We were really amazed to find out just how many people are responsible for the creation of Yslandia – we counted nine on the yslandiaworld.com company page, and that doesn’t even include the translators you’ve been working with. Can you tell us a little about the previous game design experience MovingPlayer’s team members have accumulated over the years, and how MovingPlayer formed?
The bulk of gaming experience in the team comes from Fabien and Luca. Luca has been a hardcore gamer since his childhood and has been involved in programming or porting games to the Wii and PSP in the homebrew scene. Fabien has spent a decade with Ubisoft (formerly in charge of Ubisoft.net) and worked on several AAA games such as Rayman, Shadowbane and Everquest China. The team gathered around the project Yslandia in March 2009 following Fabien’s idea to develop a mobile MMO. Many people were needed to complete the project, and they were mainly gathered by cooptation around the growing and motivated team.
What factors made the iPhone/iPod Touch the platform of choice for Yslandia?
Yslandia’s first prototype (dubbed “CloseWar”) was actually running on a Java/Symbian phone, and the initial focus was not only Apple’s platform. We are working on a Bada and Android version of the game. That being said, iDevices did and still do represent a very widespread and homogeneous platform whose economic model with the AppStore has proven its success. We do think Apple has the best mobile gaming platform at the moment but others should be able to play our game as well. Another point we want to achieve is to get people using different devices to play together.
What’s the most challenging aspect of developing and running a massively multiplayer online game world compared to creating an offline, single-player game?
The biggest challenge is, of course, the realtime network communication between the client and the server. In an offline game, conception, testing and validation happen on the device itself, it is a very deterministic process. For an online game, the game quality depends also on that of the network(s) and, being a persistent world, that of the server. That makes the task much more complicated and involves deep knowledge of mobile networking, multi-tasking and server persistence.
Moreover, the world needs to be alive and well 24/7 and we had to set up monitoring tools and community actions for that overwhelming time frame, in order to offer a pleasant and stable experience to the players, just like being the technical and cultural services of a global village :-).
Yslandia features a very detailed mythology that can be read in full on the game’s website, and which helps explain the origins of the conflict between the Simeh’a Alliance and the Zaa’me Coalition. Can you trace the inspiration for this mythology, or the highly developed linguistics underlying that mythology, to any particular real world mythological traditions or languages?
Sébastien developed the mythology of Yslandia. He is fond of Middle Age history, heroic fantasy and role playing games (board, video or even live action). His endless inspiration originates from Celtic or Middle Age mythologies, as well as the great monotheist religions and also “plot theory”.
In the upcoming extensions, players will discover that the whole history of Yslandia is much more complex than the binary opposition (light/dark) shown so far. But we already have told too much ;-).
Now that Yslandia is available in multiple countries and you’ve had a chance to observe how players from different countries approach the game, are there any cultural differences in player behavior that have surprised you? For example, have you noticed any variation in the degree of collectivism or how aggressively players from different countries try to capture totems, etc.?
It is still too early to try and extract that type of information. In the beginning of their journey, all the players usually play the game by themselves, try and evolve their best fitting character by achieving quests, finishing dungeons or farming mobs. It is after a while they start socializing by entering Guilds and making their adventure multi-player.
Speaking of multiple countries, the population of Yslandia players now spans numerous time zones. Has this affected the MovingPlayer team’s daily schedule in any way?
Of course! At first the game was released in France and management was almost an easy task. Since the world release, we have had quite a few interesting nights. But the French release had paved the way on the technical side. On the community side we are currently enrolling Game Masters worldwide who will be able to support and organize events around the clock.
Tell us a little about the role that Game Masters (GMs) play in Yslandia, especially for players who may not be that familiar with MMORPGs yet.
GMs first need to be active players. After selection, they are given special accounts with commands to organize events, spawn mobs or distribute items. They can also teleport at a player’s side or even teleport a player. They can be spotted by their usually very high level and the color of their names. If they meet any problem they can’t solve they have direct access to MovingPlayer’s core team.
By the way, there are 100 GameCenter points to be earned by smashing one of them, but don’t tell anyone. We’ve been chased quite a few times already ;-).
What can you tell us about the kind of content expansions Yslandia players should expect in the future?
There are two types of expansions that will be available: functional evolutions and the content extensions. Functional updates will be available for free on the AppStore and will in the near future propose things like crafting, guild houses or glory halos. Content extensions should be available as in-app purchases and will open access to new islands, quests and mobs. They will also allow higher leveling and deeper story understanding.
Has the MovingPlayer team started planning for future games yet? Do you predict MovingPlayer will stick with MMORPGs or explore other genres down the road?
We have a lot of ideas, but Yslandia is taking most of our time right now. Yslandia has been developed on a complete MMO platform with all the edition, monitoring, and gaming tools. As our name may sound, we will focus on making the best online mobile games we can.
Thanks guys, it’s a wrap! iFanzine gives its hugest thanks to Phil at MovingPlayer and Marti at Bulkypix for making this interview possible.
The character concept art drawings shown in this interview are cropped from those available at yslandiaworld.com. Check out the whole collection there, as well as live server news feeds and special event updates!