Time To Go: A Valley Without Wind

By Alec Meer on August 15th, 2011 at 10:36 am.

Ha-do-thingy

There’s no looking back for A Valley Without Wind now – its new, side-scrolling look is signed and sealed, as the below humungo-chunk (17 minutes!) of in-game footage proves. Also now on show from this time-straddling exploration and survival game are brand new character models, plus assorted armour for them to find, craft and wear.

I’m still not entirely sure what to think about the side-on perspective, but it’s definitely growing on me. As it is, this is a game I’m increasingly excited about – procedurally-generated world-roaming with, apparently, a proper layer of game on top of it.

The changing time periods is a neat idea too, and reminds me slightly of obtuse 90s French adventure Future Wars, though I’m sure this is a whole lot less mean and maddening than that. The full list of eras is below too. Meantime, A Valley Without Wind is speeding towards beta, which hopefully means grubby little mitts may be placed upon it soon.

There’s a longer guide to what each of these time periods entails over on Arcen’s design blog. You’ll find yourself wearing different getups in each, as well as facing different challenges:

Unknown Ancient Century – The “Wild Garden” Age
4th Ancient Century – Bronze Age
3rd Ancient Century – Time of Magic
1st Ancient Century – Medieval
4th Modern Century – Pre-Industrial
5th Modern Century – Industrial Revolution
6th Modern Century – Contemporary
9th Modern Century – Ice Age
30th Modern Century – After People

And here’s how some of it plays in action, complete with a developer commentary:

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68 Comments »

  1. Anthile says:

    The music is amazing.

  2. Plivesey says:

    Game looks to be pretty interesting, music is fantastic, and it’s made by the amazing guys at Arcen. Definitely gonna pre-order to get in the beta!

    I’m quite saddened about it turning into a side-scroller though, I think it loses some sense of adventure that way. However, if they added a co-op mode, I think I’d let them off! :)

    • Everyone says:

      Yeah, I hate to say that the conversion to side scroller has killed it for me; gone from “must buy” to “meh”. :-(

  3. theloz says:

    Is that art style final? Because it’s pretty abominable.

    • godgoo says:

      I just cannot get past this…

    • mlaskus says:

      Any specific critique? It could be helpful. The game is still in development and a lot can change. We kept nagging Chris about character animations and now we got shiny new ones that look a great deal better.

    • JackShandy says:

      It’s generic. An instantly recognizable style is absolutely the most important marketing tool an indie game can have: If people couldn’t pick your game out of a line-up, you probably won’t stick out in their minds.

      It also aims for quasi-realistic-ness, which doesn’t seem like a great idea: It kind of conflicts with the way the main character’s somersaulting around throwing fireballs and the side-on nature of the thing, which is naturally a bit abstracted.

    • europeon says:

      I don’t know what the appeal of this game is. The levels are just single planes with random objects sitting around, the combat seems uninteresting, the music is grating, the animation is bad. I can’t imagine any of the time frames giving a distinctive enough feel or appearance to represent what they are named after.

      I realize there is a lot left to do, but i’ve watched most the videos posted here and have yet to see any sort of potential.

    • AndrewC says:

      Oh hey the heavy clouds at the beginning look really nice and atmospheric, the lighting and weather effects look lovely and detailed, and the inside sections look like Impossible Mission! Big ticky pluses!

      But something *still* makes me think it is ugly, even amateurish. I wish I could put my finger on it. There’s too much ‘land’ at the bottom of the screen maybe, so the frame never feels quite focused on the right place? The movement looks clunky, perhaps – with that ‘building up momentum before you run’ thing looking unpleasant, and having no animation attached to it yet, or that there’s no animation for turning around.

      Perhaps, maybe. Something like that. The game looks incredibly interesting.

    • MuscleHorse says:

      Graphically it looks like the cutscenes in games from the birth of the cd-rom. There’s something very plain about all the textures. It is pretty ugly though I remain excited about the game as a whole – I love(d) AI War and I can’t help but want a game from the same developers.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, I think they made the wrong choice going 2D. To me, a 3D game with bad graphics/art style is much less in-your-face and unforgivable than a side scrolling game. Maybe it’s just that I’m used to all of the other artistic indie side-scrollers, but a good art direction seems so much more vital to a side scroller than to a top-down or isometric game. From what I can remember, they changed to a side-scroller in the hopes that it would let them keep the art style. Seems like it would’ve been better to save the game mechanics and change the art style though.

      Nevertheless I think I’m still a little interested in the game, but I’d like to see what game mechanics it can bring to the side scroller table that Terraria doesn’t. I still wish they’d go back to top down though – I just don’t see what benefit there is to making it a side-scroller. I hope they prove me wrong; I like them and their games, so I really do want to like this game.

    • MadMatty says:

      Yeah it re<ally couldve used some art direction at the start of the project. It like AI War where they went from 2d-retro style powerplants and factories, to these pre-rendered 3D style units, making the game an ugly mix of both styles :0 no biggie tho, i love AI war, just saying the two art syles in that game come out mis-matched.
      This one looks bat ugly, and i agree with the comments above- just hoping gameplay will be good in which case ill overlook the garish facts.

    • saturnine says:

      It reminds me of Saira, but not exactly in a good way, if that helps.

    • cafe says:

      I think they made a bad decision going to 2d side scrolling. the 3d looked way better and was much more interesting for a game that is so heavily based on exploration

    • Zyrxil says:

      Sorry, but I have heard absolutely no one say anything good about the art-style. Everything just looks so indistinct and blurry, especially the environments. I also still don’t understand what kind of gameplay you’re going for. Yeah, there’s procedural generation, but what else? Metroid-like? With loot? RPG?

      Honestly, as soon as the switch from 3d to 2d was announced, I thought “Yeah, these guys are in trouble if they can’t even settle on a perspective and had to redo all the art.” I’m not claiming to be an expert, but it seems to me you’d want to nail down that down before refining the gameplay with intensive playtesting and fast iterations, while doing the art very last.

    • Cooper says:

      One thing which stands out here as a problem with the art direction is what hasn’t been done with the tops and bottom of the screen.

      In the buildings, the space on the screen that is not navigable is just black. Which, when the buildings are full of incidental detail such as furniture, may well be fine. Especially if you do things such as hang lights off of the ceiling – enclosed areas inside are fine.

      When outside, this navigable space is expanses of land or sky texture. It makes it look very flat. Which I guess is an odd thing to say about a 2D game, but there’s very little depth to the world.

      http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x60zwo_green-hill-zone-sonic-the-hedgehog_videogames

      A very different game, but you’re still going from one end of the screen to the other. And many repeated assets too.

      The answer here may just be ‘parallax’. The game works best when visibility is limited to the lit area directly around the player. The wide open ice-age spaces early in the video are just plain and flat. put some mountains, some forests, -something- in the background…

  4. Nallen says:

    What’s going on in the image at the top? his hand is clipping through his arm isn’t it??

  5. BurningPet says:

    I really hope this game wont bring arcen to its financial knees, because it doenst look like its gonna sell too good.

    the initial concept was very good though.

    • Mattressi says:

      This is exactly how I feel. All of it.

    • schizopol says:

      I hope so, too. A Valley Without Wind doesn’t seem to be about sales to me, I think it’s for the hardcore crowd, lovers of games from decades ago which have been left at the waysides or never found relevance to begin with. It reminds me of Below the Root more than anything else.

      At its surface, it doesn’t appeal to me. The idea of constantly walking back and forth through doors seems futily mind bending and at the same time frivolously shallow in play experience. Still, watching all 17 minutes leaves me feeling as though these simple actions are merely the most basic notes to a grand scheme of setpieces assembling into a deeply structured world which may very well possess its own carefully crafted nuance.

      Oh, and a lot of the music was good, it sounds like a megaman or castlevania game – earworm quality stuff.

  6. Fierce says:

    The music is great, but it looks like a Metroid re-hash betting on nostalgia value meshed with Terraria style crafting, and it’s a little too Minecraft with it’s “everything indoors/underground is dark except a bubble around you” style.

    Hell, if the levels are designed more like 00:20 to 01:45, I’d personally be much more interested.

    That or a demo.

  7. Kdansky says:

    It’s like Terraria.
    Except Terraria is cute, and this one just looks bland and a complete jumble of stiles (realistic person, except he jumps three times his own height, magic effects that look nothing alike the background, animations which again feel realistic, but they stop and end very abruptly, and the architecture is completely without sense with its ten-story high ceilings, six-story stairs and hundreds of doors with nothing in the rooms except for one enemy per room). Also, the repeating patterns in the background bother me, slap some perlin noise on those textures to break the pattern, will you?

    The underground is too dark too. Have you ever been to a dark cellar? You can actually see quite a lot more than two meters, because our eyes adapt very well to darkness, and even small flashlights give off a lot of light. And more important than realism: Do I really want to play a game where my screen is 80% black all the time? It’s an LCD, it doesn’t even do black well!

  8. DainIronfoot says:

    heh, poser.

    (As in the software)

  9. thebigJ_A says:

    I think it looks a LOT better, artistically, than it did when it first appeared on RPS. It really is pretty.

    I’m saddened that they had to go the side-scroller route, but that may be just my bad memories of trying to navigate in Friday XIII and Rambo on the NES as a kid.

    I’m not quite sure about this game, but I definitely am intrigued.

  10. Eclipse says:

    music and graphics are really awful, let’s hope for some interesting gameplay…

  11. Teddy Leach says:

    So much negativity in this thread. I’m very excited about it.

    • Harlander says:

      Negativity is exciting, isn’t it?

    • Reefpirate says:

      I was thinking the same thing… Everyone seems to come down hard on this one. I don’t know what to think about it yet. Must be frustrating for the devs though to constantly hear feedback about how their art-style is a bit “off” but no one can say why. I think it’s a unique style, and ultimately it depends on how the game works that will convince me to buy it or not.

  12. johnpeat says:

    That certainly looks like an Arcen game – a nice concept wrapped in a megatonne of stuff which varies from innovative to outright weird or even bizarrely offputting! :)

    All we can hope is that they make it something which is different/fun/accessible (the last of which, frankly, hasn’t been a strong point in the past).

  13. Iain B says:

    obtuse 90s French adventure Future Wars
    obtuse 80s French adventure. I’ve still not forgiven its follow up Operation Stealth for that cheap trick with the elastic band.

  14. clownst0pper says:

    It now reminds me of Shadow of the Beast.

    Anyone remember that? Awesome it was.

  15. Kleppy says:

    Hey, genuinely interested here… how come this game is getting so much coverage on RPS? I remember something like 4 articles for this even when it was months away from pre-alpha. Are the creators involved with the site in any way?

    I mean it really doesn’t look very good, I’m just wondering if I’m missing something.

    • mlaskus says:

      It’s most likely the combination of the fascinating ideas planned for the game, Arcen’s history(admittedly short) of releasing interesting and unique titles that they support incredibly well post release and them being really nice people in general. They’ve earned themselves quite a reputation and a new title they are working on is something that a lot of people are looking forward to.

    • AndrewC says:

      Also they are being really open about showing the development process. That’s really rare, and really interesting.

  16. Crimsoneer says:

    This looks awesome, you whiny bitches. Give me a beta.

    Also, I actually rather like the art style. 2 things I feel rather weird about –
    Combat: It seems to be about throwing fireballs at everything
    Somersault thingy: That is going to get immensely tiring

    • Plivesey says:

      I imagine that there will be a lot more spells and forms of combat come release, at least I hope so. Here’s also hoping that the animations differ depending on which character you play as (or, at least, that there is a few sets of animations instead of every character having a somersault).

  17. Mr_Hands says:

    It looks to me like they’re still fleshing things out. I don’t think the video previews are kind to the art style, which has probably gone a long way towards hurting public perception. Though, the images posted on Chris’ blog look pretty alright. Still hoping the animations are cleaned up a little bit, but for pre-beta, it all looks reasonable.

    Also, if I recall correctly, part of the delay in getting the beta out was that Arcen decided that multiplayer was indispensible for AVWW. So here’s hoping that’ll be showcased soonish. I, for one, am pretty okay with the graphics/switch to 2D.

    Really, though, I wasn’t a fan of Terraria’s art style at all. What sold me was how robust the crafting system was. The neat little touches like floating islands and different regions that rewarded exploration. The idea that I had to summon boss monsters and build my own house.

    Far as I can see, AVWW is shaping up like any other Arcen title: some seriously out-there and admittedly pretty interesting ideas, coupled with sometimes-uneven graphics that were clearly a labour of love.
    The questions/concerns that remain are: how intensive is the crafting system? And: how meaningful are the spells?

    Also, all that stuff about researching new scrolls sounds pretty interesting.

  18. somnolentsurfer says:

    This suddenly looks way more interesting.

  19. Lazaruso says:

    Good God, Activision/EA/Call-of-Duty don’t even receive this much bitching. Did Arcen kill your family and eat your dog or something?

    • Mattressi says:

      I don’t understand why people keep saying that everyone is bitching and complaining. A lot of people have said that they don’t like the art style, a few have said that they don’t like that it’s a side scroller, many have said that the animations are bad…but I don’t see anyone complaining, as if Arcen owe them something. Actiblizzard/EA/CoD have people commenting saying how the company is evil or hates PC or is dumbing down gaming, but this game doesn’t have people hating the developers – just expressing that it’s not what they like. Why are people so averse to people voicing their opinions? Are only positive comments needed?

    • Shuck says:

      I think a lot of people are intrigued by the idea but not so hot on some of the particular implementations and are hoping it might change by giving feedback, because they ultimately want to like it.

  20. goodgimp says:

    One of my most anticipated games this year. I don’t understand all the bitching about graphics ON AN INDIE GAME. If you want a pretty but boring game I can introduce you to any number of AAA titles, you thick-browed monkeys.

    • wodin says:

      Have you seen some indy games out there? Bastion looks amazing…Terreria looks ten times better than this…I’m judging the graphics on an indy RPG or side scroller game…and it looks awful.

    • Eclipse says:

      Also Capsized, Limbo, Aquaria, Nyx Quest, A.R.E.S., Super Meat Boy and so on, just not to mention stuff like Trine

    • Buttless Boy says:

      This is a weird thing to say. Indie games are way more likely to be pretty than AAA titles.

    • malkav11 says:

      Some of my favorite indie games have graphics that are functional at best – Spiderweb Software’s RPGs, for example. The art I’ve seen so far for AVWW – and I realize that this is early development yet so I hope and pray it will get better – is actively -ugly-. There’s a difference.

  21. wodin says:

    Looks better as a side scroller…but still looks terrible…bad animations and awful looking critters…they should have done a fallout 1\2 style iso look…

  22. Basilicus says:

    Pros: Art design, level design, apparent volume of content

    Good but not my thing: the music

    Cons: Gameplay, sound design, animations

    I don’t know what to think! I thought previews were supposed to tell me what to think!

    • JackShandy says:

      You’re listing art design as a pro?

    • BurningPet says:

      and level design?

    • Basilicus says:

      I’m reading into it, but yes. I like the art design of the world. Not so much the characters or spells, thus animations being a con. The office building was meh, but he said it’s not finished, and the underground bits looked varied and interesting.

      My biggest gripe would be that more than half the content of this vid takes place in a 2D world without any elevation. Your camp, the office building, and the overland bits were all pretty much straightline. There needs to be platforming in your platforming or else it’s essentially 1D. Little, two-step, mini-rises don’t count. Without some good platforming combat, this game is going to get repetitive. They did just make the switch to 2D, though, so maybe that’s on its way.

  23. fenriz says:

    I don’t get it, what’s the exploration about? What’s the challenge?

  24. mr.doo says:

    Time goes by and this game still looks like a steaming pile of shit. I mean I love roguelikes and I can bear bad and/or very basic graphics but this is just painful to look at and it doesn’t look like the gameplay is going to save it, specially now that it’s a side scroller.
    Also being indie isn’t an excuse, specially since this is going to be sold. I’ve never seen a commercial indie game looking this bad.

  25. icupnimpn2 says:

    I miss the days where you could search out and acquire items and weapons instead of having to search out random ingredients for items and weapons, then having to place them in obscure combinations to possibly craft desired items and weapons.

  26. 7rigger says:

    I was looking forward to this *so* much. But the side-scroller thing is probably going to be a no-go for me, looks like it’s completley changed everything about the game I was looking forward to :(

    Then again, I don’t like Terreria either so I am obviously a freak to be ignored :P

  27. Eric says:

    I’m okay with the 2D, I think, though I agree that the whole thing looks a little generic. The second he goes inside, though, it loses me completely. This door takes you to a bland hallway, and at the end of it there’s a door that takes you to a bland room, and then there’s some more doors to other hallways… I don’t have any idea how you’d keep track of it – it all feels completely disconnected – or why you’d want to. It doesn’t feel like there’s any flow to the locations at all.

  28. protorp says:

    Having not spent the time watching a whole preview video of this since those first weirdo isometric ones that came out, I have to say that I am suddenly WAY more excited, having initially been a little bit downheatened…

    The 2d style looks pretty smooth at 1080p – simplistic in some ways, but I’m getting kinda a Flashback / Prince of Persia feel from it which I really like.

    I have no doubt, having played AI war, that the gameplay will be deep, challenging and fascinating. And now I feel like the presentation isn’t going to get in the way of it, for me personally, at least.

  29. Spider Jerusalem says:

    It looks like a game I might play on armorgames.com.

    That is…not a good thing.

  30. RyuRanX says:

    Nice art style, but shallow and unninteresting gameplay. It could have been a Rogue-like Metroidvania.

  31. Daiv says:

    I generally thought AI War was graphically less than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, gameplay wise the game was the sum of parts I didn’t even know it had, and I’m pretty sure there are parts out there nobody has discovered yet, and it is the sum of those parts too.

    Everything in me says “meh”, but it did about AI War too and that game blew me away (and still does). I think my “meh detector” needs calibration.

  32. Bart Stewart says:

    I’ll admit up front to thinking that chiptune-like music, even if done well, is not the best fit for this game. And I don’t have the same love for Metroid-style gameplay that AVWW’s creator does. And I really, really wish it could have been done as a straight 3D world.

    All that said, there are some remarkable aspects to this game that people may not be considering fairly.

    For one, there aren’t enough people at Arcen to crank out all of the assets needed to do this as a “normal” 3D game. Instead, Chris and Keith are emphasizing the procedural aspect of the game — it creates new content on-the-fly when you’re ready for it. With that being really hard to do in 3D (even Miguel Cepero isn’t trying to do it in realtime), Chris initially tried to do a semi-isometric look. After that got savaged by some generous commenters here at RPS, eventually the choice was made to go with a side-scrolling model.

    Given the constraints, it’s a design choice I suspect even some of the critics here would have made. If you don’t personally care for the look, that’s a matter (mostly) of personal taste — it’s not a good enough reason to flame somebody who’s actually doing the hard work of making a game. The harshest critics here might think about trying that themselves if they think it’s so obvious how to do it right.

    Furthermore, even this 17-minute video isn’t showing some of what will be most interesting about A Valley Without Wind, and that is the overworld. The point behind the mechanical gameplay we’re seeing currently is that the world has shattered (apparently) into multiple time frames. Your goal is nothing less than to help restore civilization to the fractured world. You’ll do this not by beating up on the local wildlife — killing standard enemies yields ZERO XP and no loot, either — but by helping NPCs in scattered villages achieve their hopes and goals, and by slowly defeating ever-more-difficult regional overlords to free those lands forever.

    We still haven’t seen much at all of this over-game. But it’s been described to us in general terms — enough to know that just running around flinging fireballs at skelebots is not The Game. It’s part of the game, and not unimportant to having fun playing. It’s definitely not the entirety on which this still-pre-beta version of AVWW should be enjudgened, either.

    Again, I’m not a blind booster of this or any other game. But I do think it’s got more going for it than some commenters are giving it credit for. Maybe the senior writers here at RPS aren’t entirely dim when it comes to recognizing in-work PC games with the potential to be something special…?

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