15 April 2014

King of Dragon Pass for Android Update

When I woke up this morning, I noticed that there was starting to be talk about a port of King of Dragon Pass. Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to post in depth for another 11 hours or so, I posted a quick note. Unfortunately, this ended up not clarifying things, but instead propagated some misinformation.

It’s impossible to call things back on the Internet, but in an attempt to correct what I wrote incorrectly:

Yes, we have authorized HeroCraft to port King of Dragon Pass to a number of platforms. And while information on their web site mentioned PS Vita and Windows Phone, they have not really announced anything. I should have waited for them.

They do have an Android version of King of Dragon Pass. I have run an early build on a Kindle Fire HD 7 inch. And I now know that they plan to launch first on Android, and then consider other platforms.

But other than that, there is not much I can say. The game will be published by HeroCraft  so pricing and availability is up to them. I’m sure they will let everyone know.

I can speak on a few questions:

What version will the Android port be?
Given that A Sharp has not finished the 2.3 update, I would expect it to be based on 2.2.x. (I’d have to track down exactly which version I sent them.)

Will 2.3 come to Android?
That would be great. It will be up to HeroCraft.

Didn’t you say Android was impossible?
Originally yes, it was. The Android Market eventually changed.

Will it run on…?
I have only seen it running on a Kindle Fire HD 7 inch. I know that HeroCraft is well aware that there are many other Android devices. We’ll have to wait for their release to know for sure.

Once again: an Android version of King of Dragon Pass 2.x is in the works. There may or may not be a Windows Phone or PS Vita version. My apologies to HeroCraft for posting this morning.

09 April 2014

How We Update

As you may know, we’re working on an update which will include the winner of the Scene Contest and a number of other new scenes. We actually added so much that we had to revise the file format (it wasn’t really designed for expansion back in 1997, and we didn’t rework it for the iOS version).

All screen shots are from actual App Store updates
But we always make sure you can continue a game you’ve started. King of Dragon Pass is a long game, and it would be unreasonable to have players not upgrade because they’re in the middle of a game. So KoDP reads the previous format, but writes the new format. In fact, we’ve done this before, so it can read several old formats. We also sometimes have to go through gyrations to make sure new variables appear only at the end of our data files. (During development, we’re less strict about this, and testers occasionally have to discard games in progress.) Just to make sure, I just loaded a game which was actually saved in 2011, before the 2.0 release.

We also do our best to test all the new content. There are 16 new full scenes, plus news and other followups. We run through every outcome of every choice, ideally in the context of a normal game. The last thing we want is an update that has serious bugs! All this play can uncover minor bugs in previous parts of the game, and we fix those too.

Finally, we want the update to be free to everyone who’s bought the game. That’s pretty much how the App Store works, but I suppose we could make new content an in-app purchase. While episodic content may sometimes work like this, King of Dragon Pass was not designed to be broken into chapters. There are other reasons for making the update free, but a big one is that don’t want to ruin the play experience.

Version 2.3 is not yet ready to go, but when it is, it will be quality software that’s compatible with ongoing games, and will be a free update.

09 March 2014

“Slights make war, but favors make peace.”

In one of the interactive scenes, a warrior from another clan tells us, “Slights make war, but favors make peace.”

This is a reasonable summary of how relationships between clans work. But things aren’t quite that simple.

Certain acts are considered slights — stains on a clan’s honor. (Raids are annoying, but unless the context decrees otherwise, aren’t considered slights.) If you slight another clan too many times, it will declare a feud, which is essentially a statement that they consider themselves at war with your clan.

The exact number is affected by certain treasures, but usually it takes three slights to push a clan over the edge into feud. Of course, you already have a history with the other clans that emigrated to Dragon Pass, so you might start on the cusp of a feud.

Exactly what offends another clan is not always obvious, so this isn’t shown in the user interface. But your ring often incorporates the number of slights into their advice. Sometimes you can erase a slight, but in general the offended clan will remember them forever.

Note that slighting a clan won’t always result in an immediate feud. Tensions have to simmer to a boil, and they may want to make sure that they’re strong enough to prosecute a feud.

Ending a feud will remove at least some of the slights, depending on just how you managed to resolve it.

As far as favors making peace, the connection is a little less direct. You can be owed any number of favors. No one feels so obligated that they offer a treaty. But a clan that owes you is more likely to go along with what you want — perhaps you subtly remind them that they owe you, or on their own they would rather back you than pay 30 cows. At the same time, a clan that you owe will be less likely to side with you. Who are you to ask for a political favor, when you are already in their debt? Tribal negotiations are just one area that works like this.

When an advisor says, “Her clan will be slighted if we aid her, and obligated to us if we return her to them,” hopefully the meaning is clear. And now you know what it means in game terms.

12 February 2014

Scene Contest Update

Some time ago, you picked the winner of our scene contest. We added consequences and advice to the entry, and commissioned Jan Pospíšil to paint the illustration. Here is his pencil sketch, and the scene as it will appear in the game.

We are still testing other new scenes — we’d like version 2.3 to be a significant update. This means it’s not ready yet. But all the scenes are written, so we hope to say more fairly soon.

31 December 2013


Your clan is not alone in colonizing Dragon Pass. There are a couple dozen other clans, and you have complex and dynamic relationships with each of them.

In addition, there are groups that are treated as clans for convenience, such as the Horse-Spawn, Humakti, or Trolls. The most important factor for groups is usually attitude.

The map shows clan names in colors ranging from most friendly (allies are blue) to least (feuding clans are red). But no color really captures the complexity of how another clan considers yours.

Allied: Is there a mutual alliance?

Attitude: Does the clan think of you positively or negatively?

Captives: Do you have any of their clan members captive?

Favors: Do they owe you a favor? Or, do you owe them one? (Or many; the number goes up and down as obligations are taken on or repaid.) Favors cancel out, so you can’t both owe and be owed.

Feud: Are you in a state of feud? This is basically a declared war.

Proximity: Is the clan a neighbor, or a neighbor of a neighbor? (Rarely this may change.)

Raids: Clans track the number of raids won or lost (including how many consecutive wins or losses), as well as the number you have made without them counter-raiding.

Slights: Grave offenses are remembered for years, even by otherwise friendly clans.

Trade: Is there an ongoing trade route?

Tribute: How much we pay them, or what they pay us.

One important factor is not specific to any one clan.

Kingship: How well our clan is considered suitable for leading others. This is your reputation among the other clans as a whole.

Your Clan

Within the clan, the major factions are the carls and warriors.

Farmer Morale: How the farmers think they are being treated, especially relative to the warriors.

Mood: The overall attitude of the clan.

Weaponthane Morale: How the weaponthanes think they are being treated, especially relative to the carls.


Clans form into tribes. Within your own tribe, clans track how fairly they think you have treated them (especially if yours is the royal clan). Actions of the king may also stir up royal jealousy. There’s also an overall tribal mood tracked for your tribe.

Attitude: Does the tribe think of your tribe positively or negatively?

Other Relationships

During play, other relationships might be tracked, such as who you sold a treasure to. This depends on the story.

Keeping Them All Straight

This is obviously a lot to track, and the game does it because the Orlanthi do it. Knowing who you can trust and who you need vengeance on is critical!

But as a player, you’re not expected to worry about every detail. The map or clan filters can give you a quick summary (so you can demand tribute from a clan you are not allied to). And the user interface makes sure you can’t call for a favor from a clan that doesn’t owe you one).

More importantly, your advisors will tell you, either in one of the management screens, or an interactive scene. Be sure to consult them!

And you can also refer to the clan saga, which records interactions with others.

It’s your relationship with the other clans that will ultimately determine whether you can forge a tribe, and then unify the tribes into a kingdom.

13 November 2013

Loss in Translation

For almost as long as King of Dragon Pass has been for sale, people have wanted to know if it could be translated. For example, in 2000 we were approached at the Independent Games Festival by a European publisher, who lost interest when they heard how large the game actually was.

As we’ve expanded the game for iOS, the economics have gotten worse than they were in 2000. An approximate word count puts the game at over 640,000 words. Doing some quick research, it would probably cost around $0.10/word to translate into a European language (such as French, Italian, German, or Spanish). That’s $64,000 just for the translation, and doesn’t take into account any development costs.

It also doesn’t take into account the difficulties of the translation in the first place. King of Dragon Pass tries to be flexible, so that in this fragment,

text: <ourHero> fled as fast as <his/her> feet could move <him/her>.

ourHero can be male or female. But the FIGS languages all have word gender, so “his” would have to be translated differently depending on the gender of the following word (and also whether or not it’s plural). So we’d need to add code support for this.

Worse would be something like

saga: <He/She> killed <theirGuy> with one blow, avenging <his/her> <r>.

since the gender of the following word isn’t known (it might be “brother” or “sister”).

This sort of thing could probably be dealt with, but it would almost certainly be a significant development effort, and also raise the cost of translation.

Is English the Tradetalk of the Internet?
Back to that cost: at the current price, with Apple’s 30% cut, we’d need to sell over 9100 copies of the game just to break even on the cost of translating into a single language.

Is that possible? Let’s take Italian. There are native speakers of Italian outside Italy, but for simplicity let’s just look at the 61 million people in Italy. The USA has about 314 million people, so we could assume sales of about 1/5 that of the USA. Based on our previous sales, half are in the USA. So we’d get 1/10 of our total sales in Italy. This would be great, and it would leapfrog Italy to our #3 market. However, King of Dragon Pass is not Angry Birds. Although it’s a successful indie title, sales are somewhat over 35000 units. 1/10 of that is 3500 copies, which would not pay for the translation.

On top of that, we’d need to devote resources (both programming and quality assurance) to a significant development effort, which would take away from projects such as creating new scenes.

There are some other linguistic issues with how the game generates text, but really it’s not worth belaboring.

We’ve translated our software before (Jigami is available in French, and Opal in Japanese). But not something that is ten times as big as the average book. Some of the strengths of the game (immense replayability and flexibility) make it a money-losing proposition to translate.

04 October 2013

Scene Contest Winners

While the Scene Contest has been over for a while, I’ve been remiss in noting the results of the voting.

We became aware that the game had some serious issues when running under VoiceOver under iOS 7. Everything used to work fine, so this took some investigation. I think the most likely explanation is that Apple fixed some VoiceOver bugs, and King of Dragon Pass had been dependent on the earlier incorrect behavior.

It appears that we’ve fixed the issues, and recently submitted version 2.2.2 to Apple for approval. So, the belated announcement:

Cooking Contest
Congratulations to Lysander Xen, who created “Let’s Pretend!” This was the clear favorite, with 51% of the votes cast at Pocket Tactics. It features interesting art and kids getting into trouble.

Runners up were Chris Gardiner’s “The Porridge Fiend,” “Tag-Along” by John Doe, and Tasos Lazarides’s “While You Were Away.”

Now that we’re no longer focused on compatibility issues, we will start obtaining art, fully detailing, coding, and testing Lysander’s winning scene.

We are likely to add other scenes as well, because so many were good.

Thanks to Pocket Tactics for hosting the contest, and to everyone who voted. And most importantly, to everyone who created a scene.