Radical Changes For A Valley Without Wind

By Jim Rossignol on June 21st, 2011 at 9:00 am.


Arcen send word that their procedurally-generated adventure game, A Valley Without Wind, is taking a new direction, as you can see in the video I’ve posted below. Rather than being top-down, it’s now a side-scroller. Developer Chris Park explained that the changed had been discussed for some time, and really came about after seeing previews of the game in a top-down perspective, and the reactions people had to that. He also argues that the side-scrolling perspective fits perfectly with the game’s exploration and survival, as well as the evolving combat mechanics. The Arcen boss says: “The result of this side view switch is something that looks incredibly better, that’s orders of magnitude faster for us to create, and that’s more fun to play. It also helps give a much stronger sense of place: partly it’s seeing the sky when you’re outside, but it’s also the varied terrain height, long falls, poison water, and so on.”

It’s a major change, and it seems like an odd one to me. It might not have been the prettiest game in the world, but the perspective was certainly distinctive. This is… less so.

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129 Comments »

  1. wodin says:

    I hated the first few vids…looked way out of whack and the animation and sprtie quality was very poor indeed…they should have gone for a Project Zomboid\Xcom kind of look.

    This is abit better…but the animations and characters look awful…needs alot more frames added…but it isn’t going to happen apparently.

    So far it’s still a big …meh…from me

    • P7uen says:

      I think it looked awful, and now I think it looks ace.

      Still some work to convince me on the exploration, but anyone who’s played Knytt Stories won’t need convincing that it’ll be possible to pull off.

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      bglamb says:

      Seems a bit pointless to say the graphics look awful in the Alpha.

    • Tokjos says:

      That is obviously not the case. People complained about the graphics in every post about the game, so the developer changed it to this. I think it looks much better.

    • keith.lamothe says:


      That is obviously not the case. People complained about the graphics in every post about the game, so the developer changed it to this. I think it looks much better.

      Let me confirm what Tokjos just said: the negative feedback about the art/perspective was a factor both in our incremental improvements on the art style and eventual change in the game’s perspective. The perspective switch was primarily motivated by other things, but the influence was definitely there.

      But it wasn’t that a bunch of people complained on day 1. Rather it was that lots of people in a wide variety of communities (here, our own forums, and elsewhere) complained on day 1, day 2, day 3… etc etc. Our incremental improvements brought over some people but by and large the general consensus was there.

      So (combined with various technical problems with top-down, etc) we changed it.

      And now people are complaining again.

      I… think this is normal :)

      Rather than spend a lot of time in this thread like I have in some of the others, I’ll just focus on making the game good. Back to working on the research system…

    • Dominic White says:

      No, Keith, it is not normal. If you get complaints specifically about the art style from pretty much every source, and refining it doesn’t do much to slow or stop them, you’re probably going in the wrong direction.

      As I’ve said before, the pre-rendered style just doesn’t work here, at all. AI War JUST got away with it because most of the gameplay is viewed from an exceptionally abstract, zoomed out perspective. Once you actually looked at the spaceships themselves fighting, it just wasn’t nice to look at.

      This is a third-person action adventure. You’re going to be staring at those sprites for a very long time, and if a very large portion of your prospective audience immediately say ‘That looks wrong’ at first glance, then you really do need to rethink things. So far the art improvements have been soft-focus blurring, moving to a side-on view and so on, but nothing that has actually addressed the key issue: The art style itself doesn’t work for most people. Walk cycles look unnatural, buildings and trees neither look perspective-correct or tile cleanly and so on.

      You need a sprite artist.

    • Acorino says:

      It looks much, much better and more fun now, but the animation is still weird. Is the guy at the beginning running in slo-mo? The animation isn’t fast, hectic enough, I think.

  2. Vexing Vision says:

    I’m sorry… I know this is an ambitious project I should be interested in.

    But the original Valley of the Wind design didn’t really tickle my fancy, while this does even less. I just can’t see how exploration works in 2d, this never worked for me in the earlier Zelda-titles either.

    • Wulf says:

      Exploration can work in 2D titles. Knytt and Knytt Stories are both absolute, undeniable proof of this.

      However, I do think they need a sprite/environment artist. Badly. Very, very badly.

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    JB says:

    The magic double-jump looks fun.

  4. aerozol says:

    So… basically a new game?
    I don’t see them putting that ‘expoloration’ vibe into a side scroller, even less the respawn concept that was kind of interesting. Maybe they will though, who knows.
    But sidescrollers is a tough market to crack. The platforming/ movement elements have to be really fun.. and basic.

    • cupogoodness says:

      Actually both are still very much core parts of the game. We didn’t remove any of AVWW’s aims/goals when we changed perspectives, promise!

      - Erik

    • max pain says:

      It just doesn’t make much sense to me.
      They had exploration in 2D, now they have (the lack of) it in 1D (there is height, but you cant freely move up and down, so not really a free dimension)..

      Which makes things much more limiting.
      Wanna avoid the enemy and GO AROUND it? Well out of luck, but you can try to jump over it..

      But of course it’s easier to make for them.. content needs less work (images and object placement), complexity goes down, AI is simpler, etc..

      Shame :)

    • cupogoodness says:

      Well for one the underground adds a significant north/south aspect to it. In some cases regions (levels) may actually go further down then they do across.

      We’re still a ways out from finishing all we want to do with combat, as well as the skills/magic you have for avoiding it if you wish as well. I can’t list them out at this point, but I don’t think jumping will be your only option when it comes to getting away from enemies.

      Oh and the seize spell does a number on getting rid of most types of monsters who are trailing you (seen at 0:31 in the trailer.) Dropping down into the caverns to buy some time from the surface enemies works in some ways as well, but you may potentially jump into another fire there depending on what’s lurking around in the depths.

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    Crimsoneer says:

    Not sure how good a decision it is, but hey, it worked for Terraria. I’m still excited :)

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      Diziet Sma says:

      I thought that, perhaps disingenuously. “After watching the amazing sales of Terraria we decided that our unique perspective was not the best for todays climate.”

    • Mr_Hands says:

      When Terraria came out, I immediately wondered if the Arcen guys were taking a look at it. Especially since there was all that hubub about perspective around these parts. I imagine someone even said something to the effect of: “It seems like you should go 2D, but I don’t know what a 2D exploration game with vaguely RPG-styled mechanics would look.” And then this.

      I’m interested. Yeah, that run animation is still ridiculous. (I think it looks like everyone is doing a Baywatch run.) As said elsewhere: that magic double-jump looks neat.

      Plus, Chris was all about the whole “YOU don’t level up, the world does” angle before. With a persistent inventory and generally more stuff in the world than you can keep in your pockets, I’d say Terraria is probably a worthwhile example of the world levelling up as you open up more areas, build up your house, create an NPC shantytown. To say nothing of the crafting stuff already proposed for AVWW.

      Admittedly, yes: it’s not as “original” now, but from the looks of the art style, I doubt Arcen needs to try TOO hard on that front to differentiate themselves. It’s just a matter of them getting the gameplay to “feel” right for an action RPG. Which, yeah, it’s still something I’m concerned about.

      Either way, insert that SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY image here. August/October isn’t happening soon enough.

  6. UncleLou says:

    Sorry that I post this here, but are the comments for the latest Mount & Blade episode broken for anyone else? It says “53 comments” on the frontpage, but “no comments” when I actually go there.

    edit: Now they’re working, of bloody course! Logging in seems to have fixed it. :)

  7. Mattressi says:

    I’m so confused. I’m pretty sure that originally it was a moderately realistic survival game in top down perspective, with a distant scifi history to uncover. Now it’s a magical side-scroller?

    I was very interested when it was first announced and became less and less interested as more magic and fantasy came into it. Still, it was something that I was keeping my eye on (I’ve never played a fantasy survival game). However, with the side-scroller update, I’m really wondering how much survival and exploration there can be. Terraria does it well because you can dig, chop and build, while this seems more like a static side scroller, but with nothing to jump on…almost like a 1D game. I’ve gotta say, I’ve completely lost interest in this now.

    I think the main issue people had was the art direction and animations…so they changed the setting, the back story and the perspective? If they’d fixed up the art and animations (and maybe made the top-down perspective less…flat) and kept the original concept, I honestly think they’d have a lot more people interested in the game.

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      Jp1138 says:

      Yes, I think the perspective view wasn´t a very acomplished one, but at least you can explore – with this side view, you can move from level to level in a map, but then you are into a scrolling arcade game? At the moment it´s the only shown in the video. Is there going to be a more “adventure” part o is it going to be just a classic side-scroller? My interest in this game has fallen a lot with this news, as I cannot see it working now :(

    • DXN says:

      Got to agree with this. I loved the original concept – it really had a sense of desolation, weirdness, and openness, without resorting (as much) to magic and monsters, and the top-down view reflected the feeling of having an open map to explore. Now it’s starting to look more and more like a shonky version of Terraria, which I like despite its perspective, not because of it. If they wanted to increase their mass-market appeal, I think the animations and art assets would have been a better place to start.

      Oh well — it’s definitely still an interesting project to follow, and it looks like they’re still making a lot of changes, so I’ll definitely keep my eye on it.

  8. thebigJ_A says:

    I’m 50% less interested now.

    • abremms says:

      this. I was pretty excited about this game, but a side scroller? I just can’t get behind siidescrollers. it just feels like an out-dated format like betamax. I know there have been some good sidescrollers in recent years, but every time I play one I feel like I’m back playing super mario brothers… and a hundred other games where freedom of movement is limited to left or right. seems like in 2011 we should be beyond choosing between left and right. I want more than one dimension!

    • badvibration says:

      I feel the same way. I guess i’m the only one who actually didn’t mind the art style, in fact i thought it was unique and gave off an expressionist type look. I also loved the top down perspective because of the exploration opportunities it opened up and also, i haven’t played many top down rpg’s since diablo so i was extra excited to play it. I imagine with the switch to a side scrolling perspective it made the combat more fluid and probably better, as it would be simpler to work with, but now i’ve lost most my interest. I think it’s still going to be interesting and hopefully still crazily inventive, but with the side scrolling aspect now on it, it will feel like i’ve played something like it before. And with the less distinctive art style (i know it’s still alpha) I won’t be as intrigued to explore. Those were the two reasons i was looking forward to it.

    • Lusit says:

      I loved the art style, and thought that the perspective was perfect for 2D exploration.

      I mean, it worked for every effing RPG from 1995 to 2000

  9. arienette says:

    The original announcement for this game had me rather excited. But I can’t really get behind this, I’ll see what’s being said on release but I care less about it now there’s side scrolling. The sense of survival and exploration will be difficult to carry over to that perspective.

  10. gwathdring says:

    I can now see what’s happening in the video. But I’m not especially into what’s happening in the video, so I can’t tell if it’s an improvement or if it was never my sort of thing to begin with.

    Edit: Huh. Everytime I see a still shot of this game I think “ooh, that’s an interesting and somewhat pretty art style.” Once things start moving that all disappears. Still happening here, so the perspective shift didn’t work for me on that level.

  11. danimalkingdom says:

    I feel like i should be interested in this game, but i have found nothing of what i have so far seen, compelling. What’s with the retro soundtrack now as well? It’s too easy for an indie game to resort to that, but it does not suit the aesthetic here, which frankly is still looking somewhat lacking. Once they’ve ditched the placeholder graphics and those hopeless sprite animations, I expect i’ll be more inclined to give this the time of day.

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    Crimsoneer says:

    God, RPS are a tough crowd….
    I for one, think this still has the potential to be awesome. If this combines well thought out procedurally generated side-scrolling with a vast overworld and good survival gameplay, I’ll be a happy bunny.

    • cupogoodness says:

      That’s definitely the plan. This is a perspective change, nothing else. Everything that’s been posted on this site before about the game still holds true except for that.

      - Erik

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      Sunjumper says:

      The amount of moaning here is quite surprising. I am even more surprised that the people seem to complain even more than during the first announcement. I was not a fan how the game looked back in the past but I trust ARCEN their games so far have been very good and early alpha builds tend not to reflect the full game. I am very impressed that they decided to make their work in progress avilable to the public because I find it interesting to see how a game is developed over time but I can now understand why it is usually done behind closed doors. The amount of negativity heaped onto this game is life draining. I read this thread and become depressed and I am not even on the same continent as the developers.

      To say something positive I like the look of the game better now and think that the art style looks cleaner and fits better in 2D. I am also looking forward to how the exploration is implemented and I am confident that it will work, but maybe that is because I actually remember ancient 2D games with which contained exploration like Turrican 2 (more than you would think), Super Metroid and Exile (almost pure exploration and survival).

  13. kenoxite says:

    Bye, game.
    I’m pretty sure this new direction will appeal quite a nice bunch, though, so all is good, etc.

    • cupogoodness says:

      Will you not be trying the demo period then? Interested to hear if our open development style can actually drive someone to not give the game a shot once it’s readily available.

    • kenoxite says:

      Unless this turns out to be one of those “must play” games I’m afraid not. But watching that guy jumping like Mario to evade electric balls just kills something inside me, so… hmm. I just can’t enjoy 2D platformers and I don’t have any rational explanation apart from “I don’t like them and I’m afraid I can’t do anything to change that”.
      Also, I’m quite skeptical about how your new approach won’t affect the survival/exploratory element. I’m aware of Metroid, but that still falls short on that department compared to the possibilities of a top-down view. I’d be glad to be proven wrong.
      Anyway, as I said, I’m sure that for every guy like me you’ll get a couple, if not more, new guys interested in this new approach. So, don’t worry about us who don’t care about the next indie 2D platformer. I’m pretty sure we’re a minority. .

    • cupogoodness says:

      Sigh, I responded to this earlier in length and somehow the comment was digested by the system.

      Regardless, thanks for your feedback. Keep an eye peeled in August, or better yet October. Hell maybe the game will be something you want a year down the road; if things go well and we can continue post launch develop like we want anyway, look at AI War’s radical history in just 2+ years. Though it’s totally understandable if the game just isn’t your style. Hopefully it does alright and we’re around long enough to eventually make a game that’s more up your alley. :P

    • kenoxite says:

      Just reading the comments around here I can bet that you’ll do alright with this game. I wouldn’t worry much.

      Unless you screw it up so royally that you manage to displease both those who love platformers and the rest who liked the old approach more. But I’m sure you guys are smart enough to avoid that.

  14. Dan Lawrence says:

    If there’s no wind why are the trees moving?

    Riddle me that.

    • cupogoodness says:

      Lots of wind Dan! Bad weather in most places actually. The title is the goal, not the current location.

      - Erik

    • Dan Lawrence says:

      A man, fed up with wind searches for a land where there is none. I hope there are some charts, gauges and other weather pattern monitoring equipment and that he doesn’t just set out wandering willy nilly.

    • cupogoodness says:

      He’ll be acraftin’ if that’s what yer getting at. Technically I should say “they’ll.”

    • Vandalbarg says:

      You’ve not read The Colour Out of Space then. There’s clearly an utterly bizarre non corporeal tentacle alien living under the ground that eat’s colour/specific wavelengths, d’uh.

  15. Azradesh says:

    I think it would work best isometric. (Diablo, Fallout 1+2, etc) I was very interested in this project, but switching the perspective to side scroll just saps the joy of exploration for me. And an infinite sci-fi/fantasy world to explore is the key thing for me.

    • cupogoodness says:

      I wouldn’t bet on us going away from the “infinite sci-fi/fantasy world to explore” if you’d like to have any money at the end of the day. :)

      Perhaps once we get into showing off the interiors as well as above ground and caverns, the exploration side will be more apparent. We’ll see.

    • Azradesh says:

      Well I’ll be keeping it on my radar for sure. :)

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    JiminyJickers says:

    Oh no, what a shame. I was interested before but now just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

    I just don’t get this move.

  17. Rii says:

    Lots of great games go through significant design changes.

    Goldeneye 007 was originally on-rails.
    Ocarina of Time was at one point first-person
    Warcraft III was originally pitched as more RPG than RTS.

    As for exploration in a 2D sidescroller … Samus Aran sez ‘hi’.

  18. Teddy Leach says:

    I genuinely am interested in this here game, but I’d love some more info and specific details about the actual features of the game.

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    Stijn says:

    I can’t figure out whether the incredibly awkward animation of the characters (and a lot of the other art) is because it’s all placeholder art or because it’s some kind of artistic statement. The game just looks like a messy mishmash of different art styles and perspectives right now, which isn’t particularly tickling my fancy.

    • cupogoodness says:

      Understanding your feelings on the animations and sprites…did you get a chance to view the video in 1080p? If not, I highly recommend it. There’s a lot more detail and it’s a much closer representation of how the game looks at the moment.

  20. Tatourmi says:

    The art style still doesn’t do it for me, those animations and shiny magic effects especially.

    Also; Why don’t you show us some of the interesting features you promised us? You know that those gameplay video won’t do it to raise the hype. Do a little commented video in the “base” or something, show what is really special about the game, show the beautiful and not the ugly.

    If you got your game out tomorrow I for sure wouldn’t buy it, even though you made the concept sound interesting somehow.

    • cupogoodness says:

      The official version comes out in October, with a playable beta in August for pre-order customers. So fortunately for us not tomorrow! I say that because there’s still a ton that needs to be implemented. Both releases will offer an Arcen-sized demo (PC/Mac) for anyone interested to try out.

      The advice about adding some commentary in the videos is well received, this was meant to be more of a trailer for where the game stands as it enters alpha. We’ve been planning on getting into video journals, I’m sure that would help as well.

  21. JFS says:

    Is this finally going to become the new Duke Nukem Forever now that the old one has retired? Although it looks somewhat nice, turning this game 2D-sidescroll is a strange decision.

    • cupogoodness says:

      Well, I hope it doesn’t change developer hands otherwise I’m out of the job. We plan on getting this baby out in 2011 for the record, so no decade of development.

      Although if things go amazingly well we could and would be willing to continue to develop post-launch for that amount of time. :D

  22. Melf_Himself says:

    I think this looks HEAPS better than the top-down view, and am now actually interested in this game.

  23. Gnoupi says:

    The exploring next to old factories, with some kind of floating electric balls in the air reminds me of STALKER’s anomalies, nice.

  24. CMaster says:

    Well, it certainly looks better now. – Using side-on graphics for the top-down gameplay didn’t fit at all.
    And while I think a top-downy view fitted the game idea better, this fits the graphics better and the to gameplay from the top-down/side on view never looked anything other than wobbly.

    Well, I’ll still keep watching this game nervously. The basic design brief of the game sounds excellent – which is enough to make me play the demo when it comes out, even if everything else looks and sounds questionable.

    Got to say I’m kind of surprised about this change, after Chris was posting about his fancy building-generating stuff a month or so ago.

  25. The Army of None says:

    Oh, nice! I’m suddenly much more excited about the game. Good choice, devs :)

    • LCinn says:

      Yup, same here. This looks really nice.
      I suppose the biggest challenge now will probably be to give 2D locations -even randomly generated ones- personality and distinctness, to make exploration actually fun.

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    Goateh says:

    I much prefer the look of the combat side of things as the old videos looked very awkward; a compromise between not being a god character and playing like a twin stick shooter. It does push the feel of the game (or what you can get from videos) more towards an action game a little. The combat before looked pretty uninteresting but exploring the world looked like it’d be great fun.
    I hope they can do a good job of the neutral/friendly places that I guess will be appearing. I’ve never really seen a well done side scrolling village/town place that evokes a sense of place as well as just somewhere to buy and sell your loot. I guess flattening a town into 2d is hard since it doesn’t match how real towns work at all.

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    BathroomCitizen says:

    Yeah I like the change a lot, although I was pleased by its first Dink-style iteration too!

  28. Hedgemonster says:

    This looks a lot better.

    Those who say that exploration is impossible in a sidescrolling game: I guess you’ve never played any of the Metroid or Castlevania games, or other games that belong to the so-called Metroidvania genre, like Monster’s Tale on the Nintendo DS? There aren’t a lot of those kinds of games on the PC, so that makes this very interesting. The only thing that sort of comes close perhaps is Aztaka, a sidescrolling RPG.

  29. Acosta says:

    Much better! Good choice.

  30. JonasKyratzes says:

    I think this is a rational decision, and makes the game more interesting to me.

  31. amandachen says:

    This so-called “open development” process was a huge mistake. It’s like releasing a lumbering, half-formed Frankenstein’s monster onto the streets. Do some design work first on the back of a damn envelope or something, or people will think you’re completely inept.

    • x4000 says:

      Heh, there have been somewhere between 100k and 200k words of design notes written in the last year on this game. Know what the difference is between a AAA studio and an indie studio? Once the game gets passed a certain point in a AAA studio, it’s stuck with whatever design it has, even if that design is crap. For an indie game, when certain things aren’t working as well as one hopes, the indies are free to adapt.

      Some people don’t like seeing how the sausage is made, and I get that. But this is not a particularly unusual game development cycle; the unusual part is that we’re sharing so much along the way. General reaction to that has been really positive. I think it’s something worth doing.

    • cupogoodness says:

      It’s actually been pretty encouraging! Players have a say in our game much more this way, for better or worse at times. :D

      In all seriousness we understand there’s a downside to open development, but the upside seems to outweigh it ten-fold in the long run. It’s how we do things and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • amandachen says:

      “Heh, there have been somewhere between 100k and 200k words of design notes written in the last year on this game”

      Not useful ones, because why are you throwing them away now?

    • x4000 says:

      Out of that, we’ve ditched maybe 30k words worth of the design, and it was the least interesting part. Less than 10% of the game’s code had to be changed for the side view shift. The general tone, goals, and larger gameplay of the game is unchanged from the last diary. Etc.

    • amandachen says:

      Yeah. You monkeys can either carry on writing essays in this thread or you can concentrate on making some sort of game. The game doesn’t look or sound promising at all right now. But good luck with it.

    • Acorino says:

      BEEP! BEEEP! Unwarranted cynicism detected!

  32. Ringwraith says:

    I really quite like this layout, I’ve seen it work well before with the multiple 2D “layers” in games such as Valkyrie Profile, although it seems to have one up on that by having massive spaces as Valkyrie Profile was contained in lots of interconnected smaller areas.

  33. x4000 says:

    For those concerned about the various things like:

    - Exploration might not work
    - Combat might not be as varied
    - This might turn into a Mario-style platformer
    - And other things of this nature.

    May I direct you to this extensive blog post that addresses all of that. If there are other questions I’m happy to answer those as well, but I think that a lot of the questions folks want answered are handled there. I think our answers are pretty compelling, but of course if you’re not sure there will always be a demo from beta onwards!

    • Plivesey says:

      Thanks for the post Chris (IIRC), it’s great to see you and Erik responding to a lot of the questions/issues being raised here. I for one know that, as AI War has shown us, you’ll continue to update and improve the game as time goes on to address those issues. (And, of course, it’s still only Alpha!) Keep up the hard work!
      Philip.

    • x4000 says:

      Thanks, Philip — and yep, you remembered my name right. :)

      I actually am gratified that, for once, the complaints here seem to be based on theoretical problems from experience with other games, rather than actual complaints about our art or whatever for the most part. That’s an encouraging trend to see, because obviously AVWW isn’t those other games that people are thinking of when they worry about exploration or similar.

      If we hadn’t had those bits figured out in advance, we would never have made the perspective shift, as they’re absolutely central to the game! So I’m hopeful that folks who are dubious will come around as we’re able to visually demonstrate some of that more in future weeks.

  34. LordCiego says:

    Still, its not Alden Ridge.

  35. ScubaMonster says:

    Hmm. I disagree that sidescrolling is somehow better. Top down would have worked just fine had it been done properly. There could be a lot of things they wanted to do that wouldn’t be possible with top down I suppose, but I think it’s a bit of a cop out to blame the bad reaction on the top down perspective and not the actual design and direction they were implementing.

    • x4000 says:

      We’re not claiming that side scrolling is inherently better — it isn’t. However, we are a 2D game developer, and the only way to do high-res top-down views would either to be to move to 3D or to move to isometric — the faux top-down perspective that was in there previously works for pixelart, but it had hit its limits in preview #11 as to how good it could look. And people still weren’t happy, most of all me. Isometric presents various issues we weren’t keen to get into, and just generally wouldn’t give the right feel for what we wanted. That left true 3D, which would have been a disaster for our sort of production processes. Which made side view something of an obvious choice.

      But, more than that, a side view actually adds a lot of things that we didn’t have before, while not removing anything we cared about. And it’s a lesser-done perspective for games of this specific sort, which also means more room in which to do something original. I wrote about this at length in the link above, but suffice it to say that we were considering this change well before anyone had even seen the game, but the continual feedback on the old top-down view was a major factor in convincing us that this was actually what we needed to do in the end.

      As with anything complex, there wasn’t one reason or one trigger that caused it. But for this game design, for the way we want the game to feel and play, this switch is nothing but positive. Not that everyone has to agree, but I mean in terms of the goals we are trying to achieve ourselves. We went into it knowing that some folks would jump ship, but the alternative would have been to keep banging our heads against something that wasn’t working the way we wanted it to.

    • CMaster says:

      @x4000
      I always wondered why you went with “Objects drawn from the side, but view from above” look. You claim that it’s a classic SNES era style, but A: that was with more “charming” hand drawn art, rather than the very detailed, filtered 3d art you used and B: Actually, I can find very few examples of it myself. Why didn’t you with stuff like the Zelda games and the like, where objects have a “viewed from an elevated position” angle?

    • x4000 says:

      @CMaster: I figured that higher-res art in that classic SNES style would still work just fine. And if you’re looking for examples, basically every top-down pixelart game has that. All that classic Zelda games that are not 3D do — look at a screenshot of Link To The Past, and you can see the entire top of a building, the entire front of that same building, while seeing just the top of a nearby bush, while seeing only the side of link, while seeing the ground without any perspective. Secret of Mana, all the SNES Final Fantasies, Chrono Trigger… they all use this same style. What I’ve learned is that this only works with the more abstract art of pixelart.

    • CMaster says:

      @X4000
      Just googled up screenshots of al the named games there. For the vast majority of objects, you can see both the side and top of, like you are viewing from a camera position typical of a modern RTS (maybe rotated towards the ground a little) The only exceptions seem to be incidental details and characters facing side on. The thing about the early shots of AVWWW is how that element of viewing from the top seemed to be completely absent.

      As an aside, great to see the whole of the Arcen team here engaging with RPS types, good to see that you feel you are getting something out of this whole open development lark. (I’ve seen lots of indie studios claim they are doing open development, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen evidence that they really mean it)

    • x4000 says:

      If you’re thinking of the super early screens from AVWW, then I believe those were entirely front view, sure. But since around February, it was showing the top and front of most things like buildings and objects (I had to rerender all those to make them work in side view, so I can definitely attest to that!). When it comes to characters and trees and grasses, those were the main things that were completely 100% side view in even the last top-down versions of AVWW. If you look at Chrono or Link, you’ll see that there is no top showing of them, too. In Chrono Trigger they actually use Chrono both from the top-down and from the side in various times in the game (the prison tower outdoors sequences are 100% side-on using the same art as the rest of the game). Anyway, neither here nor there at this point!

      Anyway, thanks for the kind words on our involvement, etc.

    • CMaster says:

      Fair point about the more recent buildings having tops and so on, I’d sort of forgotten and just had memories of the earlier stuff in mind.

  36. stblr says:

    I’ve never been a huge fan of AVWW’s art style, but side-scrolling seems to suit it much better. The characters are still a little baffling, unless Keds is the footwear of choice for future wizards.

    In any case, being a huge fan of Metroid and Castelvania, this change is pretty exciting. I hope the fact that the world is procedurally generated doesn’t work against the game’s sense of exploration. I love procedural generation when it works, but a lot of games tend to take on a same-y feel after a while. Spelunky struck the perfect balance between procedural generation and hand-crafted level direction and AVWW will have to hit close to that mark in order to succeed.

  37. McCool says:

    Hum, that’s my interest in the game gone. Actually I can see this is an improvement for quite a few people, but I don’t think devs should underestimate the pull of a interesting indie game that ISN’T a side-scroller. That audience might actually be smaller than the people who like Mario to be wedded with all indie games, I honestly can’t say, but I think I’m not alone in being a particular type of gamer who finds side-scrolling a big turn-off. Still, best of luck to you, I must say the game is starting to look pretty.

    • kenoxite says:

      Nope, you’re not alone. But I also don’t think we’re that many. That plays in their favour.

    • x4000 says:

      Well, if it’s not your cup of tea, it’s not your cup of tea. There are plenty of games that aren’t my cup of tea. But I think that side view != platformer in the sense that you mean it. Mario and Metroidvania are in two pretty different genres despite sharing the existing of gravity, jumping, and a side view. FPS games have gravity and jumping, too, right?

      At any rate, time will bear things out, but this isn’t intended to be a dumbing-down of the game or a mass-market-ification of the game.

    • kenoxite says:

      OK, OK, we get it. You’re probably creating the Deus Ex of the sidescrolling platformers and we’re too shortsighted to see it :)

      Really, if you want to create a sidescrolling platformer, then go ahead. It’s not a crime nor nothing to be ashamed of. And most people even love it more than before! So, you’ll be alriiiight, guys. Don’t woooorry.

    • x4000 says:

      I’m not calling anyone shortsighted, or claiming to make the next Deus Ex. But I think it’s not incompatible to do the things we set out to do with a different camera angle.

    • kenoxite says:

      >I’m not calling anyone shortsighted, or claiming to make the next Deus Ex
      Obviously you weren’t. Hence the smiley.
      Change that in your mind for a wink or a tongue if you like.

      Anyway, good luck with your stuff, etc.

    • x4000 says:

      Ah, I gotcha. Tone can be hard to tell via text, even with smileys! :)

  38. Starky says:

    Wow, this is a vast improvement – as with many others the perspective in the old top down view made me uneasy, it was just wrong. Especially when it came to the incorrect alignment of light and shadow – made it look like as many complained badly cut and pasted rather than meshing as a whole.

    Now though I can definitely see the art style becoming a plus for the game rather than a crushing detriment. The character animations still need some smoothing out, but overall a vast improvement to the look and aesthetic of the game.

    So well done guys at Arcen, you’ve upped my interest from a 2/10 to a solid 8.

    That said, for the love of god give that woman some jeans or something – she must be freezing her lady parts off.

  39. xaphoo says:

    great, great music

  40. Soon says:

    The music seems more fitting now. But still my least favourite thing (sorry), maybe it’ll grow on me once the ambient sounds and effects are in. If the music’s even final yet.

    Still looking interesting.

  41. Muzman says:

    Making an indie game a platforming side scroller seems about the same as making your Hollywood shooter cover-based third person.
    Clearly some people like these things. Several orders of magnitude less interesting to me though. I hadn’t seen an Ultima-ish perspective game in a long time (maybe I’m just not looking).

  42. Bfox says:

    *sees a pyramid in a side scrolling adventure game*

    Oh when will there ever be another Wonderboy game? ;_;

    In fact, bugger that SEGA are just awful with rebooting franchises, let it rest…

    …back to Terraria.

    • Wulf says:

      Terraria needs massive pyramids and underground temple biomes.

      *nod nod.*

  43. Wulf says:

    It’s interesting that you can easily distinguish those who have or have not played Knytt, Knytt Stories, VVVVVV, Aquaria, and Terraria from these comments. I find it hard to believe that some can think that exploration doesn’t work in 2D games, when it has worked, as proof of concept, perfectly well in all those games. And it has worked better(!) than in 3D games because there’s not the aimlessness of movement that there is in 3D. Exploring (to the end of exploring) in Terraria is a hell of a lot more worthwhile than it is in Minecraft. (Sorry, but this is a truth.)

    And considering that those people have never played the 2D games which exemplify exploration, I don’t really think that they’re the best spokespeople for exploration in 2D games, since they (another truth) have absolutely no idea at all as to what they’re talking about. How can you know what you’re talking about if you’ve never exposed yourself to what you’re talking about? The result is like a Creationist dismissing modern theories relating to natural biological evolution simply because they don’t really understand how those theories work.

    If you’re going to talk about something, at least make sure you have a good basis for it and tell people why exploration doesn’t work in Knytt, Knytt Stories, Terraria, Aquaria, and/or VVVVVV. Because as far as I can tell, objectively speaking, those games pull off exploration within their areas quite well. Terraria/Aquaria doing the best job of it, with completely freeform exploration, followed by Knytt/Knytt Stories with exploration being a little more limited by level design, and then VVVVVV with exploration being secrets. But as I said, there’s more exploration in Terraria than there’s ever been in Minecraft. For me. Simply because there’s more to discover.

    I love Minecraft as much as most people, but I also have to point out that Minecraft is a building and survival game. The only thing you’re really going to be seeking out is resources. And that’s fine because that’s what it does. I love it for doing that. I love building in Minecraft. Notch didn’t design Minecraft around exploration because he knows as well as I do that trying to fill up a 3D world that large with things worth discovering would be kind of pointless. So, again, it’s more building and survival.

    In Minecraft you won’t be wandering around ancient tunnels, older than you are, looking for artefacts of a long-lost race. But you will in Terraria. That’s exploration. And it’s awesome there.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      “I find it hard to believe that some can think that exploration doesn’t work in 2D games,”

      +1 :)

      When I were a nipper all we had was 2D. Technician Ted, Monty Mole, Jet Set W!lly, Brian Bloodeaxe, Dynamite Dan… All 2D, all with plenty of exploration, with caves, caverns and whatnot.

      Then came Knightlore and we had Isometrics. And some other stuff with vector graphics. Mercenary and Elite and stuff.

      But in the main the 80s and the 8-bit machines therein had a lot of 2D platformers that involved a lot of running around and exploring, and I still really enjoy games like that :)

    • malkav11 says:

      I would never claim that exploration doesn’t work in sidescrollers. There are many exploration oriented sidescrollers that prove quite the opposite. Indeed, it’s pretty nearly the only subgenre of sidescroller that I have any interest in.

      However. I have never once encountered a sidescrolling 2D view game that conveyed a convincing sense of place, of an actual world and space one is moving through. I’m pretty sure it’s not possible. Because reality is not a 2D vertical plane. It goes a long way to destroy immersion in the setting and a sense of a coherent, connected gameworld. And I think it’s a bad fit for Valley. Not a gamebreaker – if the game itself proves sufficiently compelling, I can ignore aesthetic qualities that don’t work for me, and it does at least make the art style look better (though it’s still not to my taste and I contend that it would have been better to change art styles than to change perspectives.). But disappointing all the same.

  44. Vinraith says:

    From Chris’ blog post here: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2011/06/valley-without-winds-switch-to-side.html
    And I realized that would be absolutely killer in a side view game — as a kid I had a special love for side scrolling games such as Zelda II, Faxanadu, Ironsword, Metroid, and Castlevania II.

    Ouch. My affection for Arcen is a matter of public record around here, so it pains the hell out of me to say this, but if we’re talking about a switch to a metroidvania-style game I’m probably not going to like it. I’ve never actually seen the appeal of that play style (which is what’s kept me away from Terraria, despite the exploration looking brilliant).

    Realistically, since it’s an Arcen game, I’ll pick it up and try it anyway but my expectations of actually enjoying it are not high. Hopefully I’m wrong. Failing that, hopefully at least it’ll find a broad and interested audience elsewhere, and I’ll just go back to looking forward to the next AI War expansion.

    • x4000 says:

      Yeah, it sounds like you might have gotten left behind — sorry about that. But you know how AI War was a “grand strategic 4X tower defense RTS” according to Tom Chick? AVWW is kinda like that. AI War is not a 4X, nor is it a tower defense game, nor is it really and truly an RTS in the mainstream sense of the word… it’s all and none of those things at the same time, sitting somewhere between all those genres.

      That’s where I exist most comfortably as a designer, is squatting between multiple things that I like but which have never been combined in quite the same way before. So, sure, there’s a substantial Metroidvania infusion that just happened to AVWW, but that’s not going to be what dominates the game solely. It’s perhaps equivalent to the RTS component in AI War, in that it defines the “how things get done” part of the interface, controls and gameplay. But beyond that, all the macrogame stuff that we’ve been talking about since the start hasn’t changed, and is what really provides the motivation and core interest, same as the grand strategic and 4X bits do with AI War. The macrogame stuff is something of a fusion of strategy, tactics, and city building genres, but it’s varying degrees of all of those, and not completely embracing any of them.

      So… from where I sit, it’s hard to know if you’d like it. Terraria and AVWW are as different as Sins of a Solar Empire and AI War, I think. I’m not saying you’re going to like it, I’m just saying that it’s not like we traded all the other bits for Metroidvania. Just most of the Zelda bits.

    • Vinraith says:

      So, sure, there’s a substantial Metroidvania infusion that just happened to AVWW, but that’s not going to be what dominates the game solely. It’s perhaps equivalent to the RTS component in AI War, in that it defines the “how things get done” part of the interface, controls and gameplay. But beyond that, all the macrogame stuff that we’ve been talking about since the start hasn’t changed, and is what really provides the motivation and core interest, same as the grand strategic and 4X bits do with AI War.

      That’s a very helpful analogy, thanks (as always) for the thoughtful reply. As I said, it’s you guys, so I’m going to give it a chance no matter what. Hopefully the macro stuff will grab me strongly enough that the base mechanics won’t be a big deal, or better yet perhaps this’ll be the first implementation of metroidvania style mechanics I’ve actually enjoyed. As you say, it’s hard to know. For that matter, I’ve been struggling with whether to get Terraria for similar reasons, I can’t tell whether the exploration and building would overcome my aversion to the metroidvania stuff or not. The Sins/AI War analogy is probably a good one, there.

      Frankly, you and Keith have enough credibility as game designers with me at this point that you could put out Hello Kitty Island Adventure 3d and I’d have to play it, just to see. :)

    • x4000 says:

      Thanks for all that. :)

      I guess Terraria doesn’t have a demo? That’s pretty odd, but then again I didn’t see one either or I probably would have tried it. Well, we’ll have a demo as always, so folks that aren’t sure what to think can try it and see what they think. My hope is that this will be the first Metroidvania implementation that some folks will actually like, too, but we’ll just see.

    • Vinraith says:

      Nope, Terraria lacks a demo, which does seem like an odd choice.

      Anyway, yeah, I’m hoping you guys will break the pattern for me. Regardless, though, I hope it goes well for you.

  45. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Wow, looks great!

    (I’m not just saying that to be controversial and draw attention to myself btw.)

    I’m perfectly happy with the idea of exploration in a 2D game, ever since playing Jet Set W!lly and trying to find out how the blazes to get down that little hole under the driveway.

    Regarding the graphics style, again, I have no problem with that at all. It’s distinctive, glowy and a bit weird. Sort of like a 2D STALKER I suppose.

    I’m wondering though if the devs considered isometric projection, as in Baldur’s Gate etc.?

    But yeah, I’ll be watching this one with interest.

    • x4000 says:

      Thanks, glad you like it! You’re not alone, it seems to be split here, and is mostly positive in many other places. I think RPS is the hardest sell in terms of side view, or that’s my guess anyway.

      We did consider an isometric view, but that’s never really been something I’ve enjoyed. I can’t think of many isometric games that I liked, and it creates some extra challenges on the art, too.

    • Vinraith says:

      @x4000

      I think I can explain, somewhat at least, why the RPS community is a harder sell on sidescrolling stuff. Indie sidescrollers get a LOT of coverage here. so much so that it’s a popular perception in these parts that the bulk of all indie games are side-scrolling platformers (speaking as someone from a wargaming and strategy background I find this supposition kind of hilarious, but don’t mind me :)). The result is that, in some sense, a switch to a side view is perceived as “becoming just like every other indie game” by a lot of the crowd here.

    • x4000 says:

      @Vinraith: Sure, I get that. I mean, I read RPS too, just not the comments generally. And it’s worse on some other sites, where it seems every other game is a platformer. I just figured that by now the difference here would be apparent, but I guess not. Never assume, never surrender! No, wait, that’s not quite right…

    • Vinraith says:

      When you make an assumption, you make an ass out of you, and umption.

      Wait, that’s not right either…

      Anyway, yeah, there’s a certainly reflexive rejection of anything side scrolling in the comments around here, especially over the last few months. You’re unfortunately catching some of that, but I wouldn’t take it too seriously.

    • x4000 says:

      Given the general reaction we’re getting, the changes to the perspective and the art have been met with general approval. So, I’m not as fussed as I might be. It was the opposite with the other perspective — some folks had come around to it, a few really liked it, but there was general wide disapproval of it. And I wasn’t personally ever satisfied with it, so that was the clincher. I feel good about what is on display now, so the barbs of folks that don’t like the genre or the art style or whatever are less effective.

    • Vinraith says:

      Glad to hear it. Hell, even as someone that’s not a fan of metroidvania-style stuff (per our conversation above) I’d have to say that purely from an aesthetic perspective it’s a better looking game this way.

  46. Premium User Badge

    Hypocee says:

    …no.

  47. Buttless Boy says:

    Well it looks a lot better now that all the flat stuff is on a flat plane instead of some kind of screwed-up birds-eye perspective. But the sprites themselves are still mostly fugly, and the gameplay seems even more combat-oriented than the earlier videos. The latter is fine if that’s the game Arcen wants to make, but I have to wonder why, when they’re willing to change the very core of the gameplay like this, they haven’t considered a different approach to the art style.

    I’m not a programmer but I sometimes see cool graphics being generated with code instead of drawn as sprites. Maybe they should try something like that before they revamp the entire game? Or they could hire someone to do the graphics, but that seems so obvious.

    • keith.lamothe says:


      The latter is fine if that’s the game Arcen wants to make, but I have to wonder why, when they’re willing to change the very core of the gameplay like this, they haven’t considered a different approach to the art style.

      And I have to wonder why you haven’t considered the possibility that we have considered different approaches to the art style :) Or have you?

      Anyway: yes, we’ve thought about isometric, we’ve thought about 3D, we’ve thought about pixel art, etc, etc. With each we found that it does not suit what we’re trying to accomplish.

    • malkav11 says:

      And I guess I’ll have to see, but from here it looks like isometric or 3D not only would suit what you’re trying to accomplish to a T, but certainly far better than this perspective would.

  48. Bassism says:

    I’m one of those weird few who rather enjoyed the old art style, preferred it even. BUT, I will admit that the game is a lot ‘prettier’ now, and you guys put a lot of thought into the change, so I trust that it is the best choice for the game.

    I think that the choice between the two perspectives is relatively inconsequential for the game you guys are trying to put together anyway, so I’m glad that you guys are feeling better about the project, and most people seem to be digging it rather more. The game still sounds like it’ll be right up my alley.

    Who knows, I may even end up buying AVWW before I pick up AI War (you guys made the AIW demo way too big, so I just keep playing that over :P)

    • keith.lamothe says:

      Haha, yea, I played the “intermediate tutorial” campaign for months before I actually got AIW for Christmas. Of course, a bit more than a month later I was working for Arcen and didn’t have a lot of time to play the game ;)

  49. amandachen says:

    “Prior to defeating that bad guy, you’ll have 10-20 hours of NPCs in a wide range of regions who are lamenting the crushing yoke of this overlord in various ways. And if you try to attack the overlord too early, after even finding their keep to begin with, expect to die.”

    Ten to twenty hours? That really needs a rethink. Ten to twenty hours of what? Make the game engaging enough for me to complete in four or five hours, at most, and then give it a little bit of replayability. The whole scope and scale of the game is wrong.

    At least you’ve dropped the hundreds of different types of bushes and trees (I hope). That was a laughable goal.

    • Vinraith says:

      If the game’s fun, that length will be appreciated. If the game’s not fun, what does it matter how long it is?

    • amandachen says:

      I haven’t even seen 2 minutes of fun in these videos.

    • Acorino says:

      I dunno. Watching games is rarely as fun as playing them, now is it?

  50. Cvnk says:

    “LEARN.”

    [character stares at tree, turns and stares at other tree]