31 December 2013


Your clan is not alone in colonizing Dragon Pass. There are a couple dozen other clans, and you have complex and dynamic relationships with each of them.

In addition, there are groups that are treated as clans for convenience, such as the Horse-Spawn, Humakti, or Trolls. The most important factor for groups is usually attitude.

The map shows clan names in colors ranging from most friendly (allies are blue) to least (feuding clans are red). But no color really captures the complexity of how another clan considers yours.

Allied: Is there a mutual alliance?

Attitude: Does the clan think of you positively or negatively?

Captives: Do you have any of their clan members captive?

Favors: Do they owe you a favor? Or, do you owe them one? (Or many; the number goes up and down as obligations are taken on or repaid.) Favors cancel out, so you can’t both owe and be owed.

Feud: Are you in a state of feud? This is basically a declared war.

Proximity: Is the clan a neighbor, or a neighbor of a neighbor? (Rarely this may change.)

Raids: Clans track the number of raids won or lost (including how many consecutive wins or losses), as well as the number you have made without them counter-raiding.

Slights: Grave offenses are remembered for years, even by otherwise friendly clans.

Trade: Is there an ongoing trade route?

Tribute: How much we pay them, or what they pay us.

One important factor is not specific to any one clan.

Kingship: How well our clan is considered suitable for leading others. This is your reputation among the other clans as a whole.

Your Clan

Within the clan, the major factions are the carls and warriors.

Farmer Morale: How the farmers think they are being treated, especially relative to the warriors.

Mood: The overall attitude of the clan.

Weaponthane Morale: How the weaponthanes think they are being treated, especially relative to the carls.


Clans form into tribes. Within your own tribe, clans track how fairly they think you have treated them (especially if yours is the royal clan). Actions of the king may also stir up royal jealousy. There’s also an overall tribal mood tracked for your tribe.

Attitude: Does the tribe think of your tribe positively or negatively?

Other Relationships

During play, other relationships might be tracked, such as who you sold a treasure to. This depends on the story.

Keeping Them All Straight

This is obviously a lot to track, and the game does it because the Orlanthi do it. Knowing who you can trust and who you need vengeance on is critical!

But as a player, you’re not expected to worry about every detail. The map or clan filters can give you a quick summary (so you can demand tribute from a clan you are not allied to). And the user interface makes sure you can’t call for a favor from a clan that doesn’t owe you one).

More importantly, your advisors will tell you, either in one of the management screens, or an interactive scene. Be sure to consult them!

And you can also refer to the clan saga, which records interactions with others.

It’s your relationship with the other clans that will ultimately determine whether you can forge a tribe, and then unify the tribes into a kingdom.

13 November 2013

Loss in Translation

For almost as long as King of Dragon Pass has been for sale, people have wanted to know if it could be translated. For example, in 2000 we were approached at the Independent Games Festival by a European publisher, who lost interest when they heard how large the game actually was.

As we’ve expanded the game for iOS, the economics have gotten worse than they were in 2000. An approximate word count puts the game at over 640,000 words. Doing some quick research, it would probably cost around $0.10/word to translate into a European language (such as French, Italian, German, or Spanish). That’s $64,000 just for the translation, and doesn’t take into account any development costs.

It also doesn’t take into account the difficulties of the translation in the first place. King of Dragon Pass tries to be flexible, so that in this fragment,

text: <ourHero> fled as fast as <his/her> feet could move <him/her>.

ourHero can be male or female. But the FIGS languages all have word gender, so “his” would have to be translated differently depending on the gender of the following word (and also whether or not it’s plural). So we’d need to add code support for this.

Worse would be something like

saga: <He/She> killed <theirGuy> with one blow, avenging <his/her> <r>.

since the gender of the following word isn’t known (it might be “brother” or “sister”).

This sort of thing could probably be dealt with, but it would almost certainly be a significant development effort, and also raise the cost of translation.

Is English the Tradetalk of the Internet?
Back to that cost: at the current price, with Apple’s 30% cut, we’d need to sell over 9100 copies of the game just to break even on the cost of translating into a single language.

Is that possible? Let’s take Italian. There are native speakers of Italian outside Italy, but for simplicity let’s just look at the 61 million people in Italy. The USA has about 314 million people, so we could assume sales of about 1/5 that of the USA. Based on our previous sales, half are in the USA. So we’d get 1/10 of our total sales in Italy. This would be great, and it would leapfrog Italy to our #3 market. However, King of Dragon Pass is not Angry Birds. Although it’s a successful indie title, sales are somewhat over 35000 units. 1/10 of that is 3500 copies, which would not pay for the translation.

On top of that, we’d need to devote resources (both programming and quality assurance) to a significant development effort, which would take away from projects such as creating new scenes.

There are some other linguistic issues with how the game generates text, but really it’s not worth belaboring.

We’ve translated our software before (Jigami is available in French, and Opal in Japanese). But not something that is ten times as big as the average book. Some of the strengths of the game (immense replayability and flexibility) make it a money-losing proposition to translate.

04 October 2013

Scene Contest Winners

While the Scene Contest has been over for a while, I’ve been remiss in noting the results of the voting.

We became aware that the game had some serious issues when running under VoiceOver under iOS 7. Everything used to work fine, so this took some investigation. I think the most likely explanation is that Apple fixed some VoiceOver bugs, and King of Dragon Pass had been dependent on the earlier incorrect behavior.

It appears that we’ve fixed the issues, and recently submitted version 2.2.2 to Apple for approval. So, the belated announcement:

Cooking Contest
Congratulations to Lysander Xen, who created “Let’s Pretend!” This was the clear favorite, with 51% of the votes cast at Pocket Tactics. It features interesting art and kids getting into trouble.

Runners up were Chris Gardiner’s “The Porridge Fiend,” “Tag-Along” by John Doe, and Tasos Lazarides’s “While You Were Away.”

Now that we’re no longer focused on compatibility issues, we will start obtaining art, fully detailing, coding, and testing Lysander’s winning scene.

We are likely to add other scenes as well, because so many were good.

Thanks to Pocket Tactics for hosting the contest, and to everyone who voted. And most importantly, to everyone who created a scene.

16 September 2013

Scene Contest Candidates

We got a bunch of great entries in the Scene Contest, and now it’s time for you to pick your favorite!

As I told Pocket Tactics, it was hard picking just a few for voting.
Let’s play duelist!

“Let’s Pretend” had a great image, which reminded me of the cover of Cults of Prax and our own R59. This meant I was willing to think of ways around one of the possible problems with the scene (if heroquests are so hard to start that you often cannot when you have the backing of the clan, how could some kids start one by accident?).

I am a sucker for politics, perhaps because I enjoyed writing my political scene so much. I like emphasizing that the playing pieces have minds of their own. So “While You Were Away” appealed to me.

For some reason, “Tag-Along” wasn’t in my original list of candidates, but our tester Liana Kerr had it in hers. And taking another look, I had to agree. (This is just an example of how hard it was picking.)

Have some porridge — in your face!
I’m a sucker for the Icelandic sagas, and “The Porridge Fiend” seemed to come right out of one (though the author suggested he had a more indirect inspiration). And we already had a porridge illustration inspired by the sagas.

Liana and I liked some other ideas, but she pointed out that in one, the action took place off-screen. So maybe we’ll still work it up, but it wasn’t quite worthy of being a contest winner. And others were fun but seemed exceptionally difficult to work into the Gloranthan mythology.

Special mention to one funny scene that riffed off a throw-away line of advice I wrote for one of Elise Bowditch’s scenes. I’d prefer that the contest winning scene stand alone, so it’s more likely to occur.

Voting ends soon, so please cast yours!

06 September 2013

Still Judging Scene Contest

Various factors conspire to delay the next phase of the scene contest, but the biggest is that we received 22 entries, over half of which could easily be in the game. Thanks to everyone who entered, we will surely be inspired to add something thanks to your ideas.

So we’re still discussing which ones are funniest, don’t require too much stretching of the setting, etc. Some are good scenes, but are they special enough? Or does the action happen in distant lands rather than on-screen?

It doesn’t look like we’ll have a decision before I have to get on a plane today. So look for it next week.

25 August 2013

Anatomy of a Scene

Thinking of entering the Scene Contest, but not quite sure where to start? Let’s look at the basics of scenes.

A “scene” is what we call the basic interactive situation in King of Dragon Pass. It always has an illustration and a choice of responses. In most cases, it also has advice, provided to the player by the most appropriate ring member.

Since the story arc of the long game can take multiple generations, many scenes are designed to repeat within a game. (For the farmers to be unhappy is not unusual.) Others happen only once (babies in shield don’t show up every day), or happen in response to specific situations (tribes only form once, so you only get news about this once, though hopefully in every game).

Here’s a typical scene that happens to occur in the tutorial, as coded in our scripting language. (It’s edited to show only the more interesting parts.)

scene: scene_48SoraWantsWhiteHorse
scene002, right, [sora >= 0 AND .horses > 5], mayRepeat

The second line indicates which piece of art to use (here we reuse the illustration of Sora Goodseller) and which side the text appears (in other words, usually the less interesting part of the art). Next is a condition. It doesn’t make sense for Sora to live forever, so the scene shouldn’t happen after her death. And it’s no fun being asked for a horse when you have none. Assuming the condition is met, this scene occurs randomly. Finally, this scene can repeat during a game (horses don’t live forever either). Scenes don’t repeat for a number of years, however.

Scenes start by setting the, well, scene. Here, there’s a little logic so the text flows better if she has been by before. Note that the situation is also written to the saga.

if [sora > 0] then {
text: Sora Goodseller, a trader-priestess of the talking god, Issaries, returns to trade.
} else {
text: Sora Goodseller, a trader-priestess of the talking god, Issaries, comes to trade.
text: In addition to the usual exchange of goods, she asks if we have any white horses.
saga: The Issaries priestess Sora Goodseller came to our clan and asked if we had any white horses to trade.
if [d3 = 1 AND .horses > 5 AND walkthrough = false] then {
w = true
h = "<d2:mare/stallion>"
text: We do have a single white <h> in our herd. Sora made an opening offer of 3 cows worth of goods.
} else {
text: Although we have some light grey horses, none can truly be called white.
saga: We had no white horses.

To make things more repeatable, there is a random chance of having a white horse (tracked in the variable w). (For simplicity, the tutorial never has one.)

music: "CouldBeGood"

Each scene has accompanying music relating to the situation.

And now to the responses. These may be shown depending on various conditions. In this case, whether we have a white horse or not. (Remember that the scene won’t run unless we have at least 5 horses, so the response doesn’t need an additional condition.)

[NOT w] response 2: Apologize for not having one, and throw her a feast.
text: Sora said that the lack of a white horse reflected poorly on neither our generosity nor our hospitality, and the feast was proof of both.
saga: Embarrassed that we had no white horse, we gave her a feast instead.
.mood += 2
.cattle -= 5
[w] response 3: Give her the white horse.
otherClan = RandomClan(KnownClans)
text: Sora inspected the horse closely, then insisted on paying for it. She seemed very pleased with the <h>, which she named Snowflower. After taking it for a ride, she told us about her visit to the <otherClan> clan, which had spoken ill of us. However, we realized it was due to a misunderstanding, and she agreed to let them know of this.
saga: We gifted Sora with a white <h>, but she insisted on paying. She helped clear up a misunderstanding with the <otherClan.plural>.
otherClan.attitude += 3
.goods += 4
.horses -= 1

These two responses are fairly self-contained. In response 2, we slaughter some cows for a feast, and the people’s spirits raise. Response 3 has some other consequences.

[w] response 9: Sell the white horse for a treasure.
text: “I have no magical treasures I can offer, I’m afraid.”

This response doesn’t end the scene. Responses like this can make the scene a bit more complex, or allow the player to make multiple choices (such as sacrificing for magical aid before embarking on a mission).

Most scenes don’t have 9 responses! This one basically has twice as many because it needs to be interesting if you have a horse or not. Our original plan was that every scene have 5 responses. But 3 is enough. The main thing is that there shouldn’t be a response that is so obviously good that players would always pick it, or so obviously bad that they would never choose it. In the first cases, there wouldn’t really be a choice at all. In the second, we would be writing (and testing) a useless response.

Of course, it’s OK to mention other choices, as in some of the advice.

[Animals >= 2] A horse is usually worth four cows. [46]
[Animals >= 3] A horse is usually worth four cows, but white horses are fairly rare. [4789]
[Elmal] White horses are sacred to Elmal and to his wife Redalda, the horse goddess. [0]
[Uralda] You can’t get cheese or cream from a horse. [36]
[Trickster AND NOT w] We could paint a horse white, I’ve done it before. [5]
[Daring AND NOT w] Let’s go steal her a white horse! [0]

Advice can be conditional as well. Note that the quality of the advice depends on the speaker’s Animals skill. In general, the game gives skill-based advice first, and then advice that depends on religion or personality. Also note that most of the advice includes recommended responses.

That’s the basics: situation, a few responses, advice. Scenes can be a bit more complex by asking for additional responses. Here’s one from a scene about a suitor.

response 2: “He must first prove himself worthy.”
saga: We required him to prove his worthiness.
text: <l> asks you to name a test for <suitor>:
response Skill at arms
response Poetry
response Pig calling
response Plowing

Although the examples here are in our OSL scene language, we didn’t expect our authors to write code. Nor do we for the scene contest — just come up with the basic situation (and optionally a way to illustrate it), reasonable responses, plausible consequences, and some advice.

20 August 2013

Scene Contest

With version 2.2.1 out of the way, it’s time to worry about the next update. We want to add more art and scenes, and we want your help!

Pocket Tactics has agreed to help run a contest. Basically, you come up with the basics of a new scene, and we commission the art and put your idea into the game.

We wanted to do something similar years ago, but since we couldn’t add new art to the CD ROM version, there were too many constraints. This time, you can go wild (as long as it fits the already established game).

We really look forward to your creativity!

18 August 2013

Art Constraints

We always like hearing player suggestions. Several of them will be in the upcoming 2.2.1 release, and we encourage you to send them in via our bugz email. (Not only does this go into our tracking system, but we can ask for clarification if necessary.)

One suggestion came in an App Store review: “Illustrations depicting the existing special combat events where certain nobles receive the favor/ire of the gods.” This would be cool, but it really isn’t practical.

When we created King of Dragon Pass, we wanted to make a game with a lot of replay, and also a game that a small team could create. One approach to the former was to randomize player personalities. Each game, the woman with the hat will be a different person. One time she may be extremely pious but stingy. The next, a xenophobic poet. We figured part of the game’s charm would be learning about your playing pieces through their advice and actions.

So when your book-loving ring member makes an extravagant purchase, it won’t always be the same person doing it. It could be any of the 70+ faces. And of course, people age during the game. To keep that manageable, there are three ages for each face. We didn’t want to draw 210 versions of the scene (or have 210 overlays, especially since this wasn’t the best fit for the ink and watercolor art style). So the art direction was to avoid showing any of the clan ring. (There are a small number of exceptions, and if you’ve won the long game, you’ll know how we typically resolved this.)

Back to the suggestion: combat interactions are focused as much on the potential hero as the situation. It’s true that many of these would not require 210 versions (most of the women would not suddenly be blessed by Orlanth), it would still be impractical to do dozens of versions of an illustration.

Could we come up with art direction that would allow for the various situations to be illustrated, but not show the principal character? Possibly. But the situations weren’t designed to work under this constraint, and many would be hard to portray. Here is the prose from just one battle situation:
[x = 1] text: The <otherClan> warriors see their chance and prepare to rush <ourHero.null><him/her> in a group.
[x = 2] text: Several formidable enemy warriors converge on <him/her>.
[x = 3] text: The enemy warriors nearest to <ourHero> step out of sword-range for a moment and laugh at their chance to take <him/her> down with superior numbers.
That’s really three different images.

In some cases, there’s an obvious illustration (e.g. an enemy flying over the battlefield), but because we wanted to enhance replay, this is often not possible.

It’s certainly possible that with enough effort, we could come up with the right illustrations (or simply do more of them). But I think the word pictures that Rob Heinsoo and I came up with do a reasonable job. We varied the text to give a different feel than the typical interactive scene (which allows for reflection and discussion by the ring members rather than a snap decision).

So the good idea of illustrating battle situations is at odds with the goals of maximum flexibility and reasonable cost. Perhaps some day we’ll have a way to implement it, but for now, we’re going to apply our resources to adding new story content instead of enhancing existing content. More on that in a future post.

12 August 2013

CSR Nominee

Somehow I missed the fact that King of Dragon Pass had been nominated for a Charles S Roberts Award this year, as Best Science-Fiction or Fantasy Computer Wargame. We didn’t win, but it’s still quite an honor.

(Shenandoah Studio’s Battle of the Bulge, which I worked on, did win two awards.)

07 August 2013

Future Updates

Just a quick update:

Apple will be releasing iOS 7 “this fall,” and we want to be sure KoDP runs well under it. There’s a cosmetic issue we can work around, so we’ll be making a small update to do this (as well as fix some bugs). This release will also add a convenience feature: the Magic screen will show you any blessings that are in effect due to a sacrifice. (Including sacrifices made automatically as part of tribal agreements.) It will probably be out in a few weeks.

Then we plan to add new content. This is a much more major undertaking, as it involves commissioning new artwork, writing new scenes, and testing. This will take longer, in part depending on how many scenes actually work out. I’m hoping it comes out in Autumn, but can’t promise anything.

By the way, most of the changes in the upcoming 2.2.1 are due to player reports. Please let us know if something isn’t quite right.

14 July 2013

34567 and Counting

We’ve put King of Dragon Pass on sale before to celebrate arbitrary numeric sales milestones. Since we just passed 34567
copies sold in the App Store, it seems like a great time to hold a sale. Starting Monday 15 July, the unique storytelling game is half price for 34.567 hours. (Or since the actual sales figure is 34568, we’ll run the sale for 34.568 hours.)

04 July 2013

Your Reviews

We rely heavily on our players to help market the game. We can tell people it’s unique and fun, but coming from you, that has a lot more weight. So thanks to all of you who have posted reviews on the App Store or GOG.com, mentioned the game on Facebook, tweeted about it, or simply told a friend.

One aspect of the iOS App Store is that while reviews are public, they can be hard to see in two ways: When a new release of the game comes out, reviews for older versions may be difficult to access (depending on what device you’re using). And you can only see reviews posted from your country’s App Store. In other words, if you’re using the Australian App Store, you can’t see reviews from the US, UK, or Canada (even though they’re probably in an intelligible dialect).

As to the first point, many of you have posted a new review when a new version comes out. Thanks!

As to the second point, in case you’re interested in what people from your neighboring clans say, here are all of the App Store reviews since 21 March 2013. They are not edited in any way.

Wow.... Wow ★★★★★
I have never spent more than 1 dollar on an app but man am I glad I did. This game is worth every dollar and more! It took me 8 hours to look away from it to write this review! If your an rpg/strategy fan you will absolutely love this game.

1 star
I have to give 1 star to any game that doesn't optimize for the iPhone 5... Its just to easy of a fix.

It's worth a try for $5, not $10 ★★★★
Pros: -Nice illustrations -Deep gameplay -Educational about clan relationships in lieu of a powerful empire, like the Romans Cons: -It's engaging, but not fun. It's rewarding as a test, not entertaining as a game -Bad user interface pulls the player out of the imaginary world I don't regret this purchase, but I feel like $10 was too much. This is an old PC game from the 90s that was ported to, but not really adapted for, the iOS.

So much fun!!! ★★★★★
Well worth the money. Don't be a skeptic. You won't regret it!

Awesome game! ★★★★★
One of the best games on IOS. Must buy if you like RPGs or role playing books. Kind of a hybrid RPG / board game, highly addictive and worth every cent! Do be advised that there is some complexity and learning curve, but the manual and wikis available online will help. Overall, love this game!

Something Special ★★★★★
There isn't anything quite like this game. It is something truly special, and worthy of serious attention, premium price or not. The whole of the game contributes to this uniqueness, from its presentation style to the opaqueness of its mechanics. Don't judge this game on surface qualities alone, it is rich and requires a little delving before you can understand it. Rest assured the experience is worth the investment.

A Masterpiece ★★★★★
Worth every penny, cent, satang, or any currency denominations! This is a truly labour of love.

Amazing ★★★★★
This game is absolutely perfect it's so addicting and very enjoyable. Seems a little difficult on the lowest difficulty but I guess it only seems hard, but in reality, well I haven't lost yet so it mustn't be too hard!

TLDR in game form. ★★
"This game is not for everyone. I gladly took the risk of the high-price point based on two things: - All the right gameplay elements - Astounding reviews I was, however, very disappointed. This game takes a ""read the manual first"" approach which really put a huge obstacle between me and the wonderful mechanics this game seems to offer. The cluttered and hard to use interface only served as ""walk the plank"" into the sea of text that the designer's called a tutorial. If you don't mind steep learning curves & endless manuals, though, this game might be worth the initial time investment it takes to start having fun."

Really wanted to like this ★★
Just isn't fun. Couldn't play for more than 15 minutes before being overwhelmed by the complicated gameplay.

Just buy it! ★★★★★
If you want an in depth game with great storytelling and strategy, this is for you. I put over 24 hours into this game, much more then any other iPhone game. Very worth it. Steep learning curve though. Check the guides.

A fantastic and solid game! ★★★★★
This is a wonderful game. You'll most likely find it tough in the beginning. But once you've passed that, you'll forget how much you paid for it 😃

Amazing! ★★★★★
This game is great and always makes me want to keep playing! And to all the whiners saying its to hard it really isn't. You don't need to read the manual to learn how to play just the basic tutorial. BUY IT

Bes ★★★★★
Keep the games commin five stars

Gelungener Tiefgang, absolute Empfehlung ★★★★★
Schade, dass die wirklich guten Spiele so schwer zu entdecken sind. Doch durch Zufall wurde ich auf dieses Spiel aufmerksam und bereue bis jetzt keine einzige Minute die ich davor saß und versuchte die nicht immer leichten Englischvokabeln zu verstehen.  Es ist faszinierend wie mit Text und Bildern eine ganze Welt in meinem Kopf entstehen kann. Ganz ohne 3-D. Das Verständnis für den Spiel Inhalt wächst mit jeder Minute und macht die ganze Sache auch auf lange Sicht spannend.

Great game ★★★★★
Great game but a bit pricy

Hmmm))) ★★★★★
Очень интересно, но очень трудно. И кажется, что иной раз покупая болтню для магии, происходит событие, болтня в итоге не куплена, но гудсы или коровы снялись со счета...и ваще! Подскажите как не голодать, я захватил двух соседей! Где мои нах паздбищя? Все от голода померли)) десять раз играл, не считая провальных начал... П.С. Не понятно как отправить отзыв) третий раз жму на отправить кнопку И раз такая пьянка, то gamebook adventures - тож очень круты, если не играл кто)

Iphone5 ★★★★
Widescreen update for iphone is the only thing missing!!!

Great game ★★★★★
Love this game ! Had my doubts but turned out to be a great game. Buy it !!!

Most Complete, Replayable Experience on IOS ★★★★★
Extremely fun and strategic game with a rogue like element. Great way to pass time, but also easily a game to spend hours on end with. Highly recommended for anyone who loves role playing, fantasy, and a good strategy game.

I'm a huge fan of this game since having it on PC so long ago. I recommend buying it for sure. If your playing games for a fun, yet thoughtful challenge, then this is the game for you. It's really great to see a game that isn't just mindless drivel and explosions or gun work. This game is a refreshing change nowadays. AND it's always fun to come back to after a hiatus. The only negative I can think of is that there aren't more of these games.. Playing as trolls or beast men or dragonnewts or any of the other fantastic species would be a blast! Edit: just started again. Can't believe I've been playing this for years and only beat it once :)

One of the best games you can buy! ★★★★★
This game is a little complicated and takes a bit to get into. But once you mess around with it enough and understand the mechanics it is simply amazing! It is great for killing a few minutes or a couple hours. Don't hesitate to play this! You will not regret it!

Best game for Ipad ★★★★★
This game is takes a bit to figure out, but honestly this is one of the most entertaining games I have ever played

A must buy ★★★★★
Without a doubt the greatest app out there. Tons and tons of replay value with no two games being quite the same. Difficult to get your head around at first but the manual and the wiki that you can find online quickly teaches you, as does trial and error. The game can be very challenging but even if you lose through raids or poor decisions on events the first thing you want to do is pick it up and learn from your mistakes. Worth twice as much as asked for I encourage all who love strategy and taking control to buy this app as you will not be disappointed. I know I wasn't!

Rather unforgiving ★★★
I want to love this game, but being expected to memorise which rituals i performed in sacred time just doesnt work for me. Adding a simple screen with this information would vastly improve the game and make it much better for casual intermittent play. Its a shame because there are loads of great things about this game as well. But for me its ruined by a lack of basic information.

Superb ★★★★★
Love the game and anxiously awaiting future update. Also. Their support team returned my email same day.

Amazing ★★★★★
Great storytelling game, got it almost 3 years ago and still playing it. Even though it takes a while its so awesome when you start to understand the lore and gameplay. 10/10 recommend

Brilliant game! ★★★★★
Love the role playing, strategy and chance involved in this. I am always wondering what is the best choice and have reloaded a year many times to try and get a better outcome.

Great ! ★★★★★
Love this game. Great to see that you keep upgrading it !

Zieht einen in den Bann. ★★★★★
Das beste Spiel was ich mobil bisher gespielt habe. Weiter so mit den Updates bitte :) !

Enjoyable ★★★★★

Fantastic Game! ★★★★★
Thanks for still developing this amazing game!

Great ★★★★★
One of the best game avalaible on the AppStore for those Who like turn based game with rpg elements.

Brilliant game ★★★★★
If you love epic storytelling, you'll love this unique and unusually well-crafted game

Complexe, riche, unique ★★★★★
Unique mélange de jeux de rôle et de stratégie, extrêmement riche et complexe. Un Ovni sur OS pour ceux qui aiment les challenges!

Worth every peeny. ★★★★★
I have spent so many hours in this game. Possibly like 30 attempts to beat the game all in horrible failure. I kept coming back fixing my previous mistakes. So much to fun to see you do better every time. There is no wrong or right decsion listen to your clan ring and do what you think is right. A great story, mytholgy, and your clan ring become like friends its wierd to say it but its true. When one dies on a poor decsion of yours gets them killed its a sad moment. Finally though with my many attempts I have done it not a single time you retry is it the same. I recomend get this game you need to try it expierence your failures and wins. I completed this game on normal with the King of Dragons Pass way and it was a challenge and so much fun they should make a game like this with a bew culture would be awesome.

Espetacular ★★★★★
Rpg muito invulgar nos dias que correm, hibrido entre livro e um civilization lite. Historia extremamente rica e envolvente. Mais de 10 horas de jogo ate agora e ainda nao percebi toda a mecanica inerente. Um dos melhores jogos para ipad que comprei ate agora. 5 estrelas!

Great! ★★★★★
Fantastic little game. Full of character. Be careful though as you'll find yourself losing track of time.

Wow... ★★★★★
An mir ist das Spiel früher auf dem pc vorbeigegangen. Jetzt bin ich durch Zufall darauf gestossen und schwer begeistert. Es gibt nicht vergleichbares was ich kenne. Sehr komplex, spannend und eine schöne langsame Geschwindigkeit, perfekt fürs tablet. Englisch sollte man aber gut können, die grosse Anzahl von Texten besteht nicht nur aus Schulenglisch.  Gehört für mich zu den Top 3 Games. Im -App Store.

Holy Uralda ★★★★★
Dear lord buy this game. It was well worth the money!

Yeaaaa ★★★★★

Great game, but be patient with it ★★★★★
This is the first game I've really got into on the ipad/iphone. I've been playing this for about 40 hours so far. I've been getting more interested rather than more bored of it, which shows how much depth it has.  Good replayability too - I've started again several times as I got better at the game and did not found it repetitive.  This game is not for the casual gamer though - you'll need to be patient with it. I was frustrated at the beginning as I didn't know how the various choices available would affect me. Over time I've gained some idea about their consequences through experience. I now think it would be too easy if you knew exactly what the outcome would be, as you'd always make the same choice. It's more rewarding to learn slowly from experience and make mistakes from time to time.  Having said that, the tips and the wiki I found online really helped me to understand the game and to start enjoying it.  You can reload to previous points in the game but I don't use this anymore - I prefer to deal with setbacks and learn from them. Still, this was a handy feature when I first started to play.  I was put off from getting the game by other reviews that mentioned talking ducks etc. But this wasn't an issue once I started the game. Most of the interaction is with humans and only a little is with beastmen things like the ducks. The other creatures (like lizardmen and chaos warriors etc.) are way cooler than the ducks.  Overall I'd give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, if I could. I'd take half a star off for the first 10 hours when I didn't have a clue what was going on. Be prepared for this, get through it, and you'll find many hours of enjoyment.

Great update ★★★★★
Nice to see a company keep coming out with updates.

The Story Crafting! ★★★★★
A well complemented balance of community management and story building. Create your own people!

Engrossing, unforgettable, and updated yet again ★★★★★
King of Dragon Pass is quite simply a masterpiece. The developers have fine tuned and improved it since it's original release in 1999, and trust me, it shows. It transcends genres and surpasses expectations, if you enjoy deep strategy and role playing experiences, you really cannot go wrong with King of Dragon Pass  - Lost In Blue

Brilliant. ★★★★★
A rare gem of a game, and a unique narrative experience.  Highly recommended.

Again, thanks to everyone who took the time to write a review. And to people who rated the game (1018 of 1118 ratings have been five stars, which is humbling).

27 June 2013

More Player Data: Achievements

Most of the player data we reported on a few days ago seems to be holding steady. (Median session length is up, now 4.9 minutes, but that’s not hugely different.) So let’s look at some other data.

Achievements aren’t a big part of the game, but hopefully they can make it more interesting for some players. (As a reminder, you need to be signed into Game Center to earn them. If you haven’t done so from inside King of Dragon Pass, use the Game Center app.)

We keep track of which ones people have earned. The pie chart shows the most popular ones.
I won’t include the complete list here, since some of them give away story elements. However, people seem to be favoring tribal kings (59) over queens (22). And it might behoove you to be kind to your web-footed friends, since the Beastfolk seem to be the most dangerous of the inhumans of Dragon Pass.

Sadly, few people are tweeting from the game (with our marketing budget of $0, we rely on our players to help spread the word), or have discovered the Easter Egg.

22 June 2013

Player Data

One of the changes in King of Dragon Pass 2.2 was the ability for us to learn something about how people play the game. The release notes mentioned this as
• Added anonymous tracking so we can understand how people play
because we figured you should be aware we do it. This blog post will hopefully reveal more about what we’re doing.

There are a number of metrics systems out there. We chose Flurry Analytics mostly because it’s free, easy to use, and we’re familiar with it. There are other similar services, but Flurry has been around for a while and seems to be a good iOS citizen. For example, it saves metrics until it can send them. If you play offline, you won’t see any impact.

We are also pretty sparing about what we track. We’re curious about whether people are playing on iPad or iPhone. We want to know how hard the game is, so we track wins and losses, and the difficulty level. And we track achievements earned. Other than the basic stuff from Flurry, that’s it. So there’s not a lot of data sent in any case.

Version 2.2 has only been available for a few days, but there have been 4569 play sessions, so there’s enough data that we can analyze it.

The median session length was 4.1 minutes. As expected for a mobile game, it’s played in fairly short bursts. (As I understand Flurry sessions, leaving the game to check your email ends a session.)

As software developers, we need to know if we need to support older versions of iOS. For various reasons, we did have to raise the system requirements to 5.1 or later, so this data may be a bit skewed. But 94.8% of launches are on iOS 6.0.1 or later. Only 5.2% are on 5.1.x. This is pretty close to Apple’s numbers (they claim 93% on iOS 6), which is a nice sanity check. Based on the number of devices that cannot upgrade to the upcoming iOS 7, we would lose 10.4% of our players if we required iOS 7. (No, we’re not planning this!)

And since we have to rework all the screens for each display size, how are those being used? The most popular display is iPad, at 41.7%.
The original iPhone size accounts for 39.4%, and the 4 inch display is already in use by 18.9% of our players.

We also support VoiceOver, and it’s interesting to note that 7.3% of our players have it enabled.

There’s not enough data yet but it appears that more people are winning Long games than Short. But losses greatly outnumber wins. Hopefully that will change over time!

20 June 2013

More to the Story

We’ve just released an update to the iOS App Store. Version 2.2 adds 19 new interactive scenes. Many of these make use of existing artwork (you’ll spot some recurring characters), but we commissioned three new paintings by Jan Pospíšil.

Dragonewts on iPhone 5
Since our last major update to King of Dragon Pass, Apple came out with the iPhone 5 and a new iPod touch with 4 inch screens. We’ve reworked over 30 screens to take advantage of the larger screen — in particular, more of the artwork is visible during an interactive scene.

Thanks to composer Stan LePard, the music now plays in stereo, and gets a bump to CD quality.

One feature from the original game is now in the iOS version: when raiding a distant clan, you may need to negotiate with a clan that’s en route.

And there are new treasures and more variety in the year-end news report.

The one thing there’s less of: bugs. We’ve gotten rid of a number of bugs and typos. (Thanks especially to the vigilant Zack Kline for reporting typos.)

Here’s the detailed release notes:
• 19 new interactive scenes
• Upgraded music to CD-quality stereo (thanks to Stan LePard)
• Support iPhone 5 screen size
• Take clan proximity into account when raiding
• Track notable deaths in saga
• New treasures
• More annual scuttlebutt
• Tint tribal areas on the map
• Various improvements to advice
• Show relevant changes to advisor images during a scene
• Battle situations don’t leave blank lines in the saga
• Fixed a bug that allowed indefinite raiding during Sea season
• More accurate determination of exploring certain areas
• Fixed typos and bugs
• Fixed a memory leak in VoiceOver play
• Added anonymous tracking so we can understand how people play
• Now requires iOS 5.1
App Store ratings reset with new versions, so please consider giving this version a rating or review.

So that’s 2.2, but we have plans to add even more scenes in a future update.

08 June 2013

Architecture Redux

I’ve mentioned the game’s architecture before, but understanding it helps answer some common questions, so I thought I’d draw a picture.

The game has three main divisions. In the original version, different developers were more or less responsible for each.

The user interface (the 50 or so screens and dialogs) were created for the Windows and Macintoshes of the day (that day being somewhere between 1997, when we started the project, and 1999, when it was released). We used mTropolis, a powerful multimedia development system that was discontinued over a year before the game came out.

The interactive scenes (and news) were coded in OSL (the Opal Scripting Language, or the Opal Scene Language).

The game engine, written in C++, executed the OSL code, ran the economic model (tracking cows and the effects of treasures on them), and was responsible for saving the game. It was cross-platform, running equally well on Mac OS and Windows.

When we created a new version for iOS, the basic game code and the scenes didn’t need radical change. Both were enhanced (for example, the game had more advice and supported 7 new treasures, and there were 28 new scenes) but existing code continued to work. By contrast, none of the user interface code could be used. Not that it would have mattered much, the small touch screen needed a new user interface anyway. This was a very substantial effort, and it ended up being partly duplicated for iPad and again for the 4 inch display.

There are numbers in the diagram because they suggest why the iOS version is distinct from anything else. Saved games assume a specific number of scenes and treasures. Adding more would mean substantial reworking of the C++ code. But this code had to work with mTropolis, so it’s tied to 1998 era systems. The hardware and compilers I used back then are long gone.

So that’s why the GOG Windows version can’t be updated.

Some have asked about a new Windows or Mac version, or an Android version. Since mTropolis no longer exists and UIKit is iOS-specific, any version for any other platform will require reworking the user interface (possibly with some redesign, definitely a brand new implementation). Think of it was rewriting a third of the game.

The first iOS release took about 20 calendar months. Since the C++ code didn’t need significant updating, the user interface could thus be said to be about half the code needed for that project.

Actually, there was some new C++ code, because we wanted to add Game Center achievements. Most of this would work on Mac OS X, but not on other platforms.

So unlike the original version, where it was trivial to build for both Mac and Windows, there’s a daunting amount of work to bring the game to another platform.

What we’ve done instead is reflected in those numbers: reworking the 50 screens for iPad (and soon the iPhone 5). And adding new treasures and new scenes in an update we hope to release this month.

12 May 2013

4 Inch Display

I really have to wonder when I see a one star review in the App Store that reads: “I have to give 1 star to any game that doesn't optimize for the iPhone 5... Its just to easy of a fix.” (sic)

One star? Really? The game is awful because it was created before the iPhone 5 existed, and has not been altered to use the wider screen? If the reviewer stopped to think at all, is adding 88 pixels of width to a landscape game really going to make that much difference? In other words, is this screen
really so incredibly worse than this one?

In almost every possible case, getting extra width buys you very little with a landscape application. Text lists still scroll vertically, and the landscape height of an iPhone 5 screen is exactly the same as the landscape height of every other iPhone. So a bigger screen doesn’t mean less scrolling.

As for easy, it turns out that we had to rework 31 different screens. In many cases, it was an easy enough transformation, like the one above. But there were cases where because we’d put in so much effort making sure the game worked on the original iPhone that it needed new design and coding to work on a different layout. In particular, for the one area where the game can be a little better on the iPhone 5’s 4 inch display. Interactive scenes always allow you to view the entire illustration, but during play it’s partially covered with text.

On the wider display, less of the picture is obscured.

(I suppose we could show more text instead, but as shown above, it doesn’t always need to scroll. It seemed like a better tradeoff to favor art over text.)

Obviously it’s better to fully support the new screen size, but we could have used the money to commission new artwork instead of new versions of the same user interface elements. And used developer time to create new scenes, instead of redoing 31 different screens to show 18% more pixels (18% more blank parchment in many cases).

As you might have guessed from the screen shots, we are in fact adding new assets and code to support the 4 inch display as well as the 3.5 inch display on iPhone and iPod touch. But it’s because Apple now requires this, not because this game really gets better because of this effort.

13 April 2013

The Debug Dialog

When I was creating the iOS version of King of Dragon Pass, I included some of the same debugging utilities we had in the original game. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember exactly what we had, and there was no good way to look, because the release version of the game didn’t have them. (And it’s real hard to search an mTropolis project.)

I knew there was a way to trigger a specific scene (critical for running them over and over to test all the possibilities). And a set of commands that do things like get rid of all your food (to test things like starvation advice) or get raided by Trolls.

But I knew there was something more, just not what it was.

Today I happened to run into this code
Returns text about our clan helpful for debugging (shown in the \ dialogette)
char* CPlayerClan::DebugInfo() const
gString = "farmerMorale: ";
UString::Append(gString, this->MoraleFarmers());
gString += ", warriorMorale: ";
UString::Append(gString, this->MoraleWarriors());
gString += ", thrallMorale: ";
UString::Append(gString, COSL::GetIntegerVariable(var_thrallMorale));
gString += ", mood: ";
UString::Append(gString, this->Mood());
gString += "\rvictory: ";
UString::Append(gString, COSL::GetIntegerVariable(var_victory));
gString += ", kingship: ";
UString::Append(gString, this->Kingship());
gString += "\r";
UString::Append(gString, fYearsAsType, "year", "years");
gString += " as clan type\r";

return (char *)gString.data();
} // DebugInfo

which was clearly used to display some internal status useful for testing.

This isn’t as important as it was in 1999, but we’re in the process of thoroughly testing a number of new scenes (currently 14, but several more are in progress). So I put this into the current debug dialog. It’s almost like seeing a long-forgotten friend.

30 March 2013

Art Process

I was going through the files and ran into some work sketches, which we usually didn’t save. So I can show a bit of our process for creating art.

King of Dragon Pass had three separate art styles (plus interface art), so there wasn’t a single process. This is the basics of how we worked with Stefano Gaudiano to create artwork relating to the present (as opposed to the Otherworld or history).

A scene’s writer (usually Robin Laws) would come up with basic art direction. I (David Dunham) might expand on it, and pass it off to Stefano as Art Director.
R257: A prosperously-attired female carl from the Prosperous Clan (R90) comes to tell us of an attack on her cattle by a fearsome creature called a walktapus. A walktapus is a humanoid creature with an octopus for a head; its skin is mottled and wrinkly like an octopus, but it walks on land. The walktapus has attacked a typical shaggy cow and has its tentacles wrapped around the beast, while carls from this other clan look on in horror, too scared to fight it.
Stefano would get someone to make a loose thumbnail sketch in pencil. (These varied in size; the ones I found were 3 to a standard sheet of paper.) This served to make sure the writers had communicated to the artists, and as a quick way to iterate the design. Elise Bowditch and I reviewed all the thumbnails with Stefano. Sometimes there were small changes (to bring out important elements of the scene, make sure that there was room for text, or emphasize something interesting the artists had come up with). Unfortunately, I don’t know who did this thumbnail.

Once the thumbnail was approved, Stefano assigned it to an artist to create full-sized (9 x 5 1/8 inch) pencils. We’d get these by fax, since there usually wasn’t much discussion at this point, and we could usually give feedback by fax or verbally. Again, I don’t know who did the pencils for R257.

When the pencils were approved, Stefano inked them, then gave them to a colorist (Mike Christian and Brian Sendelbach did most of the coloring). Note that this scene is in flashback style, where the event occurred in the recent past.

Stefano would then do any additional work (such as adding the embroidery on the woman’s overdress). He scanned these images and sometimes made color adjustments or small edits with Photoshop.

18 March 2013

30K Sale(s)

text: We’re very pleased to let you know that our <d3:unique/distinctive/indie> game King of Dragon Pass has sold over 30000 copies in the App Store! To celebrate, we’re putting the game on sale for 30% off, for three days.
music: "WeDidIt"
price = price * 0.7 # 30% off
trigger code_SaleOver 3  # Sale ends in 3 days

Response 1: Buy Now!
.fun += 1000
.goods -= 7
text: Clan members were heard saying things such as “<d3:This is undoubtedly the best rpg game on iOS./This game is simply brilliant./I must have put in 30 hours by now.>”

Response 2: Wait 3 days for the regular price, to support the developers.
.fun += 1000
.goods -= 10
text: Clan members could be heard saying such things as: “d3:A game with more depth and heart than you can shake a stick at./Thank you dev team for such a great game that I will be playing for years to come!/Congrats to the developers on making something so different and downright fun.>”

Response 3: Send messengers to nearby clans to let them know.
foreach c in NearbyClans
c.fun += 1000
aSharp.obligations += 1

Response 4: Get the Windows version on GOG.com.
text: Clan members were sad that we had no iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. But they praised the ring for finding another way.
.fun += 999

Response 5: Ignore the opportunity.
text: Clan members shook their heads and muttered darkly about the foolish decisions their leaders were making.
.mood -= 25

[Storytelling] Get this game. It’s tribal politics and role playing at its best. Play it as if you are in the shoes of your clan leader or as you wish yourself; whatever brings you into the world, live it. You will not regret a thing. [1234]

16 March 2013

Troll Hero Preview

As you may know, we’re hoping to make a fairly large number of new scenes for a King of Dragon Pass update. We do have a constraint: there is no art pipeline the way there was in the original, so we are repurposing existing art. This isn’t actually a new thing — we reused artwork rather than commission art for the over 500 scenes in the original. (There are “only” about 420 illustrations earmarked for scenes.) After all, it makes sense that Sora Goodseller looks the same each time she visits (though she actually has a second piece of art).

One of the design goals for this update was to make use of artwork that may not be commonly seen, such as a scene that occurs as a direct consequence of a previous scene (i.e. a story branch). Here is one of them, a visit from a troll hero.

To write this scene, I consulted with the world’s foremost uzologist, Dan McCluskey. (I had to cut some of the finer points of troll behavior since you are seeing this from the human viewpoint.)

This scene has some internal branching, so it was a bit time-consuming to code, but it’s now ready, and got a good response from initial testing. Now we need to perform more rigorous QA, making sure each of the branches works.

This is the 11th new scene. Others are in progress, though I don’t know if I’ll really end up with all 29 I have ideas for.

17 February 2013

Planning for Growth

King of Dragon Pass has continued to grow since the last mention of what changed in the iOS version. There are still seven new treasures (it turns out to be tricky to add new ones without breaking saved games). There are now 29 new scenes, 4 more than when we first released. Two of the new ones have new artwork. And one of the bug fixes actually enables a scene that accidentally never showed up (a bug was introduced about a month before release back in 1999).

The way the save file format works, it’s not easy to add an arbitrary number of new scenes. And new treasures are also problematic. Luckily, the iOS version doesn’t need to worry about dealing with back-and-forth file compatibility between versions (since you can only upgrade and can’t move files between sandboxes). So I can add code to deal with old saves, and gain the ability to add a significant number of new scenes, as well as new treasures. Four scenes are coded, with one new treasure.

This is the first time we’ve changed the file format (we’ve always taken pains that updates could always read your saved games). It’s a bit of a pain, so I don’t want to do it again if I can help it. Accordingly, I want to release the next version with a fair number of new scenes. Fortunately, I have ideas for another 29. Unfortunately, most of these are not fleshed out, let alone coded and tested. Some may not turn out very interesting. So the update won’t be ready for some time.

This may hold up bug fixes and advice improvements. But hopefully one big update will end up better than a number of small ones, so all the story content is available at once (after all, you could easily play a game and not see a specific scene).