PAX Prime Preview: Indie Developer Arcen Games

PAX is upon us dear readers! To celebrate I interviewed Arcen Games, one of the many indie gaming companies attending PAX this year. Erik Johnson gives us the DL on Arcen’s games, including its newest addition to the family; “A Valley Without Wind”. 

Full Nova Zero: Could you give us a quick breakdown of your games?

Erik: Our first game was AI war; a hardcore strategy game for the type of people who want their games to never end, and always have the AI reworking their tactics on you so you never have the upper hand. You constantly have to be switching up your tactics and not be obvious with how you’re going about your business. The whole point of the game is that the AI have obliterated almost all of humanity, so they’ve won. The robots have defeated the humans, essentially, except for small pockets of humanity left, and it’s like the last chance to make a run at these guys. So the idea is you can’t go running into battle, that would be stupid. The AI are much bigger and more plentiful than you, so you take key points by taking certain planets outside of their ranks and get more and more into their ranks. It’s a very difficult game to get into- it’s not for everybody. But, if you’re into strategy RTS management kind of style of games, you could have a lot of fun. Everytime you go into it, it’s a new experience. It’s a single player, but it’s way more fun co-op, and you can win more if you use co-op, because you will die a lot. (laughs)

Tidalis, our second game, is a different genre compared to AI wars. By the way the game looks, it would remind of you of a “Bejeweled” type game. Essentially, it’s a very fun streaming puzzle game with tons of different modes from the easiest of modes to complex.

I was actually quite addicted to Tadalis for a while, so thanks for that. (laughs)

That’s awesome that we could interrupt your life a little.

Our third game, A Valley Without Wind, is a procedurally generated 2D side scroller with some elements of many genres. In particular a lot of the Super Nintendo feel- Super Metroid and Castlevania. It also has other elements like city building, which we recently rolled back in. The idea is that, instead of Metroid and Castlevania which is lock and key, you have various locks that can be unlocked with dozens of different keys. You have lots of different choices on how you want to go about defeating the bosses in the different levels. It’s gotten better and better as it’s gone on. We’ve mingled with the player community as it’s continued to grow so we get these new ideas all the time and these notions that we’ve never had before- like we get these revelations where it’s like, “Put that in the game now!” That’s what’s fun about the game. The idea with our games is that we don’t stop developing those titles.

At this moment in time, the games made by Arcen are for PC and Mac only. If given the chance, would Arcen ever sail into the waters of console gaming?

You know, we go back and forth. A Valley Without Wind is probably the only game that would make sense to go to consoles. The main setbacks for that coming to consoles is, we update the game all the time. You can’t do that on PS3, 360, or Wii without paying a lot of money to go through certification. Since we update our games a lot, why would we pay any money to patch the game? That doesn’t make any sense to us. Microsoft sees it from the perspective of, “It’s a final product, so why would you need these patches”, but that’s madness. You can’t release a game and expect it to be bug free, that’s impossible. So, to have Microsoft assume that when you release their game on their platform that it’s ready to go and not need a patch or an update, it’s either really arrogant or you’re not paying attention to how games work.

Nintendo, on the other hand, is surprising me with their support for Indie developers for their digital store. They really want to make a splash with their digital store, and you can tell. For us to move A Valley Without Wind to consoles, it probably won’t be anything but the Wii-U. That makes sense because of potentially patching the game, but the controls make sense for the game pad. Nintendo has said it before- if any MMO was going to work on a console, it is going to work on the Wii-U, because of the screen on the controller, and how you could map out the button configuration pretty well. I think that would be really cool, especially on Nintendo’s console, because I think it works well as a representation of a nintendo product, even if it may have been 15 years ago (laughs).

Be sure to check out Arcen Games at Indie Megabooth (#868) this weekend at PAX! 

AI Wars, Tidalis, and A Valley Without Wind are all available on Steam, and at


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About Janessa Olson

I like dogs, cake, archaeology, and preparing for the imminent robot uprising.

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