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Interview with Anoua, Owner of Eliyo and Animal Acres


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I was able to reach out to @Anoua and get an interview about Eliyo and Animal Acres. @Anoua has had a lot of experience in managing live games, and her interview shows her process in how she has worked on developing her games, both with Eliyo, which is Beta and in-development, to Animal Acres, which has a well-established fan-base.

Eliyo

http://www.eliyo.net

  1. Give us a little insight into your game such as what is it about, player base, and when did it start?

    Eliyo is meant to be virtual world with a focus on breeding and battling. I also want to do a more full open world that you can actual explore with an avatar, but that is still in works and may be a while. Overall though I try to incorporate rpg elements within the game. 

    One thing I really strive for is immersiveness within the game. This can be a bit more challenging with a web game of this style, but I tried to focus on this by doing things like having multiple poses for pets based on their mood, pets having a mood and personality along with a relationship with the player. And some other subtle details. 

    Eliyo is still in Beta though (and has been opened publicly less than a year) and I have a lot more updates and plans to add to the game before I can call it complete. And even then I'll probably continue adding species, markings, and expanding the world.

    I started actual developing Eliyo late summer of 2013. Years before that I had the idea of starting a virtual pet site, just like many others I'm sure, but never got very far with no ability to program at the time. But after college, in which I studied Computer Science, I realized I could actually make that dream happen now. And that's when I started working on it.

    Our player base is small but growing and developing. At this point I really feel I need to finish up the battle tournament feature I have planned to make the game sustain more long term and just really add in some more challenging long term goals. Overall though feedback has been positive, people do seem to enjoy the breeding and battling. I have received some feedback for some things that could use some tweaking, but I think the base is solid and I'm glad to see people enjoying themselves.
     
  2. What hardships faced your team early on when getting your game going?

    I would say one of the biggest things has just been time and money. More money to buy more art or possible hire another developer, and more time to spend more time programming. I've dedicated a lot of time to this project with some help along the way, but there is still a long way to go to get this game complete and polished. This includes art and programming features both. I am working on getting more saved up financially however to be able to get some more art added to the game so I can add in more creatures and markings along with some other updates I have planned. I can do recolors myself, and actually quite enjoy it, but do need outsource for anything else.
     
  3. What feature of your game do you think was the hardest to develop or add?

    The battle system was probably the most challenging for me. I did take a lot of inspiration from Pokemon, which helped quite a bit in getting good base formulas, but it was still a challenge to put everything together. It's a turn based, and server side does all the logic, but JavaScript is integrated quite a bit using ajax, and there was particular challenge in making sure that worked correctly as well. For example if you refresh, but there is a pop up that needs to be responded to, the refresh needs to load with that pop up and be able to continue exactly where it left off. There are other intricacies that had to be handled as well. And I would say I spent the most time on the battle system.
     
  4. Any failed features that you thought would be great additions to the game, but turned out not to work with your users?

    Nothing in particular at this point. But to start I narrowed my focus and put most of my energies into them so there aren't really a lot of extra features that have been added on at this point.
     
  5. What do you think is the most important factor that keeps your game’s team going to provide new content?

    For Eliyo there's a world I want to create and that is a huge motivator as it's not done yet. My players are also an influence now that it's released as well.
     
  6. What advice would you give a new game maker who is starting out?

    Narrow your concept and focus on that. Resources are always limited, so it's best to focus on a more narrow area and then expand from there later on. Not that you can't dream bigger or have general plans outside of that, but expend the energy getting that base concept finished first. And by base concept I don't mean something generic that is a stripped down version of Neopets or some other game, but narrowed to a fun playable game. 


Animal Acres

http://www.animalacres.net

 

  1. Give us a little insight into your game such as what is it about, player base, and when did it start?

    Animal Acres is an animal sim that was originally created many years ago I think in 2006. It's a fairly simple concept that is focused on stats (images are optional) with breeding and showing being the main focus. We have many species and many breeds. Our species range from mythical fantasy creatures like Dragons and Unicorns, to regular animals such as horses and dogs. Our player base is smaller, but very friendly. We have some older players that have been on for years and then others that are newer. Some of those rotate out but overall I would say we are growing. I've purchased the game late 2015 and have been working to update it ever since.
     
  2. What hardships faced your team early on when getting your game going?

    I'll answer this as from the time of purchase. And in this case the biggest challenge was just coming into an existing user base and really a dying game. The players themselves have actually been really great, and offer some good insight into what they like and don't like, why they stuck around and what they don't want to see changed. But it's a challenge as everyone has their own opinion, and not everyone agrees. I try to strike a good balance between player feedback and what I personally think but the waters can be hard to navigate.

    Another area was the code base wasn't all that great. There are a lot of existing features, but making changes isn't always simple. Which is why one of my focuses has been an in place refactor on any area that I update. And the goal is to eventually update every area. 
     
  3. What feature of your game do you think was the hardest to develop or add?

    Nothing I've added yet. There was definitely some challenge in planning out my game plan for converting over to a framework, but overall it hasn't been that hard. A lot of updates take longer than I would like, but that has more to do with the quantity of updates I would say as sometimes the page seems simple, and you realize it actually allows you to do 4 or more different things. Sometimes simple, but it just adds in more time. I've also been programming in PHP a lot longer than when I started Eliyo, and so am just a lot more skilled than I was before.
     
  4. Any failed features that you thought would be great additions to the game, but turned out not to work with your users?

    There are some features in game that aren't really used such as guilds. Another area not used as much is farming. I have since updated that area, but it seems like it may need some further tweaking to be worth the investment required. May update was primarily cosmetic and making it more user friendly, but didn't change the underlying functionality. 
     
  5. What do you think is the most important factor that keeps your game’s team going to provide new content?

    Definitely the players for this one. Being purchased I didn't have a vision for it the way I do with Eliyo. And I do have plans now and things I am working on to make it better all around, but the main motivator is for the players who I know will enjoy the updates and have been looking forward to some of them.

 

Thanks for your wonderful interview and your time @Anoua!

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