The Wheel of Time is a famous series of books written by Robert Jordan. The books have been translated into multiple languages and tops the NY Times bestseller lists on each release. You'll find lots of Wheel Of Time websites, communities, mailing-lists all around the Internet.

             For us everything began in march 2001 when a founder member of the french Wheel Of Time community asked if we could create an interactive chat for the mailing-list members. After a state of the art on the subject, some brain storming and some development plans the Wheel Of Time Light-And-Shadow project was born. Our ambition at the time was to create a new kind of online multiplayer game that would offer players enhanced ways to communicate and interact. Since then the project has evolved to an international project with members from France, USA, Germany and England. We released wotlas v1.0 on october 2001 and have since improved the robustness, quality and richness of our product.

            This document will present you the different entities of the wotlas architecture as described on the figure below. We will then end this overview by a short summary of the features you'll find in wotlas v1.2 and those you can expect in future releases.


Fig. 1 : The different entities of the wotlas architecture.

            Let's begin with the client side. To use wotlas, players just need to download a package named Wotlas Client. This package contains the wotlas program and all its associated data ( images, musics, game universe ). To be able to enter the wotlas universe players need to create a game account on one of the available servers. During this step they will define their avatar's characteristics, choose a community (Aes Sedai, WolfBrother, Chidren of the Light, etc... ), and define some visual attributes.

             As shown on the figure on the left, everything in the game is seen from a top 2D view. Once you arrive in the Wheel of Time world you'll be able to travel from town to town, visit buildings, wander in streets, explore cellars, etc. You'll be able to meet other players and chat, interact with them.

              Because we wanted a very scalable system we limited each player's awareness. The game maps are divided into small areas (locales, just like in RING, MASSIVE systems) linked by gateways (open space with or without doors) and we use them to perform intelligent and efficient message routing.
So you'll only see players that are in your area or in immediately near areas. This is a simple way to perform some interest management.

              Also, to reduce the necessary bandwidth for each player, our movement system is trajectory-based. You just have to click on the screen and your player automatically moves towards your destination, avoiding obstacles. For that we use an A* algorithm with a smoothing add-on. Trajectories are rebuilt on remote clients with the consideration of the Internet lag. Servers also keep their data up-to-date by storing the player's current movement, but they never build trajectories themselves.

            This brings us to the server side. The list of the available servers can be found on our SourceForge.net website. This way our client program has an easy way to retrieve it. As it was said before our servers perform message routing, control player actions and manage player accounts. Their data is also made persistent by being saved to disk on creation and every 24 hours.

            Wotlas servers can work stand-alone or can team together in a peer-to-peer way to share the different parts of a same game universe. In that case if you travel to a new map, owned by another server, your account will be transfered to this server and your network connection changed accordingly.

            Finally we recently added bots ( understand ro-bots ) to our wotlas servers. Our bots don't really move for the moment ( they only turn to face you ), on the other hand they can chat with you for hours. To make this possible we use a chat robot service on a separate server. We chose Richard Wallace's AliceBot which is today one of the most promising artificial intelligence system... We are currently working on specialized brains of our bots to make them match some Wheel Of Time character behaviours.


            To end this overview of wotlas, here is a summary of the main game features you'll find in the version 1.2.3 of our product :

- One world, 17 maps to explore.

- Seven character class : Aes Sedai, Warders, Children of the Light, Asha'man, Wolf Brother, Aiel, Forsaken.

- Integrated chat with advanced features : threads, commands, voice level, smileys, fanfare sounds.

- Possibility to leave a message attached to your player.

- Possibility to lie on your name.

- Possibility to create HTML macros.


            Thanks to the support we received from wotlas users and from the developers that joined our team we'll be able to continue this project. Here are some of the features we are working on : Objects, One Power effects, a knowledge system, books you'll be able to write/read, libraries, some role playing features, money, in-game post office, more maps, more graphical effects, more characters, etc... and that's only a beginning... we have a huge ToDo list...