a surprising amount of them can't handle it.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Captain Jack on August 17, 2015, 01:40:42 PM
Quote
..."Animelike"? If anything it sounds like an 80s cartoon opening. Seriously do these people even know what anime music sounds like? Wait, stupid question, of course not.

A lot of 80s and 90s cartoons were anime in Europe (US I don't know)... and personally the start of that song makes me think of city hunter.

Quote
The night is drawing closely, the shadows dark and ghostly,
As sunlight dies, you hear the city's howling cries.

That said, anime songs have changed since that time. Sadly, like most medias (video games, comics, anime, manga...) as the "tip of the iceberg" is for kids, idiots assume that it's all for kids. I stopped counting the quantity of idiots that placed carebears videos just next to "Grave of the Fireflies". For those that don't know it, you don't want to show that movie to most adults - a surprising amount of them can't handle it.
Eesh, I saw that. Real heartbreak.

The only 80s TV anime I can remember in the U.S. is Robotech. Which is not anime so much as three anime (Macross, Southern Cross and something I can never remember) blended, processed squeezed out and then roasted. Most of the anime that made it over here followed the same pattern and didn't have much in common with the source material. Star Blazers was pretty close to Yamato, though. Also, Inspector Gadget was originally pitched as an American Lupin the Third before turning into what it is.

90s anime was a lot better. I think DBZ and Sailor Moon did more for the genre than anything else could. GitS and Akira helped people realize anime wasn't for kids, but oh man the stories. I know someone who claims he saw Ninja Scroll because the Blockbuster kept it in the kids section, and his parents didn't bother to check what it was actually about.

Back to the first threadjack, Chris, try 8tracks (http://8tracks.com/explore/anime). Apparently their channels can be pretty good.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Cyborg on August 17, 2015, 07:42:42 PM
Just chiming in to say that Rhapsody has some Japanese pop and various mix albums. It is not, however, free. But I enjoy it.


And as far as the American audience for anime in the 80s, I was watching voltron as a child of the 80s. Also known as " go lion" in Japan. You could also say that the transformers are of Japanese origin and from the 80s, because they come from a Japanese toy. In short, people who like anime knew what it was and how to find it. I knew I liked it very early on without being able to declare it as "anime." The bright colors, high-quality drawings, the contiguous storylines, the dramatic acting, you can't get anything like it in American animation, and even a child can tell the difference.


Sailor Moon is a double-edged sword as far as promoting anime.



Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Tolc on August 18, 2015, 02:52:20 PM
The OCremix radio is over here: http://ocr.rainwave.cc/ (http://ocr.rainwave.cc/) and while we're talking about videogame inspired music...give Miracle of Sound a listen: https://www.youtube.com/user/miracleofsound (https://www.youtube.com/user/miracleofsound)  :)
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Cyborg on August 18, 2015, 10:22:11 PM
In terms of not being able to top AI War, I suppose that there are worse things.  But given just how niche that game is in a lot of ways, not being able to make something with a broader appeal does bother me.  Not that there's anything wrong with being niche, but I think that's like the third level of nicheception with AI War, and I'd like to at least get up to the first level. ;)  I never want to be in the true mass appeal area I wouldn't say, though.  Then you run into wanting to retreat from everything like Notch.


I wanted to respond to this part. You have a what…multimillion dollar best-selling game… It's really hard to accept your comments here. First world problems. You are incredibly lucky to have what you have already created and the success that you have had. There are so many people that would be ecstatic to get a fraction of that success. You are a lucky person, with a family, great games, and what seems like a great staff. Things are pretty damned good, even if you get stressed out a lot.


Even if you did something with better sales, then what? It doesn't say anything about you, or about your games. I know some best-selling games that sold more and for more money, but I think they are crap. I would rather play AI War over "call of duty", any day of the week. And they rake in billions of dollars. "Candy crush" is huge, but I don't want to play it. Does it matter that we are niche? Because if being popular means you make garbage mass appeal games, I don't wish that at all. I would rather you continue making smart games, interesting games, and games that are worth a damn than some clone game that just happens to strike gold. I don't see what you would get out of topping AI war rather than statistical significance, and I suppose, prosperity. And certainly, I wish great prosperity for you and your team. I hope you strike it rich like notch, and all become eccentric rock stars or something.


But I still won't wish that you will make a crap game.


"The race is long, and it's only with yourself."-Baz Luhrmann
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: kasnavada on August 19, 2015, 03:26:16 AM
Quote
In terms of not being able to top AI War, I suppose that there are worse things.  But given just how niche that game is in a lot of ways, not being able to make something with a broader appeal does bother me.  Not that there's anything wrong with being niche, but I think that's like the third level of nicheception with AI War, and I'd like to at least get up to the first level. ;)  I never want to be in the true mass appeal area I wouldn't say, though.  Then you run into wanting to retreat from everything like Notch.

Personally I think Chris is completely right to be bothered by that comment.

If Chris managed to make a game with a broader appeal, and if it was also more successful :
- it wouldn't mean that he'd stop doing "niche" games. Actually, most games are kind of niche. Call of duty is 175 million sales of the Franchise since 2003. There are 175 million "gamers" in the US alone (I'm not sure what this study calls a gamer though). Still, more or less means that there is what, 5% of worldwide players buying that game ? Maybe ?
- it would mean that he'd do MORE games, and could hire more people.

Sources:
https://blog.activision.com/community/games-blog/call-of-duty/blog/2015/03/26/call-of-duty-infographic-over-300-billion-grenades-thrown
http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/ESA-Essential-Facts-2015.pdf

It's kind of obvious why the games he makes are niche though. As AI war is kind of complex, he attracted players with a particular mindset: those that equate "complicated ruleset = good" and "simple ruleset = bad". Then, he can't seem to create something simple (like he's been talking of a Shmup for a few months, and now it's a survival thingy last time I heard). Then, it's "easier" to do something in your confort zone, and building on the community he has, than to restart from scratch.

Another reason why I think that bothers him he because of the layoffs he had to do.

I'd really like to see what he would do if, during a complete dev cycle, he consistantly aimed for "broad" appeal =). But IMO that would be a bigger risk for Arcen's.


PS:
What I would really like if Chris decided to go out of his confort zone and create a game in which a strategy game lasts... for 30 minutes max =).
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: x4000 on August 19, 2015, 09:57:13 AM
In terms of not being able to top AI War, I suppose that there are worse things.  But given just how niche that game is in a lot of ways, not being able to make something with a broader appeal does bother me.  Not that there's anything wrong with being niche, but I think that's like the third level of nicheception with AI War, and I'd like to at least get up to the first level. ;)  I never want to be in the true mass appeal area I wouldn't say, though.  Then you run into wanting to retreat from everything like Notch.


I wanted to respond to this part. You have a what…multimillion dollar best-selling game… It's really hard to accept your comments here. First world problems. You are incredibly lucky to have what you have already created and the success that you have had. There are so many people that would be ecstatic to get a fraction of that success. You are a lucky person, with a family, great games, and what seems like a great staff. Things are pretty damned good, even if you get stressed out a lot.

Between all our games, we've sold about three and a half million, yeah.  AI War is maybe 1.75 of that.  Of course, that's before platform cuts, income taxes, and then the expenses of staff, etc.

I am very lucky, and I never forget that.  But the reality is that, despite all the various incomes that have happened, in the past six years I've had to:
1. Work for free in 2012.
2. Lay off staff multiple times.
3. Spend a lot of personal savings that I'm unable to recoup.
4. Work far more hours than is probably healthy, in order to maintain schedules that still don't really materialize nearly as often as I'd like.


I don't really take anything there as any sort of commentary on my own self or personal worth.  But the more experimental a game, or the more time we spend trying to get it exactly right, the higher the stakes go.  Stars Beyond Reach will have to gross $750k now for me to break even on that game.  We have two games that have done that before (AI War and TLF), and one pair of games that has come close (the Valley games), but that's a lot of pressure nonetheless.

Granted, breaking even or making a profit is not really my prime concern.  I mainly want to be able to do the work I love, and have the staff here, and have some security during all that.  As long as I can make my salary, that's all I need anyway.  So far this year, and for about half of last year, that  was the case.  So I don't have anything to complain about there, whether or not SBR breaks even: so long as SBR makes enough, and/or our other games make enough, that we can afford to make the next game, then that's all that really matters.

Still, there is an element of pride, it is true: I do want to top AI War.  I don't really care about sales in that sense, but critical recognition and/or player recognition is certainly something I'd like.  I mean, wouldn't anyone?  AI War was my first game.  If I can't do anything better than that, then to me that means that probably it was slightly a fluke -- possibly I don't really know what I'm doing as much as I thought.  I'd like to create something glorious with full intent and knowledge of what I'm doing.  I can die a perfectly happy and satisfied man without doing that, so it doesn't keep me up at night.  But it certainly is a goal for me.

Even if you did something with better sales, then what? It doesn't say anything about you, or about your games. I know some best-selling games that sold more and for more money, but I think they are crap. I would rather play AI War over "call of duty", any day of the week. And they rake in billions of dollars. "Candy crush" is huge, but I don't want to play it. Does it matter that we are niche? Because if being popular means you make garbage mass appeal games, I don't wish that at all. I would rather you continue making smart games, interesting games, and games that are worth a damn than some clone game that just happens to strike gold. I don't see what you would get out of topping AI war rather than statistical significance, and I suppose, prosperity. And certainly, I wish great prosperity for you and your team. I hope you strike it rich like notch, and all become eccentric rock stars or something.

But I still won't wish that you will make a crap game.

"The race is long, and it's only with yourself."-Baz Luhrmann

Ah, I see the crux of your worry there.  Yeah, I can see where you'd take that away from what I said before.  I'm certainly not wanting to make dumb games.  But part of my life's goal ever since I was a kid has been to impact people in a meaningful way, and make the world a better place.  If that's with "just" a few hundred thousand people, that's certainly more than enough for any person.  But I'd love to make smart games be something that the masses can get hooked on.  Even if they're playing it at a lower level, eventually they get bored and look for more challenge.  And then you've got them.  Look at the game "Go."  It's bloody simple, anyone can play it.  But if it really catches your attention and you keep playing, hoo boy are you in for a ride that will test your intelligence.

I'm not looking for the simplicity of Go in anything that I do.  And I never want to have the sort of hugely mass appeal that Minecraft does, because that comes with so darn much baggage.  But I do see it as a personal goal to make games that will help people sharpen their wits, think about things in a new way, or otherwise use their relaxation time in a way that would be... fighting off dementia rather than contributing to it, is I guess the way to put it. ;)  And one thing that bothers me, a little bit at least, is that you guys already choose to do that: so I'm preaching to the choir a little bit.  I'd love to convert more people to that sort of hobby time.  Not that that means I don't want to fill an underserved existing niche: but I suppose I have more than just one goal in my life.  I don't have to achieve them all to be happy, or even any of them probably. 

But those are things that I strive for.  If you don't have goals, what direction do you have at all?  I actually hit a "midlife crisis" a few years ago, where I realized that I had reached all the goals that I'd been striving for my entire life until that point.  So what was I supposed to do next?  I didn't know.  The above is more or less what I came up with.

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In terms of not being able to top AI War, I suppose that there are worse things.  But given just how niche that game is in a lot of ways, not being able to make something with a broader appeal does bother me.  Not that there's anything wrong with being niche, but I think that's like the third level of nicheception with AI War, and I'd like to at least get up to the first level. ;)  I never want to be in the true mass appeal area I wouldn't say, though.  Then you run into wanting to retreat from everything like Notch.

Personally I think Chris is completely right to be bothered by that comment.

If Chris managed to make a game with a broader appeal, and if it was also more successful :
- it wouldn't mean that he'd stop doing "niche" games. Actually, most games are kind of niche. Call of duty is 175 million sales of the Franchise since 2003. There are 175 million "gamers" in the US alone (I'm not sure what this study calls a gamer though). Still, more or less means that there is what, 5% of worldwide players buying that game ? Maybe ?
- it would mean that he'd do MORE games, and could hire more people.

Right.  I'd love to have more staff, to some extent.  Not that I'm trying to empire-build, but there are certain things that are just outside my skillset, or which just can't be done because of lack of time on the part of all of us.  Right now I'm looking for stability at this size rather than expansion, and I expect that will be the case for a number of years unless we really strike it huge.  But eventually being able to do bigger things would be pretty nifty.

The other thing is that if, say, we had some game that just went gangbusters and made all the money that we need for the next decade and kept making money, then I could dink around with ANYTHING I WANT, which would be awesome.  And I could do it with full resources of all the people on staff, rather than having to worry about how much that costs and if games will break even.  Talk about niche stuff that we could do then!  Some of the stuff would be a disaster I'm sure, but it wouldn't even matter.  We'd be able to afford that as the cost of experimentation, and it wouldn't affect the overall stability of the company.  What a dream!

It's kind of obvious why the games he makes are niche though. As AI war is kind of complex, he attracted players with a particular mindset: those that equate "complicated ruleset = good" and "simple ruleset = bad". Then, he can't seem to create something simple (like he's been talking of a Shmup for a few months, and now it's a survival thingy last time I heard). Then, it's "easier" to do something in your confort zone, and building on the community he has, than to restart from scratch.

To some extent, yeah.  Although plenty of our players came from Valley 1 or 2, and those are more simple in a lot of ways.  I see the next game as fitting in with those in terms of level of complexity.  Or with Bionic Dues, despite that being turn based.  Those can be plenty niche while also having some element of twitch.

Another reason why I think that bothers him he because of the layoffs he had to do.

Right.

I'd really like to see what he would do if, during a complete dev cycle, he consistantly aimed for "broad" appeal =). But IMO that would be a bigger risk for Arcen's.

PS:
What I would really like if Chris decided to go out of his confort zone and create a game in which a strategy game lasts... for 30 minutes max =).

Hahaha.  I'm not even sure how that would work.  But it would be a really good thing to focus on for the next strategy-style game, perhaps.  Something that has focused complexity and depth without being a long game.  I like that sort of game in general, but the examples of it usually just involve "who can execute their pattern the fastest and most consistently," which I don't like.  Taking out the clicks-per-minute as a factor would be a requirement for me with a game like that.  But yeah, something shorter like that that requires you to still use your brain in a big way would be awesome.  Who knows!  Maybe that's the game two games down the line. :)
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: crazyroosterman on August 21, 2015, 06:39:19 PM
hey there I'm back! any way I can see there's a shit load here so I'm just going to give thoughts on a few things 1 yeap first world problems are a thing but problems are problems and cant be just ignored so long as you remember to appreciate all the good you have 2 in regards to larger appeal personally I'm not really bothered so long as you remember to make good games 3 personally I tend not to mix the idea of money and games since I personally thinks its a horrible thing that turns some people into soulless cretins(for lack of a better word) but still Id love it if you managed to make enougher money to not have to worry about it for years and do some wonderful experimenting 4 I agree with kasnavada arcen going (I don't partially like this word but I cant really think of a better one at the moment) more mainstream would probably hurt it a fair deal.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Cyborg on August 23, 2015, 11:28:56 AM
I have a question, what's that new icon on the forum page for "stars beyond reach" supposed to represent? I can't seem to make out the image.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Captain Jack on August 23, 2015, 02:37:18 PM
I have a question, what's that new icon on the forum page for "stars beyond reach" supposed to represent? I can't seem to make out the image.
It's the "A" from SBR's title image. Dunno what's it's supposed to be in the image, though it kinda looks like rocket launch.
Title: Re: New interview with Chris over on IGS
Post by: Aklyon on August 23, 2015, 03:51:48 PM
Sorta looks like the shortcut icon.