I love action games, I really do. When it comes to putting a disc in and kicking back the stresses of the day about 80% of the time it will be an action game.
I suppose it’s why I could never get into Minecraft much, I’d rather be shooting people and ducking for cover than thinking laterally and building stuff.
I suppose it harks back to a time when games didn’t involve the slow reveal, everything was a side scrolling platformer and it was all action, all the time.
So to my surprise upon inspecting the Indie games on the Xbox Live Arcade I came across a game called Arcadecraft. My first thought was ‘Minecraft with arcade machines’ but this game is so much more.
Once you have downloaded the game for 240 Microsoft points (about £2ish) the first thing you get to do is name your Arcade, I called mine Baldy’s for obvious reasons. Then there is a comprehensive tutorial where you are given some start-up money to buy a few machines and start making some cash. The thing is making money isn’t easy. At first you will have one maybe two machines, and it will be like this for some time.
The aim of the game is simple, have the best arcade around all the while making sure your overheads remain in the green or you will go broke and the Arcade will shut down.
As you get more money you can buy better machines that will in turn make you more money. The cool thing is nearly everything is customisable, you can change the difficulty of the arcade machines, how much it costs to play, the colour of the floor, pillar placement and neon signage.
When you finally start to earn good money you can fit this place out however you see fit, be warned though, the more game machines you have the higher power you use which boosts your overheads, then there is the fact you need to buy a bigger power box to run them, then there are many machines for you to maintain.
As you become more successful the game becomes a challenge, harder to maintain and fun.
Then there is the fact the patrons of the game aren’t just any old joes, no they are all your friends from your Xbox friends list, avatars and all.
I was standing behind the till dressed as a bald Han Solo, in walks my wife dressed as the vault wanderer from vault 101. Then wanders in a mummy, a dude dressed as a modern day cowboy and some chick in cosplay.
These are my friends, the ones whose avatars I check often to see what games they are playing. That is me behind the desk and I own this place, somehow this little touch makes the game more personal and easier to stick with.
It is definitely a good way to waste some time, the graphics are great for an indie game and the sounds are fairly authentic.
I feel this game could do wonders on the Ipad or maybe even PC but I could see people casually playing this on their Xbox 360.
Personally I found the game to be a joy, a step out of my comfort zone and into a world all too different, and one where I can run my own business and chuck my pals out when they become too rowdy, a place where I can make every game extortionate and make my patrons angry. It’s certainly a game that I can dip in and out of whenever I have ten minutes to kill.
I give this game
It might not be for the hardcore gamer but for you casual folks out there I can almost see you widdling away the hours making the business your own.
Below is an interview I had with Matthew Leigh who is the founder of Firebase Industries the guys behind Arcadecraft:
Matthew thank you very much for agreeing to answer my questions.
Now I really enjoy playing Arcadecraft which is your new game out on the Xbox Live Arcade under the Indie tab.
Not only is it different to what everyone else is doing but it harks back to an era where we had games like Theme Hospital and Sim City.
This year with a new Sim City game coming out I’m sure people are gearing up to manage their own cities. I say what better way to start than by managing your own arcade.
Firstly how did you guys come up with the concept of an Arcade managing game?
After Orbitron: Revolution was released on XBLIG (Xbox Live Indie Games) and didn’t do that well we started thinking about what sorts of games seem to catch on in the XBLIG Marketplace. A few factors jumped out at us.
First was Avatars. As much as core gamers seem to hate them, they have a massive audience of people who really enjoy them.
Second was player customization. The miner games are based around customization and creation. Avatar Legends was also really hot and that game was all about creating your own adventure.
Third was that the games were somewhat unique, had great hooks, or not available to be found elsewhere on the console. Yeah, official Minecraft is out now but it wasn’t back then so the Miner games were selling big. There isn’t anything else like Avatar Legends on the service, and even the comedy or dating based concepts are unique there.
Orbitron:Revolution was about being a spaceship shooting at other spaceships for points. Our competition was about 1000 other games spread from retail disc games to XBLA to XBLIG. We didn’t own anything interesting as awesome as we still think the game is.
Anyway, one night while returning a DVD to a store I began thinking about what kind of game we could make that merged Avatars, customization, and a concept no one had ever done. I had thought about how great Game Dev Story was and how it leveraged characters and then had a spark of a thought about moving boxes around. Boxes turned into arcade machines and about 20 minutes later the game was more or less designed.
Was it hard to build and a long process?
Not really. The hardest part was overcoming technical hurdles centred around how much memory we have and how best to use it. Before that though I was wondering how, as the only artist, to go about building near 100 arcade machines that look visually unique. I simplified and simplified until the manufacturers all had generic branding on their cabinets and the marquees, screens, and control panels were mostly typography, iconography, and a screen of pixel art.
It still took 11 months to make which was a good 3 more than I think we wanted. We could have cut that time down if I was a little bit more focused and clearer on the guts of the systems that drove the game. Sam was incredibly patient with me!
Why the Xbox Marketplace and not Steam?
The Xbox Marketplace pretty much guarantees you a space to sell your game on. Steam has/had a selection process that seems insurmountable from the outside. If you are going to spend the time, effort, and money to make something you want to be able to put it where people can find it and want to give you money for it. The concept being real time 3d graphics pretty much ruled iOS out and the Xbox Live Avatars made our lives much easier when it came to character and animation support.
I have to ask but being called Arcadecraft are you afraid of a backlash of mad Minecraft fans who are going to scream copycat (even although this game is nothing like the aforementioned?)
Not all all. For some strange reason people associate Craft with Minecraft when Warcraft had used it LONG before. Those two games are pretty dissimilar. It is more a traditional videogame term that is associated with building and managing something. In Arcadecraft you are building, managing, and customizing a business so we thought it was apt. That and we think Tycoon is owned by someone. Tycoon also brings up this visual of a guy in a suit and tie smoking a cigar which is the anti-vision of an arcade owner to us.
Speaking of Minecraft, do you think it has changed the indie games market?
It has certainly created a genre of games and has made a number of developers very wealthy. It also offers the perfect antidote to those who suggest videogames are all violent military FPS games. Though we have to remember that Minecraft is a one in a million sort of thing. To aspire to the heights of Minecraft’s success is unrealistic but it certainly adds fuel to the creative fire of developers seeking interesting ideas to build games on.
Do you think Xbox Live gives a good starting point to budding developers?
Yeah and I still do. It is too early to tell if Arcadecraft is a success or not. We certainly hope it will be. Anyone entering into that marketplace may want to think about how we approached our game conceptually and generate their own idea using a similar formula. Basically stand out from the crowd, be lucky, and try to get noticed.
Even in the wake of XNA’s “death” there are few places and frameworks that allow creation to market like XBLIG does.
Now one feature I love is the fact my avatar is the one behind the counter and it’s my Xbox friend’s avatars who are my customers. It somehow makes it more personal. Why did you decide on that route instead of just A.I. Sims?
Mostly because it is just fun to see your friends using your arcade instead of randoms. One of my friends rocks a Gene Simmons Kiss outfit and watching him play games or stand in front of the jukebox is really hilarious. Also, I get to kick him out if he gets rowdy!
Are you going to add anything more to the game? Any planned updates?
We have a mini update we are working on right now that is designed to fix some of the Code 4 errors people have been reporting. It also adds new content into the game that got cut for ship. There should be some new music, a new animation, new machines, and 8-bit jingles for the machines among other things.
We also have a bigger content update in the cards and we have talked a bit about it on our website. It is hoped to include a whole new and larger environment to play in.
What was your favourite arcade game?
That is hard to say. If I had to pick one it would probably be Black Tiger. That game does so much and got so little attention it is sad. It took the base platforming and climbing from Ghouls and Ghosts and added multi path levels, fair enemy patterns, fair boss encounters, hidden items, shops, upgradeable armour and weapons, and so much more. It was a game far ahead of its time and is relatively unknown.
Did you go to the arcade a lot?
Oh yeah. Far too much probably, though I don’t regret any of it. You could ask me where I first saw a Naughty Boy machine and I could tell you.
What is planned for after this? Please tell me it has nothing to do with zombies or mines.
No zombies, no mines. Maybe futuristic environments again. If Arcadecraft continues to do well we may be on it a good while. We do have loads of very fleshed out game ideas that we would love to make and will make them as long as we remain in business.
Why should people buy the game?
Arcadecraft is unique on the Xbox and offers gamers a game about games. We are only two people and not a corporate robot machine, and we love to know that people like what we are doing.
And lastly I called my arcade Baldys do you like the name?
I think I have been to a place called that.