Posts Tagged ‘play risk online’

Strategy Game Developer Interview: Afterwind

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

In the first of a series of interviews with strategy game developers, we take a look a a new and promising entrant, Afterwind.

While Afterwind is too dissimilar to Risk to be included in the review section, it will certainly appeal to Risk and turn based strategy gamers.

PRO (PlayRiskOnline):  How would you describe AfterWind in a single sentence?

Ivan (of Afterwind): A browser-based multiplayer strategy on a real world map.

PRO: What was the impetus that led you to build an online multiplayer strategy game?

Ivan: My brother and I wanted some kind of a project together - something with a potential to become commercially successful, but also something we would be passionate about. A website, perhaps, or a web game. A game seemed like more fun - and since neither of us could draw, we decided to make it a strategy game (which doesn’t necessarily require fancy graphics). We felt there was a significant lack of good strategy web games in the internet (though many appeared during the 2.5 years it took to develop our game), especially if you wanted something more complex than a basic Risk-type game. At the same time, web games seemed like the future of gaming, and we wanted to be a part of it.

PRO:  The design of the game and site is very professional.  Describe your team and how long it has taken you to get to this point.  Is AfterWind a full time venture?

Ivan: The team is me (Ivan, design/website) and my brother (Amok, programming) - originally from Estonia, but currently residing in Switzerland and Cyprus. I had a background in web-design (being a freelance web-developer), but zero experience with game development or any non-PHP programming. Amok is very good at programming and his previous job involved some simple Flash game development. We make a perfect team - doing what we’re good at, without intefering with each other’s work. We both have other jobs/projects, so the progress of Afterwind was rather slow, especially on early stages. It took more than 2 years to be able to launch a public beta.

PRO: While not exactly Risk, AfterWind seems to have gone a few steps beyond Risk.  Describe how AW differs from Risk and why you decided to go in that direction?

Ivan: We were big fans of games like Risk and Civilization - however, we definitely didn’t want to create just another clone. We wanted the game to be rather simple on the surface (like Risk), but with some extra ideas piled on top - some borrowed from other games, others our own. For example, the primitive geography of Risk was always somewhat frustrating to me, so one of the first things we decided was to take the action to the realistic world map, present day, with as many countries and cities as we can fit in (160 and 500) and real numbers for population and GDP. We also wanted more than one unit - and having 10 (at the moment) really adds a lot to the variety of gameplay. One of the more radical ideas we had was to abolish all grids and paths and allow players to move units freely, to any point on the map. This decision brought massive technical difficultions, but we felt it was the right step towards finding our own path. These are perhaps the most significant differences from Risk.

PRO: Why did you choose do use Silverlight?  Did you know that another Risk based site, started using Silverlight but recent moved it over to a flash platform?  Do you worry about the acceptability of Silverlight?

Ivan: Silverlight was really the only way to create what we wanted - a complex web game that could hold its own next to regular games. In the beginning we considered Flash, but with its awkward Actionscript and insatiable resource hunger it just didn’t have enough muscle to pull the ambitious game we envisioned. HTML5 was still in its infancy back then, with hardly any browser support. And even today, making an eqivalent of Afterwind in HTML5 would be enormously complicated, not to mention 5 times more time-consuming. On the other hand, Silverlight was a very promising new platform that allowed using C# in combination with XAML, was good for building a server-client type of application, was running very smooth (even in version 1!) and could handle the load well. So, we decided to go with it.
After releasing the game we encountered quite a lot of hostility towards Silverlight - stemming mostly from the fact that it’s developed by Microsoft, and that it’s not available for Linux users. On the other hand, I never heard any complaints about the actual performance of SL, and I myself have only good things to say about SL - developing applications with it is an amazingly smooth experience. We hope that it becomes more widespread in the future and finally gets a decent Linux port.

PRO: Do you have a revenue model?

Ivan: At the moment we’re just focused on perfecting the game and building the player base. We do have some ideas for the future, though - perhaps something like premium accounts.

PRO: The realistic world map is great, but you have any plans for fictional or different maps to play on?

This is something we would like to do in the future. Unfortunately our engine makes it rather difficult to add selectable maps, so perhaps we’ll just concentrate on the one we have and various options for it.

PRO: Describe the current AfterWind community and do you have any plans in that direction?

Ivan: In the beginning we found ourselves overrun by a big group of Turkish players - they refused to use English in the chat and were rather rude on a few occasions. Things have improved significantly after we started advertising on - they have a great community there, and we now have a small slice of it. Overall, people seem to be polite, helpful to new players and interested in game development. We now have a constant stream of ideas pouring through the forum. We certainly want Afterwind community healthy and thriving. We already have the forum and a multi-channel in-game chat, and are planning a kind of ‘clans’ as a way for players to organize into groups. There are many other ideas too - for example, tournaments and card-trading.

PRO: When can we expect 1.0 and what can we expect from it?

Ivan: Most likely there will not be a huge jump in game features once we hit 1.0 - it will just mean that the game is (mostly) bug-free and balanced. I guess we will arrive there soon, since we’re running out of version numbers! (currently: 0.94).

PRO: Do you have a customer acquisition strategy?  The online gaming space is always crowded with new entrants all the time.

Ivan: One thing we’re not particularly good at is promotion. Sometimes it feels like we’re hitting aimlessly at all directions, with little results. Promotion takes a lot of time - precious time that could’ve been used to add some cool new features to the game, and this is frustrating. Even so, we’re quite pleased with what we’ve achieved with our modest efforts - there are always some games open in the lobby, and we gained 1600 registered players in 6 weeks, with more coming every day.

PRO: What would you say is the single most important strategic tip to winning an AfterWind game?

Ivan: Never get involved in a land war in Asia! No, wait… This: choose your starting position wisely!

PRO: Describe a typical AfterWind game.  How long does it take, how many players, what is the commitment from each player look like?

Ivan: Depending on settings, a game can last from 20 minutes (small map preset, few players) to hours (whole world, 10+ players). Games can be limited by setting the maximum number of turns - after which the player with the highest score wins. The maximum number of players in a game is 15 - however, a typical game would have 4-6.

PRO: Do you have any plans for mobile applications of AfterWind?

Ivan: We might be able to port the game to Windows Phone 7, since it has native Silverlight support. Will probably have to strip a few things to make the application lighter, though.

PRO: How has your response to the facebook application been?  Do you find more players using the app or the website?

Ivan: In one word, underwhelming. We expected a huge stream of players pouring in, since there are few games on FB that can compare with Afterwind - however, FB turned out to be a tough market to crack. We estimate that only 1-2% of our players are using the app. When it comes to FB games, there’s an enormous competition, and many of them are really fighting hard for attention. Zynga and several other companies are spending millions on advertisement. We don’t have a big company backing us up, so we’ve only spent $50 on FB ads so far…
There are lots of tricks to make it big on Facebook, and we still hope the application will get noticed. We prefer to spend more time on improving the quality rather than on promotion, so perhaps if we manage to really impress people, word-of-mouth will eventually do its thing.

Checkout Afterwind at

How to win at Risk online (beginners strategy)

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Here is the first in a serious of strategy articles about winning your online Risk games.  Online Risk can be very different than the standard board games, so here are some beginners tips will help you get off to a good start.

A really complicated map

Keep It Simple (Maps)

Anyone who’s played the boardgame is familiar with the “classic” Risk map, and some people may have played the variant editions that presented different maps. But those maps are but a mote in a storm compared to the vast number of maps available across various sites. Every site has a variant of the classic map, but most sites have a library of additional maps, either site- or user-created, that range from the simple to the fiendishly complex. There are also players on those sites that prey upon newcomers unfamiliar with the more complex maps. So to begin with, you might want to stick to the classic Risk map, or similar basic-gameplay maps, until you get your feet wet.

Keep It Simple (Settings)

The most variance in game settings you’re likely to see in a tabletop game of Risk are glorified house rules, like different card values or random allocation of starting territories. Online Risk allows for settings that would be impossible in a boardgame, such as fog of war or simultaneous play. Some sites allow so much customization of the game experience that there are literally thousands of different permutations. While these advanced settings can be a great deal of fun, they also present a trap for the newcomer, in much the same way that complex maps do, so I’d advise playing with the most basic (i.e. most boardgame-like settings) available, which for most people would be 3-6 players, sequential play, escalating cards, and chained fortification.

Know The Site

Every site puts its own spin on Risk, certainly, but every site has its own iconography and jargon. It’s worth spending a little time between turns looking around the site and familiarizing yourself with its various aspects. In particular, learn how ranks work, so you’ll know if your opponents are newcomers like yourself or highly-ranked veterans looking for an easy meal. Also, every site has a slightly different interface for dealing with the game board, so make sure you know how it works so that you can eliminate easy mistakes, like attacking the wrong territory or accidentally advancing armies.

Attack Intelligently

Even as an online Risk newcomer, you don’t want to make it easy for opponents to defeat you. Always have a plan, even if it’s something as sketchy as “in a few turns, I’ll be able to kill that opponent and steal his cards” or “I’m going to lay low and let those two guys fight over South America, and then sweep in when they’re weak”. Every move you make should serve as a means to an end. Don’t attack foolishly, especially if you have 3 armies or fewer to attack with, since you won’t be able to attack with full force.

Never Give Up

Even when things look darkest, there may be a play you can make to turn the tide. Don’t let opponents intimidate you, regardless of how highly they might be ranked or how many games they’ve played. And always try and learn something from every game, win or lose. Even the best online Risk players started right where you are, as a newcomer, and who’s to say that with smart play, you won’t become one of them?