Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy.
I’m a software developer, former competitive springboard diver, and father who got into game programming 7 years ago as a hobby. I’m currently the lead developer of Arkis Vir, and am a co-founder of Riveted Games. At this point, I consider development on Arkis Vir much less a hobby, and more of a drive to finish the type of game I’ve always wanted to play!
How did you get started in developing PC games?
When I took my first programming course in college, one of our assignments was to make a text-based game where you would have to guess a number, and the program would tell you if you were “over” or “under.” From that point on, I was hooked. I slowly added more graphics, became a better programmer, and became more ambitious, until I finally had enough rounded knowledge and finished games to consider myself a game developer.
Where did the idea for Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy come from?
I’ve always enjoyed board games, but it wasn’t until I discovered a whole genre of games with high complexity and tons of strategic options that I really started to play them consistently and competitively. As a huge sci-fi fan (I even have a “Dune” tattoo…) I was drawn most to Twilight Imperium, and Eclipse. I was surprised to find out there were no online-multiplayer versions of these games, and after a day of searching I found there were a lot of other people that were seeking out this option as well. I teamed up with my partner Thomas Packer, a 3D modeler and graphic artist, and we decided to design our own game in this genre. The rest is history!
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy?
Let’s start with failures, because there are a lot of those! When developing a game of this scale, there are a lot of different challenges that come into play, but our main challenge was networking a turn-based game with this kind of complexity. Every action a player makes can affect the entire game board, so all side-effects must be tested thoroughly, to the point where I had to develop dozens of regression tests just to make sure the game would run properly after adding a little more logic.
As far as successes, building our first playable, online prototype that encompassed the basic functionality of our game was a huge relief. It was a point where we finally proved to ourselves that we were capable of making this game. Up until that point there was a lot of blind faith and hope that we had the skills necessary. From then on, we have had a lot more confidence, and we’ve learned a lot of hard lessons, to the point where development has become very straight-forward.
In its current form, how close is Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy to your initial vision?
I would say Arkis Vir is around 60% feature complete. We have a lot of visual cleanup to do, but right now we’re spending a lot more time on feature addition instead of bug-fixes. We wanted to release the game this summer, and we are definitely on track to do so. A successful Kickstarter campaign is integral to that plan, because a lot of that funding will go towards some of the more visually appealing parts of the game, but we will definitely have all of our planned features implemented by our deadline.
Some devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game. Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy and if you faced a similar challenge.
The best thing about our game is that the hardest competition you will face are other players. That’s not to say the game itself is as intuitive or easy to learn as it could be, but that’s a challenge we’ve kept that in mind throughout our entire development cycle (which has been almost 1 ½ years now).
Were there any challenges you faced in ensuring Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy would run on the various PC system configurations?
The engine we built our game with has great cross-platform support, so that was a huge help. We still had a lot of testing to do during our alpha stages, and we expect to run into issues with this again in the future, but we have a system in place to resolve it as fast as possible.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy.
Being that our game was inspired by board games, there is a mix of recognizable, simple features, such as our ships and planets, but also more in-depth and detailed art for our races that really gives it character. Balancing these two art styles is a constant challenge, but one that we think will really pay off.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
Allocating the right amount of time to the game so that I have some semblance of a life! There is always a long list of “To-Do’s”, and it’s always growing, so having the will-power to say “No” sometimes so that I can recharge is always hard. It’s better to develop while I’m well rested than when I’m burned out.
How did you go about funding Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
Both Thomas and I funded the game ourselves up until this point, but we have turned to crowdfunding in order to take care of some of the details. Our goal is very modest, and it really is the minimum we would need to make this game a reality. We don’t expect to get rich, or famous, we just want to make a really cool game.
Tell us about the process of submitting Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
We’ve had a great response on Steam Greenlight, and while we haven’t been greenlit yet, we’re hoping we can gain enough traction to be selected soon. As far as resistance goes, there are some people who just don’t like the style or gameplay of Arkis Vir, but being that we are developing in such a niche genre, that’s not surprising.
Did you research similar titles when trying to come up with the launch price?
We definitely did. 4X games in general have above-average prices, so when we were contemplating whether or not to have our game be free to play, we decided against it. Instead, we are releasing at a very modest $10 so that it is accessible for everyone.
Can you tell us why you chose to release a demo for Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy?
We wanted to make sure the game ran on a lot of different platforms. It was a risk because in a game like this, we don’t want our fan’s first impression to be negative due to lack of features, but that is why we chose to have the demo be exclusive.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
So far the support we’ve gained on those mediums has been one of the contributing factors to our popularity. A lot of indie games are fully released before they even get any fans, so we are happy to have a growing group of followers.
How much value do you place on the opinions of those who review Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy professionally?
It depends on who is reviewing it! There are a wide range of reviewers out there, many of them with different motives, but our view is that it’s better to have some poor reviews than fade into obscurity.
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
I definitely would. Like I’ve said, I just really want to get this game in the hands of the players more than anything. We have to be profitable, but after a certain point “PWYW” would be a great way to build our community.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
I think that until other platforms or games come out with significantly better solutions, it will continue to be a thorn in gamers’ sides. Right now, a lot of people do not have any other options when it comes to DRM, and are generally not the ones who would go out of their way to download cracked versions of games. As it is with all other software, there is no possible way to prevent people from cracking your code, so rather than make the players pay the price, I think the gaming community has to come together to support the hard work of studios by purchasing their games.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos and receiving monetization of Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy?
The more people that see our game, the better.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
I think there are 2 types of DLC: one that limits features so that players are required to purchase them, and one that adds features while allowing non-DLC players to still compete. In Arkis Vir, we offer the option of purchasing certain ships or planets that would normally take more time played to unlock. We’ve also been careful to set restrictions on how much purchased content you can take into a game based on your level, so that new players aren’t overpowered by those who are also low level but bought all of their upgrades. We call this buying “Options” instead of “Power.”
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Arkis Vir – Conquer the Galaxy?
Arkis Vir will not be moddable, due to its competitive nature, but I think more than anything it’s a great way for players to dabble in development, and an awesome way to build a portfolio while offering other players some fun content!
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Be patient, stick to your original scope, and don’t give up!