Path to Pelantas Interview: Opening New Paths
Questions by: Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Answered by: Pelle Ankersen
Path to Pelantas is a browser based game that’s been up and running for a while now. We’ve gone behind the scenes and talked to the people behind this game to find out what’s new with the Path to Pelantas team.
OnRPG: Why is Path to Pelantas still in the open beta stage when it's been operating for aroundthree years now?
Threeyears... That's right. Time passes by. Well, there are several reasons for this. First and foremost this game has been a hobby project for us - we are all full-time employed elsewhere, so we are using our spare time to work with the game pro bono.
Game overview while playing
But it's also very important for us to emphasize that we have been very meticulous about making all features work as intended and have all game metrics thoroughly balanced. This takes time and we have involved our very helpful and enthusiastic beta users in the process. Thus, when we do remove the BETA designation we are fully satisfied with the game as a whole. This has been the idea the entire time; to release something truly worthwhile and not just another flash in the pan.
OnRPG: How did you guys create Path to Pelantas? What were/are your inspiration/s for the game?
We are five developers around same age, who have all played computer games since the Commodore 64 age. We primarily played role-playing games as teens and browser games as adults. We are also very enthusiastic strategy board gamers and I believe this is one of our major merits; we are used to think long term strategy with regards to all the little choices. A strategic browser game like Path to Pelantas has a lot more in common with the better strategy board games out there than with other computer games. As a little curiosity I can reveal that we are actually also planning on releasing a board game version of Path to Pelantas. The game has already been made and tested by us, so only time will tell when it will be released.
Hero Details Page
Ever since our Dungeons and Dragons days we have also been fascinated by the fantasy genre. This is why we chose to create our game in this setting. We love the un-complicated world of heroes and villains, of glory and honour and great deeds!
OnRPG: Where did you base the game? Did you guys get the ideas from any existent browser games ?
Yes indeed. From 2002 and approximately 5 years forth, four of us played Hattrick. Hattrick has been the primary inspiration with its simple but rewarding gameplay demanding very little time consumption. We have played many other browser games but only Hattrick has had real lasting value. We wanted to create something just as addictive, so inspired by Hattrick we put our heads together and tried to figure out how this kind of a game would work in a fantasy setting. Then we slowly started developing features and shaping the game with the intention to create what we personally thought would be the best game on the market.
OnRPG: What do you think sets Path to Pelantas apart from the other browser games out there? Why?
Many games boast that they only require little time, which is a direct lie. Almost all games require an almost exponential time spend for you to be able to do well. And many of these actually require for you to pay up if you would like to have a chance to excel. We have created a game where it's perfectly possible to play only 5-10 minutes a day and still become one of the best in the long run. And this without paying a single cent! We intend never to add features to our premium packages which will directly increase your chance of winning. We believe that this is a quality which will make people like the game more and thus stick with it longer. We feel that this is quite unique in an overcrowded market of - in many cases - questionable releases.
OnRPG: What can you say is the game's defining feature? Why?
The whole hero management part is the backbone of the game. We believe that we have created an almost flawless concept in terms of our heroes and the management of these. The iterative process of making your heroes progress before they retire while at the same time making sure new heroes evolve to become champions of the future is what keeps the whole game running. This is what makes our users love the game for real - you cannot help getting a very strong relationship with your favorite heroes and the urge to make them evolve and see them become better is a strong motivation factor in our game.
You will need to have a great share of high level heroes to be able to do well in the arena battles and on your quests and hunts, but you must also have potential champions stand ready when your most experienced heroes suddenly retire. And the talent development is very important too. It's almost impossible to prioritize without neglecting some heroes at some point and that's what makes the game so great. It's all about making the right short and long term decisions.
In other words, it is a game which is almost impossible to master, so you will always feel that you have something new to strive for.
OnRPG: You guys boast that the game is "one of a kind" with the mix of sports management and role playing games. What made you say so?
Well, it's hard to speak of all browser games on the market, how many are there? 5000? But we've seen our share and we haven't found any other game combining these two genres like we do. Perhaps you have?
OnRPG: What sports management elements did you include in Path to Pelantas? Why choose the features?
We decided to make the game based on a sports management engine like mentioned earlier. This meant we built the game engine with predefined weekly and daily schedules like any other sports manager games. We have the weekly arena battles where you appoint orders before start just like you would set a football match lineup, we have an advanced tournament structure with promotion and relegation from different leagues and divisions, we have weekly training and we have implemented a complete transfer system, where users are able to buy each others' heroes. The game is also never-ending like the real world of sports; each season a new champion may arise. All our statistics and rankings are also something you would typically find in a sports game.
Sports Overview RPG League
OnRPG: Was it hard to combine the sports management and RPG elements? (Could you elaborate on the answer?)
Not really. The only hard thing was to make the story-telling work. It's hard to explain how this whole organized tournament structure would work in an enigmatic fantasy world. The whole realism aspect of it is very hard; all things in the game ought to be explained but it's not always possible to do so. The transfer system - for instance - is very illogical. How on earth would you explain how you are able to see which heroes are for sale in a complete different realm? And how would you explain how bids are made and transfers are actually carried out? But it's really not a problem - no one complains about these explanation flaws as long as the game play works.
OnRPG: How did you manage to create a game that doesn't take much time for players to play?
That's more of a challenge than you would normally think. It's very hard to find the balance of keeping users interested and still not have too many defining features, which are time-consuming. Of course you can use very much time on the game - and believe me, some do! - but it's not necessary to keep up with the leaders.
I guess we used ourselves as focus group and have based our decisions on what we would like in a game. We are all 30 years old and we are all busy with studying, work, family, houses, sports etc. Just like everyone else in our age. So we wanted to create a game you would be able to play while still being able to take care of all your obligations and other interests. So, while we do have a wide array of users, our core users are just like us; in the late twenties and happy with the low level of time consumption.
OnRPG: Where do you get the ideas for the random events that frequently occur in-game?
Well, that's also one of the things we are proud of. The two text writers have spent thousands of hours writing events and quests for the game, so the textual content will never be monotonous. Everything is invented by our text writers themselves, who in term have been influenced by literature, games and also heavy metal- another interest some of the developers share. Many of the events and quests are actually named after great metal songs.
In these particular events the text writers really have the inspirational freedom to bring their influence to bear. And there are enough events, so no user will ever receive the same. This is also the only part of the game, where humor is often added to spice up the overall game atmosphere.
OnRPG: Where do you get the names for the heroes, which players get to use in the game? Why use that as basis?
Back when we started developing the game we tried inventing all the names ourselves. We quickly gave up and searched for some random fantasy name generators instead. We have found many and with the suggestions from all these we have found a base of many thousand unique names for each of the four races. These are then combined with our own homemade generator to get an almost unlimited amount of unique name combinations.
We feel that the unique names add a lot to the relation you have to your heroes. A cool name can make your sentiments towards a mediocre hero much better.
OnRPG: How big is the player base of the game? Are you guys satisfied with the amount of active players? Why?
Thousands of people have signed up through the years but we keep a steady base of approximately 500 active players. This is completely intentional. Of course we would like to see our user base increase but we also like to make all aspects of the game work before expanding too wildly. We do this to keep marketing and server costs at a minimum before we start making revenue. With the current user fluctuation we can test our conversion rates and optimize the different aspects of the game to increase these rates. When we exit the beta phase we will slowly increase our marketing efforts to test our payment conversions. And when all conversions are fine then we will boost the player base for real.
OnRPG: What are the things you are still currently fixing in the game?
We are working with a lot of things, including design, layout and artwork. We are also very focused on making the game easily digestible for new users. This is very hard with a game that is as heavily text-based as ours. But we continuously try to add help features to gently make new users familiar with all the different options and features.
We are also tweaking on major existing features now and then but in general we feel that all current features are balanced and working well.
OnRPG: What are the factors you are looking into before the game is commercially released?
We are working on the whole micro payment system and the premium packages with some new nifty features for the newbies as well as the weathered players. We think the new opponent analyzer (shhhh, don't tell anyone) will be very popular to say the least. We are very close to having designed all this, so Path to Pelantas will most certainly be commercially released this year.
OnRPG: What's in store for Path to Pelantas players in the succeeding months?
As mentioned above we will introduce the premium packages including new exciting features and options. We will also add a lot of help features for new and current users. And then finally we will all hopefully witness a major rush-in of new players, so that the game will thrive and the community will evolve.
For the future we already have many new features planned, so experienced players will always have something to look forward to. We will continuously add to the game to obtain what we wanted in the very beginning; to create the best game out there J
OnRPG: Thank you for your time!
And thank you for yours! We sincerely hope that some OnRPG visitors will find our game intriguing and try it out.