Starting the Journey (Sort of)
Hello everyone, and welcome to the very first development article for Ironbane. My name is Jakob Bjerkness, I'm the content and game designer for Ironbane, and I'll be keeping you informed on the progress of Ironbane's development. As of now I am planning to post a new article biweekly, so keep an eye on Ironbane's homepage or GameDev for the latest news. You can also find me and the other developers of Ironbane on the public forums. If you have any comments, questions, or simply want to chat, sign up and give the forums a go!
The History of Ironbane
As many (not so many) of you might know, Ironbane has been in development for quite some time now. The original project, titled “Nickotopia”, started back in 2006 as what Nick calls “a modest PHP exercise”. Nick is the lead developer of Ironbane and has been since its conception. He invited me onto the project about three months ago, and I have been lending my hand in design and a little bit of everything ever since.
From it's beginnings to the present, Ironbane has evolved through countless gameplay and code iterations, and for anyone who's stuck around with the project this is quite apparent. Originally Ironbane was meant to be a two-dimentional top-down MMORPG, with standard MMO features and a retro-inspired art theme. While the art style has stayed the same, the vision we now have for Ironbane has evolved into an entirely different beast. This brings us to the first major announcement that we wanted to make to our community, or anyone interested in the project.
Yes that's right, after thinking it over we have decided that in the interest of making Ironbane as awesome and enjoyable of a game as possible, we will be entering the third-dimension. Now, what does this mean for Ironbane and for you as players? Well most importantly this means that you will be playing from a third-person perspective, using the “WASD” keys to navigate around the world (or the “ZQSD” keys for you AZERTY keyboard users). Although many aspects of the game are bound to change from now until beta, the current movement scheme we are using is similar to Sonic Robo Blast 2. This means that you'll be using “W” and “S” to move forward and backwards, and the “A” and “D” keys to turn left and right.
Both of these methods were undesirable to us, as controlling the camera without mouse lock felt very strange and unnatural, and we wanted to keep players from having to download anything. With the goal of giving the players a satisfying, intuitive experience and letting them have that experience on any computer with an internet connection, we decided to explore other options. This is what lead us to the third-person perspective that Ironbane sports today.
With a third-person perspective you will be able to move around the world in a very familiar fashion. This is good, as we want players to feel at home when they hop into the game, and having an intuitive control system and interface is the first step to providing just that. Accessing the interface will be very similar to other MMOs, but we have made sure to keep everything extremely streamlined and understandable this time around. Although the new interface has not been implemented into Ironbane yet Jorge Avila, our GUI designer, has been creating some really promising looking demos that we hope to be showing you soon.
Ready? Set? Action!
Okay, we talked about how we're changing Ironbane and the decisions behind that, but we have yet to explain exactly how this is going to affect the gameplay.
First in the list of many significant changes is the transfer from the PHP/jQuery/MySQL client/server model to a WebGL/Node.js system. The most exciting part about this change is that it allows us to update the server in real-time, and provides blazing-fast connections in comparison to what we had before. But what does this really mean? It means that Ironbane is no longer tied down by the non-interactive combat system of the past. Yes, we can now say that Ironbane is a full on action MMO.
We believe that MMOs are getting stale these days. In particular, games like World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Aion, Guild Wars, and many others have worn out the tab-targeting combat system that seems to be plaguing the industry. So we decided that the only way to compete in this saturated market would be to make something truly unique and compelling, an experience that you can't get anywhere else. We've looked around at many other MMOs, and drawn inspiration from what worked well and what didn't. In the end we came to the conclusion that something that supports skill-based action combat would be the most fun, and most innovative direction we could take.
If you want a good example of a game out there that does fit the bill, you should take a look at Realm of the Mad God. This little game defies almost all MMO conventions and markets itself as a “Bullet-hell shooter”. If you take this game's shoot 'em up combat and put it into the third-dimension, you be starting to get closer to the kind of combat that we have planned for Ironbane.
In regards to actual combat mechanics we can't say much yet, but we will have more information for you in future posts. However, we can say that the basic controls will allow for you to use the cursor like a cross-hair to aim your attacks. With the new system you'll be able to actually fire your arrows at a target, and you will need to aim your shots carefully. We're excited at the premise of bringing real action into Ironbane, instead of relying on a random number generator in battles. If all goes well we will be showing you something very soon!
Sounds great! So when can I play?
This is obviously one of the first things on everyone's mind, and we'd like to take this time to say that we are hard at work. I mean hard. Nick has already been working tirelessly to rewrite the game engine for it's new 3D environment, and we have even decided to search for a second programmer to help speed up the development process. If you have pixel art, or programming skills and want to contribute to the project I highly suggest you contact us by email at support@Ironbane.com, or check out our help wanted post right here on GameDev.
With that said, we can not honestly give you an accurate date on when you might get to play besides giving you the good old “when it's done” routine. However, we hope to get the community involved early to help us play-test the game, and make it as polished and fun as we can. You will be hearing from us as soon as we've decided opened up the game to testers, so visit back often for updates on our progress. You can also follow us on twitter now for frequent development updates.
I hope you are all looking forward to Ironbane as much as we are, and we will be working as hard as we can to give you something that you'll love to play as much as us. Until next time, continue to spread the word about Ironbane and help us grow our community.
Thanks for your time!
~Jakob Bjerkness, and the team