The end of August saw the launch of Arabian Lords, the first ever real time strategy PC game based during the period of the rise of Islam. The game was developed in partnership by UAE- and Jordan-based Quirkat and US-based BreakAway Games. The bilingual game puts the player in the role of a merchant lord, with a focus on trade and development rather than military struggle. itp.net spoke to Mahmoud Khasawneh, CEO of Quirkat about the development of the game.
Why the decision to base the game on trade not conflict?
We looked for a subject that would appeal to the gaming masses across the region and many focus groups were conducted prior to committing to a game genre. The golden era of Islam provided a great game play setting, and Arabs having been famous for their trading skills at that time was a natural choice for the strategy elements of the game. Additionally, a conflict based strategy game set in that era would have opened up the outcome of documented events in Arab and Muslim history which would not have been received well with our target audience.
Does religion play a part in the game?
Not at all, the game bases its historic setting during the golden era of Islam between the 7th and 13th centuries where merchant trade and growth were at its zenith.
Where did the background for game content come from?
We dedicated a considerable amount of time on extensive research across the region which included focus group surveys, trial based feedback as well one to one intensive interfaces with cultural and language experts across the region. The key challenge here was to create an interface that was pan-regional in terms of syntax, comprehension and cultural elements, which we have been able to successfully achieve with Arabian Lords.
We have ensured that every aspect of the game right from the artwork, language, look and feel as well the music was passed by our research groups.
The whole development process took over two and a half years and we’re confident that that the final product clearly embodies our efforts.
Is the game built on an existing engine, or was it created for the game?
Arabian Lords is a RTS (Real Time Strategy) game at its core, combined with a city building gaming platform. Every other aspect of the game was created from scratch.
How did the project come about?
There was a clear market gap in the Middle East for locally relevant, Arabic content. You look at, say, Europe, US and Asia and you see three distinct models for games and a thriving game development scene. At the time, both Breakaway and Quirkat were seeking to capitalize on this opportunity and the research findings indicated that a project of this scope would be ideal.
How did Breakaway and Quirkat come together?
Interestingly enough, three of us (including Red, our distribution partner) met at an e-gaming conference in Oman, where we instantly sensed an amazing collaboration in the works. We had an amazing rapport and things began to move in the right direction quickly.
Who did what in terms of development and content creation?
Where the long track record of game development by Breakaway served as a technology and game design anchor for the game, Quirkat’s input was focused on the content and storyline side, as well as localization and language integration. In that sense, both teams complemented each other.
Which countries will you be selling in?
Arabian Lords will be available across the Middle East including Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, UAE and Kuwait.
Will you sell in the US, and what are the prospects for this market if you do?
We are certainly not ruling it out. The Arab American community and Arab Diaspora in general would be a natural second market for this game. The fact that you can also play the game in English would have appeal for strategy gamers from all over the world and would serve as a medium by which the story of the rise of Islam can be told.
Can you make adequate margins from selling just in the Middle East?
We certainly hope so. The uptake of games from international publishers within the region is quite healthy and there is a genuine thirst for Arabic games, which has been demonstrated by the great feedback we have been receiving via the game’s website.