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!

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