“Normally we just pile a bunch of descriptive words together, like ‘epic’ and ‘strategy’ and ‘multiplayer’,” Ivan Suslin tells me when I ask him to describe Afterwind in his own words. “For those who know Risk, the board game, the idea is very similar – a world map; you win by crushing all of your enemies. But we take it quite a bit further than Risk.” I prompt him to elaborate.
“For example, instead of regions, we have real-world countries and cities, complete with population and income data pulled from Wikipedia. Instead of just moving from one territory to another, there’s free unit movement allowing you to move your army to any point on the map. Also, there are dozens of different units, separated into land, air, and naval types.”
It sounds like a pretty ambitious project - and Afterwind, which is available right now as an in-browser Silverlight game, reflects that in its dedicated community and immensely fun gameplay. It’s been around for almost two years now, officially coming out of beta last year, but Ivan and his brother Amok, who officially make up the game team, are preparing for an influx of new members as they make the move to launch Afterwind on popular game platform Kongregate.
“A few things that might seem very trivial proved to be the most challenging [to develop],” Ivan tells me. “Making the map scroll continuously left or right was one. Combined with our grid-free movement system, it was real hell to implement. The same system also made the idea of simultaneous turns very difficult – we needed a way to resolve all players’ movements in a way that they actually meet each other on the battlefield and not stroll right past.”
“Rather unfortunately, Silverlight is still not available on Linux, and it’s unlikely to change in the future,” he admits, when I ask whether the choice has limited their audience. “Then, there’s quite a bit of animosity from people who dislike installing Microsoft plugins, or any plugins in general (except absolutely necessary ones, like Flash). We didn’t know it would be like that when we were starting – but then, we probably would have picked Silverlight anyway.”
The choice also rules out mobile platforms for the game. Ivan tells me that it “might be possible eventually” to release a Windows Phone version, seeing as that platform has native Silverlight support, but it won’t happen on any non-Silverlight platforms. That leaves Windows and Mac OS X players only, of which there are many on Kongregate.
“Kongregate has a massive audience of potential Afterwind players,” Ivan explains. “They estimated that we might as as many as 10,000 new players in the first couple of weeks. That aside, it seems to be the only gaming website that can feature a game as unconventional as ours – most only accept Flash games or simple Silverlight games. Kongregate also offers a percentage of their ad revenue and a way to sell virtual goods, which we’re planning to do.”
If you’re already an Afterwind player, you’ll be familiar with Strategy Points, the points earned by winning battles. As you gain points, you gain ranks, and you can spend your points on special upgrades like extra units, or stat upgrades for existing units. Don’t worry, though: there are no plans to sell Strategy Points via a micro-transaction system. The only virtual goods are the Premium accounts already on offer, which give players some extra controls in game settings.
“Currently, SP is the main indicator of player’s progress. Ranks are based on SP. Selling it would invalidate the whole system. We’re trying to keep the game fair for both playing and free players, meaning we want to avoid a ‘pay to win’ situation. For now, it seems to be working, and we rarely hear these kind of accusations.”
The game offers players a variety of “strategies” which influence the effectiveness of particular unit types, so to wrap up our interview, I ask Ivan what his favourite strategy in the game is. “I really like naval battles in Oceania,” he says. “This should be even more fun now, with four new countries in the region. So, I just pick [the Naval Commander strategy] and spam Destroyers and Submarines.”
You can find out more about Afterwind on the game’s official website here. The game should launch on Kongregate before the end of the month. Keep your eyes on our homepage in the coming week too for our upcoming feature, World Domination 101: A Guide to Afterwind.