UI Design Contest
Last week I launched a UI design contest at 99designs.com asking for two screens: the Kingdom Overview and Travel. The responses have been great and I cannot wait to share. The contest is broken into several phases: bidding, finalists, winner. Today the contest will enter the finalists phase, where I select the top 4 designers to narrow the field down.
In other exciting news, "ArchElf" has started work on a client in the Unity platform and already has the communication piece working. I believe this effort, combined with the winning design, is the future for Conquest!. One of the challenges with Conquest! has also been a high barrier to entry. When it started on IRC, there was a limited number of people who knew about that platform and getting online was more involved than it is today. Earlier this year I created a Windows client, but it uses a legacy API which is not supported on anything but a PC. It was never meant to be the final solution; rather, an easier way to demonstrate the game-play.
On the server side, I made just a few enhancements this week. When you establish a new kingdom, you will receive enough land for 2 structures (until it runs out). In this way, you can get a small army and economy going. I also modified how data is sent to the client for certain commands (market, city, email, alliance, troops). Under the old way, these items were sent either with separate messages or (in the case of troops) as one long space delimited string. The latter violated the protocol, as each should be sent with a separate XML tag as part of one message. I'm sure there are other instances of this that I will root out and fix over time.
I also standardized the true/false messages coming from the server to YES/NO. For example, when sending whether a player can buy an item one of those values is now a parameter. How this is conveyed to the user is up to the client.
For the existing client, I combined the "View Kingdom/Army" buttons into one, due to the warnings in place for low food/gold/housing. I also modified the sidebar to improve readability.
Something Old, Something New
This week saw the introduction of a few new features, as well as the return of something old. On the new front, I modified the "Quest" concept to be tasks which any class can undertake. This includes the Bandits tutorial, searching for items, attacking the horde, or your signature troop. Former quests for magical components and jousting were moved to Mage and Fighter tabs; jousting is now a fighter-only quest. I retired quest riddle, which made more sense before the advent of Google.
A new Age started and I took the chance to modify some of the key metrics, namely the amount of land a structure needs and how many troops it can support. Previously, all structures required 50 land and the amount of troops were based on your class. Now, the amount of land varies between class (Fighters, Mages, and Clerics requiring more land than Barbarians, Rangers, and Vampires). The goal here was to keep the number of troops and income the same, but decrease the number of structures in the game. The reason for the change is the amount of loot you capture is based on the number of castles you have. This will probably require further balancing as more testing is done. On a related topic, players once again start with land (enough for 2 structures).
I added a new task to the tutorial, which shows how to locate other players in the game. Finally, I added a new magical item to the game (Potion of Cure Disease), which will rid your kingdom of plague or sickness.
Until next time!
Building A Better Tutorial
This week I introduced a new tutorial, "Quest Bandits". The "old" tutorial, which describes the game, is now called the "Player Guide". This quest walks players through several key concepts in the game: traveling, markets, visiting the tavern and mystic, questing for items, spying on others, and combat.
None of the actions, including the final assault on the bandit leader, remove a player's protection. The quest can only be completed once and grants some additional loot, including +25 movement points. It is still in a "beta" stage, so I may tweak it based on feedback.
Also this week I added support for "housing". Before, all troops essentially took up one "unit" of housing. However, by removing the required support for siege, these ranged weapons became very powerful. Siege now occupies 5 units of housing; all other troops currently use just 1. Housing is displayed in the sidebar for easy reference. Troops not housed will desert as usual.
I added a new option for email, "Daily Digest", which sends out the total players, free land, and top 5 players. Weather was updated so the seasons are based on the server time (early morning is winter, morning is spring, afternoon is summer, evening is fall). This has helped regulate the weather so it isn't just completely random.
There was a bug in the Graveyard, where Vampires animate troops, which was producing weird results. This was corrected this week as well.
Finally, I continued my own quest to clean up the messages sent by the server with 50+ messages either changed or removed. One of the new messages includes a warning for cursed magical items.
This week saw this addition of basic email alerts for Conquest! (accessible under Game > Options > Email). When Conquest! ran on IRC< it included the ability to email a player's log or the KIA to an email address. This functionality was removed when I started a new major version of the server earlier this year.
The modification allows alerts to be sent when a player is attacked or a new age is about to begin (see persistent worlds in the previous blog post). Other alerts could be added in the future.
Balancing changes this week included the ability for Barbarians to quest horde. Before this mod, low-level Barbarians had a tough time of establishing a foothold. With this change I also added a distinct type each class faces when attacking the horde: Fighters > Barbarians, Barbarians > Sellswords, Mages > Crusaders, Clerics > Magical Army, Rangers > Undead. The mechanics are the same, but it adds some variety.
Finally, I added support in the Windows client for city owners to open ports. I also modified some of the structures used in the game client. This last change should not have any noticeable change but it helps me sleep better at night. :-)
James has been working on Conquest! since 1993.