Interview with Celsius Online

The second article in the series dedicated to key HTML5 developers and companies that use Cocoon is dedicated to Celsius Online an experimented company based in Paris that have put out several astounding HTML5 games that really push the limits of the technology.

We talk to Mathias that has kindly accepted the invitation to talk about his company.

First of all tell us a bit about you and your company, what’s your role in Celsius Online?

My name is Mathias Latournerie, I’m the technical director of Celsius Online. I’m in charge, among many things, of managing the production process of Celsius Heroes and of planning the tasks of the graphic and dev teams.

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How long have Celsius Online been active?

We have been developing games for more than ten years now, games such as Renaissance Kingdoms which has become the first role playing web-based game in Europe or March of History, a massively multiplayer web-based strategy game which has won the 2014 Ping Award for the Best Web and Social Game.

Where are you based?

We are an independent studio based in Paris.

How many are you?

There are twelve of us in the studio.

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Regarding your latest project Celsius Heroes, where does the idea come from?

The main idea behind Celsius Heroes was that we wanted to try and help people to discover what an “old-school” RPG feels with a “new-school” Match-3 mechanic. Lévan Sardjevéladzé, the co-founder of Celsius online, has always been a huge fan of games such as Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder II, so he was the main drive behind the project.

Where do you get inspiration for your games?

Games, films comics, books or whatever inspires you to make games

Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder II and a lot of old-school RPGs were inspirations for the game. For the Match 3 mechanic, we wanted something more complex than Candy Crush, so Puzzle & Dragons was a good inspiration.

Whats the hardest part of developing a game?

We have been developing games for more than 10 years now, but this was the first time we were releasing a game on mobile platforms. Thanks to Cocoon, we were able to focus on our fields of expertise; however, in spite of this invaluable help, we had to face difficulties we were not used to, such as screen resolution issues, performance issues on older smartphones and all those specifics related to a mobile game. The rest comes with experience and that’s why it’s important to build reusable and lasting elements from one production to the next one. The first game is always the most difficult one.

Whats the most rewarding one?

Undoubtedly the way players reacted to it, and especially our friends and families. When they contact you to ask for info on which team members they should select, or ask questions on the best way to beat a boss at the end of a level without you asking them about the game, it is very satisfying as that means people who are dear to us are truly enjoying the game. And it’s important to create games you can be proud of.

Tell us about your game creation process

The original idea and the validation of the main game design have been done by Lévan, head and mastermind of Celsius online. Then, several of us work on producing the different aspects of game design required to create the game. On Celsius Heroes, a major part of the content of the game (quests) has been imagined by Arthur Riolland, developer and game designer. Each element which has been produced (graphics, texts, quests) is validated by me. We are a small team and work in the same offices, this way each of us can play a part in the creation of the game and it is common that we modify an aspect of the design of the game based on the feedback of a member of a team.

Do you make a proof of concept first and test it?

We always start by developing a disposable prototype with placeholders as graphics in order to ensure that the game is indeed fun. Sometimes, what works on paper doesn’t necessarily translate into an addictive and pleasant gameplay, so that’s a mandatory step before going any further.

Tell us about the tools that you use during that process: engines, libraries, IDEs, etc

On Celsius Heroes, we are using a 2D/3D mix in WebGL. For 2D, we use Pixi.js which is a great 2D render engine. We have designed our own 3D engine and, on top of that, our games servers use Java EE with no other layer. We have also developed numerous in-house tools to manage and administer the game: management of the accounts of the players, quest editor, balance tools, package builder, client update manager, data analysis tools…
This ecosystem is essential in order to maintain the game in the long run. At last, we are using the Atlassian suite (JIRA, etc.) to manage the production of the project.

How does Cocoon fit in that process?

We knew from the start that we wanted a game which would work on mobile as well as on a computer. We were lucky enough to benefit from the latest version of Cocoon as we were producing Celsius Heroes, which allowed us to benefit from the Cordova community to take up our various technical challenges. By acting both as an encapsulation and a service, Cocoon leaves us the flexibility we need in order to do things the way we want rather than following the paradigms of an integrated technology like Unity or cocos2d.

What is the biggest challenges Cocoon helped to overcome?

Cocoon allowed us to start developing on mobile without any preliminary knowledge of this platform. That was for us the promise that we’ll be able to focus our time and energy on developing the game rather than learning new technologies. A promise kept!

How do you see the future of the HTML5 gaming?

Numbers don’t lie, mobile HTML5 is booming with the coming of mid-range terminals able to remove the technical weaknesses of the Javascript/WebGL duo. As a standardised technology adopted by internet browsers as their default engine, we know that we can be confident in the future and we think that our bet to be part of the early adopters a couple of years ago pays off as soon as today.

What are your next projects?

Armed with the success of Celsius Heroes, we have two new projects that are in preliminary planning stage. We are going to develop a real-time multiplayer strategy game in association with another French studio which is fast-growing, which is something new for us.

At the same time, another team will develop a new mobile game based on the universe of one of our web MMORPG, Renaissance Kingdoms, with an entirely fresh concept that we are looking forward to present to the players!

On this matter, we can already state that those two projects will use Cocoon for their mobile export.

 

Thanks to Mathias and the Celsius Team for the interview!

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New platforms for Cocoon!

This has been the main feature we have been working on these last months. Now the Cocoon cloud compiler can compile and sign applications for some new platforms.

Windows 10
Windows 10 target will run on any Windows 10 based computer, tablet (ie. Surface) or mobile device and you will be able to distribute and monetize your app/game through the Windows Marketplace.

MacOS 
This target will run on any MacOS based computer and more importantly, you can distribute your app/game through the MacOS AppStore so everyone can find, buy and install your app or game from there.

Ubuntu
This target will work on any Ubuntu based device.

Steam
As Steam is a desktop based platform, having binaries for Windows 10, MacOS and Ubuntu opens up the possibility of publishing those games for Steam too, probably the biggest games distribution platform at the moment.

We have opened this feature as Beta for Platinum, Gold and Silver users but it will be available for the rest of the users in a couple of weeks.

Compilation backend Improvements

We have also taken some time to make some improvements in the compilation backend, mainly to prepare it for the new platforms but also to overcome some issues that we had detected since the release of the new Cocoon.

Faster compilations
The main one has been to make the compiler faster. We noticed that some compilations took a lot of time to start and that the compilation duration was too high. We’ve made some changes to the backend and the compiler code and now the compilation should start much faster than before and also take less time to complete.

Better logging
We have tried to improve the error handling when a compilation goes wrong so you have all the information to know what happened and how to fix it. We hope it’s helpful to solve the compilation errors faster.

Cordova compliance
The second issue was that the config.xml was not Cordova compliant. When we started the new Cocoon cloud we added these new custom tags like cocoon:plugin and cocoon:platform that you have probably noticed in the config.xml file. We have removed all of them and now the config.xml is fully Cordova compliant and should work just the same in any other Cordova based compiler. This shouldn’t have much impact on your daily work as it is migrated automatically by the compiler.

 

Hope you enjoy all this improvements. Let us know what do you think!