Thoughts on First Access

Antihero has been available on Itch First Access for a couple weeks now – long enough to form some opinions on how things are going!

Player response has been fantastic, which is hugely gratifying. Obviously this is a small, self-selecting group, but the enthusiasm for the game has exceeded my expectations, and I’m feeling confident that, if nothing else, Antihero is a game that will make a lot of people happy.

We chose to launch Antihero First Access on Itch instead of Steam because Itch is a much lower-profile platform — we don’t want the world at large to hear about early access, so that we can save up our PR juice and make a bigger splash when the game hits 1.0.

And certainly, this has borne out! Antihero has been on the front page of Itch since it launched there, but most of our sales are coming from people who hear about the game through our mailing list. In other words: Itch doesn’t move many units on its own — but the people who do find the game there have been delightful.

Antihero’s new players have discovered some impressive new strategies, and my win rate has plummeted. I’d estimate I’m still above average, but there are a number of players that I simply cannot beat.

To that end, we recently pushed our first public balance patch which gives slight nerfs to a couple of the units that are giving everyone grief (Thugs and Saboteurs!), buffs an underperforming business (the Strangefellows Lodge!), and includes a large number of fixes, UI improvements, and other quality-of-life bits.

The Antihero servers have been holding up just fine, which is a relief – and since we’ve sold out of our first batch of First Access keys, we’re selling more! (The text at the top of the Antihero Itch page claims the game is sold out — this is a lie! We’ve pinged Itch to fix the issue, but until then, simply scroll down to find the purchase link.)

So if you’re reading this and you haven’t bought the game yet, I encourage you to take a long, hard look at yourself and think about what sort of person you want to be in 2017. And then give us your money.

Happy new year, and see you in multiplayer!

An itchy feeling

(Executive summary to long-winded blather: you can buy Antihero First Access right now.)

Antihero is, honest-to-goodness, gearing up for launch. As a perfectionist, I’m super-paranoid about getting everything just right before my work goes out to the public… though as a game designer and software developer, I’m worried about not getting enough eyeballs on a game before it launches, and having it fall on its face.

But let’s not bury the lede any further: Antihero is available NOW (in extremely limited quantities! act now, etc). We’ve just launched Antihero First Access on itch.io!

(Itch.io is basically hipster Steam; it’s an online store exclusively for indie games, and it has the tools we need to do a key-limited “open alpha” release.)

This means that you can pay us some dollars (incidentally: fewer dollars than you’ll spend when the game launches) and get access to the current development build, which contains the game’s tutorial, an online multiplayer mode, and offline skirmish and hotseat multiplayer.

Antihero First Access is not the full version of the game, which will contain a story-driven single player campaign and more multiplayer content. But as a First Access purchaser, you’ll get the full version (as well as a Steam key) when it launches in 2017.

We’re looking for intrepid tastemakers (who aren’t bothered too much by the occasional bug) to put the Antihero multiplayer through its paces. I should stress that, while Antihero First Access is not content-complete, it is essentially system-complete — the game rules are all in place; the UI is polished; and the thieves, thugs, urchins, and everyone else are all delightfully illustrated and animated.

At least for now, Antihero First Access is key-limited, which means we’re selling a limited number of copies. This is not (only) to give you that smug feeling that comes from exclusivity – it’s about making sure our servers don’t fall over, and that we discover any degenerate strategies that need to be addressed before release.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this release also contains the game’s new “Masquerade” multiplayer scenario, which sees you stealing invitations to an exclusive masquerade ball so that your urchins and thugs can sneak in and make off with priceless heirlooms.

Grab Antihero First Access on itch!

“Coming Soon”; Scenario Design

Antihero’s Steam page is now live! The game hasn’t launched yet, but this is a big step towards building our Steam community, which is vital for a multiplayer game.

Most of our recent development time has been spent on content, rather than systems — Antihero’s core mechanics may change in minor ways before launch, but they’re essentially (and finally!) complete. The team’s primary focus is creating new scenarios that tweak the game’s rules in small but meaningful ways – we’ve recently wrapped up work on The Wharf, which sees you infiltrating steamships that arrive at the docks loaded with valuable goods.

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The Wharf adds some new twists to the core Antihero formula, and it’s been a lot of fun to playtest. Importantly, it’s also pointed us towards other ways that the game can be expanded: we’re currently putting the finishing touches on another scenario that takes place in a much different part of the city, and that I’m extremely excited about – visually, narratively, and mechanically, it’s going to be great. Stay tuned!

New Teaser; Google Indie Festival

In preparation for PAX West, I’ve recut the game’s teaser video. This is the third iteration of this particular video, and still features a lovely little murder ballad by Darius Greene.

Making videos is wicked hard, which is why I’ve repeated myself so many times with this one. But shortly, Antihero will have a proper trailer made by somebody who knows what they’re doing.

Also: after PAX I’ll be showing Antihero at the Google Indie Games Festival on September 24. If you’re in San Francisco, stop by and check out a bunch of upcoming indie games (it’s freeeeee)!

Coming to PAX West

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Find us in both the Indie MEGABOOTH AND the Versus Evil booth (Level 6, Booth 6111). September 2-5, in Seattle WA.

The game is nearrrrring completion, with massive improvements across the board: visuals, AI, core mechanics, and multiplayer have all seen big changes since we last demoed.

And also, as alluded to above: we’ve got a publisher (!): the fine folks at Versus Evil, who, I must say, have exceedingly good taste. Exciting times.

Penny Arcade Interview

The latest episode of Penny Arcade’s “Welcome to PAX” series is all about Antihero. There’s some melodramatic hand-wringing about being an indie dev, but also some nice footage from a recent build of the game!

(Pay careful attention to my cleverly greasy hair in some of these interview bits. This is totally me pulling off “Master Thief chic”, and not at all about being unshowered and exhausted after several days on the show floor.)

(Also: shout-outs to booth babes Nathan Curtis and Jon Demos for major major assistance at the show!)

Antihero at the GDC

A few points of business.

Next week, I’ll be showing Antihero at The MIX Patreon Showcase in San Francisco.

Antihero is also a finalist in the 2016 IndiePlus awards.

These two functions – The MIX and the IndiePlus awards ceremony – run concurrently, which means the one-man Antihero team will need to figure out how to appear in two places at once.

Come see us at one or both of the events! And by “us” I mean me!

And finally, this guy recently made an appearance in the game. He’s going door-to-door looking for recruits.

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Whippering Cup finalist!

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Antihero’s next public appearance will be at the 2015 Whippering Cup in San Francisco, alongside a bunch of ridiculously good indie games.

The trading cards we created for PAX Prime will make a return! And I’ll be giving an undoubtedly mortifying – but brief! – talk about the game. It’ll probably involve lots of hand-waving about why Antihero is taking such a long time to create.

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The Whippering Cup is next Thursday, December 10th. Get yer tickets here!