AI War 2 Early Access: Good News and Bad News
Hi there! Both Chris and Keith coming at you, this time. So you know something’s up. ;)
What’s The TLDR?
- 1. We’re going to delay the actual Early Access launch on Steam until something like late June or early July. Previously it was intended to be May 29th.
- 2. BUT, for all the “Early Access” level backers from Kickstarter and BackerKit, we’re going to give you your keys on May 29th anyway, as promised.
Why The Delay?
Chris: The bottom line is that we don’t want to have a bad first impression on Steam. We’ve done that too many times in past years, to be frank, and we don’t have a solid reason to do that this time. So we decided not to. :)
Keith: The list of units that need to be implemented by the start of Early Access is dwindling rapidly, but not rapidly enough to leave a reasonable time to make the game generally fun to play before making the game generally available.
Aren’t You Changing Your Recent Story?
Chris: I’ve been saying, repeatedly with every update, that we seem to be on schedule. That things look good. Etc. But now we’re... delaying?
On the one hand, I think that my statements were pretty justified. In terms of actual feature implementation, we are on schedule and have been on schedule. Hooray, right?
On the other hand: something I failed to take into account was looking beyond the raw features themselves and into the deeper player experience. Is this game fun to play? How many people have been able to really beat on it in a playable state versus a prototype state? And other important questions like that.
Keith: When I started the first of the seven new-unit batches intended to get us ready for Early Access, I told Chris that we were on schedule. At the time we were because it looked like those batches were going to go very quickly. That's not what happened, but until I actually told Chris that my schedule evaluation had changed he didn't know. Translation: my bad, sorry.
What Benefits Come Out Of This?
Chris: Having the extra time is beneficial for a number of reasons, mainly in the testing and feedback areas relating to the user experience and gui. That’s more Keith’s area, so I’ll let him speak to that part.
From my end, we’ll be able to have that much more polish visually and aurally when it comes to the initial Early Access launch. Pablo is scheduled to complete a lot of music for the game in June, and that in itself is a big win when it comes to first impressions. We’ll have more of the visual whiz-bang done, and I’ll have more time to make a better trailer and do better screenshots.
This will also give Blue some dedicated time to focus on the GUI with Keith and players. This is one of the chief areas where we feel like we could really have suffered in early Early Access impressions otherwise.
Keith: This delay means we get to playtest the game much more thoroughly before Early Access. This obviously improves the initial impression that phase-launch will make, but also avoids that testing-and-iteration work getting delayed even further because we're putting out fires related to that launch.
We also get more time to work on a UI which doesn't cause Acute Ocular Hemorrhaging (because it won't have been put together by me)
Why Include “Early Access” Backers From Kickstarter Early?
Chris: Firstly, this is something that should help the delay be a little more palatable. We’re not trying to annoy anyone with this change in schedule.
Secondly, and much more importantly, we need a larger pool of testers. Our pre-Early-Access testers have done a great job helping us find a variety of problems, and BadgerBadger in particular has been a bughunting fiend. That said, since the game has been in a prototype phase rather than a true “let’s play the game end to end” phase, the enthusiasm for most people to put in a lot of hours is understandably low.
The May 29th date should represent the start of a period where you can play just to play… but there are going to be sharp edges all over the place that you cut yourself on. As a kickstarter backer who hopefully has an extra degree of investment in the concept of this game, you’ll tell us about these things so we can fix them using that extra month+ that we’re taking.
Then when we hit the actual Early Access launch on Steam, it’s a much smoother experience for the non-kickstarter/backerkit folks. That should be good all around, leading to more positive steam reviews and a better ability to accumulate even more feedback to help make things better prior to 1.0.
Keith: All that said, if you opted for an Early Access tier instead of an Alpha tier because you didn't want to play the game until it was at least somewhat polished, it's better to wait to play until later. Having the key early won’t mean you can’t do that; we’ll keep you apprised of development.
What’s The Downside?
Chris: From an external perspective, if someone didn’t back the kickstarter, and doesn’t want to via backerkit, they’re now delayed in being able to play the game. From an Arcen standpoint, we’re now delayed in gaining income from Steam and Humble. I’d rather have the long-term goodwill rather than short-term money, but nonetheless it is uncomfortable. Overall, since we’re able to give the Early Access tier backers their keys on the intended date, I think the downsides are blessedly few.
Keith: It means we're not doing what we said we would do, which is never good. That said, we hope you understand why this is the less-bad of the available options.
What Else Comes Out Of This?
Chris: This isn’t truly related to the delay, although the timing is nice. But we had some players on the forums asking about having more voice acting for things like units accepting orders. I’ve started the process of getting those lines written (by me) and performed (by a dozen or so voice actors), and we should now actually have time to get all of those lines in place prior to Early Access. I think it’s something that adds a lot of personality to the game, even though I was resistant to the idea at first. And yes, you can turn them off if you don’t like them. :)
I also just want to add that Keith continues to amaze me with some of the revisions he has been making to various mechanics from AI War Classic. The way that warheads are now handled is the most recent example. These things are super exciting, but since they are new I want to make sure that folks have a chance to actually play with them before we hit that first “public Early Access on Steam” period.
How Does This Affect BackerKit?
We have the ability for anyone to preorder the game via backerkit, for that interim period between the kickstarter ending (back in December) and the game becoming available on Steam Early Access. This also allows existing or new backers to select add-ons for extra bonuses for themselves or extra support for us, or both. For those who need to use paypal, we have that too.
The plan on both counts was to disable those on May 29th, when the game hit public Early Access. Since the public Early Access date is being pushed back, we’re going to push the closure date for those two services back as well. We’ll give you advance notice, but basically when the game appears on Steam and Humble, it will disappear off BackerKit and our own paypal link.
Why? Mainly because we can’t indefinitely keep adding user-requested content of the sort that comes with those add-ons. We’re fine for now on that front, but it can’t be an open-ended thing, and the start of the traditional storefronts is a natural closing-off point for this more funding-raising style options.
Chris: I do want to apologize for the disruption, even though as kickstarter backers you’re probably used to projects being delayed. It hardly matters what you’re used to; we still try not to do it to you.
At the present time I don’t see this having any negative impact on our plans for a 1.0 launch in October, but I’ve been wrong before, clearly. If something does cause a delay past October for 1.0, we’ll do the same thing as now and get the 1.0 backers their keys on the original timetable rather than whatever the final market timetable morphs into. It’s very much in our best interest to keep to the October schedule if possible, financially-speaking, but we’re also not going to do anything long-term-stupid for short-term gains, if we can help it.
Keith: What he said. And thank y'all very much for your support. Rest assured, the Player Extermination Apparatus will be happy to solve all your "my other games are too easy" problems when the time comes.
Chris: Once again, on behalf of the entire Arcen team, I’d just like to thank everyone who has supported us, and who continues to support us. We wouldn’t be where we are without you, and we’re super excited about how this game is turning out so far.