The latest update of the classic Greek MMORTS, Ikariam
Sebastian Mayer , product director, and Nils Urband, game designer, answer a few questions about the latest updates to Ikariam, the browser-based, free-to-play MMORTS that borrows heavily from the themes of ancient Greece. Want to conquer your neighbors or become the ultimate diplomat to create a massive alliance? Read on to learn more!
ZAM: Ikariam has been live since 2008; what are some of the biggest changes to the game since then? Has the focus of the gameplay or the company changed drastically in the past four years?
Sebastian: Ikariam has been improved all the time. Some of the bigger changes since launch have been an improved battle system, a new wonder system and several new buildings. And of course there has been the most recent major update that, among other things, brought new building spaces and great new graphics. So there have been several updates enhancing the current gameplay and providing solutions to community wishes. The focus of the core gameplay has not changed drastically in the past four years however.
ZAM: How has the free-to-play model worked out for the game? Do you feel players have the right balance of wanting to purchase extra perks, while still being able to enjoy the game if they don’t have enough money?
Nils: The free-to-play model has worked out really well for Ikariam as you can see by the number of players we have had since the start of the game. Regarding the balancing of the players need to use premium features and ability to enjoy the game without spending money, we have taken the right path. Players can definitely enjoy the game to the fullest without having to pay and won’t have any negative experience if they are not using the premium features.
ZAM: What will Ikariam focus on in future releases? For example,: gameplay upgrades, new units and buildings, additional ambrosia items…?
Nils: We will provide the players with two new buildings which will enhance the possibilities of trading and warfare. We will also have some new Ambrosia features coming along. And, in the nearer future, we will start an Ikariam warserver that has been long awaited by the community. This warserver will have persistent rewards and special rules that have been voted for by the community. So the focus of our future releases is wishes made by the community.
ZAM: In late May, patch 5 was released. What were the largest changes, and how have the players of Ikariam reacted?
Nils: Concerning the new 0.5.0 Update we have improved the look of the game a lot so we now have much brighter saturated colors. We added several animations bringing the cities of Ikariam to life. We clearly separated the background buildings and those build by the players graphically and we gave the players the possibility to play full screen and thus enjoy the game in its full extent. But most important to us were two changes.
First of all we finally were able to provide the players with two extra building spaces which enable them to improve their economy. And secondly we created a much larger city view which enables us to provide more content like new buildings with more gameplay elements to our player community in the future.
ZAM: Typically, what are the testing and release schedules for patches to the game?
Sebastian: Testing and release schedules vary depending on the scope of the feature. We make minor releases all the time that contain small improvements to the game. Major updates usually take place approximately every 2 to 3 months.
ZAM: How do you collect feedback from players, and how is this incorporated into the game?
Nils: We collect player feedback mainly in two different ways. On the one hand we have our Community Managers with their voluntary team members who are checking game forums and Facebook pages for new game feature suggestions or ways to improve current game features. That feedback is gathered constantly and then provided to the game designers who will check and discuss the effects on gameplay and user experience. After that, depending on the size of the feature, detailed concept documents are made and then coded by the developers.
The second way of gathering community feedback is to create special surveys which we ask the Ikariam community to take part in to get feedback on specific topics. That is done on a non-regular basis by the product team.
ZAM: What can we expect to see in the near future for Ikariam?
Sebastian: The next big things we are focusing on are the Ikariam warserver that includes new espionage missions and additional ambrosia items.