Illyriad’s 5th birthday introduces sweeping changes

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ILLYRIAD!

It’s a bit of a shocker, but it’s Illyriad‘s five year anniversary.

While the server booted up for the first time on the 21st of February 2010, players didn’t get access until the 22nd; so that’s the official start date for this grand journey.

In that time we’ve seen many, many changes to the game.

For those who weren’t around at the beginning, here’s a sample of what you missed from the early days! We started off with a “world tree” theme around the borders, with all the content placed inside large scrolls.

The town map was a very different beast:


The world map was randomly generated (rather than hand-drawn) in those days, so there were no rivers, no seas or lakes, no sprawling forests or mountain ranges and no regions; just a mish-mash of different squares. The world map, with Chat version 1 visible is seen below. Note the awesome way the arctic area blends with the rest of the map. Subtle, huh?


POP-QUIZ FACTOIDS:

During these five years, you have:

  • Undertaken some 62 million trade missions and traded 4 trillion Gold (4 thousand billion)!
  • Performed 21 million harvesting missions and nearly 12 million quests
  • Gone on 125 million military missions and nearly 40 thousand sieges for a total of 1.6 billion casualties
  • Sent 104 million ingame mails and spoken 334 million words in chat. That’s the equivalent of the entire works of Shakespeare 377 times over, or the equivalent of 425 Bibles – in chat alone. I won’t speak to the relative quality of the text ūüėČ
  • 287,000 players have been through the gates, settling 350,000 towns across 1,300 alliances
  • You have collectively played 22,364,898.12 hours of Illyriad
  • That’s 931,870.75 days or 2,553 years!

During this 5-year period we have had just under 6 hours of unscheduled downtime, and 15 hours of downtime in total (including patches and server moves).

We’ve often stated that we are applying lessons learned from our work on Age of Ascent to Illyriad. Some things you’ve seen, some you’ve not – a lot of have been slightly abstract and based around infrastructure and capabilities. They have all made the game better and helped it to run smoother.

However, today we’d like to share something even more concrete; and hopefully a little more exciting than the existing benefits that AoA development has provided to Illyriad, such as progression graphs and private chat (even if TC thinks graphs are exciting).

Please bear in mind this is early days and there is a lot more to come and improvements to be made. We are not yet at an beta stage and taking bug reports, but…

Illyriad needs a lick of paint:

More interactivity:

1425321038townmenu
Different perspectives, showing where units are travelling to:


A grand strategic view of the whole world:


[See larger version]

Where the tactical map, strategic map and regional map are the same thing, and all full screen:


[See larger version]

Where coastline and rivers look more realistic, and where the map can be viewed from different rotational angles to better see the lay of the land:


[See larger version]

And where moving around the map is fast, and touch enabled, pinch to zoom ready, and where the data is pulled from across the entire world – all visible at once.

Exciting times ahead, for sure, but let’s look at all of the massive changes we put in for this anniversary:

Infantry and crafting: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/22feb15-7-day-warning-infantry-crafting_topic6166.html

Smoothing out research times: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/22feb15-trade-hides-research-exodus_topic6167.html

Building changes 1: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/22feb15-changes-to-building-effects_topic6169.html

Build changes 2: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/22feb15-build-time-changes_topic6170.html

Council meeting lore story: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/the-meeting_topic6173.html

UIv4 Preview: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/22feb15-uiv4-preview_topic6174.html

More than 10 cities!: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/23feb15-beyond-10-cities_topic6175.html

API and XML: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/23feb15-api-xml-notifications_topic6176.html

New medal options: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/23feb15-new-medals-options_topic6178_post85155.html

Google Wallet dies: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/24feb15-google-wallet-retirement_topic6181.html

Referral and tutorial changes: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/24feb15-tutorial-referral-programme-changes_topic6183.html

In-game mail XML feed: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/24feb15-xml-feed-for-ingame-mail_topic6182.html

Account sitter limit changes: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/24feb15-account-sitting-90day-limit_topic6184.html

Faction units!: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/25feb15-faction-unit-release_topic6186.html

Notifications tweaks: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/25feb15-more-detail-in-notifications_topic6188.html

Removing SOV: https://forum.illyriad.co.uk/03mar15-removing-sovereignty_topic6207.html

 

Stay tuned, and thanks for joining us on this journey!

Illyriad’s Top Ten Stories of 2014

Hello Illy players!

2014 was a stellar year for Illyriad. Sure, we struggled with the usual indie team issues like figuring out how particular systems should work or when to release a patch but I’m proud to say that for such a small team, we did really well.

I wanted to put together a list of fantastic events that happened over the year. For more details about all of the updates, expansions, tweaks and fixes that happened over the year, you need to go to the announcements forum, here. Also, keep an eye on the news feed on our website if you ever want to see just how much we have done in a year.

So, to the list. Keep in mind that this is not in order of importance, and there is a lot more to choose from. I decided to go with the items that impacted the game the most. Add in your memories or suggestions for big events in the comments section below!

__________________________________________________

Broken Lands launches: We finally opened the Broken Lands, a massive chunk of land due South of Elgea. Players are able to move there, explore, build and take over — if they dare. It’s a pretty dangerous area, marked with unusual land types and many different factions, so don’t take moving to the BL lightly!

Windows 8.1-optimized app is released: Although we had previously released a Windows 8 app, this newer, optimized version was needed. We’ve drawn in a lot of players because of this app, and it has even won awards for SlideDB’s app of the year!

New city graphics options: Players had been staring at the same 4 city types for quite a while, so we thought it’d be a good idea to let them change it up! We added in 34 different styles, each one with a different look for each stage of growth.

The Player Council forms: What better way to attack a project than with the player’s help? To start this experimental player-ran council, we decided to use lore as a topic. Five different players were picked to head five different specialities, from the timeline of the world of Illyriad to how the continents work together. We’ve already released some information and will continue to push out more at the beginning of the year.

SOV for lakes, lochs, tarns: Starving players could finally fish those lakes, lochs and tarns! What better way to give your towns a boost than to shoot them full of yummy essential oils?

Prestige scrolls: Want to sell your prestige for in-game gold? Need to give a buddy the gift of prestige? Can‚Äôt think of that perfect gift for your favorite enemy? Worry no more, prestige scrolls are here! They are a physical item that can be ‚Äúcashed in‚ÄĚ for prestige, made by using different materials and the amount of prestige you wish to give.

Player spotlight renewal: Our players are our greatest asset, which is why we decided to restart the player spotlight program. You can always nominate a player for the spotlight by sending an email to community@illyriad.co.uk and include their in-game name and why you think they should be spotlighted!

A big gold exploit closed: Ugh, no one likes exploits, and no one likes the mess they leave. We were hit by a pretty big one in 2014, but luckily we cleaned it up and moved on. Normally we wouldn’t want to remember stories like these but with such numbers, they teach a valuable lesson.

Illy wins some IndieDB awards: IndieDB and SlideDB both gave Illyriad several awards! We won for IndieDB’s Best Grand Strategy of 2014, the Editor’s Choice for Community and the Player’s Choice for Best Grand Strategy app. SlideDB gave us the Player’s Choice award for a Grand Strategy app and the Editor’s Choice for App of the Year!

Private chat: If there‚Äôs one thing players love, it‚Äôs privacy. They had been asking us for private chat for quite a long time so we finally delivered, and now we’re able to tell players “Take it to private!” if things get out of hand. It’s a wonderful feeling. Not to mention that, now, players can scheme and hatch nefarious plans without having to write an IGM.

It was an awesome year, but we have an even cooler year ahead of us! Thanks again to all of our passionate players who make this game as unique as it is.

 

GM Rikoo

 

14OCT14 – Prestige Scrolls

PRESTIGE SCROLLS

For a long time, transfers of Prestige between accounts have either had to go via the Alliance prestige pool or using sitting rights. With sitting rights, one player would give rights to an account, and the sitter would then buy the Prestige and step out of the account. This has led to some players reportedly being scammed (“I didn’t receive the gold they promised!”) or – illegal according to the TOS – players swapping sign-in and password information.
Now prestige scan be transferred directly to anyone or sold on the open market at a trade hub, by¬†using prestige scrolls. Let’s say that player A wants to give the new player B some prestige to help them along.
All player A needs to do is go into their Library’s new Resource Production area, make sure to have the correct amount of Prestige, books, mana, research and reagents and click Make – player A now instantly has a Prestige scroll that can be given or sold to player B.¬†Player B then redeems the scroll in their Reading Room.
Be aware that items in transit, including prestige scrolls, are vulnerable to blockade, so be careful when shipping these valuable new items.
The Prestige Scroll recipes are as follows:
  • Prestige Scrap:¬†75 Prestige, 75 Mana, 75 Research, 1 Giant Rat Heart, 1 Pyrestone, 1 Sharproot
  • Prestige Parchment:¬†200 Prestige, 200 Mana, 200 Research, 1 Wild Dog Heart, 1 Claristrine, 1 Silverthorn
  • Prestige Page:¬†500 Prestige, 500 Mana, 500 Research, 1 Wolf Heart, 1 Deepsilver, 1 Furzion Seedpod
  • Prestige Scroll:¬†850 Prestige, 850 Mana, 850 Research, 1 Brown Bear Heart, 1 Rainbowstone, 1 Brownback Moss
  • Prestige Codex:¬†1200 Prestige, 1200 Mana, 1200 Research, 1 Giant Scuttler Heart, 1 Trove, 1 Suntree Haft
  • Prestige Book:¬†1850 Prestige, 1850 Mana, 1850 Research, 1 Scritcher Heart, 1 Svelaugh Sand, 1 Vistrok Flower
  • Prestige Tome:¬†3250 Prestige, 3250 Mana, 3250 Research, 1 Scaled Charger Heart, 1 Earthblood, 1 Ironstem Root
Prestige scrolls are regular items and will show in your towns’ and hub inventories. They can be placed in hub buy and sell orders as regular craftable items, and appear in the “Exotic” category.
Prestige scrolls can only be created from personal prestige, not from alliance prestige.
The creation and use of prestige scrolls is recorded and is shown on your prestige history page.
 
SERVER-SIDE MONITORING & DIAGNOSTICS
We have improved our server-side monitoring and diagnostics so we can be aware of a problem and try to fix it before you are aware. It also provides rich information and extra detail around issues to allow us to more quickly diagnose potential issues. We have already resolved a number of long term issues this way.
 
Sharing some insights, below is a graph around the time the Heart of Corruption began beating. The early response time peak is a deployment for improved Windows 8.1 support (do feel free to vote for us in the store!) which required a full server code refresh and so a brief response time hit as the dlls were jit compiled:
 

 

You can also see the server’s daily heart beat or ebb and flow of player demands (this is over a week). The later half of the graph increases in requests per second as you (the players) activate the Heart of Corruption and then in response start sending thousands upon thousands of missions to it and the corrupted temples.
 

CHANGES TO IMAGE, CSS & SCRIPT HOSTING

We have moved where and how we host our images, css and javascript files. Hopefully, this has been transparent to you, the players, as mostly the files are cached in your browser and they aren’t requested that much, per player. However, players occasional requests as a group and new players’ requests do add up as can be seen on the graphs below:
The graph on the left shows when we swapped over the DNS to point at the new resource, and you can actually see the dns update propagating over the internet as the new resource slowly ramped up in requests thoughout the day. The second graph shows the now current day to day activity; do bear in mind these files should be cached for a long time for returning players so those requests shouldn’t show up here, however this does include images on our out of game site (like www).
 
HTTPS SECURE ACCESS
As part of the reason for the change above, we are now more consistent on when we can serve secure image files, so you can now use Illyriad over https if you so desire:
 

 
 

MAIL NEXT & PREVIOUS ITEMS
Mail items now have next and previous buttons inside individual mails to move you through the mail without having to return to the full mail list:
 

 

The next and previous buttons are category aware, so if you are in a subcategory e.g. sent or trade they will just navigate you through available mails in that subcategory.
 
COMBAT XML API
We’ve reinstated the Combat XML API system, so that you can can individually, as players, choose to share your combat reports with third parties. ¬†You’ve always been able to do this on an individual report basis, by using the “XML” button at the bottom of each combat report in-game mail.
 
However, you can now generate an API key in the Account & Preferences area of the User Interface. ¬†If you generate and give this API key to other players, they can then access a listing of all your combat reports since you issued your first key, and then drill down into each individual combat report just as if you’d sent them each report via in-game mail.
 
We can see this being useful for any builder of third party tools, an alliance that wants to track their collective members’ military actions and/or any player who wants to make a killboard for (eg) the purposes of player-run tournaments.
 
The API key is something that an individual player can generate, and revoke (or rather, generate a new key) from their Account & Preferences page in the “API Keys” submenu.It differs from the individual combat report XML in that it is a generic key which essentially says “I hereby grant the holder of this key the right to access all my non-covert combat event logs in XML format until such time as I revoke the key by changing it“.A player who issues a Combat API Key can then use this unique, individual key to query a page that will produce a list of combat events that can then be queried via the individual report identifier, and they can share this key with anyone they choose.

Players can pass their Combat API key to third parties (such as alliance techies, or killboard website operators) and these third parties can then query this page on behalf of the player, and retrieve the individual combat reports for every combat this player has been involved in.

ISSUING & REVOKING YOUR COMBAT API KEY

Go to your Account & Preferences page and click on the API submenu:

You will have a list of keys here – or, on your first visit, the option to issue a Combat Reports API Key for the first time.To create a Combat Reports API Key, press the “Generate” button.If you already have a key, pressing “Generate”¬†will instantly disable your current key and generate a new one for you; thereby preventing access to your combat reports by anyone who knows your old key.

Account sitters can generate and/or revoke API keys.

SUPPRESSING INDIVIDUAL COMBATS FROM DISPLAYING TO KEY HOLDERS
For whatever reason (doubtless nefarious!) you might not want a specific, particular combat to appear in the Combat Report list you’ve made available to anyone with your API Key.
You can suppress individual combat reports from appearing on the list if you check the¬†Is¬†Covertoption checkbox on the “Send Army” page before you dispatch the army outbound. ¬†You will need to have researched¬†Covert Operations¬†in the Military research tree to see this option.

USING THE API KEY TO GET AN XML LIST OF AVAILABLE COMBAT REPORTS – A PROGRAMMERS’ GUIDE
If you’re not a programmer, then the following is probably not relevant, and you can skip over the next couple of sections!
The API Key is in the format:

[Server Name][KeyType][Key]

This helps you identify which server to query (we currently only have elgea) and what page to query with the key.

A sample full combat API key for elgea might look like this:

elgea-COMRP-AQAAABoolkA8l0qQ7kL5Vpxmk-LwCjrv0qh5f9uB6M10saMBnAi01_0IiV4a-pnxWDUF5UcAhtw1SNQ2n0XGbgvb6gw=

This identifies this key as being good for pulling data from Server [elgea] for Combat Reports [COMRP], and the remainder of the key is an encrypted piece of data that identifies the player to us (twinned with the rights he has given to this key).

To query a key for the first time, call the following page:

https://elgea.illyriad.co.uk/external/combatreportsapi/[insert player’s full Combat API Key including the server and keytype here]

and so, using the example above, your query would be:

https://elgea.illyriad.co.uk/external/combatreportsapi/elgea-COMRP-AQAAABoolkA8l0qQ7kL5Vpxmk-LwCjrv0qh5f9uB6M10saMBnAi01_0IiV4a-pnxWDUF5UcAhtw1SNQ2n0XGbgvb6gw=


WHAT DOES THE PAGE RETURN?

Sample (will not work in reality)
<combateventsapi>
<server>

<name>UK1</name>
<servercountrycode>gb</servercountrycode>
<serverlanguagecode>en</serverlanguagecode>
<serverlivedate>2010-02-21T21:53:01.190</serverlivedate>
<datagenerationdatetime>2014-10-13T16:30:43.040</datagenerationdatetime>

</server>

<player id="1"/><playerapikey id="elgea-COMRP-AQAAABoolkA8l0qQ7kL5Vpxmk-LwCjrv0qh5f9uB6M10saMBnAi01_
0IiV4a-pnxWDUF5UcAhtw1SNQ2n0XGbgvb6gw="/>

<combatevents>

<uniquecombatidentifier>

<server id=”UK1″/>
<combatguid id=”F94B7AC1-CFB8-4DE8-A211-044D1A4DAC18″/>
<troopmovementevent id=”507040″/>
<datacomplete id=”1″/>
<personalcombatkey id=”AQAAACTYblel0LzEsSb7kiZcZg0hQJZCDmbi_sgo82Ej6iKr”/>
<combatoccurrencedate>2014-10-06T03:09:10.523</combatoccurrencedate>

</uniquecombatidentifier>

<uniquecombatidentifier>

<server id=”UK1″/>
<combatguid id=”4D389937-545A-4CC0-A7E8-4EA27487DAAE”/>
<troopmovementevent id=”509341″/>
<datacomplete id=”1″/>
<personalcombatkey id=”AQAAAFICvEs1DXLWCN2fesfs61oCyonjDBukVnB0TxJJg2t3″/>
<combatoccurrencedate>2010-08-06T16:39:30.907</combatoccurrencedate>

</uniquecombatidentifier>

</combatevents>

Breaking it down, you have:

  • The standard Server Identification snippet, followed by
  • The PlayerID who this Key belongs to, and the exact key you just used
  • A list of combat events that this player has been involved in, along with the <personalcombatkey> identifier so you can then go off and query the specific event for the full details, using:
    https://elgea.illyriad.co.uk/external/combatreport/[insert <personalcombatkey> here]
You do not need to be logged in to access the Combat API listing or any individual Combat API report, so long as you have the key!


HOW TO CHOOSE WHAT EVENTS YOU NEED TO QUERY

1. You may already have the report from another player
Within:

<uniquecombatidentifier>

<server id=”UK1″/>
<combatguid id=”4D389937-545A-4CC0-A7E8-4EA27487DAAE”/>
<troopmovementevent id=”509341″/>
<datacomplete id=”1″/>
<personalcombatkey id=”AQAAAFICvEs1DXLWCN2fesfs61oCyonjDBukVnB0TxJJg2t3″/
<combatoccurrencedate>2010-08-06T16:39:30.907</combatoccurrencedate>

</uniquecombatidentifier>

IF

  • You already have a combat report with this <server id> and
  • You already have a combat report with this <combatguid id> and
  • You already have a combat report with this <troopmovementevent id>

THEN

IF

  • This new report has a less than or equal to ( <= ) <datacomplete id> than the one you currently have:

WHEN TRUE (YES, YOU HAVE THIS “NEW” REPORT ALREADY AND THE VERSION YOU HAVE IS AS GOOD AS, OR BETTER THAN, THE NEW REPORT) THEN

  • Don’t query this report – you already have everything you need

WHEN FALSE (NO, THIS “NEW” REPORT HAS MORE ACCURATE DATA THAN THE REPORT YOU CURRENTLY HAVE) THEN

  • Query this report using the <personalcombatkey id> and replace your existing report with this one

ELSE

  • This is a new report and you should import it

The reason we have the datacomplete flag is because different players can get slightly different versions of the same combat report (eg “Your army was completely destroyed and you heard nothing of its’ fate” vs “You completely whupped that guy, here’s the report”).

2. You don’t need to query the complete player history every time, to decide what’s new

Obviously we don’t want you to be querying a complete player history every time you pull the API key.

So there is an additional parameter we’d like you to use when you subsequently query view_combat_reports_api.asp – this parameter is called¬†[since]. ¬†[since]¬†is based on the actual combat occurrence date, not the date that the army was originally sent, so it should be a historic record.

This should be set to the most recent <combatoccurrencedate> for the <player ID> whose key you are using.

If you don’t have any data for this player so far, then please do not provide the¬†[since]¬†parameter.

Because there is a chance that you might have two combat events from the same player occurring at the same second, we will return the event(s) you already have at that datetime stamp, so please be prepared to ignore the first couple of events returned – as you may already have them (see above for how to decide).

The [since] parameter is in the same format it was provided in originally in the <combatoccurrencedate>field of the last report you have from this player, such as: 2014-08-06T03:09:10

The Date Time format is YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS

So, a first API Key query might look like this:

https://elgea.illyriad.co.uk/external/combatreportsapi/elgea-COMRP-AQAAAI0WUkqicWZIAoiQOP2bObRf5c2Vxr0CoiEQ3PPQNfCAXtq_ftlyXzYsNQ_dGhCAkRf_b2_C6VVn

… and a subsequent one might look like this:

https://elgea.illyriad.co.uk/external/combatreportsapi/elgea-COMRP-AQAAAI0WUkqicWZIAoiQOP2bObRf5c2Vxr0CoiEQ3PPQNfCAXtq_ftlyXzYsNQ_dGhCAkRf_b2_C6VVn?since=2014-10-14T13:36:38

… which will only return those combat events related to the player since (and including) the event that occurred on the¬†[since]¬†timestamp.


HOW OFTEN CAN I QUERY A PLAYER’S API KEY?

For the purposes of development, we haven’t yet set a limit.

However, we will probably impose a limit for a particular key query (from the same querying source) at some point in the future, simply to preserve server resources and bandwidth.  It all rather depends on how you player-programmers choose to use the API key system!

WHAT DATA IS AVAILABLE
Combat report data is only available from the moment that any API key is generated by a player.  You cannot access historic records from before the first API key was generated, except via the direct link provided at the bottom of your ingame mail combat report.
 
MOVING TROOPS
 
Things got a little wild around the Heart of Corruption as huge numbers of missions piled into it. Unfortunately this caused some noticable slow-downs in the browser pages getting updates to their movements when the map was focused on the HoC. 
 
To resolve this we throttled what was sent to the map to display a maximum of 1 mission icon (per type) per quarter square Рand a maximum of 75 missions on the visible map (per type) at any time, focused around the map center. 
 
 
 
We hope you enjoy these enhancements to the game environment.
 
GM Rikoo

Choosing a winner for our Name That Ocean contest

OceanNameRecently we asked players to submit a name for the newly discovered massive strip of water that lies between Elgea and The Broken Lands. While we knew that we’d get a lot of entries, we weren’t prepared for how good many of them would be! Some players submitted several at once, while other players preferred a single entry that was complete with definitions and origin. Just reading through the thread was a lot of fun.

Originally we were just going to pick the winner and announce it. Finally we decided to put up three different choices to see if the community backed up our original decision. We listed The Bitter Sea (submitted by Canesrule) or The Sea of Mercy (submitted by Arctic55) or Gateway to Wealth (LadyLifeGrows.) These are all great names because they are simple, easy to understand even for newbies, seem to have a story behind them and would read easily on the map. There were several names that were submitted but were other names for a developer or alliance and we didn’t want it to seem like we were pulling favorites.

In the end, the votes echoed what we thought: The Bitter Sea is a brilliant name! The name also has a history in Illyriad. It used to be the name of a forum where players were allowed to vent more freely than we normally allow. It was closed due to a leaking roof and rat infestation.

The name The Bitter Sea does not need to be explained to feel epic or dangerous; it just feels like something an old sea captain might call it. Congrats to Canesrule for suggesting it, and enjoy your journeys across the newly-named sea!

GM Rikoo

GM Cerberus: Behind Illyriad’s Art

Billetmaking

We’ve always loved the artwork inside of Illyriad and now, Age of Ascent, the upcoming MMO shooter we’ve been working on. So, who makes all of those pretty pictures, graphics and icons that you see while playing? It’s GM Cerberus, that’s who. We wanted to let him talk about himself so that you, the player, can get to know this superbly creative individual who pops into chat once in a while.

What got you started in art?

I’ve loved creating art from a very young age, I was fortunate enough to be raised by a family of artists; my mother being a singer/writer and my grandmother being a painter. They helped and encouraged me to cultivate my talents. What really got me into art, though, was video games. I loved drawing Samus from Metroid and Mega Man bosses as a kid, and I would occasionally get in trouble in grade school for doodling when I should have been working on school work.

What is it like making art for the specifics of a video game? How is it different than other projects?

It has been a learning experience from the get-go. There are a lot of technical aspects when creating digital art that you don’t have to account for in physical media. Not everyone who views the work I create is viewing it at the same settings I am, for example, there are different resolutions and browsers to take into account. Heck, some people’s monitors aren’t even correctly color calibrated. One of the biggest things, however, is that i’m creating artwork not just for form but for function. Everything I create has a purpose in some game mechanic, and seeing it all in place and functional in-game brings on a sense of self-satisfaction unrivaled by any other project I’ve ever undertaken.

Do you have an estimate of how many pieces of art you’ve made for Illyriad? How about for Age of Ascent so far?

I’ve done upwards of 250-300 “large” pieces that players can view in the tech tree in Illyriad and hundreds of other miscellaneous graphics and doodads that I can’t even begin to put a number on. It would be difficult to put a number on Age of Ascent as well, but I’d be safe in saying it’s over 100 pieces. These numbers can be misleading however, as I’m including something as small as a scout unit or afterburner icon.

Do you have a preference of working on fantasy or sci-fi stuff?

I’m really torn on this, so much that I feel like two different artists when I’m working on the styles. With my fantasy work I feel more at liberty to have them look hand illustrated where with science fiction I feel the need for precision and almost have the work be Trompe l’oeil. With Illyriad most of my work is done using a form of vector illustration and some freehand with a tablet, and on Age of Ascent it’s a lot of photo-manipulation illustration and a bit of drafting. I can’t claim favorites honestly, I’m fortunate enough to have the freedom to explore so many different styles that I love them all.

What is your process like? Do you sketch? Work on paper or all digital?

My process is very traditional in the sense that I start with a very basic sketch to act as a skeleton for the piece, and work up from there. My vector illustrations, for example: I begin by getting a very basic sketch, sometimes I refer to photos I take and chop up to insure I get my angles and proportions correctly, and then I create the dark contour lines. After the contour is complete I move to coloration and then shading to give the piece depth and light. For work with Illyriad and Age of Ascent I don’t really touch paper, everything can be done digitally and it’s very convenient to not have to scan in sketches or attempt to translate what I created on paper to digital media.

How do you create so many pieces of art while still maintaining your sanity?

Who said anything about me being sane? I very much doubt my sanity and it spirals downward daily. Seriously though, as I said before I am fortunate enough to have the privilege of being able to work on a myriad different styles. If I get burnt out on making logos for corporations in Age of Ascent I can switch over to creating freehand military units, isometric machines, blueprints, or vector illustrations. Variety is what keeps me sane, and I have lots of it.

Thanks to Cerberus for taking the time to talk with the blog. Now, get back to work! Those drawings won’t draw themselves!

Broken Lands Faction: Mellorisians

From the daily reports of Commander Cirian Danorian, deep reconnaissance mission.

Day 7, evening: We have camped by a huge rock, with a crude carving chiselled into it. The figure is vaguely humanoid, but has no eyes. Our scribe tells us that it is meant to be a spirit called Melloris. Allegedly the spirit has manifested to the leader of a local community, who described it as being made of gold, supremely beautiful, but blind. The lack of eyes might indicated blindness, but the strange shape of this figure does not suggest beauty, just a very poor stone carver.

Day 8, afternoon: We have spotted a stronghold high on a cliff. Its stone walls look ancient, but are partly ruined and have been recently and crudely patched with wood. Still, its position makes it seem impregnable. As we approached we found human farmers working small fields in the valley beneath, but they fled at our approach. We have made camp, and sent scouts up the cliff path to investigate.

Day 8, evening: Our scouts have not returned. We have also had visitors. A group of armed men, armoured, carrying bows. They said that they were a search party from the stronghold. They said they were looking for ‚ÄúHeretics who have fallen from truth and fled from the light of Melloris‚ÄĚ, who they wanted to find in order to ‚Äúsave‚ÄĚ them by taking them back to the community. They were very well armed for a friendly search party.

Day 9, noon: Our scouts have returned. They say that they were worried about climbing back down the cliff path in the dark. They also mentioned good food and warm beds in the settlement above. They report the community being confused by their visit, but there was no hostility. We will all trek up the cliff this afternoon, as a safe and comfortable place to stay would be welcome.

Day 9, evening: We have found passable food, warm beds, and solid fortifications. It is a welcome change from sleeping in a camp in the wilds. The locals are little inclined to talk to us, however.

Day 10, noon: The inhabited settlement is small. Just a couple of thousand people, but the location is so secure that no army could assault them. The people still avoid us, and lots of doors are locked. The old ruined parts of the stronghold are extensive, however, and merit more investigation. We are not the only visitors, as there is a small market. We found a small band of ragged elves trading here, and they say that the locals are as unfriendly to them as they are to us.

Day 10, afternoon: I was summoned to appear before the community’s leader. He sat on a large but crude throne, wearing the vestments of a priest and a large silver crown. I vaguely remember him. In Virten when I was young he was called Jerrian, and he was considered a possible future King of Virten. He was renowned as a virtuous man but the College of Silence suspected that he was mentally unstable. Now he leads this self-exiled community, and I was told to address him as Blessed Prophet of the Golden Spirit, not by his ‚Äúformer‚ÄĚ name. He had summoned me to complain about one of our expedition. Apparently our scribe had been ‚Äúspreading lies, infecting the minds of the true believers, promoting falsehood and immorality‚ÄĚ. I doubt it. None of us have spoken much to the locals. But he clearly wants us to go, so I said that we would leave early tomorrow. I have no idea why he is hostile to us, but there was no point arguing.

Day 10, evening: Organised a search of the ruined areas, without alerting the locals. We found several rooms that looked like ritual areas, abandoned for centuries. Most interesting was a grand mural, dusty and cracked, from before the Sundering. It seemed to show a wizard or arch mage, depicted with a great staff, one eye covered with a patch, and one of his hands shown as being gold.

Day 11, morning: We set guards last night, and they woke us before dawn. They had seen movement where our horses were stabled, and they intervened, uncovering a partially dressed local woman and one of our animal handlers. He said that she had seduced him and asked him to stay and marry her. She said that he had tricked her into spending the night with him. I believe him, not her. He doesn’t have that much guile, and I don’t trust these people. We are leaving now. I would rather be out in the wilds than have to contend with the lies and paranoia that confound us here.

 

Broken Lands Faction: Guul-Hai

From the daily reports of Commander Cirian Danorian, deep reconnaissance mission.

Day 34, evening: This is as far from the ship as I want to go. Legends say this is the land of the Guul-Hai. Nobody from Virten has ever seen one. Stories say they move without a sound and can melt into the dark. They are supposed to be Orcs, but some tales say that they were changed by the mages long before the Sundering, and they’re now something else. We have lost good men already, and now people are nervous. So this will be our last search. Even the Kartur-Hhakrall are restless. We’ll try to make contact. Then, we’ll head home.

Day 35, morning: Have worked out a search pattern, and today we will start criss-crossing the area looking for tracks or settlements.

Day 35, evening: Nothing. No sign of habitation at all. The scouts noted an unusual number of wolf tracks, so we secured our camp perimeter carefully.

Day 36, evening: Another fruitless day. Men exhausted from searching, and all scouting parties returned to camp having found no sign of Orcs. Plenty of animal tracks, though, and we ate well on a deer that we felled. Disturbed by the disappearance of a bearer, sent to fetch water from the spring at dusk.

Day 37, morning: Scouts searched the spring. Snow fell yesterday, and ground around the spring is muddy, so tracking should have been easy. Our man’s tracks just stopped a few paces from the water. Lots of other tracks in the area, all wolves, but no sign of a struggle, no sign of him being chased, felled or dragged. Someone suggested the Gull-Hai might be riding wolves, but from the paw size and short gait these wolves are too small to ride.

Day 37, evening: Another useless day. Long discussion around the campfire, working out a new plan. Someone asked why there are so many wolf tracks, when we haven’t seen wolves. This suggested a new direction. Can’t solve the mystery of where the Guul-Hai are. So we’ll look into mystery of the wolves. Maybe there’s a link.

Day 38, morning: Awoken by screaming. Found our missing bearer. His body was hanging from a tree in the middle of camp. He had been stripped, and guts, heart and brain removed. No sign of clothes or innards. Our surgeon says he had been dead for a day. Much shouting at the guards who had been on watch. No idea how someone got past them with a corpse. No tracks on the ground. Guessed someone had climbed the tree to string him up, but no tracks by the tree. Someone suggested that his killers must fly. I dismissed the idea. No rumours of flying creatures here, and Orcs certainly can’t fly. But I have no theory of my own.

Day 38, evening: Better day. Two scouting parties found big groups of wolves. The groups were much bigger than normal wolf packs, and they wandered aimlessly. Someone suggested they were more like a flock of sheep than a pack of predators.

Day 39, morning. Bad morning. One of our human scouts has vanished, from the middle of the camp. Nobody saw him leave, no tracks, no sign of a struggle. Then I had my first argument with the Kartur-Hhakrall. They’ve been absolutely loyal until now. But they think it’s stupid to keep searching. They look nervous. It isn’t like them to be scared of anything. I asked them if they didn’t want to find fellow Orcs. The Gull-Hai have been separate from our Orc retainers for five centuries. I assumed they’d be curious. They said no. They said the Gull-Hai are unnatural, tainted. They said that a good leader would turn back. I understand what that means. I told them we’d search for one more day, and then I’d decide what to do.

Day 39, evening: Spent the day looking for and watching wolf packs, or herds. This may be a good line of enquiry. One scout reports seeing an Orc moving amongst a group of wolves, though later investigation showed only wolf tracks there, no Orc tracks. Another scout found a cooking pit, buried to conceal it. I asked him how he found it and he said he just searched in an area where there were no tracks, in the middle of an area with lots of wolf tracks. He estimated that half a dozen people might have eaten from the food cooked there, and suggested that we search for similar trackless areas amidst areas with lots of wolf activity. It is a good suggestion, but I am starting to agree with the Kartur-Hhakrall, that we should not be here.

Day 40, morning: Our missing scout was found by the camp fire, where he had been sleeping. As before, clothes, heart, guts and brain were missing, and our surgeon says he has been dead for a day. I have given the order to strike camp and head back.

Day 40, evening: Two hundred paces from camp a Kartur-Hhakrall scout smelled something, so went to look. He came back with gnawed animal bones. He said the tooth marks showed that Orcs had been eating them, last night. There were other bones, from previous nights. The place where they were had a clear view down into our camp site. We had spent five days failing to find the the Gull-Hai, and they had been watching us all along. We marched more swiftly after that, and covered a good distance, glad to be leaving these lands.

 

The Broken Lands Map

Here’s the Broken Lands map for your delectation.

There will be approximately 300 squares of open ocean between the southern tip of Stormstone on Elgea, and the Northern-most tip of the Broken Lands.

This map does not currently show shallow/tidal/ocean waters; I’ll put this on a later version.

The large Western landmass with the border round it is the PvP-free protected zone.

Regards,

SC

Broken Lands Map

Click the map for the large version

Broken Lands Faction: The Lost Clans

From the daily reports of Commander Cirian Danorian, deep reconnaissance mission.

Day 29, evening: We have made camp in some sort of ancient Dwarven ruin. It will be an uncomfortable night. There is scattered rubble on the hillside, but nothing that provides cover. So we have come in through the main entrance, to passages cut into the rock. The floors slope downwards, away from the opening. Our engineer says that the passages might once have continued back for miles, but the whole structure has slipped into the ground, swallowed up in the Sundering. We checked all the passages, and they all end in collapse.

Day 30, early morning: The guards we posted at the entrance raised the alarm. They say they saw a figure, skulking. A quick search found nobody. We will look again in the morning.

Day 30, morning: Started to pack up camp, but then the scouts reported in. They found our visitor’s tracks. Dwarf footprints. There shouldn’t be Dwarves this far east. So we will stay today, and investigate.

Day 30, evening: Scouting parties fanned out, looking for our visitor, or any other evidence of Dwarves living near here. They found nothing, but the guards back at camp saw him again, watching them.

Day 30, midnight: I set everyone to work this evening. It seems our visitor wants to get into these ruins. Maybe he has hidden something here. Maybe there’s a secret passage, some Dwarf deception here. So we searched. After five hours, nothing has been discovered. We need some sleep now.

Day 31, morning: The guards think our visitor is still lurking. So, the plan today is that we set out again, with search parties going in all directions. But after an hour they will fan out to form a single long line, and return. They will act like a net, trapping our visitor. I want to talk to him.

Day 31, afternoon: We have lost our opportunity. The Dwarf fell for the ruse, but we lost him. We went past him, fanned out, came back, trapped him. He ran, we chased. We hailed him, he kept running. We chased him to the edge of a cliff. He looked wretched. His hair was greasy and lank, his skin was sickly grey. In his left eye socket some sort of metal contraption whirred and moved around. We encircled him, and I tried to question him. Did he live in the ruins? No answer. Were there any other Dwarves living nearby? No answer. Could he please tell us his name? No answer. I told the Kartur-Hhakrall to grab him. They stepped forward, he stepped back and plunged fifty paces down the cliff. He killed himself rather than let us take him. I have now set the Kartur-Hhakrall to scale the cliff and check the body.

Day 31, evening: I should have been clearer with the Kartur-Hhakrall. I said check the body. I should have said retrieve the body. They checked it. They say it was not a real Dwarf. They say he did not have blood in his veins, but some black oil. I would have liked our surgeon to examine it. But our Orcs had checked it, and then they burned it. I can see the smoke rising in the distance. I asked why they built such a big bonfire for him. They said that they weren’t taking any chances.

Broken Lands Faction: Free Orcs

From the daily reports of Commander Cirian Danorian, deep reconnaissance mission.

Day 1, morning: Yesterday we made contact with an Orc warband on the shore. We asked them to fetch their leader, or someone who could speak on their leader’s behalf. He appeared, surrounded by retainers, big Orcs, with many scars. We asked for his permission to travel through his lands. We offered gifts, and veiled threats. Our own Kartur-Hhakrall guards took the lead on this, and spoke to him Orc to Orc. It worked. He took the gifts and gave permission. So this morning we make landfall, and start east.

Day 1, evening: There is good hunting in these lands, and we brought down plenty of game, so that we will eat well tonight. We saw Orc scouts behind, ahead and to the sides, but they left us alone. Presumably they have got the message that we have permission to be here.

Day 2, morning: Violently awoken. Camp attacked. One of our cooks was killed, a scribe injured. One of the Kartur-Hhakrall also dead, two others slightly battered. So much for promises of safe passage. The scribe can walk, and the Kartur-Hhakrall want to pursue our attackers. They want revenge. I want to know why we were attacked. So, we will follow our attackers’ trail.

Day 2, evening: Caught up with our attackers. I held the Kartur-Hhakrall back, not wanting to lose more people. They contented themselves hunting down one of the stragglers, then withdrew. We have camped in an easily defensible position, atop a steep scarp.

Day 3, morning: Little rest last night. Three separate incursions from the local Orcs against us. They seemed designed to test us, not hurt us. No deaths on either side, though we lost a pack mule, felled by a javelin. I have allowed our Kartur-Hhakrall to attempt negotiations. As I write they are bellowing insults and goading the Orcs to attack us.

Day 3, noon: My Kartur-Hhakrall seem to have decided that attacking is a form of negotiating. Half of them disappeared earlier, and have just returned. They carry the severed heads of two young Orcs. We are now fortifying the camp.

Day 3, evening. The Kartur-Hhakrall notion of negotiating works well with these local Orcs. A messenger has just shouted from the woods that their leader will speak to us tomorrow morning. We expect attacks in the night, of course.

Day 4, morning: Quiet night. No attacks. The Orc leader arrived at dawn. She wasn’t someone we’d seen before, not the same leader we bargained with from the ship. I asked why she had not stood by his promise, and she spat and cursed, saying that she would not bow to him. She bowed to nobody, she said, for she was a free Orc, not a slave. Discussions followed. It seems that these Free Orcs have a thousand leaders, none acknowledging the others. I asked of stories of great Orc strongholds here, held by mighty chieftains. She said that she could be such a chieftain if she wanted. Asked why she didn’t want to, she said they never survived more than a year, and she had many years of fighting to do. I asked if she would ever follow one of these chiefs, and she said that she had, and might again, but only if she felt like it. I am bemused by this, and have left further negotiations to my Kartur-Hhakrall.

Day 4, noon: We will move off again soon. The Kartur-Hhakrall decided not to do a deal with the local warleader. They decided that she would see it as a sign of weakness if they sought peace. Instead the told her what route we would take, and invited her to attack us if she wished. I’m not convinced by this. Inviting attack seems foolish, but it is too late now. We will march as far as we can today.

Day 5 evening: After one and a half days of peaceful march, we are leaving Orc territory. We noted scouts watching us, but none have attacked. I have thanked my Kartur-Hhakrall for their work ensuring our safe passage, but will be happy if we do not have to deal with the Free Orcs again.