Isogenic Engine is a platform for creating real-time, multiplayer, isometric HTML5 games. The engine has made waves with its impressive demonstrations featuring hundreds of connected clients, thousands of animated sprites, and millions of tiles. The following is an interview with Rob Evans, CEO & lead developer of Isogenic, who has kindly offered a 20% discount to HTML5 Grind readers. See the bottom of the article for details.
HTML5 Grind: Where did Isogenic Engine come from?
Rob Evans: Isogenic Engine started out as a bit of fun to educate myself about the new stuff in HTML5 and how to use the canvas tag. It wasn’t even an engine to begin with, just a few badly coded scripts thrown together to make some stuff move around on the screen. When I realised that there was a lot of potential for an engine I set about creating one in my spare time after work and at the weekends. I went through six complete re-writes before finally settling on the current version’s structure.
H5G: How many people are working on the project? Is this Irrelon Software’s primary focus?
Evans: There are currently three of us working on the project: I am running the show, updating the site and documentation, as well as coding the core engine. Jan Klopper is heading up our height-map based technology which allows terrain and height-maps to be used in Isogenic. We also have an artist who does all of our game art.
H5G: From the demo videos, Isogenic Engine is an impressive stack: MMO, potentially-infinite worlds, real-time capability, cross-device, snappy client code. Are you optimizing in all of these directions, or one particular area your primary focus?
Evans: The primary focus has always been on client-side rendering performance. That’s where we originally spent most of the time coding, but now that’s mostly complete we’re branching out and optimising elsewhere.
Networking is a big area of optimisation at the moment. Isogenic’s networking system works well, but there are a lot of opportunities to make it even better. We’re also excited to provide support for social networks and other third-party APIs; we’ve just completed the Facebook integration module!
Our ultimate goal is to make everything as easy as possible for the game programmer and providing support for lots of different services, and good APIs are a key factor in that.
H5G: Is your business model solely based on one-time licensing, or is there a big, flagship game in the works that’ll act as a killer proof-of-concept for the engine?
Evans: Right now we’re using engine sales to bootstrap the business but, long-term, it won’t be our only income source. We have a number of different services in the works that will provide simple ways to do things such as getting your game hosted, payment integration and micro transactions, game analytics, in-game advertising, etc.
We have a killer proof-of-concept game being made called Iso City, which is getting closer to completion every day. The full source of that game is included with the professional and premium beta licenses, and it will be launched as a stand-alone game, too.
H5G: The backend of Isogenic is Node.js, which has barely turned version 0.5. What was the reasoning behind committing to such a new platform? Do you still feel like Node is a stable platform for building world-class MMOs?
If we had it all to do over again, we’d still run with Node.
H5G: The isomorphic look seems pretty baked-in. How customizable is the look and feel of Isogenic?
Evans: The look is entirely based upon the artwork we’ve used in our demo videos. The engine itself allows for 2D or isometric views — you can write a platformer as easily as a city builder.
H5G: The licensing mentions a free “prototype” version. Can you expand on how that will compare with the Pro and Premium licenses?
Evans: The prototype license will let you test out the engine for free before committing to a purchased version. The prototype version is limited by the modules that are shipped with it — there is no physics and no Facebook integration and generating revenue from the game is not allowed (no in-game ads or purchases, for example).
The professional license has all the stuff missing in the [free] license such as the physics and Facebook modules. It also includes the full source to our demo game, Iso City, and the license allows revenue sources such as advertising and in-game purchases.
The professional license does not include the full, unobfuscated source code of the engine, however. The premium license goes one step further and includes the full source as well as access to the code repository for early upgrades, hands-on developer support from Irrelon staff, and free cross-selling and advertising space on our site. You’re free to alter the engine and you’ll get hands-on support where we’ll help you with your code!
H5G: Do you think that the browser will be the dominant gaming platform in the future?
Evans: Without a doubt the browser is becoming the dominant gaming platform. The ability for users to pick up and play a game within seconds that they did not have to pay £50 for is a major selling point. There is a huge market here.
H5G: What’s next for Isogenic Engine?
Isogenic Engine beta licenses sell for GBP £179 (~USD $289) for Professional and GDP £979 (~USD $1,579) for Premium. HTML5 Grind readers can use the coupon ‘
HTML5GrindRocks“ in the store to save 20% on a Professional or Premium license.
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Ian Langworth has been making web sites since before HTML had tables and Photoshop had layers. He wanted a single place to go for news and information related specifically to HTML5 and game development, but one didn't exist, so he started the HTML5 Grind.