One of the things Christopher Park of Arcen Games is known for among his fans is his development transparency. Park is willing to share aspects of his business that most indie studios won’t divulge. He’s talked about the success of AI War, and the tragic way Tidalis has been ignored by most gamers. He’s also big on interacting with his audience on the Arcen Games forum. Most indie developers communicate directly with their fans, but it’s rare to see the kind of deep discussions and immediate results that Park has had with his customers.
Park’s discussion yesterday with fans regarding a way to auto-resolve tactical combat in The Last Federation is a great example. In response to the inquiry, Park first wrote that skipping the tactical combat sections of the strategy game is a premature reaction to some people’s dislike of the feature. He’d rather they give him time to enhance the experience and address concerns. As the thread continued, Park realized that he’s a fan of the grand strategy portion of the Total War games, and speeds through the tactical bits himself. Later in the day, Arcen announced that they would add an auto-resolve feature to The Last Federation. Park admitted that as a designer he held incorrect biases on two points:
1. If there’s a problem with the combat, we should focus on improving that rather than just “papering over it” with an auto-resolve.
2. Combat is an integral part of the game, and we don’t want to split the playerbase or get people with a halfhearted experience because they just don’t give combat a chance and find out that they like it.
In regards to point 1, this doesn’t really “paper over” anything, despite my recent thinking. Will we continue to make combat better and better? Yes, absolutely – with the help of those players who already like or love it. Adding auto-resolve doesn’t obviate us from focusing on combat any more than it caused Total War to just abandon combat in their games. And Total War is far from the only series of strategy games with an auto-resolve option, it’s just my favorite one and so the one I’m most comfortable using as an example (if anyone who works on those games reads this, please rest assured I love your work).
In regards to point 2, for the ones who just don’t care for the sort of tactical combat on offer here, they can give feedback if they feel like it, or just happily play the solar map stuff. Just like I do with the grand strategy component in Total War. For me as a designer, that’s not a “cop out,” as I’d been kind of thinking of it, it’s just a way of giving more people what they want, more of the time. Some people would argue that by avoiding the RTS combat in Total War, I’m getting a “watered down” version of that series. And from a literal sense… sure. The scope of those games is reduced for me as a player. But so what? I have a blast with the parts that I do play, and it’s easily worth the price of admission for me just for the grand strategy part.
Combat auto-resolve is coming to The Last Federation thanks to Christopher Park and Quarter to Three forum member Giaddon, who started the thread on the Arcen Games discussion board!
Park has said that he plans on pushing out a new content update every week for his just-released strategy game, The Last Federation. He’s said he’ll continue to do so for “a few months, if not longer.” The Last Federation is available on Steam.