We will be mixing these in and out of the game environment dependent upon the map focus on biome. Some examples could be Mediterranean music, jungle music, desert music or polar music. We also plan to have some generic musical motifs and themes that enhance the game experience, such as triumphal themes that linger after you win a battle or trepidation themes that build anticipation before a diplomatic event such as sabotage or assassination. We are generally writing specific music for all of these themes as opposed to licencing them. We are also exploring the Web Audio API for this purpose – almost treating it as a sequencer – so that we can slave a standardized or fractional BPM to the game server clock and use all the clever tricks. For example, we may increase tempo of the music with the player’s proximity to the event outcome.
Weird, I know, but during the midlife crisis that impelled me to start Illyriad, I also released a reasonably successful album of ambient and dance music. So I’m pretty familiar with creating soundscapes and – whilst I haven’t yet used it in anger – the toolset I see in the Web Audio API looks pretty comprehensive. I would bet my bottom dollar that someone will build (if they haven’t already) a full Web Audio API sequencer, and I can also see (the equivalent of) VST plugins and softsynths being sold on the Chrome webstore.
2. Notification/event audio
These are the standardized sounds that occur during gameplay based on triggers such as event queuing or occurrences. For example, starting building construction in game with sound of carpenters sawing or the messenger noise you get when you receive an email. We’re looking at making some of these specific to the game races, so the new mail sound for receiving an in game message is different for Elves and Orcs. Some of these are being worked on currently by James Bell, our audio engineer. He is out in the field recording the sounds at historic battle re-enactment events around the UK so that we can really get it right!
We’re also looking to mix these on the fly in the browser. A battle notification audio event would be made up of many different audio snippets in the mix. For example, a player who attacks a pack of lions, using his cavalry, in a savannah environment that wins the battle will get a very different sound effect notification from a player who attacks a horde of skeleton warriors, using his bowmen, in the arctic north that loses the battle.
3. Environmental audio
Different from the motif music, these are specifically audio snippets (some looped, some one-off or randomly triggered) that are geo-specific, especially within the WebGL 3D environment. If you go up close to the grinding cog-wheels of a working flourmill or approach the river bank, the audio source is located (in the stereo and depth pan) in reference to your viewing position and that of the sound source with volume controlled by proximity.
Some of these effects are environment proximity-related and others are time-slaved (such as the dawn chorus of birds or the frogs and crickets of dusk) or environment-slaved (for example, wind, rain or thunder) as the game world progresses and changes.
When you’re a small indie game developer and you’ve just released your very first game, “getting the word out” is just about the most important thing left to do.
It’s also typically the biggest budget expense item via the traditional method of online advertising.
You can have all the upgrades and expansion packs in the pipeline that you like, but if no one is playing the game – or if the cost per acquisition of new players via advertising is astronomical and ever increasing due to the number of competitors vying for the same keywords – then you’re in no small amount of trouble.
Sometimes, however, you get lucky (or make your own luck!) – and an influential big brother steps onto the scene to champion your efforts. We’ve been very lucky with massively.com’s coverage of Illyriad, and now we have our second champion!
Largely, we think, thanks to our move to an HTML5 Canvas environment on the World Map, Illyriad came to the attention of those mighty, mighty fine people at the Google Chrome Web Store (CWS) at the end of last week; and they’ve been helping to promote Illyriad since.
The first we knew about our presence on the CWS homepage was when the ‘new player has joined’ “bing” noise (yes, I have a desktop dashboard that goes “bing”… I know, I know. Don’t say anything) changed from a “bing” into a continuous drone.
Not only are CWS promoting us on the homepage, but we’re also in the rotation for the Games and Entertainment categories.
Since we’ve been this visible on the CWS platform, new player acquisitions have increased 412%. No, that’s not a typo. That’s four hundred and twelve percent.
As if that wasn’t enough, the icing on the proverbial cake is that the Chrome browser itself runs HTML5 and the Canvas technology very fast and very smoothly (in our opinion, Chrome is far-and-away the best browser out there for developing and rendering HTML5 technologies). Whilst we do, and will, continue to support earlier, non-HTML5 browser versions of all the major browsers, it’s been fantastic knowing that the huge new influx of users coming to Illyriad from the CWS are getting the best possible HTML5 experience once they log in.
Since we integrated OpenID over the last weekend, CWS users are also getting a streamlined one-click login experience using their Google credentials. Now we’re moving onto Google pay integration, and can’t wait to see what the Google plus platform can do for us in the future.
In short: if you write any kind of app then getting it onto the Google Chrome Web Store is an absolute “must-do” when it comes to promoting your game, and (especially compared to some of the other app platforms) it’s remarkably easy to do.
As you can imagine, we’re over the moon about this!
Here’re the first drafts of various elements of the World Map, along with a tiny sample of some of the incredibly pedantic arguments (my fault entirely) that went on about region naming; the amount of detail that went into all of this, I hope, shows through…
We loved the mountain range that looked like a skull’s head, or a netherworld demon wielding a whip… and, given it was entirely fractally generated, we saw this as some kind of sign – and this is the candidate that was chosen.
Rivers & Fresh Water
These were all then edited (quite substantially in many ways), especially the water.
We then applied over the political regions (manually drawn, largely around topographic boundaries, as a natural barrier to regional development).
Here’s the first draft, with some region names that never made it to the final cut.
Up until now, the entire world was randomly generated, just like all the other browser-based games – and we were deeply unhappy with that idea, hence this project.
iirc, due to a small corp forum accident, about 2 players saw this first map before it was released. They were sworn to secrecy – and they kept it. We remember you guys, tyvm!
Should anyone doubt the level of anal-retentiveness that went into all of this, please allow me to reproduce a small sample of a conversation from the inhouse corp forums regarding the naming of a region:
Originally posted by GM ThunderCat
“Qef” as a region – Not sure about this one as it reminds me of [redacted], not sure if that’s my dyslexia or disturbed mind…
Originally posted by GM Stormcrow Definitely your disturbed mind, TC.
“Qaf” is the 50th Sura of the Qur’an – and it’s very much an Arabic “mystic word” – but by using an “e” (which doesn’t exist in Arabic) instead of the “a” we might escape the inevitable fatwa via transliteration .
Originally posted by GM ThunderCat
How about “Kul Tor” for Qef?
Originally posted by GM Stormcrow
Because mixing base languages (Kul – Sanskrit meaning “family” or “gathering”; Tor – OE, Gaelic twr meaning “Heap” or “Pile” and from where we get the word “Tower”) is bad m’kay?
We could mix Sanskrit and Arabic though, as that’s a fair enough mix.
Kul Qassim – where Qassim means the sand dunes from which the white Saxaul trees grow…?
PPS Edit. There’s actually no reason why we can’t have Kul Tor… Going back to my endlessly tedious “Why do all the names of the rivers on the East Coast of the UK begin with the letter ‘T’ (Thames, Tees, Tyne, Tweed, Tay etc etc)” party-stopper… It’s because they’re all Sanskrit, from “Tayus”.
So, actually TC, there’s no reason not to have “Kul Tor”. If we can have the river Ketterick (from the sanskrit iekti, where we also get the word “projectile”) and we can have the the river Ale and places Alncromb and Alnwick (from Alaunna – sanskrit plus “combe” & “wick” – OE), then why not Kul Tor?
Factions are now, of course, ingame (at least textually at the moment and via hubs on the world map), but I thought it might be interesting to share a first draft of a thematic map from the dev forums that I put together last year, illustrating my initial thoughts on how these might all fit together thematically (rather than geographically).
No, it didn’t make a huge amount of sense to the team either…! But it’s still quite close to my heart.
Some faction concepts didn’t make it to live; most did. And, of course, the ones up in the top right have, mostly, yet to be seen ingame.
We’re gamers, not game-industry insiders, and we’ve written a game that we’d like to play ourselves [but are unfortunately forbidden from doing so, as apparently summoning eleventy-thousand Enraged Mammoths to win a battle would be unfair… sheesh, some people…]
You can boil down our philosophy on game design at Illyriad into some general principles that we adhere to with everything we do:
2D MMORPG Strategy games should be truly persistent – the world should carry on changing when you log out. We also believe that servers shouldn’t reset after an arbitrary endgame, destroying all the players’ emotional investment in the gameworld. Why can’t browser games grow, evolve and change with updates and expansion packs so that the ‘endgame’ doesn’t arrive – except when *you* want it to? Just like, in fact, a “triple-A” box-set game.
There’s no reason why 2D browser games can’t have depth of gameplay, hand-crafted (rather than random) world maps, and lovingly-detailed NPC environments. Why can’t these worlds live, breathe and be truly immersive? Browser games can be sandbox games, and you really don’t have to insult players’ intelligence and dumb down everything to the lowest common denominator. Things should be as simple and intuitive to do as possible, but should have levels of depth as deep as the player wishes them to be.
In a strategy-focused empire-building game we can meddle with catalysts, but there’s no in-game content that’s as compelling to players as player-created content. Our job is to enable that to happen seamlessly.
Long-term games should work on as many browsers and platforms as possible; you should be able to play this on your home computer, your iPad, your Android or iPhone when you’re out-and-about.
Yes, the dev team has bills to pay and mouths to feed but so, actually, do the players. Games that allow “Pay-To-Win” are short-term and self-defeating for everyone.
It’s not how smart your technology is. It’s not how beautiful your graphics look. It’s not how many new spells you added. Sure, all these things are super-important and will help you get new and retain existing players… but the players themselves are far-and-away the greatest asset of an MMO game. Players also often know better than the design and dev team when something should be changed, and player suggestions should be listened to and acted upon if the idea is sound; don’t be precious about where a good idea came from! Players also set the entire tone for the game, and disruptive trolls (apart from the NPC kind!) should be sent on their way as fast a humanly possible. If you let them thrive they will end up driving your core playerbase away, and putting your potential new players off.
I hope someone can come up with a decent synonym for “Depth” that starts with the letter “P”, and then these can be the 6 P’s of our Philosophy 🙂 My thesaurus is sadly, failing me, and my search fu is weak.