View Full Version : Arcen financial issues

10-08-2010, 02:24 PM
The Arcen (AI War & Tidalis) guys have been having some financial problems lately. First they blogged (http://arcengames.blogspot.com/2010/09/love-ai-war-andor-tidalis-we-could.html) about it and then PC Gamer posted an email (http://www.pcgamer.com/2010/09/30/ai-war-and-the-hidden-cost-of-indie-games/) from one of Arcen guys giving a lot of interesting financial details. From a developer standpoint this is pretty cool, because most people (including us) don't share much detailed sales/financial information.

I don't mean any disrespect for the Arcen guys, however I suspect that this is pretty much the normal state of affairs for most indie companies. Our expenses are pretty steady, but our income has really large spikes around release and sales and then they very quickly fall (actually retail works like this also). If you don't plan for the income to fall off the cliff and you let your expenses get too high, you will go out of business or at the minimum need to lay off people.

So basically Arcen's expenses are much higher than their current income and they are quickly burning through their cash reserves. We were very much in Arcen's state most of the last year. We even took out a small loan to stay in business. For us, it wasn't that I didn't expect the sales spike and drop off, it's mostly that our 2nd game (Kivi's Underworld) didn't sell nearly as well as our 1st (Depths of Peril).

Which brings me to my last thought, it sounds like they did exactly what we did, ship a fairly hardcore game first (AI War in their case, Depths of Peril in ours) and then as their follow up shipped a much more casual game (Tidalis for them and Kivi's Underworld for us). It sounds like that worked out just as well for them as it did for us. As in, not well at all. I haven't really said this publicly, but Kivi's Underworld was basically a mistake. I still think it's a really fun game, it's different from everything else out there, and I'm glad that someone made it. We even have some fans that think Kivi is the best game that we have ever done. The problem is that it just wasn't the right game for Soldak to make. I wonder if this was the same for Arcen and Tidalis.

Anyways, just some random thoughts.

10-08-2010, 02:32 PM
I felt something different about kivis underworld. KU had a lot of classes and moves that were eventually implemented in dins curse as real skills (berserk, shurikens, ranger, etc.) It was more of a sampler game that had a story that you could get into. If it wasnt made, alot of the skills and classes wouldnt be in dins curse so in a way it tested the waters. The one cool thing it did have neither dins or dop could beat-was the fact that you could play as a class without having any knowledge of a rpg player and have a fun time. Dins and dop have a bit of a learning curve and that is why ku is a good rpg if you are a rookie.

10-08-2010, 02:42 PM
I think one of these days I will do a full write up on Kivi. I can definitely see a lot of pros and cons using 20/20 hindvision. :)

10-13-2010, 04:50 AM
I've said it over at Rampant Games, and I'll say it here again. Soldak, Psychic Software, Mode 7 Games etc, they've all had to go through this phase. AI War may be a great game, and has a wider appeal, but they chose where they wanted to head with Tidalis - a saturated market that makes it easy to fall into the product homogeneity trap.

With all due respect, I understand they're not begging for money. But I think that, as Steven mentioned, given that others in this industry can suck it up in silence, Arcen shouldn't be the exception to the rule just to tip the scale in their favour. I'd hate for them to go out of business, but innovation and production should be the rule of the game. Of course it is easy for me, as a bystander, to say this; but, I honestly have a newfound respect for devs who have chosen to take the ball and get back into the field, rather than lament about their financial situation to get attention.

Of course, the immediate good thing that comes out of this, from what I can discern, is that it may sway those who have abstained from legitimately buying indie games, in general, into doing so.

10-13-2010, 11:54 AM
Yeah, when we had our low point I debated about whether I should post stuff or not, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I like being fairly transparent with our gamers, but not really to the point of asking for handouts.

10-16-2010, 11:53 PM
Maybe looking at it in a business sense Kivi's may have been a mistake although to me it's still your most polished game out of the three you have made so far. I think the artists who make the creatures are more in their element creating the Lumen rather than the humans in DoP and Din's since the Lumen come across with much more personality in their looks than the humans which I always thought looked a bit drab in comparison. The variety of unique looking characters you could choose in Kivi's is a complete 180 in terms of visual variety compared to Din's although the hybrid system you introduced in Din's is without question superior in terms of gameplay. I also thought the voice acting was excellent in Kivi's moving the story along and one of the things I miss in Din's was more of a story/history element.

The simplicity of Kivi's did work in it's favor in terms of the UI and the preset levels still feel superior to any dungeon generated in Din's although I think the dungeon generation in Din's is still impressive and a vast improvement over DoP dungeons. I believe Din's is the best game Soldak has made so far but there are some elements of Kivi's that are superior to both.

Mischief Maker
11-04-2010, 02:30 PM
I'm not a business major, but I remember hearing once that businesses that try to reach every customer in the market tend to fail/be less successful than ones who pick out a specific subset of the population and lavish their attention on them.

I think when you're an indie, reaching out to the casual market is doubly dangerous because not only are you not pandering to your established customer base, how do you expect casual gamers to even find your game? Casual gamers ain't reading bytten reviews, that's for sure.

11-06-2010, 08:52 PM
I think one of these days I will do a full write up on Kivi. I can definitely see a lot of pros and cons using 20/20 hindvision. :)

I'd be really interested to read such a write up! Pretty please? =)

12-04-2010, 01:43 PM
I'd be really interested to read such a write up! Pretty please? =)
Me too.

There are a lot of things I liked about Kivi (esp. the sort unified "story" to it), and a few things I didn't (e.g. the character classes being "locked", so you couldn't "choose" what character to play through with, which cut down on replayability).

Anyway, I'm very fond of Kivi, though I do concede that Din's has a lot of elements that greatly improve its playability vs. Soldak's other two games.

So I'd be curious to hear the author's take on Kivi sometime.

12-24-2010, 10:04 PM
Speaking of Arcen, I just bought AI War. It is a fantastic game, and I suspect it would appeal to many of the people who like Soldak games.

01-01-2011, 11:28 PM
I, too, hope you reveal something about your Kivi's experience, and why you think it turned out the way it did.

Obviously, I don't know much about people sitting in your chair, but I suppose I can explain why I've purchased Depths, Din's and now the Din's expansion but not Kivi's. Depths appealed to me because it provided the frenetic "frienemy" dynamic, but without other real people. I play pretty infrequently, and MMOs are simply beyond the time commitment I'm willing to give. Depths gave me that MMO guild competition feel without forcing me to become a shut-in. Or ignore my wife, young child or job.

I bought Din's mostly because I enjoyed Depths. And while I do like Din's, and recognize it is a technical improvement, it hasn't been as much fun for me (but still fun). I mean, the game is neat and I especially like being able to turn myself into a Lich or Demon, but I still like Depths better.

Kivi's I passed over after trying the demo because it didn't really seem to offer anything too interesting to me. I'm not really the kind of gamer that likes to dive too deeply into the lore. Not that I don't appreciate lore, but I think of it sort of like spice - to provide flavor and context to the meat of the game. And again, it lacked the "frienemy" dynamic I find so fun about Depths.

Having said that, I might give it another try. The pacing is probably more to my liking than Din's.

Delilah Rehm
01-02-2011, 01:57 PM
It's my fault, but I will never say KU was a mistake. Some people in my family think Steven quiting his paycheck job and starting Soldak was a mistake. They don't understand.

01-02-2011, 06:51 PM
I didn't like Kivi's too, but that's the one thing I respect about Soldak. You guys can just make whatever you want, and still be happy; furthermore, there's a subtle difference between making what you want, and taking fans' feedback, and I believe Soldak has struck a good in-between. Steven made Kivi, didn't receive the same applause that DoP did, but I'll bet he enjoyed doing it. Then, he moved on and made Din's Curse which is one of the finest ARPGs on the market, because you all listened to our feedback and concerns. That's what I really appreciate about Soldak, and why I'd continue to support Soldak with my wallet and word-of-mouth, even if I don't fully agree with some decisions made.