The RoE MMO User Experience

Realm of Empires (RoE) is a MMO that currently caters to thousands of players. We recently read an article from Gamasutra on MMOs and found that we agreed with a lot of the points that were mentioned.

Summarized briefly, the article mentioned the importance of satisfying your core audience. Engagement was touted as one of the key drivers for a game’s success, and the best way to keep engagement high was to have really good content.

At RoE, we are proud of our core player base and we are always listening even if we don’t have time to respond. RoE’ came after a lot of thought on how we could keep our main core player base engaged. This move lets us focus on the needs of our players, while still allowing the game to grow with new players.
One of our top priorities has always been to provide quality updates that will enhance the game play experience. We’re constantly releasing gameplay functionality improvements such as recent changes to the battle simulator, as well as the mail report interface. We release new ‘competition’ tournament realms every so often, so that our players can try different variations of the game, and we’ve found that these tournaments really help to keep engagement high.

At the end of the day RoE is all about the players, and the user experience.  We have a free-to-play model for our game, and we will ALWAYS keep it that way. However with the subscription of a nobility package, you get some additional features, and we want to give you the absolute best possible MMO war simulation game experience that you’ll find anywhere on or off facebook.

The Realm of Empires Roadmap

Many times we’ve been asked by our players to tell them what is going on at Realm of Empires, what direction RoE is going in and what features we’re currently working on.

As a small studio, it’s often hard to give an accurate picture of where we are headed. Because we are small, we have to have a lot of flexibility in our plans. For example changes in facebook frequently require an immediate response, and we often have to either pause or re-evaluate what we’re currently focusing on.

With that in mind, we usually plan in such a way as to give ourselves a time line for the next release, and then decide on a set of features we want to implement. Once development starts, we sometimes have to abandon certain features because they turn out to be too risky, complicated, time consuming or we simply can’t get to them. As a result, we often don’t plan further than the next one or two releases, since the feedback we get from the current release influences what we do for our next one.

With all that said, we would still very much like to give you a general idea of where we are headed.

RoE and RoE’

Since we’ve released realm 6, and then realm 8, and now realm 10, we’ve offered a different type of game play in the form of gifts, powerups and more. Based on your feedback, it’s been clear that players tend to really like one style of game play and not the other. This has resulted in two distinct groups of players who have come to expect very different things out of Realm of Empires. We’ve tried to cater to that by offering 2 different realm types side by side, however it is getting difficult to manage. We’ve found that there is no good way of asking a new player to choose which style they would prefer, since a new player would not understand the differences until they’ve fully experienced the game.

For this and many other reasons, we’ve decided to separate the 2 different game styles, into two sister games. Realm of Empires will continue as it has from the beginning (offering the Realm 9 game style) while RoE’ (name TBD!) will continue with the realm 10 style game play. Both products will be similar, and new features will be released to both games at the same time (both games will evolve and grow together). We are just starting to work on this now!

Facebook and Beyond

Because Realm of Empires is a rather serious game, we understand that uptime is extremely important. With the recent events that have occurred during the past few weeks, we are investigating the possibility of allowing you to login and play outside of facebook if and when you choose.

Tournament Realm

We’re planning on offering tournament realms that would occur on a regular basis, such as weekly, or even more often. Each tournament realm will offer different rules and parameters, a different start time, different duration, and everything will be constantly changing. Regular tournament realms will probably have to wait till end of 2010 or very early 2011 but we plan to squeeze in a few adhock tournaments this year as well.

New features in Realm Of Empires

Unfortunately, we can't promise any significant new features in the next 1-2 months. The task of separating ROE and ROE' will keep us busy for the next while, and we'll be booked for at least a month of development time.

However, once the separation is complete, we'll move full steam on implementing new features! We are planning on: doing significant improvements to the UI to speed up the page loads, eliminate a lot of page refreshes, easier filtering and organizing information in tables, more interactive map, more clan colaboration features and lots more to give you a much richer experience.We also hope to offer some cool new game play changes and additions in the new realms such as improvements to handicap system, special village types etc.

With all that's going on, we're extremely excited with the direction that RoE is headed, and we hope you are too! What do you think about RoE and RoE'? Your thoughts on playing outside of facebook?

... And Stay Tuned! Next week I'll be revealing a bit more about what it's like at RoE as I sit down for my second blog interview.

Have a comment about RoE direction? Leave one below!

Interview Series - Greg (Part 1)

With the re-launch of the official Realm of Empires blog, we thought it’d be a great idea to give our readers, an inside look at the members of the RoE team. As a result, we’re rolling out our very own interview series, where each installment will give insight into the lives of the Developers and also present new information about Realm of Empires.
Today we had a chance to sit down with Greg Bala, a developer for Realm of Empires and also a familiar name for many veteran players.
What do you do as a developer for Realm of Empires?
     Well, I am one of the original designers, inventors and developers of Realm of Empires and I also lead the development team. I participate heavily in game design and I get my nose into just about anything design and development related, even if not asked!

What’s a typical day like working for Realm of Empires?
     My typical day starts off with a fresh cup of coffee and reading the latest technology and game blogs. On a regular basis, about half of my day will be devoted to development and design. I also make time for managing and helping my development team with any issues they may be having. Of course now and then, I like to get involved with the heated debates on the forum which I thoroughly enjoy! The rest of my day is spent dealing with emails, maintenance, support, bugs, as needed. Our white boards are constantly filled with potential new features based on your suggestions!

With the release of realms 8 and 10, we saw the introduction of magic spells which received mixed reactions. What is the future direction for Realm of Empires?
     This is something that’s constantly on our minds. Very soon we will be releasing a Realm of Empires roadmap blogpost dealing with exactly this question. I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised! Stay tuned.

A lot of our players have been wondering if we’ll ever see the in-game mapper?
     We've struggled with a lot of technical issues trying to accomplish this. We would like to give players the kind of interactivity as you’d expect from the in game map, as well as the high level view that you see in the mapper. Those are difficult requirements to satisfy together. The mapper will probably be implemented as a flash/silverlight plug in, eventually. At the moment we have a lot of neat things on our plate, so it’s not considered a high priority. I really can’t give you any meaningful dates but we will get to it sooner or later.

What can you tell us about tournament realms? Will we be seeing them soon?
     We've had great fun with tournament realms and do plan to offer regular (perhaps weekly) tournaments, starting at different times, with different parameters (like duration). However, at the moment starting a tournament realm is a somewhat tedious, manual (read - error prone) process , thus we first need to make a couple of game changes before being able to offer tournaments more often. My guess is early next year at the latest, but we'll have at least a few more tournaments this year as well.

You mentioned working on some ‘neat things’. Are you currently developing any other games at the moment?
     Sort of! Let’s wait for the roadmap to answer this question. ;)

So there you have it, the latest scoop from Greg Bala, Realm of Empires developer and Team Leader. Stay tuned for more from Greg and also our next blog post, ‘The Realm of Empires Roadmap – where we’ve been and where we’re going’.
Have an opinion or thought about the interview? Leave your comments below!

Want to connect with Greg Bala? Add him on facebook:

The attraction of double positives... and a hit for success!

Two atoms were walking when one of them said, "I think I lost an electron!" "Really!" the other replied, "Are you sure?" "Yes, I 'm absolutely positive."

Oh boy this was 'hilarious'! How is this relevant? Well, it appears Realm of Empires players are heavily attracted to double positives!

Players prefer the North East Quadrant
OK, geeky jokes aside; it appears that players, when presented with option to start in a particular quadrant, disproportionally choose to start in North East. In fact, 50% of the players choose this quadrant!

Here is an example of the break down in Realm 10 (this same pattern repeats in Realm 7,8 and 9)

Somewhat less consistently, South West is the second most popular choice.
Why is this the case?
There are probably a number of reasons but at least 2 stand out.
1. Firstly, this is the first option in the drop down box

2. Secondly, and in my perception more importantly, players prefer their village to have two positive coordinates. I suppose it is slightly easier to deal with village (44,33) then it is with (-44, 33). A feeling confirmed but a number of players.

So why should I care about this?
Well, our algorithm tries to populate the realm into a perfect circle. So the quadrant least chosen will have the most of:

1. Rebels
2. Brand new Realm of Empire players

Rebels are placed automatically and will be places in quadrants with fewer villages thus naturally gravitating to less popular quadrants.

New players do not get a choice to start in a quadrant in their first realm (we found that it only confused new players) therefore they too start in the less popular quadrants.

THUS you will be surround by more rebels, new player and abandoned villages while the North Easterners fight for every piece of the pie! :)

There you go! a recipe for success!

Have the lucky few took advantage?
Are the clans who started in quadrants other than North East more powerful? Have those who happen to start in the 'easier' areas been more successful or does constant conflict of North East forge stronger players? :)

Its an open question! What do you guys think?

Great news: The Realm of Empires blog is re-launching!

For long-time followers of this blog, you know that it has been about the trials and tribulations of building the Realm of Empires Facebook game.

We are now expanding it to look at topics beyond just technical aspects, new features and benefits of the game.

New topics will include:

  • The latest Realm of Empires player and clan news
  • Trends in Realm of Empires game play (what are players' cool strategies etc.)
  • Profile interviews of longtime Realm of Empires players and others who are expert online gamers
  • Tips and tricks on strategy and game play

We are also expanding our group of bloggers - while it was originally Greg's personal blog, we are opening it up to our other team members, and some of key players.


A feature that was promised before R7 and R8 released is finally coming!!

From the earliest days of Realm of Empires, we've struggled with the problem of too many fake attacks. Attackers felt compelled to send as many as possible, defenders found themselves with too many attacks to manage.

As ROE veterans can appreciate, its a hard problem to solve since fake attacks are a core tactical tool in attackers toolbox.

In R7 and R8, we are releasing a 'Unit Desertion' algorithm aimed at minimizing this issue. Minimizing is the key here. We are not removing this tactical option just limiting it.

The algorithm in a nutshell:
  1. Some troops sent over a long distance will desert thus forcing you to send more and more troops over longer distances
  2. The more troops you send, the fewer will desert
  3. The longer the distance, the more troops will desert
  4. Including a governor with the attack boosts the troops morale and prevents any desertion
  5. Sending more than 300 "population-worth" of troops prevents any desertion
  6. There is no desertion if the distance is 13 squares or less (roughly a 19x19 map)
  7. Troops desert the moment the attack is launched
The above applies to attacks only.

Definition: population-worth, ie size of an attack
For the purpose of this algorithm, we calculate the size of the attack as the sum of population/food of all troops involved.

Ie, Citizen Militia consumes 1 unit of food therefore it has population-worth size of 1
Ram consumes 10 units of food therefore it has population-worth size of 10
and so on...

What we want to achieve with this algorithm, is to prevent clans from being able to send huge amounts of fake attacks over very long distances. You may still do so, but you will take higher losses.

At the same time, we did not want to automatically remove this tactical tool thus there is the minimal distance of 13 squares in which there is no desertion.

We hope that this will limit the number of fake attacks incoming to players who find themselves in a big war yet people close to each other can still play as they do now.

Keep in mind that it is still experimental and we may tweak it over the next weeks and months based on your experience and comments.

Some comments on new features released today

Today we are pleased to make yet another release with some great new features and updates!

Summary of today's release:
  1. From attack report, can paste attacker & defender into battle simulator as attacker or defender (much more flexible than what we had before)
  2. From attack report, can paste the intelligence info available in the report, about the attacker or defender, into a note on a the village. That paste uses the new troops and report BBCode to nicely format the report, gives you a link back to the original report and more.
  3. Paste your troops into the battle simulator in various ways
  4. New BBCode [troops] - allows you to list the troops in some village in a nice way
  5. New BBCode [report] - renders a nice box around whatever text you want signaling that this is a report. Will be expanded further in functionality in following releases
  6. BBCodes now supported in Village Notes (notes on other villages)
  7. Both player and village overview, when clicked from the map, open in a popup just like quick attack/support thus allowing you review the info without leaving the map. On those popup you can see the incoming/outgoing from this village/player, as well as your notes.
  8. Quick attack & support windows now have an option to close the window after sending the attack - no need to click the close window icon each time
  9. Easier to see your notes on village/player when hovering over a village on the map
  10. Ranking areas - probably one of the more exciting new features we are introducing. The map is divided to a number of 100x100 square areas and you can see how you rank against players in your area. Currently, this has been implemented for Player Ranking only but Clan Ranking will also be divided into areas in the next release. We have great hopes for this to create more localized clans as new player will by default see the top clans in his area rather than realm wide.

Pasting Report to village Note and the new BBCodes

We wanted an easier way for you to relate a report of your choosing to a village. Ie, an easier way to see what troops a village may have according to the intelligence you have.

To get this nice troops table, simply put [troops]0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0[/troops] where the 0 is some number of troops. Put "?" if you don't know. Available anywere BBCodes are supported

Doing more from the map
We want to allow you to do more from the map without having to refresh it and loose your place.

For this, we've improved the quick attack/support (even more improves coming in future releases) and made the player and village overview popups.

Imagine browsing the map - how many times have you wondered:
  • what notes do I have on this player /village?
  • do I have a spy report, or any intelligence on this village?
  • do I have attacks / support incoming from this player?
  • am I attacking this player or village?
Well, now with the village overview as a popup, and ability to paste report into the note, you can see get this information easily.

We've just begun to expand functionality in this direction and plan to continue with the 'do more from the map' philosophy. I wish I could share with you a road map but things change SO quickly that I rather announce features when they are ready, or almost ready at least!

Ranking Areas

This existing new feature is in its infancy right now. Implemented only for Player Ranking for now in order to get you guys to experiment with this as soon as possible.

Basically, we divided up the realm into 100x100 square boxes or areas.

By default, you view your ranking in your area, the area that you current village is in.

We will soon expand the clan ranking to include the areas as well. You will be able to see the rank and points of your clan in your (or some other) area in addition to realm wide as it is now

Realm Of Empires helps Haiti earthquake victims!

Realm of Empires will donate 20% of PayPal sales to the American Red Cross - Haiti Relief and Development fund on all servant packages completed in the week starting January 19th

With your support, we will help more of those in need!

  • The transaction has to be completed in the time specified (Jan 19th to Jan 26th)
  • This is for the PayPal sales of packages between 30 and 2000 servants, not for servants purchased through 3rd parties like OfferPal or SuperRewards
  • Donation will be made promptly after Jan 26th to the American Red Cross

Examples for clarification

For clarification, the 20% is on the gross sale. I.e., If you purchase 100 servants for $4.95USD, we will donate $0.99USD to red cross. 200 servants for $8.95US package results in $1.79USD donation. Purchase 2000 servants and not only will you have servants for a very long time, you can also feel great about helping Haiti victims with approximately $10USD

Help Haiti, Support further development of the game, and enjoy our great premium features!!

Thank you in advance from the Realm Of Empires team!