Later This Month: A Valley Without Wind Beta

By Lewie Procter on September 13th, 2011 at 3:51 pm.

That cloud is going to be there for a long time.
Arcen Games have been busy tinkering away with their experimental procedural explore-and-survive ‘em up A Valley Without Wind, and they’ve got news for us. Last month they teased us with footage, flaunting its newly reinvented sidescrolling makeover. This month Chris Park of Arcen games has taken to his blog, to unveil a whole host of new details about the game’s design, and features that they are including. Shall we take a look?

Discussed are changes that have been made to permadeath:

Our goal with the permadeath mechanic, unlike in roguelike games, has never been to punish the player or end the game. Rather, what we’re trying to do is craft a large and meaningful world where actions matter — and what action is more narratively meaningful than someone dying? That person is then gone forever, and people may have emotional reactions to this, etc. It’s one of the few truly one-way doors of the human experience.

The thorny topic of difficulty settings:

When you start a new world it will now first ask you for a Strategic Difficulty and an Action-Adventure Difficulty. If you aren’t sure what you want, you can take your best guess and then change it at any time while you’re playing. You’ll never have to start a new world just because your feelings on the desired difficulty level have changed. But splitting out this difficulty lets people have a difficult strategic experience and an easy action-adventure experience, or vice-versa, or anything in between.

And also revealed is news that later this month they are going to be releasing a single player beta version to all preorder customers, and they’ll be gradually updating on a “daily-or-nearly-so” basis until it’s ready for 1.0 release, hopefully early next year.

Read all the latest on A Valley Without Wind, straight from the horses mouth, right here.

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33 Comments »

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  1. Dominic White says:

    I really hope this turns out well, but given that it’s supposedly quite sprawling and ambitious, but still got completely redesigned into another genre (practically speaking) about two months ago? I’m rather worried.

    • Tim James says:

      Don’t worry about the mechanics of the development. Chris Park is prolific. He’ll keep working on the game until he gets it right. The only question is whether you care for where it ends up. But that’s just personal taste.

    • CoyoteTheClever says:

      Pretty much, the Arcen Games staff is pretty amazing.

    • Dominic White says:

      Oh, I don’t doubt that this’ll keep expanding and improving for probably years after release – I’m a huge fan of AI War for this reason. I’m just worried that they’re pushing the initial release out too early, especially after making such massive design changes.

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      Hodge says:

      I was initially really put off by the perspective switch, having similar misgivings about such a drastic change mid-development but also simply preferring the top-down look.

      Watching a couple of gameplay videos turned that around for me, and I’m now somewhat looking forward to it again. I get the impression that the switch hasn’t really changed the game that much, apart from giving the player less directions to get lost in, which in such a sprawling game seems like a good thing.

      Also: with the new look the game reminds me hugely of the late-era C64 Metal Warrior series.

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    Crimsoneer says:

    I’m fucking excited. AI War was awesome.

  3. CMaster says:

    I’m still interested in theory, but I have to say I’ve never enjoyed open, explory 2d platformers very much. That whole Metroidvania thing just isn’t for me.

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    Anthile says:

    Am I blind? I can’t find any pre-order button on their website.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      I couldn’t see one either, perhaps they are waiting until the beta is actually available (possibly to avoid the trouble that the likes of Notch and The Indie Stone had with paypal/google checkout).

    • Mr_Hands says:

      Yeah, no pre-order yet. I imagine that’ll go live when the beta does. Either way, I’ve been dying to give Arcen more money, so, yay!

    • Nice Save says:

      Chris has said on the forum that he doesn’t want to take any money until he has something to give for it.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Notch only had trouble with PayPal when he suddenly started receiving 50 billion Euro a second.

      But yeah, best to only sell something when you have something to sell.

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      Daiv says:

      @TillEulenspiegel:

      One day I hope I have that problem.

  5. DrGonzo says:

    I haven’t seen this since it was isometric and a bit wonky looking. This however, looks really appealing. Keeping my eye on this one!

  6. Freud says:

    The video last month made the game look tedious. A side scrolling game where you had 5-6 doors on the screen and you have to go in and out in each of them to explore? That’s taking a page out of the absolutely worst design of C64.

    Combat that looked very uninspiring (stay on lower ground and shoot stuff in the legs until they die).

    I hope I am wrong and the game turns out ok.

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      Eric says:

      I’m with you. I like a lot of the gameplay concepts that get talked about with AVWW, but that video completely turned me off.

  7. sinister agent says:

    I’ll keep an eye out for this one, but I don’t think i’ll be buying, at least not for quite a while. Not quite my thing, and my ‘to play’ pile is long enough already. But I hope it goes well for them; they seem like a good bunch, and AI War is great.

  8. pakoito says:

    So it’s Terraria but with Human Feelings. Hummmmmmmm

  9. bluebogle says:

    One of my more anticipated games at the moment. I was a bit more excited about the original top down view, but hell, loved Terraria, how bad can a side view be here?

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    Lambchops says:

    I’m still optimistic about this. While I think the change to side sroller made the game look somewhat lest distinct and aesthetically interesting I have a reasonable amount of faith in Arcen as a team (still haven’t got into AI war but it looks fantastic and Tidalis is one ob the best matching type puzzlers of recent years) so I can’t help but look forward to this, even if it delivers on just half of its potential it wil still be very interesting.

    • mihor_fego says:

      Exactly the same sentiments here. I haven’t found the peace of mind and time to really go deep into AI War, but Tidalis is a wonderful game. It’s exactly what they had promised, a hardcore match puzzler, with enough game modes I still haven’t seen all of after tens of hours of playing. By the way, the guy doing their music is a genius. The soundtrack to Tidalis is one of my favorites ever.

      As for AVWW, my only worry is how it’ll fare for them commercially, cause they move in so different directions from game to game, that they can’t rely on fans of their previous games. Also, the metroidvania style is one people easily compare to puzzle platformers or hardcore platformers, even if they’re totally different genres. Thing is, with a procedurally generated immense world, you can’t have the graphic detail or really perfected art style of smaller games. Already there has been harsh criticism concerning the graphics, but since these guys managed to import the whole beast of AI War in a new engine, I really believe they can work on animations or such stuff after the main game is complete. Perhaps it’s growing up on Turrican and similar Amiga games that makes me feel the graphics are not that bad.

    • BurningPet says:

      I basically said this after hearing about tidalis. they generated a solid fan base, something which a lot of commercially successful games havent and they never expanded on that fan base. the very same fan base wasent fans of match 3 games, and that showed in the sales of tidalis, and i fear they arent of fans 2d side scrolling platformers.

      they had such a solid game, that their experience and reputation from making it along with their birth given innovation could have created a strategy game which would have appealed to the masses yet pleased the hard core fans.

      yes, they might got tired of the strategy genre and wanted to expand, but i honestly think they could do so with a much better bank account resulting in much better future games.

      I also said this – i fear this game will be the final straw financial for arcen. i really hope it wont be though, they are one of those few development teams that deserve to make good money and more importantly for them – keep developing games.

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      I dunno, from what they’ve said previously it seems that the worst that might end up happening is they go back to making more AI War content, which it seems they’re going to do some of anyway.

  11. apm says:

    did u guys even listen to the awesome music?

  12. mr.doo says:

    Several months later and the game still looks hideous. Plus another metroidvania ? Thanks but no thanks

  13. Wulf says:

    I’m sad to say it but I took one look at a video for this and thought ‘no, this isn’t for me.’

    Now that’s not about me being narrow-minded, because I’m so much the opposite that my brain might fall out, and it’s not about me making early judgements either, despite how I’m prone to those. No, this is about the UI.

    When I looked at Dragon Commander I saw an RTS that I could play. That was amazing and exhilarating, it’s because the UI was designed in such a way that it didn’t feel like it was trying to spurn people with poor sight. I really want to point at Dragon Commander and say to people that if you’re designing a PC game, do a UI like this. Or at least offer it as an option.

    Now I know that some people who’re far too up in the whole PC Master Race thing like their microscopic fonts, but one thing to remember is that when you use microscopic fonts, you’re disregarding an entire demographic whom are basically unable to read them. Even with glasses it would be eye strain, and due to the nature of my condition, I can’t use glasses (degenerative condition with the optic nerves, glasses do nothing). And we’re all getting older. All of us.

    I see this, and I see Project Zomboid, and I think of how many people with visual disabilities are just going to disregard these games because they can’t play them and I think to myself… why? Is it really that hard to provide either a spoken aloud UI or larger fonts? It doesn’t even have to be professionally done and you can even hide it in a configuration file somewhere, but why not? I thought indie games were about reaching beyond the mainstream, but yet you’re casting out so many people by using an interface that only a much more limited amount of people could use.

    Magicka I managed to get away with because, after posting on Arrowhead’s forums, they actually told me which files were responsible for the fonts. (Bless ‘em.) And with that information I went and swapped the fonts around. End result? A game I could enjoy the story of! It just amazes me that the indie development community of all places so readily disregards accessibility concerns. Not only mine, but those of colour blind people, and those with hearing disabilities.

    Valve are on top of this. See, people see the pointers to health boxes in L4D as patronising, they rant loudly about how they shouldn’t be there, and that’s all that they can see. These people are narrow-minded bigots. :| Someone has to say it, right? The thing is is that Valve’s system is all about accessibility. They do stuff that helps colourblind people (they do it in Portal, it’s subtle but I spotted it and appreciated it, despite not being colourblind myself), they have closed captions for the hearing impaired, and they have things like visual prompts for people with bad sight.

    Why can’t other developers take a page from the book of Valve? This is something I’ve ranted about before at length, but I always feel like it falls on deaf ears, and then I don’t buy those games.

    Even Minecraft has a nice, big, accessible UI, and Minecraft also has audio prompts for people who’re visually disabled. Has no one noticed how friendly Minecraft is to visually disabled people? Well, it is. And that’s one thing I praise Notch for. For all the bad people may have to say about Notch, he did consider that. As much as I love Terraria, I still have to play it at a low resolution because (surprise, surprise) there’s no UI scale option.

    I’m just surprised, I suppose.

    I think I’d rant about this every time I see an indie title with an imperceptible UI (for those with poor sight) and it’ll always fall on deaf ears. By this point I think I’m just about to give up and say, okay, sod it. I’ll just silently strike off games which aren’t designed for accessibility.

    I really don’t understand it, though. In an interface like what they have there with A Valley Without Wind, they could increase the font size 10x without it hurting anything. It’s like it’s set tiny just to please those who believe that a PC game isn’t a PC game unless you need a magnifying glass to read the text. And I’m sorry… but that really, really annoys me.

    Okay, said my piece, shutting up now. This is likely the last rant I’ll have about this, but the prior rants were much more placid, maybe if I point out just how silly it is to not have a font option and be a bit more forceful with that, people will take note. Who knows?

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      Lambchops says:

      Wulf while I symapthise with your problem I’d like to emphasise your own words.

      “Magicka I managed to get away with because, after posting on Arrowhead’s forums, they actually told me which files were responsible for the fonts. (Bless ‘em.)”

      Why assume that Arcen wouldn’t do the same?

      I agree with you that designer’s could be more on top of UI design at times but it’s hard to forsee the range of problems, the real test is whether they help when such problems occur.

      Oh and I agree they should most definitely have forseen this one though, even with that video from last month fullscreened the font style and size make the text nigh on unreadable; perhaps they spend to llong peering close to their screens all day! Sure this wont be an issue by the time the game is released though, it’s from a month ago and if we’re already moaning about it I’m sure someone else has already pointed it out!

    • pakoito says:

      Insanity Wulf.

    • Starky says:

      @Lamb

      It isn’t hard to consider the most basic of UI design basics though – A few simple options can make the game playable for probably 90% of the people who couldn’t without those options.

      Those are simply – The ability to resize text, the ability to change the colour/size of UI elements.

      Sure you can’t design a game for the 10% of 0.1% of gamers who might have really rare issues, that require specific knowledge and specific measures to handle – but you can easily make the most basic of measures.

      For the physically disabled simple measures can be taken too – the ability to rebind controls, even basic stuff such as movement – the ability to map the controls over different devices – luckily are all pretty good for PC games, but console games are a bloody nightmare.

      A buddy of mine has both arms paralysed (he can walk, everything else is fine – but the nerves that control his arms were destroyed by shrapnel in Afghanistan), he can twitch his fingers but nothing else. I recently built him an 360 controller that lets him control an analogue stick with his mouth, and 2 2*4 light pressure tactile buttons with his fingers (and 2 buttons for each thumb) – in which each button can be assigned to control any function of a 360 pad (including a second analogue stick – 6 of the buttons are pressure sensitive and can be assigned to any of the analogue axis).
      Seriously though, not everyone has a electronics nerd as a buddy and a few hundred quid for him to build a controller. Bill came to about £215 in components – mostly in custom made tactile switches (off the shelf components just didn’t cut it for his needs) – the rest was an arduino and some switching circuitry connected to 360 controller circuitry)

      I was almost tempted to start a charity designing controllers for the disabled (specific to their needs) – but I have the feeling if I did it would consume my life, and I’d end up broke, or feeling bad making money from it.
      Now he can play almost all Xbox games and assign the controls to something he can use.

    • BobTheJanitor says:

      Arcen are quite good about adjusting their games to make them enjoyable for everyone. They have changed visual cues in AI War for the color blind and that game even has a ‘Reduce Visual Stimulation’ setting that was put in to help people who can’t deal with a lot of bright busy effects. The developers are easily the most involved and accommodating devs I’ve ever seen. I would be surprised if they didn’t find a way to fix any sort of accessibility issue as long as it was brought up to them.

    • kemeno says:

      What BobTheJanitor said. Sounds like readability is a dealbreaker for you, so if you think it’s a game you’d otherwise be interested in, why don’t you ask them about it? (The Arcen devs are REALLY active on their forums and they even seem to lurk around here, so they might be listening!)

      Also, I’d add that from a lot of the videos, those little maps like the one in the top-left and bottom-right (the latter haven’t been in most of the screenshots, but they’ve been in the videos) have a zoom-in button, so it might not be as far fetched an idea for them to do some sort of scaling on the text as you think.

  14. adonf says:

    I still believe that it should have looked like a pop-up book, like the original design but with the objects and characters more upright as the character moves faster. Well I guess I’ll have to make this game myself.