It’s ironic, really. Just as Microsoft announces that they’re ditching support for XNA, which pretty much puts another nail in the coffin for Xbox Live Indie Games, Canadian developer Firebase Industries goes and releases the ‘80s arcade management sim Arcadecraft. It’s a game that single-handedly demonstrates what Xbox Live Indie Games should be all about – titles designed with love and passion, made not to please shareholders or pushy publishers, but to fulfill the dreams of their creators.
Your voyage into arcade ownership starts by meeting your bookkeeper Lisa for the first time. “So you want to try and make some money off this videogame fad?” she questions, before asking you to give your arcade a name that “won’t offend the neighbours”. She has arranged a $12,500 loan which is enough to buy around three machines to get you started. It’s recommended to purchase a vending machine and jukebox straight as soon as you can. Whereas arcade machines dip in popularity over time, these two machines are evergreen and will help to raise enough cash to buy the latest titles.
The developers are clearly well-versed in the history of arcade gaming. The first machines available are mostly black and white space shooters, which eventually pave the way for machines with coloured screens, sit-down cocktail cabinets and a few unique cabinets. For the obvious reason all game names are fictional, as are the manufactures, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out their influences. A lot of their names raise a grin – Gorilla is followed up by Son of Gorilla, while Phantom receives a sequel named Lady Phantom. There are 80 different machines in total, with 30 being the maximum your arcade can contain at one time. Once nice touch is that each cabinet generates different sound-effects. Eventually it does end up sounding like a genuine ‘80s arcade.
While it’s good business sense to fill your arcade with the latest games, the older games still have their place too. Having a few “retro classics” tucked away somewhere plays a part in making sure your arcade is a popular place for ‘80s youths to hang out. Well, avatars from your Xbox 360 friend list to be more precise. Each machine has a popularity rating to keep an eye on and prices and difficulty can also be set. The arcade can be customised too with different colour schemes and such. Again, this will help to determine how popular your place is.
Layout is another thing to take into account – arranging your machines in a manner that pleases customers takes a little time and experimentation.
The golden rule of all simulation games is to always give the player something to do and this is something Arcadecraft adheres to brilliantly. Cabinets have to be emptied, trouble makers thrown out, machines repaired, coin mechanisms unjammed and more.
There are also a few random events to keep things interesting – a celebrity gamer occasionally asks to try and beat high scores, which will result in a popularity boost for that cabinet if successful, and every summer a Japanese businessman will offer the chance to purchase an import cabinet that cannot be bought elsewhere. New games are added to the catalogue every 10-15 minutes or so, sometimes two at a time. The desire to see what machine was going to be available kept us playing until the small hours. Or at least until it abruptly ends in 1986 – each playthrough has been designed to last around 4 hours, with scores then added to a leaderboard.
Free updates are planned pending the game’s success that’ll add extra years, new machines – including pinball tables – and the chance to expand the arcade to new locations. It’s the small size of the arcade that’s our only major gripe, so our fingers are crossed that sales are strong.
It certainly deserves to do well. The 240 MSP asking price is slightly more expensive than some of the other Xbox Indie titles, but the amount of polish and attention to detail puts even some Xbox Live Arcade games to shame. If it was still 1985 we wouldn’t hesitate for a second to describe this one as being “totally rad”.