AI War: Children of Neinzul Preorders/Charity

By Kieron Gillen on August 26th, 2010 at 7:30 pm.

There used to be some iron around here. I swear it.

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a couple of weeks now. The ever-busy Arcen Games are working on another micro-expansion for their AI War: Fleet Command. It’s currently in Beta, and if you order now for four dollars (or about two quid sixty) you gain access to it. Planned for a September release, AI War: Children of Neinzul will add 36 new ships, 6 new AI types, 3 new minor-alien-factions, two extra map styles and more. Perhaps it’ll even add some Iron for Quinns. All sounds lovely and affordable, even before you realise the twist. All the profits for this expansion pack will be donated to the Childs Play charity. Arcen are making no money from it whatsoever. Crikey. Here’s the trailer for the last expansion, to give you a taste, but it’s a game that’s well worth investigating in its expansive demo. In short: it was one of the strongest indie strategy games of last year.

The full list of features for Children of Neinzul can be found here.

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53 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Schaulustiger says:

    In my opinion this is one of the most intelligently crafted strategy games of the last 10 years. Deep mechanics, great replay value and one of the best coop experiences I’ve ever had.

    Looking forward to the new expansion, The Zenith Remnant was a great addition to the core game and I expect nothing else this time.

    And why has there never been another attempt at an AI War vs. RPS feature? *sadface*

    • Wolfox says:

      I second everything Schaulustiger said. I’m a HUGE fan of Arcen Games because of AI War (and Tidalis is pretty awesome too).

      And RPS needs more iron. MORE IRON PLEASE.

  2. Vinraith says:

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: AI War is one of the best strategy games of this generation. I’ve never played a strategy game so focused on planning and hard decisions, so deliberately balanced to ensure that there’s no point where the game is reduced to “mopping up (indeed, the closer to victory you are, in general, the greater your chance of catastrophic loss), and so unbelievably well supported (I’ve seen them put out feature-adding patches at a rate of three a day, in some of their more intense bouts of development). Arcen is a fantastic company, this is a fantastic game, and if you’re a fan of strategy of any stripe you owe it to yourself to give it a good hard look.

    • mlaskus says:

      It might be worth adding that you can set the game up in pretty much any way you want. There are tons of features you can switch on and off, a lot of difficulty levels, different kinds of galaxies, etc.
      Oh and the learning curve is incredibly low for a game offering so much depth.

    • Psychopomp says:

      What Vin said.

      It never really clicked with me. Regardless, I would still recommend it without hesitation to anyone who enjoys strategy.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Arathain says:

    It’s worth mentioning that even if you aren’t planning on buying the expansion in the past few weeks since its release Arcen has been pumping out major updates that will change and improve the game whether you have both expansions or neither.

    If you haven’t played in a while it’s a good idea to check things out. Watch out for the new guard posts.

  4. j. says:

    Yeah, the latest beta patches have made nice, big changes.

  5. cowthief skank says:

    Agree with what has already been said: AI War is one of the best strategy games in a long time, not just indie.

    Would really like to echo the call for more AI War vs RPS action…

    • cowthief skank says:

      Also, thanks for pointing out the pre-order and charity thingy, will definitely be paying, even though I probably won’t get round to playing for awhile.

  6. Nullkigan says:

    I bought AI wars for several friends thinking we could have an awesome coop experience. I can’t get any of them to play it, as they’re not fans of rts or space games, so my sum total experience is about two hours singleplayer beyond tutorials.

    Under the circumstances, it’s really rather vexing to hear the game is getting even better :(

    • Vinraith says:

      It’s brilliant in single player, too. Co-op is a nice option, but it’s not remotely required to enjoy the game.

    • Unaco says:

      I have a similar problem… none of my Online friends picked it up, even though I’ve pimped it at many opportunities. I even tried to talk my brother into it, but he’s got no time, he’s got other commitments, he’s got a job… Pah! He’s only a trauma surgeon! It’s one of the (minor) reasons I’ve been a little apprehensive to start a game, on my lonesome… But I just read Vinraith’s comment… so I think that apprehension has gone… and I’m going to start playing it… soon.

    • mlaskus says:

      Heh, I bought 4 copies of the game for friends already. I somehow can’t get them to play it with me though.

    • LintMan says:

      As Vinraith said, it’s definitely fun in single player also. I’ve never played it co-op and think it’s a great game.

    • Premium User Badge

      bonuswavepilot says:

      @Nullkigan, this is Unaco and mlaskus from next door. I know you kids are shy, but they like to play space-man games too!
      Now you kids go play, but don’t go too far from the house.
      :)=
      Does RPS need a gaming matchmaker service perhaps? I s’pose the forums is probly the spot for such things rather than trying to get the poor non-techie hivemind to add features in an ever-growing pile when they could be writing things instead…

  7. jackflash says:

    I wish I understood why everyone likes this game so much. I bought it in a Steam sale and have tried playing a few coop games with my brother, but we never really got into it. I wonder what we’re missing? I love the devs – they seem really cool. Just not getting the fun value in the gameplay, really. It feels sort of like “build a bunch of stuff and spam it into the enemy system.” Sins of a Solar Empire is a bit more engaging to me.

    • Vinraith says:

      It feels sort of like “build a bunch of stuff and spam it into the enemy system.”

      If you just spam ships and take systems in AI War the AI kills you outright. The great thing about the game is that, unlike every other RTS in history (including Sins, which is about as spammy as they come), you actually have to think about where and when you strike. Conquering the entire map is suicide, it’s about securing strategically valuable assets, establishing a defensible border, and planning a path to the AI that will draw as little overall AI attention as possible.

    • Premium User Badge

      Arathain says:

      Taking your first few systems can seem like that, as they tend to be weakly defended when AI progress is low and fall relatively easy to a big bob of ships (surprises not withstanding. I’m looking at you Special Forces Alarm Posts). It’s once you’ve secured your first system or two that things start to get really interesting. Where do you go from there? Which systems are you going to need to take? Which to avoid? Where should you be spending your knowledge? As you go on your decisions have more and more weight, and you might find some of your earlier ones coming back to bite you.

      If you turn on all the interesting Minor Factions, things will rarely be dull. Marauder raids and Mining Golems will spice things up a touch.

  8. Unaco says:

    Great idea, the whole charity thing. Also, this has reminded me I actually need to start playing this. Got it about 10 months ago, then picked up Zenith Remnant… sunk 9 or 10 hours into the tutorial campaign… always meant to start a Grand campaign, but have had too much work and feared I could get lost in it (it seems like that sort of game). So… I’m going to get up early tomorrow, and start a game… or at least that’s the plan… I am on ‘holiday’ kind of, so I’ll likely get up @2pm, read the internet for a couple hours, play some Flash or browser based game Kieron will link to, watch last weeks and this weeks Burn Notice, and delay this ’til Saturday. Oh well.

    Anyway… even if I don’t get started playing AI War, I’ll still pick this up, for charity, but more for the anticipation that I’ll get to it, one day. I barely play strategy games these days, and only Turn based… RTS’s seem too stuck in the 90′s to me, on the whole (some exceptions… Relic have done a little, but not enough for me, to change the formula, and I like CM:SF in idea, but it’s quite a challenge)… but this has always seemed like a fresh and very interesting approach to it.

  9. Dolphan says:

    I have AI War and Zenith Remnant and never get round to playing them (beyond half the extended tutorial way back when), but I’m tempted to buy this just to support the devs and their charitableness + awesome support of their game in general. I have this terrible habit of picking up games I have no time to play based on Vinraith’s passionate recommendations in comment threads, resulting in the approximately two hours each I’ve put into AI War, EU3 Complete, and SotS …

    • Unaco says:

      I know the feeling… I still have AI War, The Witcher to complete, CIV IV to get into, The Void, Assault on Dark Athena, BioShock… hell, I still haven’t played HL2:Ep1&2 which I’ve had, installed, for a year now.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Dolphan

      I had no idea anyone actually listened to me. I hope, once you can find some time to play them, that you’ll find I haven’t lead you wrong. :)

    • Meat Circus says:

      I picked this game up on Vinraith’s say-so too, and Zenith Remnant. And you know what? HE WAS RIGHT.

      There’s something about that tight chimera of 4X RTS and Tower Defence, and a brilliantly novel approach to asymmetric AI, that I found totally compelling.

    • Arathain says:

      You sold me Sword of the Stars, Vin. You were right, too.

    • LintMan says:

      @Vinraith – you convinced me to buy the rest of the SotS expansion packs to give it another shot. (Haven’t had a chance to replay it yet, though – too busy with AI Wars).

      Hopefully your recommendations are good, or you’re gona end up with an anygry mob after you!

    • MD says:

      Vinraith, you’ve influenced at least a couple of my purchases, too. Assuming you don’t already have some kind of sneaky kickback system in place, you should totally look into it.

    • Urael says:

      Vinraith, Don’t worry; I’VE never bought anything on your recommendation. :)

  10. Keith LaMothe says:

    Jackflash,

    Sorry to hear it felt like a spam-fest to you; may I ask what difficulty AI you were playing against and how far you got into the game? For a fairly long while the game would default to Difficulty 1 which (as it’s label says) is pretty trivial to beat, so we changed it to default to 6. Difficulty 10 is basically death. Difficulty 7 is a pretty good starter for experienced RTS folks.

    Anyway, if you could give me a bit more detail on your experience I might be able to figure out what went wrong :)

    Thanks,
    Keith

    • mlaskus says:

      Keith, you surely meant that “Diffuculty 10 is basically pure fun!” Ah, no matter. It is a common typo.

  11. Meat Circus says:

    Arcen: sexy muddy funsters.

    Aside from the fact that AI War is clearly brilliant, the way they’re turning out oodles of bonus contents in a few months for no pounds makes me love them all the more.

  12. Tetragrammaton says:

    Ace, my monydollars are theirs.

  13. K says:

    Charity? I’m surely not going to pay for that then. I use my hard earned bucks to support developpers, so they can write games. Charity is a horrible concept. Either we do something as a people, or we don’t. But leaving the financing of important projects up to the good-will of nice people (usually not those with a lot of money, though Bill Gates recently made a great move), and hope we get lucky? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Thing with charity is that, you know, it allows people to give money (and goods, whatever) to help other people. Yesterday we 9in the Netherlands) had a charity tv-show regarding the flooding in Pakistan, for example. Those people aren’t likely to be in a position to give me anything of equal value. So what? I gave money so people can go over there and help them.

      Because they need it and I can easily spare the money. Why wouldn’t you give to charity if you can buy stuff like games? It’s your choice, obviously, but I do wonder.

    • bill says:

      Just think of it like – You are supporting the developers, and they’ve decided to use their profits to do something that they want. Which is their right with their cash.

      That way you can feel all uncharitable.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      And, if you want to be cynical, you can see it as business positioning in exchanging the amount of work in the micro-expansion for larger exposure in stories like this (thus people buying the full, more expensive game). If you want to be cynical, of course.

      Either way, you’re supporting the developer.

      KG

    • Arathain says:

      @ K: Remember that they’re donating profits to charity. They’re taking the money they need to cover the development costs, presumably.

    • Keith LaMothe says:

      @Arathain

      No, actually we’re donating all the revenue that actually gets to us, and none of the money is being paid to the staff (the staff are getting paid for their work, but not from CoN revenue). That said, it doesn’t mean that someone buying CoN for 3.99 means Child’s play gets 3.99, there are a few caveats:

      1) All distribution outlets (including our own website store, if I recall correctly) take a certain percent of the sale. We won’t be donating that part, obviously. Though perhaps the distribution outlet may desire to donate some part of their cut, but that’s up to them.

      2) There are sales taxes in some cases, so we won’t be donating that part since we never get it.

      3) We also have to count the revenue as income for tax purposes, and have to pay social security taxes on it even if we donate 100% of it. So some portion has to go to the government for that, too.

      But none of it is being used to pay for staff time, or equipment, or goes into our savings, etc. So basically we’re losing money on the deal.

      On the other hand, as Kieron noted, there are other benefits to this kind of arrangement, even if looking at it from a purely selfish perspective (and it’s not cynical to say so :) ). But our reason for doing it is to help Child’s Play get toys and stuff to sick kids and that kind of thing.

      Anyway, just wanted to clarify what we mean by “All proceeds from this micro-expansion (excepting any taxes and distributor fees) are donated to the Child’s Play charity.” (the text on the actual store page).

  14. Malibu Stacey says:

    I’d like to add another glowing recommendation of this game. I’ve been a long time fan of space 4X games like Sword of the Stars & Galactic Civilizations II (have Sins too but am yet to play it due to SotS, GalCivII & AI War).
    The first time I played it after purchasing it in a Steam sale I looked at it & thought to myself “WTF this is a top down 2D game?”. The screenshots for it (even before the graphical overhaul/update) made it look so good I thought it was 3D. Even so after a few hours playing the tutorial it’s clear this is a pure gem. It has depth, emergent gameplay & actually clever AI which can really surprise you at times once you’re comfortable enough to start playing on level 6 or above. The scope of the game is immense & it gives you so much to play with there is an almost unlimited number of ways to approach any situation.

    I am however trying to hold off playing the game until the Unity engine update is released in the not too distant future. They are moving the game to a whole new engine in a completely free upgrade patch, no DLC/expansion/sequel purchase necessary. That my fellow RPS comment thread readers is customer service.

    I think the “last of the bedroom coders” title should rightfully belong to Arcen Games.

  15. Arcenal says:

    Ah, AI War.

    The game that you could break in half by just building starships/capital ships/raiders and some colonizers and then hop through 5-10 systems without needing to bother much and then settle 2-3 hops ahead of the final AI home and then kill it off with barely any AI upset.

    Yes, what a tricky and balanced game concept THAT was :P

    But I heard (from the self-defending programmers/devs themselves, I guess) that of course the NEXT addon/expansion will take care of all that and make it all completely different and less cheese-exploitable etc, etc.

    Whether it actually did I never found out; once you “beat” the concept / core logic of something, interest quickly evaporates.

    Still, it seemed promising for the hour or two before I found out about the raider ships.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      “HEY GUISE I PLAYED THIS GAME ON SUPAR EASY MODE AND IT WAS SUPAR EASY. THIS GAME SUCKS BECAUSE IT IS TOO EASY FOR MY AWESOME GAME SKILLZ.”

      Try playing on something higher than difficulty level 1. Normal difficulty is considered to be level 6 which is what new games default to as of the current release (v3.120).

    • Arcenal says:

      No, I actually was referring to 7, but I’m fairly certain you can do what I described on even more high end difficulties as well, simply because the AI aggrevation gets circumvented via that exploit(you can essentially win with a handful of systems taken, even in a 50+ system map. You essentially hop past half a dozen at a time, build a “refueling station” system and move on to the last arms where the AI sits).

      Hence my point and you being the troll rather than me.

    • mlaskus says:

      Heh, try playing like that now. You are in for a nasty surprise.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      FYI that’s sort of the whole point of the game. Try wiping the map of AI & you’ll find yourself dead in short order. It’s supposed to encourage the sort of guerilla tactics you’re describing rather than the usual ‘exterminatus’ of every other strategy game.

      Also I’d love to see a video of you actually doing that in v3.120 in under 3 hours on difficulty 7 or higher as you claim.

    • Arcenal says:

      Oh, the point was to not take every system? What a funny coincidence that I then ended up suggesting there was a strategy that involved circumventing exactly that. It’s as if I’d actually known how the game works.
      Aka: Orly.

      I wasn’t saying that I didn’t “get it”. I was saying that after I “understood” the game AND understood how to exploit it, it became boring.
      It just lost the “oh, gotta be careful with everything I do” fascination around the time where I realized I could just walk past the alarm bells and waltz in the home palace, so to speak.

      I will assume that after I notified the guy of it that he then took measures to prevent that very thing and added 50 more AI “cheats” such as the “A” anti-capital ship drones/Arachnids/whatever that will just spawn ad infinitum until you’re forced to do something different, but that wasn’t a help to me anymore after that understanding bit. (Btw, even with the “Let’s turn all ships to As” mechanism kicking in, you will STILL get past the majority of systems in the old versions)

      I believe there are now other station or unit or something types and whatnot; but the whole thing just turned rotten for me.

      Maybe in another five expansions or something I will look into it again.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I can’t help feeding the troll sometimes.

      As I (and another commenter) stated already, try doing that in the current version. No expansions necessary just the latest release of the base game & see how far you get.

      You’re comparing a game that’s had an obscene number of changes since it’s release. Even looking at what’s changed between 3.060 & 3.120 is immense.

      Or forget I said anything & be happy in your own tiny little mind knowing you’re awesome & this game sucks.

    • Keith LaMothe says:

      @Malibu Stacey,

      I appreciate your willingness to defend us, but I’ve found that hostility is ineffective at actually changing people’s minds about the game. If someone’s really determined to make an ass of themselves that becomes less of an issue, but in this case Arcenal’s determined-ness is not yet, well, determined.

      Anyway, glad you enjoyed the game so much :)

      @Arcenal,

      Self-defending programmer here :) Well, if you attack us, isn’t it an understandable response?

      More seriously, my main interest in responding is finding out if we’ve already addressed your concerns (possibly quite a while ago) or if you’re talking about something more recent and un addressed.

      More seriously, balancing the game has been an ongoing process to say the least. The raid-starship quasi-exploit you referred to is one of many things that players have found to short-circuit part or all of the intended challenge, and so we do our best to patch those up. And, to be clear, those balance changes are not pay-for expansions/addons, they’re without charge.

      One response to the over-usefulness of starship-spam did include the AI frequently including Anti-Starship Arachnids in their normal reinforcements. There was a bug that led to way more arachnids than intended, but that’s been fixed (and arachnid balance has been adjusted quite a bit since that). More recently the pendulum’s swung a bit in the other direction and we recently got some more reports about raid starships being too uber again if playing a 6+ homeworld start and able to field groups of 50+ such starships, so I guess it comes full circle ;)

      But I have to ask: you found an exploit, you reported it (thank you!), and we did the Arachnid balance change… and you don’t like that either? I’m honestly not sure what we could have done to make you a happy customer there, other than continue to refine those balance changes (getting rid of the coo-coo-for-cocoa-puffs arachnid spawn rate bug, etc) as we have done. Though I guess you didn’t stick around for that refinement process, which makes sense if you were just fed up with the game.

      Anyway, once we’re done with 4.0 (which, again, is a free update; there’s pay-for stuff in the expansions but that’s entirely new content rather than improvements of existing stuff), you might enjoy the game quite a bit more :)

      Thanks,
      Keith

    • Chris Park says:

      Oh, my, the arachnids? Good lord, that must have been over a year ago — certainly those were in prior to 2.0, before we even came out on Steam. That was a case where a couple of players decided to spam Raid Starships in an unexpected way, reported that it was exploitatively easy, and we fixed it within a week or so. Most likely there was a beta patch with that fix within a day or two.

      Sure, those initial patches probably weren’t perfectly formed right at the start, but that’s why we rely on player feedback, suggestions, and reports — this game is far too massive for us to find every odd case that exists.

      That said, it’s been over a year, and the game is nigh unrecognizable from what it was back when RPS was doing their diary. Literally, the start of the game looks completely different, the endgame is completely new (in the latest betas), there are nearly twice as many units in the game (not even including the expansions) as there were back then… it’s a whole new ballgame.

      I suppose I’m feeding the troll here as well, but I think developers are entitled to a little self-defense when they run into this sort of thing. Like Keith, I’m really not certain what you’re proposed path would have been to making you a happy customer — or, perhaps we did. You seem to be enjoying having found an exploit in a very old version of the game, so I guess that’s something. ;)

    • Vinraith says:

      Not that Chris and Keith need back up from me, but seriously, the game has been updated on the order of hundreds of times since those problems existed. If you find a balance issue or a bug and report it on Arcen’s forums, Chris is not exaggerating when he suggests it’s frequently fixed within a day or two. The level of support this game gets is beyond fantastic and somewhere into the realm of completely insane.

  16. Mike_in_Ohio says:

    A true gem of a game. It will sneak up and bite you in the a$$ when you least expect it!

  17. TTBNC says:

    I have a problem with my ai war fleet command: i put in the key but then when i updated it, it went back to trail mode and im using the key that i used b4 and i bought it just yesterday someone help me with this i cant fix it

    • Vinraith says:

      I’m not sure what’s going on there, but you’re going to have much better luck getting help on Arcen’s forums:

      http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/board,2.0.html

    • Chris Park says:

      Probably if you updated to the latest betas, it installed expansions that you either haven’t bought or haven’t typed in the key for — that’s my usual guess. If you go under Settings, Expansions you’ll be able to either disable them or enter the expansion keys. One thing we’re doing in 4.0 is redoing the license key entry screens, as they have been confusing for some folks off and on so far — sorry about that!

  18. Samuele says:

    Will it work with the steam version of AI Battles? if so, I’m going to purchase it now….

    bye
    Samuele