Surrendering Control

Old style game development (like boxed console games) can be a struggle to keep control. Any unexpected behaviour is a bug. Any part of the game that the developer doesn’t architect, is a source for alarm.

But with Illyriad, our goal is to surrender control. If we understand all the behaviours in the world, that means the world is too simple and predictable. Any part of the world that we don’t control is a potential source of wonder.

In old style game development, the developer wants to plan what will happen. In Illyriad, we want the players to have a part in what happens. The recent changes to animal behaviour are an excellent example of where the game is going.

Illyriad’s players are well aware that in the past, we have trialed a system by which items can be picked up from hunting animals. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that, in the future, animals might be a source of items. Now, a conventional approach would be to say: “We must control the number of items that players can get from these animals! We must calculate the exact numbers of animals in the world, exactly where they will be – nothing will be gathered without us, the developers, decreeing that it shall be so.”

What the new animal behaviors mean is that we have ceded control of where animals go, and how many of them exist. Players can reduce population sizes by over-hunting, they can reduce populations in some areas but allows others to thrive, and in future perhaps players will get the ability to influence where animals move to and perhaps even how fast they breed.

Depending on how far or fast we take it, the locations of animals and the frequency of any item drops from them, will be mostly out of our control as developers.

Animal item drops, if they were to be reintroduced, would be gathered not because we have made it so, but because the players have made it so. It is, after all, their game and they should be able to influence it. This means that, as developers, we have to surrender control.

Press Release: Illyriad Goes Organic


Illyriad Goes Organic

From today, acclaimed Free-to-Play Strategy game Illyriad will switch from a randomly generated world biology, to an organic and emergent model.

Simplistic random distributions of animals and troops have been replaced with a coherent, logical model, encompassing different animal habitats, breeding, and migration. The mathematics behind the calculations include over 1,500 variables, and the game database tracks thousands of non-player populations, whose numbers and attitudes will be determined by players’ interactions with them.

“The depth of Illyriad has always been important to us, as developers, just as it has been important to our players, and has been noted by the press,” explains Illyriad’s founder, James Niesewand. “So we wanted the non player populations to behave sensibly, and organically, in response to players’ actions. As an example, animal populations in Illyriad have previously appeared randomly. Now, each pack or herd of animals will be tracked in real time, its population increasing over time, and the pack splitting when the population grows to a certain point. Players will be able to dramatically impact the sizes of animal populations, which will have multiple consequences.”

These changes are not only an evolution in the design of strategy games. They are also an important step in the growth of Illyriad itself, a necessary precursor to an overhauled trade and economic system, and further development of the NPC Factions systems, expected later this year.

Illyriad’s latest release, including organic animal populations, and other features, goes live from today.

About Illyriad:
“An epic RTS but with killer lore and an awesome community.” –
“I could tell right away that this game was special.” – ThriftyGamer
“Illyriad has a great niche…. There is plenty to do and I would suggest that everyone with a few minutes goes and checks it out.” –

Illyriad is a browser-based Massively Multiplayer strategy game, in which players take control of cities, engaging in city-building, quests, diplomacy, warfare and trade. Developed by London-based Illyriad Games Ltd., Illyriad went live in 2010 and was officially launched on May 16th 2011.

For further information, please contact:
Press assets are available at , and further assets, quotes, interviews, etc., are available on request.


Interview: RTS Guru

RTS Guru has taken an exclusive first look at our latest game update (coming this weekend) and has posted a 2-part series about the changes.

Part 1: Illyriad Will Change the Game – New “Organic” Animal System Will Give Players Greater Impact

Part 2: Illyriad Q&A on Going “Organic” & Making Big Changes to the Game

Thanks again to RTS Guru for taking a deeper look into the future of Illyriad.


Lots of Energy, A Little Movement

Moving units in Illyriad with directional indicators

There is an amazing amount of complex information that goes on behind the scenes of Illyriad, creating the outcomes we see on screen as people play the game.

One example is unit movement. Through most of Illyriad’s life, movement has been fairly simple. Players’ units have moved from point A to B upon their request, at a rate based on movement speed of the units themselves. Layers of complexity have been added with Diplomatic Visability, Undead armies that emerged from the Rift and now the Heart of Corruption. There is an increasing amount of movement in the world, of which much of the complex work takes place behind the scenes.

For example, there is a database that currently has 1,550 variables relating to animal movement. And that doesn’t include animals’ locations in the world – that’s just the mathematics for their movement.

And that is where the challenge comes in to play. How much of that information is visible to players, and how do we represent important information to them? Currently in game, to see if a unit is moving on the map, or which direction it is going requires that you zoom in and observe the movement yourself. Often times though, the movement may be so slow that it isn’t easily visible.

That is why the new unit movement icons have been designed. The challenge was to display direction, speed and relationship to players (hostile, friendly or neutral) in an easy-to-understand fashion that wasn’t disruptive to the landscape of the game. The solution was a set of small wing-shaped arrows that display next to individual units on the map. The number of arrows shows speed (1 = slowest, 5 = fastest), the direction they are pointing shows movement trajectory and color of the arrows (yellow = neutral, green = friendly, red = hostile) shows intention with relation to the player. This simple, elegant solution provides players with more information about the world around them and represents, visually, a complex set of data that determines these factors.

The new directional icons will be available in our next game update.


Player Spotlight: SunStorm

In our inaugural Player Spotlight, we get to know SunStorm. In his time in Illyriad, Sunstorm has been an active player, a helpful member of our forum community, run player events, created a blog and lots of fun graphics for Illy players. Learn more about the Player Spotlight program at our website and nominate players by sending an email to Now on with the interview!

GM Luna

SunStorm's RL Avatar

(^_^) My in-game name is SunStorm. In real life, I am a student at university. My goal is to someday be a criminal psychologist who works with both juvenile and adult inmates, or a child psychologist who works with troubled kids. I’m a junior, so I still have time to decide (:P). My biggest struggle in life is trying to balance school, work, homework, and friends. In my spare time, I play Illyriad.

What brought you to Illyriad and how long have you been playing?

This last February was my 1 year anniversary for playing. One year ago, I was bored and randomly looked for something fun to fill my time. This, of course, was a time in my life when I had all my homework completed and had the extra time (to all students out there: be responsible). So this is exactly what I did: I went into facebook and started browsing through apps. I literally clicked on “newest” apps hoping to find a newer, low-key game to play. I prefer games that are not mainstream or overpopulated, so I scrolled through page after page of games. Most of them were complete and utter rubbish, but one stood out and caught my eye. Illyriad! (^_^) I began working my way through the tutorial and before I knew it my adventure began!

Have you played many other online games or been active in other online communities?

Yes. Though I only ever play one online game at a time, I usually end up being very active in the community. *sigh* It has been a long time since I was last involved in an online game (Maple Story), and I will comment more about that in the next question.

Any hidden talents or interesting hobbies outside of gaming?

Many have been to my Illyriad blog and have seen that I love working with images and graphics (and no, the comic strips do not accurately represent my talent with art – they are only a silly hobby of mine). In the past I have done some 3D CG art (which are up on, but I am fonder of photo-manipulation. Additionally, I enjoy video editing. This was my hobby for the last game I played (Maple Story), and I have several videos on They are still there today (^_^). I started making an Illyriad video…but it has been put off indefinitely.

What keeps you playing Illyriad?

I would have to say the overall atmosphere created by the community! After my first alliance fell apart, I was crushed. The friendships that were established in that alliance were so strong – we were like a family. I spent a few months in seclusion; telling the community I was a “recluse” and not to bother me (:P). The time away was good, and I also have enjoyed making a comeback. Had the members of the community been different, it is hard to say whether or not I would have stuck around. In all seriousness, I have not seen a tighter knit group of players anywhere, and I am proud to be a member of my current alliance!

What’s your favorite aspect of the game?

I love the personal interaction with the developers. I know everyone gets busy, but it is wonderful to see the creators taking a personal interest in their creation. I love to see the chat start buzzing every time someone with a blue name pops in. (^_^)

What’s your proudest achievement in game so far?

Few people know this (here comes my pride – most likely before my fall…lol), but I was the first player (to my knowledge) to ascertain the locations of all 20 statues in the heroic statue quest. This was done over the span of 6 hours by using my personal image filter to see only the statues and nothing else (please don’t ban me…lol). I coordinated (at the time) with ScottFitz of the mCrow alliance and BecBlue of the former Prisoners of Society alliance to fill in the gaps of both of their lists.

What are you most looking forward to for the future of Illyriad?

Faction AI! (^_^) Though I also worry about this since I placed my alt (an elf) in-between two warring (anti-elf) factions – lol. They are probably warring because they want to be the first to see what my alt might taste like if sautéed in garlic butter. Still, I think this will be good for players to exert some energy upon factions rather than other gamers.

What area of the game do you think needs the most improvement?

Multiple worlds. Recently, the main map was named Elgea. I would like to see about 3 or more worlds with different play styles in mind. (e.g. One world that is set aside for those who desire a more warring “anything goes” gameplay – another world set aside which focuses on ruling kingdoms by means of some constant “king of the hill” scenario for each main and mini region – etc.)

What advice would you give a new player in Illyriad?

Listen to the wisdom and advice of the bigger players. They usually know what they are talking about. (^_^)



Web Art 

Old Youtube Videos: Page 1, Page 2


Live Events, Community and Giant Beating Monstrous Hearts

A beast has laid dormant in the south west of Kumala for ages in the history of Illyria. It has sparked fear and curiosity from citizens who wish to unlock its mystery and defeat the horrific Heart of Corruption.

Beating Heart Gif by SunStorm

Until recently, most efforts to explore the area and battle the heart have come up fruitless. But, a mighty forum warrior by the name of SunStorm rallied the call of his fellow Illyrians in an effort to, once and for all, make a stand against this monstrous horror. A massive rally of troops descended upon the spot and discovered, that instead of destroying the beast, it began to grow and take over an even larger part of the map. Armies continued to pile in and become a sacrifice until, the heart came alive and began to beat.

Corrupted Elves and Dwarves

This shocking turn of events sent ripples across the land as corrupted beings rose from the dead, returning to their home cities with hostile intentions. Orcs, elves, humans and dwarves fought against the corrupted forms of their citizens, some of which left behind haunting traces of the attack in the form of a mysterious unharmed tentacle. After a time, and for unknown reasons, the Heart of Corruption has collapsed into its original state and corrupted armies have ceased to emerge.

You would think this is where the mystery ends, but no, our brave forum warriors have begun, yet again to send encampments and armies of troops, perhaps out of continued curiosity, sheer malice or in an attempt to seek revenge for those lost…

And yet again, it grows.

Illyriad players, as a sandbox gaming community, are a smart, resourceful and curious bunch. The entirely player-driven effort to unlock the long-standing mystery of the Heart of Corruption (or Audrey as nicknamed by the players) has been a testament to that fact. As someone who gets the pleasure of watching these things from the inside out, I can say that the development team has been just as excited as the players to watch this event unfold. As each new piece of information came to light, I’ve been quietly cheering everyone on and have been so pleased to see the enthusiasm and cooperation that has emerged from the event.

The word of Illyriad truly does belong to its inhabitants to explore, shape and affect in a meaningful way. Just don’t feed it too much, because sometimes it just might bite back.

GM Luna

Introducing Illyriad UIv3

Illyriad is proud to reveal a first look at the new UI version 3. 

After the successful launch of UIv2 last year, the development team agrees that it is time to take yet another step forward with the Illyriad interface design. Presentation and usability are important to the success of a game, and the new UIv3 should make Illyriad even more appealing and successful to a broader target audience.

We at Illyriad Games Ltd., believe there is an untapped marked for complex, sandbox-style, online military strategy games. This untapped market represents billions of dollars in spending each year on virtual goods and entertainment.  This market is tweens, specifically tween girls. And with UIv3, we are certain to create an environment that appeals and connects to this new target market.

This is an early, work-in-progress concept of the town page. You’ll notice the new, helpful pop-ups that remind you of things that need to be done in game. This will make the game even more accessible for our new target audience and includes a fun, new art style as well.

(Click for a full size view.)

UIv3 will be available for testing and release soon™.

We are proud to be leading the marketplace as the first sandbox MMORTS for tweens and look forward to expanding the Illyriad community in a new direction.

GM Luna


****April Fools! This is very much a joke and not an actual design for the Illyriad UI. Thank goodness!****