At the time of writing this we have just 10 days before we launch ilkor.com. We're all very excited but nervous!!
We are determined to launch our website on the 1st July. Remember, the game won't be available to play yet, you'll have to wait a while longer (read below for more info). However come the 1st July you'll be able to find out information on the game, learn when the Ilkor will be available to play, sign-up for the beta playtest including some hidden surprises coming your way over the next few months.
The Ugly: Nervous because there is just so much to do still. We had hoped to be in a much better position than we are right now but for a stack of reasons we are running behind in putting together the content. I can see alot of late evenings and spending most of the coming weekend working on the outstanding tasks. We want to launch with at least a 'half decent' website. I'm sure we'll be updating the website on a continuous basis post launch date, but non-the-less we want our first web-presence to be a good one. The finishing touches just seem to take so much longer than we at first thought for numerous reasons, still making silly mistakes despite all our experience in web development!!
The Bad: We had hoped to launch the game on the 7th Jan 2012 as a beta playtest. However we have had to review that date. It appears that date is a little too optimistic. We don't feel comfortable with that date any longer. Unfortunately we are going to have to push that date out by at least a few months. You'll learn about the revised date on the 1st July. This is something we have thought about long and hard over the past few weeks. We felt it was too high risk to keep to such a tight deadline date and for what reason? Why do we want to put such pressure upon ourselves? Sure we want to get the game finished and open it for everyone to signup, play and enjoy, but we are doing this in our spare time. It is therefore difficult to forecast just how much development we can achieve in a specific timeframe. I really hope you are not too disappointed. I can assure you it will be worth the wait.
The Good: Keeping the best for last. We're busy setting up our web and database server. This task is happening this week while the final touches to the website are getting developed. The website is looking really great and should be available in all browsers including mobile. We've chosen a solid and reliable hosting company called ElasticHosts. They have a wonderful model and will allow us to scale when required. I'll blog about our technology stack sometime in the future when I have more time on my hands. The content is also coming together which includes alot of juicy game material, artwork and general information regarding the great features of Ilkor.
OK, well thats about it for the moment. I best get back to the grind to ensure we meet our launch date.
I thought an article around our idea of Character Avatars would be quite interesting. It does give away some of our design secrets, but what the heck, I don't believe what we are planning on doing is totally unique, but our approach and implementation might be a little special .
Avatars appear to be everywhere on the web nowadays, especially on forums, social media websites and of course games.
In Ilkor, each Player Character will be represented by an avatar. An avatar will be a portrait drawing, basically a 'head and shoulders' drawing that will be used to represent your character. The avatar will be used throughout the game in a number of ways, during encounters, on forums (once we've sorted out the integration), ranking lists, etc.
Each avatar will be drawn by Simon Le Tranter and for the better part will be unique (read on further to see what I mean). Ilkor will be capable of hosting 10's of thousands of players (hopefully more!!) so for Simon to produce individual avatars is not realistic. Instead, each portrait will be made up of a number of facial features. For the sake of this article lets settle of just 5:
- Head & Shoulders
Each facial feature will be drawn separately on a transparent background, called a layer. Each layer gets placed on top of one another in a pre-subscribed order; head and shoulders, mouth, nose, eyes and then finally the hair. Once this has taken place, the finished portrait is produced. It will look something like this:
The example above has been drawn by Simon and gives you a real idea of the type of style and high quality you can expect when playing Ilkor.
Your avatar will get automatically assigned to you when you join the game. At that point the avatar portrait will get randomly created using three important pieces of information:
- Your Email Address
- Character Race (human, elf, dwarf, halfling)
- Character Gender
We are using a very similar process and implementation that has been used at Monster ID. If you have time, go and check out their website. They go into some technical detail on how they produce unique monsters:
MonsterID is a method to generate a unique monster image based upon a certain identifier (IP address, email address, whatever). It can be used to automatically provide personal avatar images in blog comments or other community services.
Ilkor only has 4 playable races. Taking gender into consideration, there are just 8 possible combinations or groups.
Simon will drawn a number of facial features per group. Lets take the Male Human group as an example. If Simon comes up with 5 different sets of each facial feature we'd have a total combination of 3,125 unique male human avatars (5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 = 3,125). If we had 10 sets, we'd have 100,000 unique avatars. If we produced this for all 8 gender / race combos we'd have 800,000 unique avatars. Hopefully you can see the basic maths behind this. From a max of 400 unique facial features, Simon would be able to give us almost 1 million avatars.
Remember a player will begin the game with an avatar that has been created uniquely from the player's email address. The player will not have the option at the beginning to change his avatar, but later on in the game he will be able to alter it's appearance. The player will never be able to upload his own avatar, it will always be created from Simon's artwork. This is important to us, as we want to ensure Ilkor remains at a high standard.
Well that's about all I've got to share with you this time around. Before I go, here is one more avatar example. Enjoy, and hope you are looking forward to what is coming your way from Ilkor: Dark Rising.