It saddens me to hear about how one of my favourite Indie developers, namely Arcengames, has become troubled financially. In a series of blog posts the lead developer and front man, Chris Park has outlined the issues at Arcen quite candidly.
Arcen swept the strategy world by storm with their first title, AI War: Fleet Command, a 2d space conquest RTS hybrid, with a truly stunning AI and unique aggression contained progression. The game does take quite a lot of effort to get into, because of all the different ship types and their consequences, plus the game has been evolving steadily ever since its launch, so theres always new kit to factor in your decisions. So its appeal to the general gaming public has been limited, but it certainly delivers a “dream game” to the strategy community – and embraced by word of mouth become a success, so much so, that Chris could expand his one man setup to recruit some help, mainly in the art and music department.
With a portfolio of ideas under their arm, Arcen dabbled in a thinking man’s puzzler, called Tidalis, to broaden their experience and their appeal. The reception of Tidalis was not as warm as was expected, and I think its partly down to mismatch of the casual market it was being aimed at and the actual depth and strategy of the game. It is a real “thinker” of a game, with oodles of options as is the Arcen way. Seen as just another “tile matcher” it could be easily overlooked.
So, with his usual openness and honesty, Chris appealed to the very gaming community he wrote the games for. And it seems to have helped, a little.
And just today, it seems as if the plea has secured the future of the company for a little longer.
This week has been emotional for fans of Arcengames, because the announcement that the company might not last a few months was quite a shock I think. I know I myself had thought of Arcen’s success in the strategy field as being enough to ensure it would carry on. A lot of press later, and it seems as if the strategy community has rallied to its aid. I myself have three copies of AI War and two of Tidalis.
Chris has been an outstanding example of the sort of Indie developer who has his feet firmly planted in his gaming community, he is open, he listens to the gamers who play his games, he reports back to the community, and he’s genuinely a nice bloke. There are a number of devs on the horizon who follow in Chris’ footsteps, the likes of Cliff of Positech, Vic Davis of Cryptic Comet and Vice of StarWraith 3D Games. All to be applauded, for bringing new and unique ideas to the strategy gaming world.
So, I emplore you to check out Chris Park’s games, and if you have a smidgen of interest in strategy gaming at all, pay the few quid to support Arcengames, and keep them around for many years to come. We the community are what keeps these guys coding, and in no other gaming genre do you have such close and honest access to the guys with their fingers on the keys directing the strategy of the future.