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Updated: 15 Apr 2019 02:45


Illyriad is a free to play massively multiplayer online browser-based strategy game developed by the UK software company Illyriad Games Ltd, the company's first full online strategy game, first released in beta in 2010, and launched in 2011.

Like many browser games, there is no set goal. The game is played on an infinite-round basis with are no resets planned. The game uses pure Javascript and HTML5 Web technology, and unlike many other browser-based games it is not based on Adobe Flash.

Illyriad was born out of a conversation along the lines of:

Wouldn't it be great if there was a free browser based MMORPG and RTS empire-building game in a persistent, hand-crafted world that didn't treat players like cash cows? And, graphics aside, why can't you have the depth of a big-budget sandbox production like EVE Online in a 2-D, cross-platform, environment?


Illyriad is set in a persistent fantasy world – when a player logs out, the game continues. Player start with a single town in which they construct and upgrade buildings and conduct research to unlock new technologies. Player civilizations can be expanded by conquering cities, sending settlers to colonize new lands or claiming sovereignty to expand player influence. It has a gameworld of over 4 million squares - the majority of which can be settled with a city.

"I love the look of Illyriad. It has a nice, hand-drawn feel to it and appears warm, inviting, and epic. Scrolling across the map feels like scanning an actual cloth map, complete with hidden areas and scattered empires. The world is huge!"

The game has four playable races, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. This includes Humans, Elves, Dwarvs, and Orcs.

There are five main types of basic resources: Wood, Clay, Iron, Stone and Food. They are available from the Lumberjack, Clay Pit, Iron Mine, Quarry and Farmyard respectively. Mana and research are produced by the mage tower and library, and used for magic and research. Gold is the currency in the game, which pays the wages for troops, caravans and diplomats; as well as player to player trade in the marketplace. Advanced resources are built from other resources: horses, livestock, beer, books, spears, swords, bows, saddles, leather armour, chainmail, plate armour and siege blocks. These are used in the construction of units.

It also has magic with several spell schools; a commodities trading marketplace and quests which are different based on player race.

Illyriad's military unit categories are: Infantry, Spearmen, Cavalry, Archers and Siege engines; with multiple strategies including attack, raid, feint, occupy, reinforce, blockade and siege. Combat is both PvP and PvE. Army commanders gain experience from combat which the player can use to train the commander's skills.

The diplomatic research options include: Spying, counter-intelligence, theft, sabotage and assassination.

With the right technologies researched, using an army a player can claim sovereignty on occupied territory for various advantages. This extends land claims beyond your town borders.


Illyriad's technology tree has 290 research options. They are categorized into 7 research areas: City, Diplomacy, Quest, Magic, Military, Trade and Sovereignty. There are also discoveries which are found via quests.

To research a new technology, it is first necessary to research the prerequisite technology - also some technologies have a prerequisite building level that must be built (for example, Smelting can only be researched after Craftsmanship has been researched and the town has a level 7 Quarry).

Researched technology is on a per city basis, so when a player settles a new town, they must research the technology for that town separately. The game's technology tree displays all the non-discovery techs in the game and their relation with one another, and allows the player to queue up to 2 technologies per town for research. Discoveries when found are at that point revealed to the player and do not require to be researched. Completed researches count towards the players overall research score.


The outcome of battles is not limited to the size of armies, but is also influenced by the type of terrain and unit types. Each unit type has an adjustment to attack or defense based on the terrain they are fighting on e.g. "Mountains favour ranged units and nimble spearmen, and penalise cavalry heavily. Attacking swordsmen are also hampered by the passes, gulleys and canyons that make frontal assaults more difficult."

While there are many more terrain sub-types (e.g. Light Tropical Cover, Rockhewn Monastery, Dense Jungle, Dense Rainforest), the main overall terrains for combat purposes are: Buildings, Plains, Small Forest, Large Forest, Small Hill, Large Hill, Small Mountain, Large Mountain, Fresh Water, Shallow Salt Water, Tidal Water, Ocean

Evolving World

The world of Illyriad changes and evolves over time. Mysteries and special locations are added to the world such as The Temple of Reason, The Heroic Statues and the Steampunk brewery. "For the game as a whole this is really nice. It means that players can stumble upon local oddities, and investigate (or ignore) these as they choose" in this changing landscape.


Players can form alliances, and are provided with alliance forums, chat and a central treasury. Alliances interrelationships begin neutral, but they can choose to enter different states with each other such as: Confederation, NAP or War.

As well as the "hard power" of alliances in war, diplomacy, protection and politics; alliances in Illyriad allow players to cooperate to achieve things that would be beyond them as individuals. This includes investigating and solving mysteries spread across the world and competing in server wide tournaments. (*)

Political Intrigue

Alliance and players are also continuously drawing and changing territorial lines and having secret meetings that decide the fate of entire sections of the world. However with a very large world and realistic travel times for trade, diplomats and military it becomes hard for even large alliances to exert direct force at large distances from their core power blocks.

"Search the map for alliances and you witness how many lines are indeed being drawn. Despite the very friendly community, I never once stop thinking about the battles and wars going on at that very moment."


Illyriad also features server-wide tournaments in which players compete and players are rewarded individually and at the Alliance level. (*) These tournaments have been also used to introduce new gameplay dynamics like creature drops. (*)

The tournaments have been month long events and have been as follows:

  • Jan 2011: The first tournament was an Alliance versus Alliance "Hold the Fort" event. Eight equidistant locations in the world acted as "forts", which had to be held by player's armies. At the end of the month the Alliance who had held a location for the longest was the winner of that "fort". Also a prize was given to the Alliance which had held the most locations for the longest time overall.
  • Apr 2011: The second tournament was a Player versus Environment event which required players to combat NPC animal spawns and retrieve "anatomical specimens". Players were individually rewarded for being the greatest hunter of each creature type; having the largest collection and having the largest number of unique parts. Alliances received rewards for having the largest collection and having the largest number of unique parts between all the Alliances. (*)
  • Jun 2011: The third tournament was a Player versus All "Hold the Fort" event. The eight locations from the first tournament acted as spawn points for elementals, which would bind to the player holding the square and become a unit in their town. On these squares all Alliance affiliations were suspended so all players were hostile to *]) In addition to the elementals, at the end of the tournament players were also rewarded for each of the elementals they had bound and the top players from each square received a Tournament Winner's Statue placed at the winners' choice on any unoccupied map square within 10 squares of their Capital City. This Monument bears their name and is a permanent marker on the World Map. (*)

Illyriad can be played in any web browser which supports the HTML5 standards; including mobile devices (e.g. iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry). (*) Unlike many other browser-based online games, it doesn't depend on the proprietary Flash plug-in. Illyriad is supported by Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari and Internet Explorer 8+. Further, the game has a special Facebook-mode, using Facebook-specific features such as Facebook connect, game announcements and other community features. Illyriad is also featured in the Facebook application directory.

Initial release

Illyriad began development in 2009, and was the first game developed by Illyriad Games Ltd. It began with 3 developers and 3 artists, however only 2 were full time - with the others working at other jobs. The core Illyriad development team's background was from web and enterprise software, not games - and the initial content was provided by volunteers.

James Niesewand, Illyriad Games founder, described the process: "From start to finish it took us about a year to get something playable … for us that was just the point at which we had something fun that people could enjoy. At that stage we put the game live, invited people to play, and worked on improving the game in line with the players’ feedback."

Critical development software included Microsoft ASP.NET MVC and jQuery. Illyriad uses Microsoft SQL Server for persistent game data.

Continued development

After initial launch, the development of Illyriad continued. The world was changed from being randomly generated into one which was fractally generated including topographical features: mountain ranges, lakes, forests, hills, oceans, islands, rivers etc. (*) This was then followed by the introduction of biomes including desert, jungle, marshes and the polar north; as well as regions and NPC Factions. (*)

Rather than continuing the development with a single internal team, Illyriad Games used a highly distributed model; composed of remote workers in different countries and outsourced suppliers. They bought on board Quantic Labs for the graphics which were used to relaunch. (*) the user interface. Their "artists and writers were given a lot of creative freedom" when producing new graphics and content.

HTML5 Canvas

On 09 Aug 2011 the World Map changed from HTML DOM to HTML5 Canvas.
This brought an number of changes:

  • An increased the map zoom by an extra ten levels, allowing 25 levels of zoom and a maximum grid size of 51x51 tiles.
  • Drag and drop, and mouse wheel zoom of the world map in they style of Google Maps.
  • Movement and continual updating of moving units
  • 'Fog of War' visibility for diplomats
OpenId Support

On 19 Aug 2011 OpenID authentication was introduced for new and existing players to sign up or link their account using their Google, Yahoo, AOL, myOpenID, OpenId, Wordpress, LiveJournal, Blogger, Verisign, ClaimId, ClickPass or Google Profile accounts. (*)


Of the three games chosen to go with on a trip to the desert island ''Illyriad'' was one of them: "…I would have to go with Illyriad, the fantastic browser-based city-builder…. Illyriad is a delight to play." and added: "Given Illyriad's realistic trade, amazing community, and variable-speed gameplay, I would be insane to leave this one off the list." (*)

It was also selected for the top eleven (in no particular order) of Massively's Fifty games for the mobile lifestyle: "This little surprise Illyriad has taken hold of me. Imagine an epic RTS but with killer lore and an awesome community." (*)