Orion’s Belt Interview: Back To The Roots
Questions by Vincent Haoson, OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Nuno Silva, Creator and Developer of The game Orion’s Belt
One of the best things about a game is when you find that the people working behind them not only work to get a daily living but does everything for the love of developing and giving the best gaming experience for us subscribers.
This is what the people behind Orion’s Belt has done and the dedication behind the game is the main reason why it has fared this far. We here at OnRPG have been given a privilege to talk with Nuno Silva, the creator and developer of Orion’s Belt. We were able to get him to talk about the game’s humble beginnings, how it has become what it is now and a little about what’s in store for the game’s future.
On how the game started out
OnRPG: Can you tell us a bit on the background of the game’s development? On how it started as a degree project into what it is now?
Nuno: In college we needed to make a web project. Everyone choose to create an online store of some kind. So we decided to innovate. It was 2003 and Browser Based Games were starting to emerge. So we decided: Why not, let’s create a Browser Game! At first it was a school project, but after it was delivered to our teachers we decided to make it available on the internet so everyone could test it. Then, in 2008, we had the support of a company called PDM&FC and we decided to make a new version of the game. This new version brought lots of improvements regarding the last version, a new design but always maintaining our board based battle system.
OnRPG: Was the game originally meant to be released commercially? Or were unforeseeable circumstances made you think that it was worth a shot?
Nuno: At first with was just for fun. But we soon realized that Browser Games were a growing market and, in 2008, when we decided to make the second version of Orion’s Belt Browser Game, we decided to make it commercial.
OnRPG: How did you guys come about with the Chess-like battle system for Orion’s Belt? Was this battle system all part of the overall plan for the game or was the battle system included as you developed the game?
Nuno: When we built the first version of Orion’s Belt Browser Game, we wanted to innovate. All the games at that time (and now) were always the same thing: the one that has more units wins. Because we all played chess and also played heroes of might and magic, we come up with an initial idea of making the battles on a board. We had a first version of the battle system that was not so addictive and didn’t have much strategy. But after some meetings and a lot of brain storms, we came up with the battle system that we have today. This was about 4 years ago. So it was always part of the overall plan. And the battles are the part of the game that the players love the most.
On the developers inspirations
OnRPG: What were the games that inspired you in creating Orion’s Belt? What elements of the said game or games were used in Orion’s Belt?
Nuno: There were 3 games that marked the first version Orion’s Belt Browser Game: The management of the deceased Dark Galaxy Browser Game, the Battles of heroes of mighty and magic and, of course, Chess. When we made the second version, more games served as inspiration like World of Warcraft, Travian and common Real Time Strategy (RTS) games.
OnRPG: How did those games inspire you in creating Orion’s Belt?
Nuno: Well chess and Heroes of Mighty and Magic influenced the battle system a lot. Dark Galaxy influenced the management in the first version. But in the current version we decided to bring up a new kind of management, more addictive and balanced. Travian influenced the management just in terms of layout (we wanted to have a city were player could see the building being built and evolve). Warcraft influenced in several ways like quests and Fights against Mobs. Finally, RTS games influenced the creation and exploration of the universe. If you play Orion’s Belt you will notice that you have concepts like fog of war or line of sight in your planets and Fleets. This is a common feature of all RTS games. But mainly, although these games influenced the development of Orion’s Belt, I must say that great part of the ideas came from the community and they helped a lot. This is a game made with the community, for the community.
On the player response
OnRPG: Seeing that the game started out as a project how did you market the game?
Nuno: First we decided to bring all the players that had registered in the previous version. It was an excellent beta testing for the game. Then we started to make buzz in the internet sending press releases to Blogs, Game Sites, MMO sites and even television and magazines. Finally, after the initial buzz, we started to make advertisements and partnerships in several gaming sites in order to attract new gamers.
OnRPG: What were the things you had to adjust game development, technical and logistics wise when the game had to accommodate more players?
Well the first thing was to buy a new server. We tested Windows and Linux environments to see which one you be the faster. After almost a year running in linux server and because the great number of players, we will soon migrate to a new, more powerful server, this time in windows. Regarding the game development, after the initial beta release, we started to make almost daily releases for 2 months with new features and bug corrections. Today, because we have a stable version of the game, we only add new features in a monthly base in order to correct all the problems faster and make the current version more stable.
OnRPG: Were you expecting the game to get have such a strong following? What do you think made people come and play Orion’s Belt?
Nuno: Well, that was always our expectation We tried to make a game that would be an alternative to all the games in the market. Different game play, new concepts, different strategies and handsome units and weapons. And normally, the players that stay at least a week, playing the game and exploring its potential, always like it. And it’s addicting (especially the battles)!!!
On tournaments and meet-ups
OnRPG: For the record, this would be my first time experiencing a browser game that starts face-to-face meet-ups and tournaments. How did things reach up to this point?
Nuno: We had always had a nice relationship with the players. We treat them all has equals. We don’t benefit the ones that pay and forget the ones who don’t. We try to resolve everything within a day or, at least, talk to them and give them some feedback. The Tournaments are also a great way gather players and there is always a lot of fun surrounding them. I can say that I made a lot of friends within the game, persons that always believed in Orion’s Belt, and after 4 year still play in the tournaments and love to do it. So all this factors contributed to have an excellent community around the game, a community that loves to play it and loves to give new ideas.
OnRPG: Was it always like this? How was the player turnout before?
Nuno: Well, in a certain manner it was, but in the past we were very few. Now that we have thousands of players, the tournaments and meet-ups are bigger and funnier.
OnRPG: Do you plan on supporting tournaments and meet-ups in the future? Would this be an annual thing for the game?
Nuno: We hope so. The game tournaments and meet-ups are very important to us and motivate the players to play even more. We expecting to have at least 1 meet-up a year and several different tournaments were one of them will be a tournament with prize money.
OnRPG: How big are you expecting the future tournaments to be? Are you seeing the game tourneys to eventually be part of gaming conventions in the future?
Nuno: We are testing a new kind of tournament this year for the first time, with prize money of 2000€ (http://intergalactic.orionsbelt.eu/). We expect to have at least 1000 players playing this tournament. If it all goes as expected, we will start to organize this kind of tournaments every year and start to bring the top 10 players to Portugal were they will battle face to face in the same room. So the players will win money, travel and play their favorite Browser Game.
On further game development and the future
OnRPG: You’ve just released the new beta version of the game, how have things gone since then
Nuno: We added a lot of new features and spend some months making them stable. We can say that Orion’s Belt came out of the Beta and it’s on a final state.
OnRPG: What were the changes you made from the old version?
We had a lot of bug correction, several new features like team tournaments, quick tournaments, a more visually appealing Universe and the Universe Relics. These features boost the game even more. First we added the concept of battles 2X2. Now players can gather up in teams of two and battle in the tournaments. It’s a new kind of battle in a new kind of board (12×12 Square Board). The quick tournaments are 1×1 tournaments with only 16 persons that are always available to register and play. We improved even more the universe so it could be more functional and more visually appealing. Finally we have the Universe Relics that produce rare resources that are distributed to all players of the alliance that controls it. So the strategy has increased and the battles between all the alliances are more alive than ever.
OnRPG: What’s in store for Orion’s Belt in the future?
Nuno: We have 2 big releases to make. The first is a visual upgrade. We know that some parts could be better organized and more visually appealing. So we have a team of designers working in order to take Orion’s Belt User Interface one step ahead. The other is one of the biggest releases until the moment. We will add fleets of Mobs to the universe that will be controlled using artificial intelligence. Players will have to destroy these fleets in order to obtain certain items to complete quests. We will also add 2 major bosses and 2 smaller ones. With the mobs, 2 factions will appear in the game (the Space Force and the Mercs) and around 70 new quests will be created. We hope that this new feature will add one more reason so that new players can join Orion’s Belt Browser Game.
OnRPG: Thank you for your time!!!
Nuno: Thank you!