If you’ve ever wondered what Conclave looked like at various stages of its development, here’s your chance. Those of you who are sensitive to crimes against good graphic design might want to skip the first few screenshots.

1. In the beginning …

Our very first prototype of Conclave had no graphics. We were too busy trying out ideas for gameplay, but even at this early stage you can see that we quickly settled on a tile-based battlemap for the combat part of the game:

Combat Iteration 0

2. You ought to be in pictures

It didn’t take long for us to get sick of looking at a text-based interface. We grabbed some placeholder graphics, came up with a preliminary layout, and switched to the default “fantasy” font, which on many browsers is the overused Papyrus:

Combat Iteration 1

3. Things start getting real

As you can see, we tested a few different dimensions for the battlemap. We started with 8×12, briefly went as small as 5×7, and finally settled on 7×9. We also made and commissioned some real graphics, replaced Papyrus with other typefaces, and began to experiment with different layouts:

Combat Iteration 2

4. The ninety-degree turn

One of our first conclusions from these experiments was that we needed to switch the orientation of the battlemap to make better use of the horizontal screen estate afforded by most monitors:

Combat Iteration 3

5. Bigger, better, brighter

Up to this point, our iterations had been fairly incremental and straightforward to implement. Our next one was not. We decided to:

  • upgrade the quality and size of the battlemap backgrounds so that they could cover pretty much the whole user interface
  • switch from a straight grid to a staggered one that behaves more like a hex map, which had some profound implications for our code and mechanics
  • cap the party size at four rather than six
  • add more effects to the battlemap: inaccessible squares would be darkened, the token of a character hiding in shadows would be made slightly translucent, and so on

The result:

Combat Iteration 4

6. What condition my condition was in

We haven’t made major changes to the battlemap itself since then, but the other interface elements have changed quite a bit as we’ve improved the game. We added persistent conditions like burning, bleeding, and off balance, and we made it possible to review prior events in combat. Both those features required us to rejigger the interface a bit:

Combat Iteration 5

7. Good things come to those who give feedback

Since the start of Conclave’s public beta, we’ve made some tweaks based on the feedback we’ve received. We added timestamps to chat messages and an icon to indicate party leadership. We also made it easier to find and manage the party’s settings:

Combat Iteration 6

I think it’s safe to say we’ve come along way since that first text-based prototype. I expect we’ll continue making changes, both big and small, as the game evolves.