Welcome aboard Scott Huelsman: Ilkor's first Community GameMaster
We were approached by Scott just over a week ago, offering his services to get involved in the Ilkor project. Scott brings with him many talents such as vast knowledge and experience in role-playing, a gamemaster, webmaster and programmer. Scott has even developed his own 'Role-Playing Novel' which is a very interesting concept. You should really check out his work at: http://www.thehway.com/WizardReborn/RolePlayingNovel/PlaytheRPN/tabid/2924/Default.aspx.
So Scott is to be our first Community GameMaster. Early in the New Year he will aid myself (Sean) in populating the game with all the various metadata tokens such as; weapons, armour, shields, monsters, spells, settlements, magical items, etc. This is no small feat and will take many months to get the bulk done.
In the meantime Scott has wasted no time at all and has taken on board a very important job of constructing 'The Arcadia Gazetteer'. You can read more about this in the next section.
The Arcadia Gazetteer
The latest development from the Ilkor / HeroQuest project is the release of 'The Arcadia Gazetteer'.
For those of you, who might be a little unsure what a 'Gazetteer' is I've included a small extract from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gazetteer) below:
A gazetteer is a geographical dictionary or directory, an important reference for information about places and place names, used in conjunction with a map or a full atlas. It typically contains information concerning the geographical makeup of a country, region, or continent as well as the social statistics and physical features.
We have plans to release quite soon (sometime during the month of November) a wiki that will serve as a Gazetteer for 'The World of Arcadia' which is the setting for Ilkor: Dark Rising (http://ilkor.com).
To begin with it will be rather thin on content, but our first community GameMaster (Scott Huelsman) will be driving this over the coming months to bring it to life. This should prove to be an important area of the game for players to read, discover and learn about Arcadia.
So look out for this. It should be available within a couple of weeks with any luck. I'll keep you posted.
I've just got time for a quick post before I get stuck into finishing off coding the registration section. We're about 5 weeks away from launching the ilkor.com splashpage. Scarily stuff as we've still so much to do! However the dev team really is putting in alot of effort and we're producing some top quality work, on all fronts, design, development and artwork.
Up until now I haven't really spoken too much about the homepage and specifically around the great artwork coming from Simon Lee Tranter. Simon has been extremely help in coming up with much of our website design, logos, artwork, site navigation and layout.
We started designing the homepage about a month ago. We had some ideas of what we wanted and gave this to Simon. He's come up with a number of concepts and have eventually settled on a specific style that we all feel works the best for how we such to present Ilkor. Simon has just concluded a number of concept iterations of the main illustration that will appear on the homepage. I have actually been giving him such a hard time over this and he just keeps on delivering quality revisions. Today we finally settled on a concept and now Simon is getting to work on drawing the finished piece. We've decided that he is to draw a much larger illustration than we intend on placing on the homepage. Instead we've already identified a portion of this drawing that we wish to zoom in on, crop and present. We have plans for the full-size illustrations further down the line.
Since we are only 5 weeks away from launch I'd rather not give too much away other than to explain the theme of the game has been depicted in the illustration. It is centred around Ilkor, the Goddess of Darkness rather than to 'show off' the rich feature set the game will be offering.
Further than this we're going to be giving a whole host of information on the cool game features. We'll talk a little about the different races, the classes, the level system, fame points, leveling up, the turn system, etc. We'll also show and explain a little about the maps and something that we hope will be extra special. It is your character's avatar. We have devised a way to produce a 'head and shoulders' avatar that depicts your character. It is completely automated and will be unique to you as a player. The avatar won't be like the normal avatars out there that look like clipart or popart, the portrait will be designed by Simon in such a way that through the use of code we'll produce a unique portrait based on three things, your email address, character race and gender. To start off, you won't be able to alter your avatar, so you are kinda stuck with it, but they will be a really cool drawing and they will be unique. Later on we will be supplying a way for players to then go ahead and customise their avatar. They won't be allowed to upload their own pictures, but instead will go through a wizard to pick various facial features all drawn and supplied by Simon. We're actually very excited about this.
So that will be it really. So this is what we are going live with. It's not much and therefore we are calling it a splashpage. Once we are ready to launch the beta playtest we'll modify the homepage to allow players to register proper and also login and get stuck into the game.
OK, enough rambling, I best get down to some coding.
Just some brief news. Behind the scenes of the Ilkor development we have actually partnered with a gaming engine company, HeroQuest Pty.
They have a website heroquestgaming.com. it isn't much to look at really as the're not really 'player facing', at least not for the moment.
They are developing alongside Ilkor a gaming engine that will be generic in nature, targeted at the fantasy rpg genre. The idea is that the engine will be used to power Ilkor: Dark Rising.
It's proving to be an interesting partnership, basically all the world setting, history, maps, artwork, theme etc will remain the property of Gad Games while the engine itself will belong to HeroQuest.
After the beta playtest (which we imagine will take up the better part of 2012), the HeroQuest Platform should be stable and mature enough to then be offered to other interested companies who might like to host a game.
The engine is proving to be quite configurable. Although it will come with a standard set of maps, data, etc, it can all be customizable. It's quite an interesting concept. Ilkor will not only be powered by the HeroQuest engine, but will also be hosted on their infrastructure. This means as a gaming company we only need to worry about the GameMaster duties, player service and ensuring the game world is rich with background history and a theme. HeroQuest will ensure the servers are up and running, that there is no connection issues, upgrades and new features will be introduced in a structured and controlled fashion. They are even putting together a payment gateway where various value added services can be purchased.
Anyways, enough rambling. I just thought it worth informing you guys.
This question had been on my mind for many years. Prior to getting stuck into development of Ilkor, I had known for a long time that when the time was right I wanted to get back into Play-by-Mail (PBM) and design, develop and run a single character fantasy RPG. To keep up with the times I knew it would have to be 'online' and most likely free. I also wanted to stay true to the strengths of traditional classic RPG and PBM. For me, that meant it had to be turn-based. This in itself is going to be a huge challenge to get right.
Although Ilkor's roots are in PBM, it is going to be thrown head first into the ocean of 'text-based browser games'. In all honesty it is going to be compared to such games as 'Dark Throne' and 'Torn'. While these games lack the depth I am hoping to capture they do have a lot of features that I am after...if I am honest with myself. I think we need to learn from these games if we truly wish to succeed in the online market.
If we ignore the potential 'depth' issue of such games, they can be seen as 'modern PBM' games. I know a lot of PBM purists will disagree but they are offering a game with orders and instructions that are issued usually by the use of clicking on buttons, radio buttons, check boxes, etc. There are a few that use a turn-based approach; the majority are 'real-time'. In other words the results of the player's actions are immediate. I can buy why they are designed like this, users online today expect immediate results, that is the key advantage of being online - not so?
So turn-based PBM goes completely against the grain. What is the point of going online, issuing a handful of orders and then having to wait several days (maybe even a week or more) for the results? If you are from the PBM days you know the answer to that...anticipation.
So, what is it going to be 'turn-based' or 'real-time'? This is the question and something I have been toying with for many years. Turn-based is without a doubt the hardest to achieve successfully online. However it is core to the PBM experience.
So despite the difficulty, Ilkor is going turn-based.
But that is not the end of the problem. There are a number of different turn-based systems. In the PBM world, games either have a 'fixed turnaround' or a 'varied turnaround'. I have always wanted Ilkor to be fixed turnaround.
However this also has caused many headaches. Fixed turn-based single character RPG!! It had always been a challenged even back in the glory days of PBM. For those reading this that might not quite understand, let me explain. Turn-based PBM generally fell into 1 of 2 categories. It was either fixed or it was varied.
Varied allowed the player to submit his orders at his own speed. Maybe he played weekly, every 2 weeks or even longer. The varied turnaround meant that the company responsible for processing the orders would process orders as and when they came in. Player 'A' and player 'B' might post their orders in on the same day but the postal system delivered them 2 days apart. They would therefore be processed in the order that they arrived. It generally gives the players who play more frequently and who submit their orders quickly the advantage. Companies did attempt to put rules in place to reduce the advantage, however only to a certain degree.
Fixed turnaround on the other hand means just the opposite. A game might have a 2 weekly turnaround with deadline dates set to every second Friday. The game would process all the orders from all the players simultaneously on every second Friday and then post out the results. The players would receive their results maybe on the Saturday or Monday and then have almost 2 weeks to study their results and ponder over their next set of orders before submitting them.
Varied turnaround generally suited single character games, like RPG (just about all the hand-moderated games ran like this and even the computer moderated games like Quest, Dungeon World, etc.). Fixed turnaround was used mostly with games that involved conquest, discovery and sport management games.
I personally really enjoyed the 'fairness', structure and simplistic nature of fixed turnaround games. It enhanced diplomacy, emphasized the importance of planning, tactics & teamwork and heightened the anticipation of receiving the turn results.
Having said that, I actually preferred RPG to wargaming. I was forever searching for a decent RPG that used fixed turnaround.
Having been both a player and a GameMaster I can see the reasons why fixed worked well with wargames and varied worked with RPG, however I never really bought the story that this is the only way it can be done.
So is that the end of the story? Is Ilkor going to be a fixed turn-based single character fantasy RPG that is played online through the browser?
Well not quite.
Why can't it be a hybrid? Why can't it be a mixture of both fixed turn-based and real-time? The strength of PBM is in the turn-based system and the strength of online is 'real-time'. The question is how can this be achieved to produce a modern online PBM?
I think I've got the answer to that, but this article is already long enough, so I think I'll leave the details to our solution to another time.
Sorry, its been a while since our last update on Ilkor, however you'll be pleased to hear work is going full-steam ahead. Development is going very well indeed and we've made quite a bit of progress. We've still a mountain of work to climb, but the roadmap has been drawn and the journey has certainly begun.
This article is going to be reasonable technical and therefore it won't really reveal too much about the game features (sorry guys, you'll have to wait a while longer for that).
Right now the development team is 5 strong; 3 programmers and 2 artists.
Logo & Motif: Simon has completed numerous concept designs and we've settled on a style that we really like and believe it sets a great tone and theme for the game.
We've a number of different variations (mono, colour, light on dark, dark on light and so on). Simon has also put together a nice motif that will be used throughout the game. He is now busy working on a large collection of character portraits (race and class combinations).
We'll report more on these as and when they become available. For the moment however, check out the logo and motif below:
World Map: I (Sean) spent the better part of Jan & Feb actually coming up with the design for the world map. This proved to be an interesting task which took far longer than I expected. The world map is going to be huge, massive!!!!
It consists of five regions (continents). Each continent is plenty large and interesting enough to keep any fearless adventurer content for many years. I designed each continent down to low level detail, setting out the various terrain types, places of interest, roads, rivers, settlements and then labelling everything. When I say labelling everything I mean everything!!!
Anyway, now with the draft map completed, this has been handed over to Jon who is busy re-drawing the maps to an extremely high quality. The maps will be drawn in a typical 'Tolkien' style. Jon has indicated that the map (maps) will be ready around the end of March. I really can't wait.
The finished maps will be used by the mapping engine. The world map will just be used for reference purposes only. The game will start with just one of the continents 'open' for play. The detailed illustrated map of the continent will be fully available for the player to study and explore. The map size will be somewhere in the region of A3 to A2. Remember that is just one continent, there will be another 4 to explore eventually!
Players will move their characters around the map using a grid map. The scale will be even greater on the grid map. The grid map will reveal much more detail about the continent and will only display the areas that you have previously explored. The rest will be 'clouded out'.
What is really exciting about this approach is that we hope to have the grid map 'look and feel' much like the detailed illustrated map. The tilesets will be created by Jon and we're using some rather smart ways to handle the transitions between terrain types thus it will not look like a grid map, each terrain type will seamlessly blend into one another.
One of the reasons for choosing a 'Tolkien' style map is the lack of colour and it's simplicity in terrain types. Not only does it look cool (well we think so), but it won't detract from the various tokens and symbols we plan on programmatically displaying on locations.
Chris is now starting work on the Editor itself. The editor is a GameMaster toolkit that will enable use to build the grid map up from the illustrated map. We'll have tools available to change terrain types, to create roads, rivers, settlements etc. Anyway, more on the map editor at a later date. I'll try and get Chris to write up an article.
Metadata: This article is proving to be lengthy already so I won't talk too much about metadata. Basically metadata refers to all the 'playing pieces' of the game. I've gone through an exercise of putting together very rough screenshots of all the various metadata pages where the GM will use to pre-populate the game at the beginning with data. The type of data is:
- Classes (Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Priest, etc)
- Races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, etc)
- Maagic Items
- and so on
It isn't simply a list but a whole host of properties for each specific metadata type. For example, each class will require to have a ClassId, a Name, Brief Description, Detailed Description, Icon, Image, and other game related stat values. These are all configurable so that the start of the game the GM can customise the game to his liking.
We've gone with this 'generic' approach so that the game engine could one day be re-used for another type of game. Also it makes it alot easier to manage the game and correct and tweet it here and there. As I mentioned, Ilkor will start with just one continent open. The other 4 will open when they are required. The majority of a continent's data and 'playing pieces' can be configured through these screens prior to opening it up to players.
Hope you find this type of article interesting, I'll try and write more often.
I don't know about you, but for a number of years I have found RPGs in general have in many ways lost the plot and forgotten about what makes a game fun to play.
There is no doubt that games today are big business and are now more polished and professional then ever before. The graphics and artwork are simply out of this world, truly amazing stuff. The options and choices available to the player are also endless and could not be any more open and un-restrictive.
However, are the games any better? Have the core rules changed that much and for the better? Are the games more fun or simply do they just give the player unlimited options presented in a highly polished finish?
Maybe it is just me or a sign that I'm losing touch with today's gamers, however I find myself often lost in the unnecessary complexity of it all. It just feels too overwhelming and trying to find the path to just pure fun is getting harder and harder.
I am craving for the good old days when everything in the world was less complex when you were happy to choose from a handful of classes instead of an endless list of classes, sub-classes, multi-classes etc. I say Old School Rules rock and it appears I am not alone.
I am reading more and more articles about this and maybe the tide is about to turn. There is a great website that deal with just this thing. They have devised a system called the Microlite20 System. http://www.retroroleplaying.com/content/microlite20-rpg-collection
What is Microlite20?
Do you remember when the gaming table was full of pizza and soda, not rulebooks, miniatures and dungeon tiles? Do you yearn for a role-playing game that doesn't require weight training to carry all the books? Do you want to be able to hold all the rules in your head - or in your back pocket? And do you still want to use all those lovely monsters, adventures and game worlds too? So do we!! -- Greywulf
Microlite20 is a minimalist role-playing game designed to be usable with the majority of the OGL/d20 supplements, rules and adventures with little or no advance preparation. The basic rules for character generation, combat, magic and level advancement take up a single sheet of paper, meaning it is perfect for introducing role-playing to new players, gaming oneshot adventures or tailoring into your own game system.
Ilkor: Dark Rising?
We have designed Ilkor to make use of the Microlite20 system. While we haven't followed it 100% we have learnt that we want to return to the basics, simplify the options and throw away all the clutter and noise. Talking about classes again. There are some really obscure classes that I know for a fact are rarely every picked such as the Bard, Invoker, Shaman, etc. Why have these when 80% of the players will never pick such classes?
So in Ilkor:
- Your character's race can only be one of 4: human, elf, dwarf or halfling
- Your character's class is be: fighter, wizard, rogue or priest.
It is as simple as that. Back to basics. We do have sub-classes that at a later stage of the game you can move into, but again the choice is small and limited to the well known and loved sub-classes of old.
So, without giving any more away, we hope you'll be pleasantly surprised with the choice of our direction. I know we are and we can't wait to get stuck in!!