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Clan Wars

Official Blog for the popular Browser MMORPG "Clan Wars". You can play Clan Wars at clan-wars.org

Author: highborn

Contributor: Slayback

Facebook and beyond

Posted by highborn Tuesday July 21 2009 at 2:11PM
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Greetings Disciples!

With the release of our facebook application last week, our app has already become very popular very quickly. Within the first we have already received close to two thousand facebook members. Everything has gone as well as expected, except for one small, but rather important detail.

If you are familiar with facebook, then you are familiar with requests. No doubt you have checked your friend requests and seen requests for other applications, groups and more in the same area of your facebook profile. This is the core function that causes applications to spread so quickly on facebook. Our application, unfortunately does not have requests working appropriately right now (though we have done quite well without them).

The reason for this is that facebook only allows 750 pixels of width for the canvas page of the application (this is the page on facebook that app actually sits on). Because our application is over 800 pixels wide, we were faced with the decision to either redesign our entire UI, or simply make the app appear in a pop-out window. We felt that leaving the screen size wider was the best choice, but realized later that this kept the player invitations from being sent to the requests are of the site. Since our app is not technically running inside facebook, the players never see the required confirmation window for sending requests. As a result all invitations are being sent to the notifications area of facebook rather than requests.

Thanks to our brilliant engineering team, we have found a solution. With clever use of Ajax and other Java tricks, we are working on a solution that will make the confirmation box appear inside the game even though it is playing outside of facebook. This solution should be in place before weekend, so all of your invitations will be sent to the right place.

Once that is complete, you may see further optimizations inside of Disciple, but our new focus will be twofold: iPhone and in game expansion.

We will be working on an iPhone application that will be free and available in the appstore once it is finished and approved by Apple (probably a few months). Our aim is to make sure that the iPhone application ties into the same servers that you play on for both the web and facebook app, so you should be able to access your existing characters and account with no issue.

Simultaneously we will begin introducing new content into the game, such as quests, weapons, armor, and eventually new races and classes.

Thanks everyone for your support, and I will see you in the game.

Disciple coming to Facebook and more!

Posted by highborn Wednesday July 8 2009 at 3:18PM
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Greetings Disciples!

We are proud to announce that Disciple is coming to Facebook sometime next week.  Facebook is an excellent platform for games like Disciple and we are very excited to port our game to this Platform.

Why Facebook, and why now? As the growth of browser based MMOs sky rockets, facebook has become the de-facto platform for these types of games. Some of you may be familiar with games on facebook such as Mafia Wars, and Mob Wars. Mafia Wars has obtained over 12 million active users in its first year on facebook alone. Since Mafia Wars has become a hit, many "Me-too" Mob type games have popped up trying to emulate the success of Mafia Wars. We feel that Disciple has some advantages that will make it very popular on facebook. The first is that we are not another Mafia game. Disciple is set in an original fantasy universe that should provide facebook gamers a relief from the dozen of Mafia related games currently trying to grab their share of the facebook market. In addition, all of the Mafia games are text based with some static images. Disciple has rather rich graphics for a browser game with no downloads or plugins required. This means a whole new level of facebook gaming.

We started the development of Disciple in May of 2008, and at that time it was impossible to have Java/Flash applications on facebook.  Facebook started supporting Flash and Java early in 2009, so we knew this would be a next step for us after the game was launched on a stand alone website. The advantages to playing on facebook instead of the website are the plethora of social options that will be available, such as adding your facebook friends to your Clan, Allies, and Enemies. In addition, your friends will be able to keep track of your progress in Disciple via wall posts and the like.

In addition to the facebook application, we will be adding facebook connect to the web version of the game. This means you can both register and login with your facebook login information directly on disciplemmo.com, which should save new and old players time getting into the game and the action. In addition, players that login in with their facebook id on the website will have all of the social options to interact with their friends on facebook, as if they were playing on the facebook app itself.

Another great thing about they we built the facebook application is that players on the website and players on facebook will be interacting with one another. Facebook and the website live on all of the same servers, so it doesn't matter where you play.

Once our Facebook application is released, our next step will be to build out an iPhone application for Disciple. Many of you may not realize this, but Resistor, the company behind Disciple has also been making iPhone applications not related to Disciple, one of which is among the top downloaded paid applications of all time.

The last piece of all of this is that we are integrating new 'payment' options into Disciple similar to what you see on other facebook games such as Mafia Wars. This means that if you do not want to pay with cash, you can simply fill out a survey, or take advantage of one of our sponsor's offers to gain the subscription points or in game currency you need. Don't worry, you will not see display ads anywhere in the game.

In closing, we feel that both the facebook application and facebook connect will bring an entire new and very large group of players to Disciple that will make the gaming experience that much more rich to everyone. We hope you enjoy.

Server Hosting for a Startup

Posted by Slayback Wednesday June 24 2009 at 9:58PM
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During the production of Disciple and in some previous ventures, I've gotten familiar with the pros and cons of several different types of hosting.  I'm not going to share my opinions on specific hosting providers, but I do want to share my learnings on types of hosting and what we have found worked the best.

First, there are 4 main types of hosting that one considers:

  • Shared
  • Co-Located
  • Dedicated
  • Virtual/Cloud

Each of these has pros and cons, which I will cover.

Shared

These are the cheap hosted accounts which you share resources on a server (or cluster of servers). These aren't a fit for a game of this type, but there are many instances in which they would work well.  For instance, if I were to be creating a traditional website, there is no reason to start on anything larger than a shared hosting account.  Then, after you outgrow that, you can move to one of the larger hosting types.

Pros:

  • CHEAP!
  • Easy management, usually with nice control panel
  • No need to get your hands dirty with setting up web or database servers

Cons:

  • Usually very limited resources.  If you grow quickly you can easily hit the limits of this type of account.
  • You can only run the types of code they support.  Usually Java and more advanced services are not available
  • Performance is usually mediocre at best since they tune the servers to support everyone, rather than how your code needs to run

When to use it:

  • Early stage of a startup (alpha or beta)
  • Simple web applications
  • Company landing pages

Co-Located

Co-located hosting is where the provider provides the power, bandwidth, and rack space and you provide the servers.  This means that you're responsible for either purchasing or leasing the server.

Pros:

  • Can be cheaper in the long-run than dedicated hosting
  • You can get great performing servers that fit your needs exactly

Cons:

  • Expensive cash up-front for servers or a long-term lease commitment
  • Rack space is still not cheap
  • You are responsible for most aspects of server management

When to use it:

  • You're business plan is set and you have predictable revenue streams
  • You need beefier servers than most hosting providers will give you at reasonable costs

Dedicated

Dedicated hosting provides a good balance of cheap start-up costs and great performance with the ability to run anything you want.  There are many "managed" hosting providers out there too that will handle the management aspects of your server, such as monitoring and taking care of simple problems for you.

Pros:

  • Little to no start up costs
  • Great performance
  • In many instances less management than co-located servers

Cons:

  • Often there are long-term contracts, especially for "managed" hosting
  • You will still manage many aspects of your servers
  • Usually high monthly costs

When to use it:

  • You need more power than a shared hosting provider, but aren't ready for the commitment of purchasing or leasing servers

Virtual/Cloud

While this technology isn't new, virtualization technology has greatly improved in the last several years to the point that this has created a whole new market segment in hosting.  This started slowly with "Virtual Private Servers" (VPSs) and has morphed into what is now called cloud computing.  Cloud computing is typically a combination of technologies - virtual servers and then a mechanism for users to either manually or programatically provision new servers on-demand.  This has been a boon for startups and is our current choice of hosting environments.

Pros:

  • Near-instantaneous server provisioning
  • Great environment for building scalable applications
  • No setup costs
  • Advanced features available such as server cloning and backups
  • Typically high-performance servers are available
  • For the price of 1 dedicated servers, you may get 6 virtual servers

Cons:

  • Managing all aspects of large number of virtual servers can create management overhead
  • A single virtual server is not as powerful as dedicated servers, but much more powerful than shared servers

When to use it:

  • Any startup
  • A great alternative to shared hosting providers for a small increase in price
  • An application that needs horizontal scalability

Conclusions

At this point, it should be evident why we are using a cloud provider.  With any online game, the demand can fluctuate quickly and with little to no notice.  If we were using a dedicated or co-located provider, our only solution would be to have servers sitting idle "just in case".  With our current provider, we can clone an existing web, application, or database server in about 15 minutes and immediately have additional capacity.  We think that this gives us the best chance to make sure that when you, our players, come to our game, you can get the best experience possible.

I hope this little bit of tech insight has been useful and I'll try to answer any questions anyone may have in the comments.

 

The Making of a Browser MMO: International Relations Part III

Posted by highborn Thursday June 11 2009 at 6:06PM
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Greetings Disciples!

Last week we left off with the CTO of Resistor being taken into custody by some friends acting like the KGB in Belarus.

As the week progressed we knew that we had to build relationships not just with the executive team of our development partners, but with their employees as well. These are the people doing the majority of the work, and it’s important to be friendly with them as well, since they are often working long nights make sure that software is out on time.

After talking with the team for a few days, we decided to show them what and American keg party is like. In Belarus they are no strangers to heavy drinking, but they had never heard of a Keg Stand. We invited the entire company to come.

We ordered a Keg of micro brewed beer from the brewery across the street and decided to have the party right there in the office after working hours.

Once the beer arrived, the team began drinking immediately. It wasn’t long before the drinking competitions started. To our surprise, the CTO, Marc was beating everyone! This was unexpected since there were some big guys trying to slam beers with Marc, but in a way this was his redemption after the fake abduction he endured earlier in the week.

The development had one last shot at redemption to see if they could find someone to beat Marc in the drinking contest. They convinced the PM, Vitaliy, to challenge Marc. This is a pretty big deal because Vitaliy has a reputation for never drinking, he hates it. But with the pride of his company on the line, Vitaliy did not back away from challenging Marc. Here is the video of what happened:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRDqtz6NLHc&feature=channel_page

So who won? Leave your comments on this blog post.

So obviously we had quite a rich experience in our trip overseas to meet the development partners, but there was a purpose for all of this.

Relationships are key for productivity and general shared excitement around any development project. If someone does not know who they are working for, its hard to care about the end product.

We achieved our goal, we built working relationships and created memories with people from another country that made the development process for Disciple much easier and increased the communication dramatically.

Next week we will start posting about the technology side of Disciple and what went into making the game from that perspective.

Until next week . . .

The Making of a Browser MMO: International Relations Part II

Posted by highborn Tuesday June 2 2009 at 4:50PM
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 Link to Part 1: http://www.mmorpg.com/blogs/highborn/052009/3886_The-Making-of-a-Browser-MMO-International-Relations-Part-I

Greeting Disciples!

Last week we left off with getting beaten with branches in a 150 degree sauna in Belarus by our development team.

The next story of our adventures in team building center around the Resistor Productions CTO named Marc. Marc is a good friend with the CEO of Resistor, Tobias, and Tobias knew that Marc had never been overseas. With the anxiety of Marc’s first time overseas, along with the weird feeling of visiting a former soviet state, Tobias went to great lengths to take advantage of Marc’s awkward feelings.

Ahead of the trip Tobias called the owners of Apalon and planned a prank that is so epic in proportion that it rivals anything you have ever seen on the show “Punk’d”.

On the second night in Belarus, Tobias left early to go to dinner with some of the employees of the development firm. Marc was left alone with one of the owners late at night in the offices. It was then that a KGB agent showed up, accompanied by an armed guard with an AK-47.

They approached Marc and asked him for his passport. They told him he was wanted for questioning under suspicion of espionage. Marc was completely freaked out. The agents barely spoke English, one had an AK-47 and they kept his passport. They were yelling at him in Russian and trying to get him to sign a confession that was written in Russian, so Marc had no idea what it said!.

When Marc refused to sign the confession, they handcuffed him and put a black bag over his head. They lead him outside and threw him in the backseat of an SUV. They drove around for about an hour and yelled at him to shut up anytime he asked any questions.

Marc was silent and shaking.

After about an hour of driving around, they pulled up to a security gate and showed their badges. The guard let them through. All Marc could think is that he wanted to see his wife, and that he thought he was going to be tortured in some crazy interrogation.

As the car made its way down into a parking lot, there were a group of men yelling outside the car. They parked the car and took the bag off of Marc’s head, and standing in front of him was Tobias, half drunk, with an evil smile on his face.

It’s probably not appropriate to write what Marc said to him in this blog, but there was a very colorful exchange. After Marc released some tension, he shared the laugh with Tobias and the developers.

Marc said he completely believed it was real, and wondered if he would die. It was the most epic prank he ever experienced and will remember it to the end of his days.

We did manage to capture the entire event on video, but it’s over an hour long, so as soon as we edit it, we will post it for everyone to enjoy.

Come back next week for the last in this 3 part series.

The Making of a Browser MMO: International Relations Part I

Posted by highborn Tuesday May 26 2009 at 4:27PM
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Greeting Disciples!

As you know Disciple is a browser based - no client download game that is heavily focused on PvP, level progression and rankings. The actual Production time for this game was about 20 months, from concept to release. This is part one of a series of posts about the different aspects of making a browser game. I thought it would be fun to start with some of the more entertaining aspects of game development.

When we started the design process, the majority of what we were doing was fleshing out the actual game concept on paper. This was everything from gameplay, to story and lore, to art style, and even basic combat formulas.

As our concept became defined, we needed to choose developers to implement our ideas from paper to code. There was a lot of discussion on whether or not we would hire our own developers or hire a professional 3rd party developer. Rather than train our own development team, we thought it would make sense to hire a 3rd party with experience and give them direction, rather than creating our own crew from the ground up.

After a little looking around, we discovered a company called Apalon based in Europe. They were both affordable and qualified to handle our project, and had done work for several large companies in the past such as Fisher Price. We knew from the start that there would be a few issues managing a project in Europe, one of which would be team building and general excitement and moral.

We had to keep the development team excited about the project, and we had to make them feel like we were all part of the same team, even if we were an ocean apart. So during the process of development, the management of Resistor took several trips overseas to manage the development and build relationships.

Apalon is based in a country called “Belarus” which is part of the former USSR and one country east of Poland. These countries have become a hotbed for technology, even Google has set up a huge development office in this area.

On our first trip there we did not really know what to expect, but upon arrival the similarities to the USA are truly uncanny. On nearly every corner of the downtown area you see McDonalds and TGI Fridays, as well as other familiar sites.

As soon as we arrived in the office, we were hard at work, but we also knew we had to find ways to become fast friends with our new partners, so that they could feel as though they were a part of our team, and our friends. I asked them to give us a taste of traditional Belarussian culture.

The first night they took me to a Belarussian Sauna.  Its very hot.  Like 30 seconds now get me the hell out of here right now hot!  I didn't really know what to expect, but it was quite an experience.

I have been in a Sauna in the USA maybe once or twice in my life. The Russian Sauna is much hotter. After 30 seconds the only thing you are thinking is that you want to get the hell out before you pass out from the heat. You touch your hair and it feels like its about to light on fire. The gentlemen I was there with were pouring beer on the coals and laughing.

Peter, the VP of their company, wanted to leave too, but we were trying to be tough and hang in there. Next thing I know, one of the guys walks in with some tree branches and points for me to lay down. My response was:

"what the hell???"

Matvey, the Operations Manager explains that he will hit the branches against my back, and this is tradition in Belarus. All I could think was that I wanted to get our of there right away. Matvey told me I was a Sauna virgin and they were going to "pop my cherry". Not wanting to look like a wimp, I reluctantly agreed.

Getting hit with the branches didn't hurt . . . .  When i tried to get up, they pushed me back down.  It was similar to a college hazing.  After 2 minutes or so, I thought I would die, so I insisted on leaving and they let me go.  In all it was a great experience, and they all got their turns with the hot room, so I was able to take joy in watching them suffer too.

This was just the first night. In my next post we will cover a staged arrest of our CTO by the “KGB” as well as drinking contests and more! Here is a preview video for what we will cover in the next post:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRDqtz6NLHc

Closed Beta Review

Posted by highborn Saturday May 9 2009 at 4:41PM
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 Greetings Disciples!

As you know our closed beta ended on May 3rd. All things being considered, the closed beta was a huge success with over 2200 testers logging into experience Disciple for the first time, and help our development team uncover and fix bugs.

During Beta, we uncovered approximately 147 bugs that varied in size and severity. To date they have nearly all been fixed, and the last few remaining bugs are small, and will be cleared up over the next few days.

I wanted to take some time to highlight some of our user feedback, and reviews:

“What I love about Disciple was the fact that I could get on for 20-30 minutes a day and without a lot of time invested I was having fun battling other players”

-Phantium


“Disciple is the finest example I've yet seen on what can be done with Flash 10.  The graphics are slick and the music is great.”

-Crowmagnon


“I think the time factor is what separates from any other MMORPG. I like that I can check on my game while at my friends house or on any computer without needing to download anything which eats up time when playing other games.“

-Fate


“ What I found most challenging about Disciple is that even though many factors are decided by chance there is also a good deal of skill involved.”

-Crowmagnon


If you have not had a chance to play Disciple, the game will open to the general public on May the 12th. If you have not registered, registration is open now at disciplemmo.com !

Beta Opening

Posted by highborn Saturday May 2 2009 at 2:37PM
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 Greetings Disciples!

As you may know we have had a closed beta for the last week.  We handed out 3000 beta keys, and had over 2200 Beta users log in and test the game.  We've gotten a lot of great feedback from our beta testers, and have already worked out a lot of the bugs.  Over the next week, we will work to get everything as close to perfect as possible for the official launch on May 12.

I have great news for those of you that did not get a chance to play in closed beta.  Tomorrow we are opening the beta up to all registered users with activated accounts, from approximately 10am CST.  We want to do a stress test, and the Beta will end at either 10pm CST or when the servers go down.

At that point we will close everything back up until May 12th.  So, if you have not had a chance to play in closed Beta and want to see what Disciple is all about, now is your chance!

See you in Aphelion,

Highborn

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