An early screenshot from the Alden Ridge mid-alpha build
Co-Optimus: You’ve been working on an undead adventure/puzzle-type game, Alden Ridge, for some time now that includes local co-op, with a tentative release date of some time in the mid-2010 time frame. Any chance that the release of AI War on Steam could happen with Alden Ridge and the local co-op could expand to include online as well?
Christopher: Through AI War, Arcen Games now has relationships with a lot of digital distribution channels, and we've proved our mettle to a certain extent to them, so I think there's a very good chance you'll be seeing all of our future titles more widely distributed at launch. There's also a number of retail deals in the works for AI War, and that will also hopefully continue to expand with future titles as we grow our audience.
As for online co-op in Alden Ridge, all of our games are going to support co-op in some fashion -- that's part of the Arcen Games credo, and is simply in line with how I play games in the first place, as I've mentioned. Whether co-op is local or is online is going to depend on each specific game and how it plays. Alden Ridge was built from the ground up as having local co-op only, and it may have to stay that way simply because of technical reasons with that engine. AI War was my first experience with programming networked multiplayer games, and it's a very different style of coding in general. It depends on what all is going on next year, for this title specifically and the state of Arcen's financials, how much breathing room we have at that time, etc, as to whether Alden Ridge will make the jump to online co-op as well as local. It's certainly something that I'd be interested in doing, and now that I've done it with AI War and know what I'm doing, this is something that is a no-brainer for other future projects that aren't already so far along. Our upcoming puzzle game Feedback will have online co-op (no local because it is mouse-based), for instance. We also have a tower defense game planned before Alden Ridge, actually, and that will almost certainly feature both local and online co-op.
Right now the plan is The Zenith Remnant out within a few months, Feedback (the puzzler) out within the February/March timeframe, our unnamed tower defense game out in perhaps Q3, and then Alden Ridge will come after that, perhaps pushed back as far as early 2011. Alden Ridge is already a pretty good game, and is quite fun, but there are some issues with the adventure aspects that I want to make sure and take time to address -- and for me, that means letting it fallow a bit. That's one of the nice things about being an indie developer: if a project is looking promising, but is not yet at the level it needs to be to be really great, I can set it aside until such time as I'm ready to come back and really turn it into something extra special. My wife and I still play Alden Ridge together from time to time even now, though, that said. It's a special game to me, I just want to make sure and give it the time to get it done really right.
There are a lot of exciting projects on the horizon for Arcen, and I'm excited about all of them. Even beyond the titles listed, I'm one of those people who has just rafts and rafts of fairly detailed ideas about games I want to create. I've been creating levels and content and mods for other developers' games since I was around 11 years old, and I've had a growing list of games I want to make ever since that time. Interestingly, ever since I was a kid, co-op was at the center of what I wanted. I really wanted Mario 2 and Mario 3 to support two players simultaneously, like Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers did. After playing Chip and Dale on the NES, and Demon Stalkers on the PC, young me couldn't understand why this wasn't a feature of all games. Twenty years later, I couldn't be more excited about New Super Mario Bros. Wii, because that means that Miyamoto has finally made the game that I've been wanting since 1989. Hopefully other developers will get on board and really turn co-op modes into a more pervasive fixture of gaming.
Thanks again to Christopher for taking the time to answer all our questions, and for being such a vocal proponent of co-op gaming! AI War is available now from Stardock’s Impulse, Direct2Drive.com or the Arcen Games website, and will be available tomorrow from Steam. Copies of the game purchased from Impulse, Direct2Drive or Arcen Games can be integrated with Steam by using the license keys you receive from those outlets.