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Alcarys Complex has been Greenlit!

Hi. Just poking my head in here to let you know that Alcarys Complex has emerged from the Steam Greenlight furnace victorious. I am currently in the process of filing the paperwork with Valve to become a Steam partner so I can get the ball rolling.

I'd like to thank everybody for the support that allowed it to come this far, whether you backed here, bought a copy directly from me, got it in a bundle, or bought a copy at a trade show or convention. I like to think that this in some way validates my persistent maintenance on the game. It's hard to believe I've been doing this for two years and some change, with more stuff to come.

So, here's a quick primer on what's going to happen and how:

When's the Steam version of Alcarys Complex coming out?

As you may (or may not know), Alcarys Complex is a game that is a couple years old. It has also been undergoing persistent maintenance and improvements, and this will continue for a while. The current released version is 1.03, but this isn't the version that's going to launch on Steam.

Alcarys Complex will be getting its first major feature update, version 1.1, no later than the end of the first half of 2015. The Steam version of AC will be this version of the game.

What are you waiting for?

The delay is mostly to give the Steam version a rigorous testing period on all platforms and to provide certain essential features that 1.03 doesn't have, like Steamworks integration and true widescreen.

Who is entitled to Steam keys?

Making your purchase through the following venues entitles you to a Steam key:

  • Kickstarter
  • Groupees' Be Mine 13 Bundle
  • Indie Royale Debut 16 Bundle
  • Direct purchase through modestarcade.com
  • Digital purchase on Desura
  • Digital purchase on itch.io
  • Physical purchase at any Modest Arcade trade show table

When will we get our Steam keys?

You'll get your keys when 1.1 drops.

What features will the Steam version of the game include?

Cloud saves, for sure. I'm also considering including cloud saves in the DRM-free version of the game, but we'll have to wait and see. Other than that, I'll make decisions about what features are and aren't appropriate closer to 1.1. I'll definitely need to make some of these decisions with the assistance of a Steam account manager.

If you have any questions I haven't covered here, feel free to ask them. Anyway, have a good day.

- Johnathan


Presenting Alcarys Complex 1.1

I thought I'd inform you of the future of Alcarys Complex. I wouldn't just needlessly celebrate the second anniversary of something unless I had something to share, right?

Let's start with the negatives. Expanding on previous posts, Alcarys Complex will not:

  • be getting a direct sequel: within the context of this world, the occurrences catalogued in AC are the only important thing. This world exists to make a point. You may see the concepts presented in AC in future games, but they won't have the name Alcarys Complex attached to them.
  • be getting a port to any other platform: consoles won't be getting it because of the sheer amount of work involved. Mobile won't be be getting it because the game isn't suited for mobile. Ports will be limited to what is required to keep the game working. For instance, an AC that works on OS 10.10 Yosemite and Windows 10 is probably a good idea. (That being said, if I do a port and it doesn't work on an older OS, let me know as soon as I can and I'll see what I can do.)

What AC will be getting is something better than a sequel. (If only because you don't have to pay for it twice.)

Alcarys Complex 1.1

Yesterday (November 2, 2014) was Alcarys Complex's second anniversary. So I thought I'd pick a fitting date to announce a major update to the game. It's an active attempt to update and expand upon AC's content while preserving previous versions of it.

So what does this mean?

Alcarys Complex will be getting its first major feature update, version 1.1, no later than the end of the first half of 2015.

The defining feature of AC 1.1 will be a rewritten main story script to be implemented alongside the original. This is different from doing incremental rewrites and updates because this is designed to preserve previous versions of the game. This will be done scene-for-scene, in a way that will provide alternate contexts and additional characterization for the main characters cumulatively, over several playthroughs.

At the beginning of the game, players will be able to select between "Random" mode and "Onion Skin" mode. Random mode selects a scene from the scene pool in the script, so if there are four different versions of a scene in the script, the game will select one of those. Onion Skin mode preserves each script as it was, and every time you start a New Game +, the game will show you the next script in line. Onion Skin mode will present each script in chronological order, starting with the original version of the script.

I may also do other weird things that change the context of the characters in the game and your interactions with them.

This stuff will add to, but not replace, the original version of the story.

What's the point of this?

One point of this is to allow these characters to continue to grow and change and become ever more human and multi-dimensional in the absence of a sequel, since I'm convinced that a sequel to this game is inappropriate for a number of reasons. It will also allow me a relatively easy way to come back to this world whenever I want if I have new ideas about this particular group of characters.

I also happen to think that the concept of a game cataloguing the improvement of its makers' skill and craft and their changing perspectives is pretty cool. I hope that you agree.

Things up for grabs are: the wording of individual scenes, interactions between characters, and interpretations of character traits and the expression of those traits in the game script.

If this goes well, even non-story elements are up for grabs in the future. So I'm hoping this goes well.

When can we expect this update?

I don't have a firm date pinned down yet, so I'll just say I'm dropping it in the first half of 2015.

Anyway, if you have any questions that I haven't covered, you know what to do. I can't believe it's been two years already.

Wish me luck!~


Second Anniversary!

If you can believe it, the second anniversary of AC is coming up! November 2nd, to be exact. Because of this, I've decided to put the game up for sale at 75% off, starting from today until the anniversary date.

There are a couple of other big reasons for this. I've got really good things planned for 2015, and I'll tell you all about this in a blog post on the actual anniversary date.

Until then, take care.

- Johnathan


Groupees Bundle/Steam Greenlight

So, I'm busy lending a helping hand on other projects at the moment, but I just wanted to pop in to update y'all on a couple of things!


Alcarys Complex is (somehow) part of Groupees' Be Mine 13 bundle. Now that the bonus has been unveiled, I can actually tell you about it. You might like the games that are a part of this bundle! If not, that's okay - tell your friends (if you think they won't mind). The bonus still needs to cross a certain threshold to be unlocked, so every little bit helps.

Buy-in's $1, and you can get all of them for $4. There's also some cool music albums attached! The ones that aren't marked DRM-FREE have Steam keys.

  • Alpha Kimori Episode 1 (Windows)
  • Antisquad (Windows/Mac)
  • Fly'n (Windows)
  • Legend of Dungeon DRM-FREE (Windows/Mac/Linux)
  • The Longest Journey (Windows)
  • Miasmata (Windows)
  • Nekro (Windows/Mac/Linux)
  • Spate DRM-FREE (Windows/Mac/Linux)
  • **BONUS** Journey of a Roach DRM-FREE (Windows/Mac/Linux)
  • **BONUS** Mechanic Escape DRM-FREE (Windows/Mac)

Here's the link: http://groupees.com/bm13

Steam Greenlight

I feel like I might have a bit of an easier time getting on Steam these days, so I've decided to throw the game back up on Greenlight. Check it out: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=262487247

Your votes either way would be appreciated! Who knows, maybe it'll happen!*

* if it does happen, I'm willing to put the effort into an Alcarys Complex 1.04 with true widescreen support (right now, the game's only 15:9), Steamworks integration and other improvements, including, as always, bug fixes, UI improvements, and other things that make the game better. I may also expand the game itself in certain ways. We'll see what happens!

Anyway, have a good day!

- Johnathan


Version 1.03 Now Available!

Version 1.03 Released!

I'm pleased to be able to drop Alcarys Complex v. 1.03 for Windows, Mac OS X, and Ubuntu Linux. Trial versions are posted to the Downloads page.


  • Linux version (the Linux trial is posted to the Downloads page)
  • Due to changes in the Game Maker Studio data structure format, save files from 1.02 on non-Windows platforms will not be able to be loaded into 1.03. E-mail help@modestarcade.com if you're a 1.02 OS X user who's desperate to continue their game from where they left off and I'll convert any saves you provide me to the 1.03 format on my end.
  • This version fixes a fatal error at startup on Windows XP.
  • This version is signed for Gatekeeper on OS X, so it won't tell players that the app is "damaged" and that they should send it to the trash. ._.

This is a major update that contains the following additions and fixes:

  • This version fixes a bug in New Game + where SP spent on stats didn't carry over.
  • Pressing the Secondary key (X by default) while in the main menu will toggle between objective data and the location bar.
  • The walking speed has been increased to 5 pixels/step from 3 pixels/step.
  • Players can now take the Political Map off the wall in Corvallis's bedroom, granting them a map in the very beginning of the game where it's the most useful.
  • The value and frequency of Angela's paychecks has been increased dramatically.
    AP gain is now twice as fast.
  • Lomah's skill flow has been changed to make him more useful in combat.
  • The following bosses have been rebalanced: Quon, Ansariyah, Magma Golem, and Arista. In addition, Supercritical's payout algorithm has been rebalanced so that it's easier to make money in the initial plot periods (where it really counts).
  • Dexterity calculation has been changed across the board, and the changes should make all skills a LOT more powerful. For damage, the calculation takes half of the base damage on its own and makes a calculation with the other half that is based on the user/target DEX ratio. For healing, the calculation is now user DEX multiplied by target DEX divided by 10, and the base healing value is added to the total.
  • Some skills have been changed in order to make them more useful: Differential and Judgment (Attlas) now work differently, and the scope of Hawkeye (Angela) has been changed to affect all allies.
  • Behavior of Corrosion and Photosynthesis have been changed to tie them to VIT and DEX, respectively.
  • The Lingua status effect is no longer gated by towns. Lingua now wears off after 75 status effect check counts (approximately ten minutes)
  • Scene 12 has been rewritten to reframe its central conflict.
  • Lujan Bordh's discount coupon now takes 50% off instead of 10%.
  • Staying at an inn now resets the death timer of everyone in the party back to 15 seconds.
  • A heat wave effect has been added to desert environments.

For the complete fixlist, see http://www.modestarcade.com/docs/ac/bugfix.txt.

As always, let me know if you have questions or comments.

- Johnathan


Not on Steam Sale

I'm pleased to announce that Alcarys Complex is participating in the Not On Steam sale!

What's the Not On Steam sale?

Basically, a group of about 40 60 developers who aren't on the Steam video game distribution platform got together to help each other out and decided to offer their games at varying degrees of discounts from October 2nd until October 9th.

What about AC?
AC's discount is 50%, making it $5 instead of $10. I've also put everything else in my store that isn't a digital copy of AC (physical game discs, physical soundtracks) at 25% off. If you're interested, you can check it out here.

What if I don't want AC?

If that's really true, you'll find other awesome games there like Race the Sun, Miniflake, The Sea Will Claim Everything, and I Get This Call Every Day. Should be something there to appeal to a wide variety of tastes. :)

Definitely check it out! Scooping up games that haven't been on Steam hasn't been easier. (Really.)


Last chance to pay what you want!

Just posting to let you know that our Pay What You Want sale ends in about 12 hours! After that, Alcarys Complex goes back up to its regular price of $10.

You can buy Alcarys Complex directly from modestarcade.com, or you can use itch.io, @moonscript's awesome digital game storefront. Buying the game directly from modestarcade.com will automatically deliver a Desura product key for you to use. On the other hand, if you have a PayPal or Amazon Payments account and you don't want to fill in a full address to download a video game, I recommend itch.io.

Thanks for your support!


Pay What You Want in July!

[abridged crosspost from modestarcade.com - i'm tired okay]

Alcarys Complex is going to be Pay What You Want from July 1 to July 31. This means you can download a digital copy of Alcarys Complex for a minimum of $1. Yeah, it's not cheap as free, but this price is as low as it's going to get for a long time.

I'm doing this for a couple of reasons:

  • Sales kind of dropped off in 2013, so I'll admit to caving to my survival urge. Bills still need to be paid regardless of whether the game sells or not!
  • I want to see how well this model does. Other people have done this before, and I can read the stuff that they wrote about it, but I feel like I need to judge for myself how well this will work. I guess I can at least say I've tried it!

You can complete your purchase directly from modestarcade.com, or you can use itch.io, @moonscript's excellent game storefront. Buying the game directly from modestarcade.com will automatically deliver a Desura product key for you to use. On the other hand, if you have a PayPal or Amazon Payments account and you don't want to fill in a full address to download a video game, I recommend itch.io.

Anyway, if you've ever wanted to take a risk on a niche game, if you thought $10 was too much, or if you want to support us in general, check it out.

Also, we have some new press reviews! One of them is from from GamerTell (C+) and the other is a favorable Italian language review from The Indie Shelter. I'd like to thank these sites for giving Alcarys Complex the time of day!

Anyway, that's all I have for now. You can read more at my site if you want. Thanks for reading!

Game Design

Alcarys Complex Postmortem

Edited on 10/28/2013 to match the text in the final design booklet.

So, here's a breakdown and assessment of the design decisions that went into Alcarys Complex. I'm rolling this into the Alcarys Complex Design Booklet, but I thought I'd post it here so that general audiences can see it, too.

What's a "postmortem"?

Generally, a postmortem (for video games) is conducted in the wake of a video game release by the game's developer in order to determine what went right and what went wrong. The term comes from scientific examinations of the recently deceased (for, uh, science).

Note: a postmortem isn’t an admission of guilt! To put it another way: writing a postmortem doesn’t mean that I suddenly hate what I’ve made (or that you should hate it). It’s simply a critical introspection of the work. I’d be no good at what I do if I didn’t examine my work critically!

So, what went right?

+ Learned a lot from the game

The fact that we assembled a team for this project in 2007 and actually produced a playable game from it is utterly mindblowing. It also permitted a lot of learning and experimentation over those six years – the Alcarys Complex of 2007 looked, sounded, and played a lot different from the one of 2008 or 2009 because we were trying a whole bunch of different things. It was only really in 2010 that we settled on what we were going to do for the final version.

+ The Sociability System

The Sociability system was designed as a way to uncouple character progression in an RPG from the act of killing. Sociability also acted as a springboard to things like the Interactive Dialogue system – the logical progression was too obvious to ignore, in this case.

+ Deep, consistent Non-Player Character (NPC) interaction design

The NPC design of Alcarys Complex was governed by a consistent set of rules that helped guide player-NPC interaction and make it enjoyable. At its core was a desire to come as close to making truly persistent NPCs as possible while still staying practical. This core not only resulted in design decisions that made sense for the game, such as NPCs interacting with a specific character in the player’s party instead of the player, but it also solved a problem inherent in NPC interaction since NPCs have been around: because the interaction is between two characters in the game instead of a character in the game and the player, the designer doesn’t need to make any assumptions about who’s playing their game. This approach also allowed for many different types of NPC interaction depending on the individual NPC.

+ When there were team disruptions, the project didn’t fall apart

People are bound to leave a project that takes six years to develop for whatever reason. Our first team gap was in game graphics; we’d hired someone to design sprites for us who never followed through, and we had wasted a bunch of money doing so. I was very lucky and grateful when our current environment designer and tileset artist also assumed the spriting duties.

The other gap was in the game’s soundtrack. In late 2011, our first composer left the project for personal reasons, so we were stuck with half a soundtrack and no means to complete it. Fortunately, another composer managed to fall into our team about six months later.

+ Luck can be a virtue

Our excellent composer, Chris Apple, fell into our project after seeing our Independent Games Festival 2012 entry page – a very lucky coincidence. Sometimes relinquishing control to the fates works out well!

+ The Kickstarter campaign

The Kickstarter campaign was run about as well as an amateur like me could run something. It went through about three weeks of planning before the page went live, and raised a total of $4,864 – less than a thousand dollars over the goal amount. It’s pretty safe to say that the game wouldn’t have been finished without this funding.

In addition to learning a lot from the game itself, I learned a lot from the Kickstarter campaign itself. I was able to familiarize myself with the various duties a Kickstarter campaign entails, like press relations, backer reward fulfillment and other things of that nature. Because of the Kickstarter campaign, Modest Arcade is not only able to deliver digital games to multiple platforms, but we now have the know-how to be able to press and ship quality physical game and soundtrack discs as well.

+ Customer support has been top-notch

Response to customer questions, comments, issues, and bug reports has been consistently within 24 hours, and sometimes (if I’m lucky) within 12. I’ve gotten pretty good at this, and I plan to get even better, because it’s the one advantage independent developers have over huge video game companies and it’d be a shame to squander it.

+ Plot and character issues were handled well

I remember two major instances where a whole bunch of plot holes and character dissonance issues were pointed out to me. My policy when it comes to stuff like this is to avoid telling the person who pointed the issue out how I’m going to correct it. Rather, I would tell them that I’d correct the issue, and I left it that.

Then, I pulled more information from what I knew about the game’s characters and how they interacted and behaved with each other. I would then write that additional information into a scene, or I’d spread it over multiple scenes – whatever got the job done most effectively. More often than not, this would resolve the issue.

+ Best Concept: The Journey Support Project

I’m inclined to think that the best single concept of the game was the Journey Support Project. The Journey Support Project was an in-game organization that placed a number of red treasure chests throughout the game world. The player can open the chests and take what’s inside, but they have to place another item in the chest for the next traveler. The value of the item the player placed inside was tied to a point and level system that rewarded players who donated expensive items, sometimes with items they couldn’t get anywhere else. It was even tied into the story, though to say exactly how would spoil the surprise.

+ Script-to-compile time was extremely short

Needless to say, the reason that I’m even able to handle plot holes the way I do is because the cutscene system was designed to minimize ‘script-to-compile time’: the time it takes to make edits to the game’s script and then implement those edits into the game itself is almost zero.

Now, What Went Wrong?

– The game took way too long to make

Alcarys Complex took six years to make, a long period of time by any measure. Often, a video game taking the better part of a decade means it’s never going to come out, so I guess I surprised myself. This is time that could have been spent improving my development skills in other areas, though.

– The game could have used more time in development

Seems contradictory, but it actually isn't! Though Alcarys Complex took so long to make, it still could have stayed in development for six to twelve months longer and benefited from it.

– Lack of thorough, comprehensive bugtesting burned us hard and repeatedly

Not only was the bugtesting period too short for a game of this scope (a scant three months for a game that took over half a decade to make), we didn’t allow for gaps in between bug reports as a check for the game’s stability. This led to some serious issues:

  • As of this writing, a total of seven revision builds were deployed for Alcarys Complex: 1.01, 1.02r1, 1.02r2, 1.02r3, 1.02r4, 1.02r4’ (PRIME), and 1.02r4-DISC. All of these revision builds were issued in order to control at least one game-breaking error. Only 1.02 itself was deployed in order to increase the game’s feature set.
  • I had to repeatedly send new CD-ROM masters to our disc replicator as I found new bugs. This was not only embarrassing, but wasteful, too: aside from the shipping costs, confusion of one set of masters for another led to the disc replicator printing five hundred worthless game discs, wasting hundreds of dollars.
  • Lack of comprehensive bugtesting led to a glaring post-game omission: the inability to carry stats over to New Game +. This will be corrected in version 1.03.

– Attlas was underutilized in the story

While Attlas had the most immediately interesting backstory, he barely got any playtime.

– The game’s theme and the game’s gameplay contradict each other

An overarching design theme of Alcarys Complex was the attempt to mesh every aspect of the game’s story and gameplay, wherever possible. One of the first things I did when I started working on the final version of the game was to adopt a simple rule: don’t let the player do anything that the player character wouldn’t do, not even killing.

When I began work on the combat system, major departures from standard RPG gameplay sprung from this decision – letting the player control a pacifist in battle, the removal of all character progression incentive from combat, and an emphasis on exploration over intricate and involved battles. I felt that this rule was sufficient to govern the player’s interaction with the game logic.

It really wasn’t, though! A pacifist being subjected to combat is a worthwhile idea, but removing the character progression from combat had the side effect of removing almost all incentive from combat as well, and so skipping combat altogether could be very tempting from the player’s standpoint. I was fine with this, but I wasn’t able to provide enough of a pull in other areas to keep the game from becoming a gameplay void filled with beautiful scenery. The exploration aspects I was able to provide were limited to awarding Sociability for discovering certain things about the plot or happening upon a plot-relevant area early.

Means of filling gameplay holes, such as a trapping system, were shelved because a lot of the game was already solidified by the time I realized what was happening. As a designer, I was being boiled alive by my decisions and I didn’t even realize it.

I managed to realize sometime in 2012 that the mere act of including a combat system in a video game, no matter how simplified or feature-stripped, incentivizes combat all by itself. The game would have been better off without a combat system, but there was nothing to replace it with. I was devastated: despite my best efforts, Alcarys Complex’s gameplay and its story still managed to contradict each other in a big way.

– Scenes that were cut from the script resulted in minor characterization gaps

Alcarys Complex’s script had three full scenes cut from it, and often, things that happened in these scenes were referenced in other scenes, resulting in a few minor characterization gaps. For instance, Leyt and Lomah receive medals at the end of the game for actions they took in a scene that was ultimately cut from the script.

– Plot holes

Despite the work put into the game’s script, the game still had a few fundamental plot holes and, while some of them could be addressed easily, some of them couldn’t be addressed at all.

In fact, one of Alcarys Complex's bugtesters pointed out a particularly glaring plot hole toward the end of the game: the mass conscription of Vodunian males aged 17 to 45 and the Vodun Army’s weapons shortage contradict each other. Why would a ground commander who is short on weapons give them to just anyone? Why would a ground commander be short on weapons in the first place? Since Vodunian weapons are supplied by another country (Xirdalan), wouldn’t the military have to ration weapons and ammunition during a war under the fear of that support being removed at any time?

Since this plot hole involves a faulty justification for a war that spans several scenes, it cannot be fixed without rewriting major parts of the game’s fourth act. Lesson learned.

– Wish I’d Thought Of: A Sociability pool

Pooling Sociability points instead of awarding them by character could have solved a lot of balance problems.

– Worst Concept: Ability Points (AP)

The implementation of an AP system in Alcarys Complex had to have been to be the worst design decision of the game by far. It added nothing to the combat system, and the system it replaced (auto-learning skills at certain points in the story) was actually better for the game. What made this decision really bad? I did exactly what I said I wasn’t going to do: I put something in my game because other games have done it before.

– Battle system could have been simplified

Alcarys Complex’s battle system could have been greatly simplified without losing too much of the effect, but because I’d already realized the game’s inherent contradiction, I was hesitant to make the changes necessary to do this, fearing that the effort would be wasted.

– Kickstarter shortfalls

As anticipated, reward fulfillment was by far the biggest proportion of our post-Kickstarter expenditure: we applied 32% of our gross Kickstarter funds toward this goal. Backer reward fulfillment encompasses the manufacture and shipping of all backer rewards, including but not limited to: disc replication, assembly of CD jackets and Digipaks, printing of posters and postcards, and shipping all of this both within the United States and internationally. It also includes intermediate actions that don't directly result in the production of a backer item, such as shipping CD-ROM masters to a disc replicator.

During the Kickstarter campaign itself, I had fears that physical reward fulfillment would swallow up our funds. Back then, when I ran the numbers, they weren’t working. It just cost too much. I was able to cut costs by requesting individual components in a piecemeal fashion, but this didn't lower costs by enough to break even on the campaign. It should be noted that, even after the inclusion of current net profit from sales of the game and other miscellaneous account credits, 13% of total funds spent to finish the game and close the campaign came from out of our own pockets.

Based on this data, I recommend that future small Kickstarter campaigns that want to produce and deliver quality physical goods (in addition to actually completing their game) increase their projected goal amounts by 40–50% if they’re interested in breaking even on the campaign.


Game Update 1.02r2

Hey, y'all.

Just writing to let you know that trial versions of Alcarys Complex v. 1.02r2, an incremental update that fixes some issues that people were having, are now available on the Downloads page.

This is a minor update that contains the following additions and fixes:

  • "Sale" items now cannot be sold while the item holds "Sale" status
  • Ambient sound is now muted when the game is paused
  • Fixes sound issues on OS X
  • Fixes issues that arise when talking to Buddy NPCs
  • Fixes issues with the Jon Shobe contract
  • Fixes crash issues with using targetless skills
  • Various other fixes

For the full fixlist, see: http://www.modestarcade.com/docs/bugfix.txt

Just a reminder, I've sliced the price of AC in half: the game's now only $10. This ends soon, so scoop it up! Or you could join the...

Alcarys Complex Review Program

Here's how this works: pledging to write a review of Alcarys Complex for RMN will net you a full review copy of the game, no strings attached. If you'd like to do this, either post below or PM me for more information.

The rules are simple: write a review of Alcarys Complex that conforms to the RMN review guidelines, and I'll provide the review copy.

Note: I pledge to have no influence on the score you give the game. Absolutely none at all. That's not my business: I welcome all reviews, whether they're full of praise or intensely critical.

As always, let me know if you have questions or comments.

- J
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