19 October 2016

Cannot say enough good things about KoDP

I just got this email today, and decided to share it (with the permission of the writer). The title of this post is the subject line.

Mr. Dunham,

Firstly, if this email is an imposition, I apologize in advance. I know you are probably very busy with Six Ages (which I am absolutely giddy to find out about!), and support for the various KoDP versions.

There is no need to reply, I just wish to share some of the joy that King of Dragon Pass has brought me as an avid gamer.

A close friend of mine was one of the original 1999 buyers, and I had watched him play a bit back then, though at the time I was more of an FPS gamer. He was completely enthralled with it for several months,and this convinced me to buy it last year when I found it in the Android store.

Let me say that my tastes have expanded considerably in the last 16 years, and my newfound appreciation for storytelling and immersiveness, have not been satisfied by many 'modern' game releases.

King of Dragon Pass has not only satisfied that desire in a unique and beautiful way, it has rekindled my long-forgotten adolescent dream to be a writer.

The richness and depth of the story woven by KoDP creates an interesting phenomenon where we as players begin to think about the characters in the game as far more complex than just game mechanic aspects. This is especially the case with the Duruluzei as I always spend far too many resources and too much time trying to get them into my tribe (no luck so far... But there's always next replay!)

At first I saw them as just a source of early food tribute to feed my growing clan. This changed pretty quickly once I saw some of the other events, and I confess it was they that inspired me to look into Glorantha's lore in depth.

I actually felt remorse for my previous playthroughs and now make every effort to befriend those valiant warriors of Humakt. Even to the extent of putting my tula at risk by lending way too many weaponthanes to their cousins to fight the swamp undead.

And here's where the genius of this game really shows: Even though I've only ever seen maybe five different Duruluz events, the writing, choices, and art create a living breathing culture in the player's mind that actually transcends the few megabytes of content presented, and we begin to think about the Ducks in the same complex ways as we think about traditional book fantasy cultures where literally thousands of words are used to fill in cultural detail.

I also very much love the intentional ambiguity and risk of the magic system, as it creates that same kind of complex mechanics-transcending thought with the gods as participants. Does giving food to a clan in famine help you with your Ernalda heroquest? I have no idea! But I am going to play like it does, and the game is just vague enough that things like this may make a difference at Sacred Time.

I own very few mobile games, and play them rarely. Not the case for KoDP, I have been playing it approximately 8-10 hours a week. It is so perfect for killing a 2 minute wait in the grocery line, or settling into a comfy chair and spending a rainy evening  trying out strange heroquest options.

The art is beautifully unusual and paints a picture of Dragon Pass that is exotic yet familiar, bronze-age yet not of this world. The music is catchy and never becomes annoying, I occasionally whistle along with it while I'm playing.

I cannot thank you and the rest of A# enough for creating such a wonderful game, and I have no words to say how fortunate I am for the Android re-release, and the extra content that has been included. It is so rare that a older, less than profitable game gets a fresh chance at a new audience, and on such an ideal platform for the pacing of gameplay (Also: nice work on the UI modifications for mobile!). It is my sincere wish that Six Ages will receive sevenfold the acclaim and distribution that King of Dragon Pass should have gotten in the first place.

I look forward to the release of Six Ages with an eager heart, thank you again for an unforgettable game experience.


[name withheld]

P.S. please feel free to use any part of this email, except my name, in any way you see fit. This game does not have enough testimonials online, and I want as many people to know about it in time for Six Ages' release as possible.

04 May 2016

Sales Outlets

Not long ago, someone asked (on Facebook) how sales of the game on the Android platform compared to iOS. I recently got some quarterly updates, so figured it was a good time to share.

The majority of copies sold are on mobile, and the bulk of those for iOS.

The second largest outlet has been GOG.com, which sells the original version.

Comparing any of these is difficult, since the game has been on iOS longer than it has been available for Android, and Steam is even more recent. GOG sometimes runs sales of bundles, so not all of those copies might have ever been launched.

Plus, some of the numbers aren’t exact, due to how we get reports. (For example, I have  no idea how many units were sold on Windows Phone, but I know it has to be insignificant.) Even the number of boxed CDs is an estimate.

But to answer the question: iOS is indeed selling better than Android (by about 2:1 over the last month).

18 April 2016

System Requirements

Back in 1998 or 1999, we were showing King of Dragon Pass to established game publishers. One of them turned us down by saying, “we only release games that make you buy a new computer.”

That’s not necessarily a bad strategy for a publisher (they knew their market!), but their rejection at least meant that we had hit one of our design goals: run on as many computers as possible.

You can find the original system requirements here:
Windows 95/98
Pentium processor, minimum 16 MB of RAM, 640x480 16-bit color, double-speed CD-ROM drive (faster recommended). 
System 7.5 or later, Power Macintosh or compatible, minimum 24 MB of RAM, 640x480 16-bit color, double-speed CD-ROM drive (faster recommended). 
You can run the game from the CD; an installation takes about 42 MB of hard disk space.

For a late 1999 release, those are pretty generous requirements (since Windows 95 had been released more than four years earlier, KoDP ran on computers that were at least four years old).

We kept the same goal when we brought the game to iPhone. Even now, the iOS build runs on iOS 5.1.1. This makes development more difficult (since we can’t use conveniences added in later versions of iOS), and increases the amount of testing we have to do. But it means owners of the original iPad can still play the game. (And they do — 220 sessions on an iPad 1 in the last month.)

And I think our goal was the right one — if we’d been chasing the latest hardware, the art would have quickly looked dated. Instead, the watercolors still look great.

Which is partly because of a suggestion made by another publisher. When we began the game, we were targeting 8-bit graphics systems that could display only 256 colors. We used a wonderful tool called DeBabelizer, that figured out the optimum palette (the 256 colors that were most frequently used in our specific set of art). The results were good, but the producer we showed the game to wondered why we weren’t targeting 16-bit graphics.

This did actually deliver a benefit — our art would look better — and given the game was still a year from release at that point, it seemed like we wouldn’t be cutting out too many computers. (It also had the benefit that we didn’t have to process the art, and make sure we had the correct palette, since different parts of the game used different ones.)

So we still weren’t making you buy a new computer to play the game.

29 October 2015

Sweet 16

King of Dragon Pass was first released on 29 October 1999 — sixteen years ago today.

Since then, we updated the game and adapted it for iPhone and iPad, and licensed it for Android and Steam (both Mac and Windows). And GOG made the original version available for download. To celebrate its birthday, the game is 50% off on all platforms for a limited time!

Over the years, it has been a well-regarded indie. For example Metacritic gives it a score of 90. Rock Paper Shotgun says it’s one of the top 5 strategy games of all time. And players give it 5 stars.

It’s also sold pretty well for an indie game, over 120,000 copies on all platforms. (The exact number is a little hard to determine, since our early records seem to have vanished, and we don’t get specific numbers for channels like Humble Bundle.) But we sold the most copies on iOS. And the original has been downloaded almost as often (probably because GOG periodically runs sales that make it ridiculously cheap).

To a large degree, these numbers reflect apples and oranges. The Steam version came out only 3 months ago, and this is the first Steam sale. And there is no way of knowing how many people have bought the game for both mobile and desktop (or even more often than that). So they aren’t really a way to compare platforms or predict anything.

Still, they give us hope that an indie game can find some success in today’s market, and and helped us decide to go ahead and start working on Six Ages, the spiritual successor. Thank you to everyone who has supported King of Dragon Pass so we could do that!

11 August 2015

Not a Talkie

I recently saw someone suggesting that King of Dragon Pass should have voice acting.

We didn’t want to use voice because most text is not known ahead of time, but is full of placeholders:

After wearing the armor for a few days, <e> said that <he/she> felt quicker of step and clearer of mind.

(this is actually one of the simpler examples). It would be hard to keep this from sounding like one of those bad voicemail prompts, because it would have to be assembled out of pieces. There’s also the fact that the same text might be spoken by a male or female character, and they might be very young or very old when they spoke it. So it would be difficult to get quality results.

Plus of course there are over 640 000 words of text. That would obviously be expensive to record, but it would also make the game larger. If audio books are 160 words per minute, that’s about 67 hours of speech. Depending on compression, that might be another 800 MB to download!

And voice would make it really hard to update the game with more content, since we would have to have any new text recorded.

So while it sounds at first like a good idea, in reality it’s one of those things that’s impossible with a game of this scope.

23 July 2015

New in Steam

King of Dragon Pass will be coming to Steam on 28 July. But the game has been available for mobile (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone), as well as the original version (either on CD or as patched to be downloadable by GOG.com). So what exactly is coming to Steam?

The version on Steam is essentially the mobile version, but tuned for desktop and laptop screen sizes (I ran it on a 30 inch iMac, but it should run on a 1024 x 576 netbook). HeroCraft has been responsible for the Steam versions, since I’ve been busy with Six Ages, so I am not completely sure of the specifics. But I believe the Steam achievements are the same as those we added in 2.0. There are also Steam Cards (which may have some new art).

So if you played on Windows or Mac before, you’d be moving from 1.7 to 2.2. There are 48 new scenes and 4 new illustrations (plus a new Lore map). There are also new advisors, and a lot more advice in management screens. There are also more treasures. We made many bug fixes (such as unblocking two of the original scenes), and fixed typos. You no longer have to worry about sheep. The economics system should no longer be quite as harsh, with death spirals less likely. (Rest assured that the game is still difficult, especially on the Hard setting.)

The Tula screen was too difficult to rework, but it wasn’t part of game play. And HeroCraft originally started their porting before our scene contest, so those scenes are currently only in the iOS version.

We like to avoid spoilers, so it’s hard to talk about just what the four dozen new scenes are about. We did mention the Troll Hero before, however. And here’s the artwork for one of them.

So if you have played King of Dragon Pass on a laptop or desktop, but not a mobile device, there’s a lot of new stuff. And if you haven ’t played at all, now’s your chance!

16 July 2015

Full Circle

The King of Dragon Pass dynasty began in 1999 with its release on CD-ROM for Windows and Mac. We polished the game and enriched it with more stories, and brought it to iOS in 2011. HeroCraft ported it to Android in 2014. We’re pleased to announce that King of Dragon Pass will again be available for Windows and Mac, via Steam.

HeroCraft has brought the game back to the desktop, and added Steam goodness such as trading cards. And even if you played it on Windows or Mac before, you’ll find some game improvements, dozens of new stories, and new artwork.

King of Dragon Pass will be US$12, and available beginning 28 July!