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December 18, 2003

Atriarch Developer Q&A, #4 and #5

Last week and this is week Atriarch Vault's  posted #4 and #5 of Atriarch's weekly developer Q&A.  Here are excerpts:

Developer Q&A #5

Lepidus: There is always a debate between those who want a skill based game and those who want a class based title. Which route have you chosen and can you explain character progression in Atriarch?

In Atriarch, you will always be progressing. There is always a skill you will be improving. Even if you are just standing there living in the world, then it makes sense that you are improving at some skill, even if it is just an "age" or "living" type skill. In real life, we are the sum of everything we do. Even if you do absolutely nothing, you still gain some experience that will influence you later. That is our philosophy with Atriarch. Your character is the sum of everything you do. The only way to really reflect that is to have a skills-based game, and to make everything a skill...  read entire answer here.

Lepidus: As with any game that has not yet secured a publisher, there is a worry that it will never see the light of day. What options do you have for Atriarch and how long until you have such plans finalized?

Currently, Atriarch has an Asian publisher, and is still open to the possibility of a North American and European publisher relationship. Whether we go independent or with a large publisher, both have tradeoffs. I think the most important aspect for the Atriarch team is that we are dedicated to getting Atriarch out there. Since we are independent, it is taking us a bit longer, but we are still moving forward. That is one of the joys of being independent... read entire answer here

Developer Q&A #4

Lepidus: The world your developing for Atriarch is one of the most alluring aspects of the title. Can you explain how exactly you guys come up with all the crazy aspects of your game's lore?

The alien and organic world of Atriarch was originally a human-based fort game. Basically, Arc and myself thought it would cool to have a game where you could build a fort and fight over it in a vast 3D online world. So, several years ago we embarked on our journey to build an MMOG. Very soon after that wanted to make it something more... a real world, like all of our favorite fantasy and sci-fi epics. You know, the types of worlds that you wish you could reach out and touch! entire answer here

Lepidus: World Fusion is taking a very unique approach to the development of an MMO. Can you explain what your doing different from regular a MMO development process?

The first iteration of any feature is the absolute minimum (and when I say minimum, I really mean bare bones, not even any bone marrow). This allows us to get things in the world really quickly and at a basic level find out whether or not they will work out the way we think. Early on in the process we find out if a game feature is fun or stupid or even reasonably doable technically. This approach has saved our butts a few times on things we could have spent a lot of time working on, but realized early on it was the wrong direction.... read entire answer here


December 15, 2003

Farewell to a good friend and Atriarch team member, David "DavidQuick" Kniseley, who passed away on Thursday. We will miss you very much. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family.

David made immeasurable contributions to the Atriarch community and team.   His good hearted nature helped foster a thriving and active community of spirited gamers.  Not only did he spend a lot of time building up the Atriarch Vault, but he also found time to contribute artwork, ideas, and fiction.  Recognizing his talent and dedication, we hired him to help with Atriarch's content management.  Although a tedious job, he embraced the challenge with zest and determination.

Amongst David's many creative talents, some of you may remember his infamous two-foot tall ceramic statues of the Atriarch Character Species.

During the past years, many people have come to call David their friend. If you would like to post something about David, there is a memorial thread on the Atriarch Vault that you are welcome to join.

November 28, 2003

Atriarch Developer Q&A, #3

This is week three of Atriarch Vault's new weekly feature.  Lepidus of IGN's Atriarch Vault will send the Atriarch Team two questions each week, a bit like a mini-interview.   The answers will be posted each week.  Here is a snippet:

Lepidus: Last week you mentioned that hunting does not follow the typical MMO mold. What will Atriarch do that is new an exciting in an area where most games end up getting a touch dry?

Serafina, Lead Game Designer:

"Our goal is to make hunting more like actual hunting rather than a constant killing... well, at least take the fun parts of it :-) Although, repetitive hunting can be fun for its own reasons, that is not our aim. Our goal is to make each and every hunt meaningful, rather than just a treadmill of points. You know that feeling of accomplishment you get after killing the boss character? That feeling is what we want you to have with each hunt in Atriarch. We want killing to be less prevalent and more meaningful, yet still very fun..."   read rest of answer here.

Lepidus: Your legal battles may have halted production of the game, but I am sure that your mind kept racing. In what ways do you believe Atriarch benefited from the hiatus? In terms of new ideas and technology? 

"That is a very interesting question. In some ways, the hiatus has actually been a good thing for Atriarch. It has given us the time to sit back and see what we are doing right and wrong with the technology and with Atriarch's game design. There have been a lot of other games that have been released since Atriarch was announced. We have learned a lot from watching these other games..." read rest of answer here.


November 20, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on improving Native (npc) Pathing and Collision Detection:  As mentioned in the previous update, we have been working on improving the pathing of Atriarch Natives.  We are happy to report excellent progress :-)  Natives now can reasonably navigate through a crowded area as well as navigate around items scattered all over the ground.

This is significant because in Atriarch everything in the world is the size and mass of itself... meaning that items on the ground are not represented by a generic bag or package.  If you see something in Atriarch, then it is actually physically there.  What you see is what you get.  Therefore, a Native is never going to know what will be in its way.

The biggest problem was that Natives were getting stuck on things that were odd shapes... like a small item on the ground or something from overhead.    For example, The Dubo Plant is taller than an Andol, so the Andol would get its head stuck on the top when it walked under the plant.  The Native would not know how to get itself out of its sticky situation.

With our recent collision enhancements, if a Native gets stuck, it may take a few seconds, but the A.I. will eventually figure a way out of it.  Testing has gone really well on a small scale... about 30 Natives in one open area scattered with items.  Of course, I'm sure it will require some tweaking when we test on a larger scale and with all the different types Natives, but for now, yippee!

Natives can't quite walk their way through a maze like a mouse yet, but maybe eventually.  Pathing continues to be an extensive endeavor, because Atriarch has some unique issues to address.  In the future, we'll deal with things like walking off edges and varying terrain.  hehe... we still haven't quite licked the Andol-pile-up-at-the-bottom-of-the-gorge problem.

on multiplayerifying features:  Yes. It is too a word!  You'll find it on page 45 of the Atrian dictionary.  It means that as the developers add new features and enhancements, they are first tested on a local, solo version of Atriarch.  Then the feature is integrated and tested to work multiplayer, hence, multiplayerified. This approach has proved to be most efficient for our development style.  It gives us the opportunity to play around with features and test many aspects of it in the solo world before committing the time to making it multiplayer.   Some features in line for multiplayerification include Native Death and a few other features that have broken limbs are waiting for casts :-)


November 18, 2003

Atriarch Developer Q&A, #2

This is week two of Atriarch Vault's new weekly feature.  Lepidus of IGN's Atriarch Vault will send the Atriarch Team two questions each week, a bit like a mini-interview.   The answers will be posted at the beginning of each week.   Here is a snippet:

Lepidus: Can you explain your philosophy on groups in Atriarch?

Serafina, Lead Game Designer

"Our grouping is modeled after a fun aspect of real-life. A person at any one point is typically a member of more than one group or association at a time. To fully express yourself, a person in school may join the Save the Andols Foundation, the Alien Chess Club, as well as be a member of the Lokai Cross-Country Team. What a shame it would be to limit yourself to just one... read rest of answer here.

Lepidus: What will you guys do to regain the massive following you had before things went silent?

"First and foremost to gain a following is to actually build a fun game. All the marketing and PR in the world doesn't matter if your game sucks. So, the first thing on our PR list is to make a game that is fun and unusual to play... read rest of answer here.


November 11, 2003

New Atriarch Vault Weekly Feature:

Atriarch Developer Q&A, #1

A new weekly community feature has now begun at the Atriarch Vault.  Lepidus of IGN's Atriarch Vault will send the Atriarch Team two questions each week, a bit like a mini-interview.   The answers will be posted at the beginning of each week.   Here is a snippet:

Lepidus, IGN Vault:  Many had thought Atriarch had died after a long period of silence. Where have you been and is Atriarch still on track?

Serafina, Lead Game Designer:

"That is a valid question, because Atriarch was a highly anticipated MOG with a huge active community, great press, and a dedicated development team. Then all of a sudden there was silence from the developers, World Fusion, with occasional blips on the radar here and there. What happened during the past two years?

The short version is this: Atriarch got tied up in a legal battle which temporarily derailed the game. However, Atriarch is now back!

World Fusion's commitment to releasing Atriarch never wavered. We are a dedicated team that is passionate about seeing our vision come to life."

You can read the entire mini-interview here.

*Please note there will be an official press release and statement in the upcoming months about the legal issue.


November 6, 2003

So, here we are with our heads glued to our monitors, fingers typing furiously.  Momentum has taken over.  Progress is being made.  The Atriarch team is on a roll.  There is still quite a ways to go, but it is a great feeling to know you are closer to the finish line than you are to the starting line.

Eventually, we look up from our computers.  Is it time for lunch yet?   Interestingly enough, a few weeks had flown by faster than the speed of spam hitting my email box.  We found ourselves so immersed in Atriarch development that we had yet to share with you all the great updates and happenings in the world of Atriana.   No need to be patient any longer.  Here is what we have been up to...

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Atriarch Development Update:

on Atriarch's Unique and Persistent Grouping System:  There are groups possible for nearly anything a player wants to do with other players.  Yes, of course, there are the typical game groups such as, Factions and Guilds and Hunting Parties, but why stop there?

What really puts the spice in Atriarch's Grouping System is the fact that the groups are persistent and that they can be formed for several reasons, not just hunting and guilds.  Have you ever wanted to start an Expedition Party and explore?   What about a Questing Fellowship?  With our Grouping System, you can form a group with others that have the same interest and goals.

Players can come together for a week-long trek through the icy passes in Tyrusin Continent or for a three-day safari to hunt down a Baldari.  Whether the group is started for a long-term or short-term purpose, the world will recognize the group and its members with its own individual identity.  Of course, this also means players can belong to more than one group.

The system is in its first iteration and so far so good!  We will work on the next iteration in the future after we test the basics of what is there. Things like a group chat channel still needs to be added, including the ability to see your party members health, etc.


on Native (npc) Pathing:  For the most part, our Natives (npcs) can walk around regions of the world unhindered. Ever since we added Native birthing, the issue of Pathing has become more... uh.. shall we say obvious in nature.

With the population explosion of baby Andols, we have moved the next iteration of Native Pathing up the priority list... way up.  We have been working on improving how Natives wander, follow, and patrol around obstacles.  It is important for a Native's pathing be able to adapt to an ever-changing world without a game designer's intervention.  To accomplish this, in the end, the pathing will fall somewhere between realistic organic movement and a dog chasing its tail.

Pathing in 3D games is a challenge.  Pathing in a 3D game where players can alter the environment through building is even more of a challenge.  Of course, the Atriarch team has never shied away from a challenge :-)


on Native (npc) Death:  Yes, we have character birthing as you saw in an earlier post, but death is newly implemented. Before, the best you could do was immobilize and knock out your opponent. With birthing working, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that death was now something that needed implementing.  What happens after death is a bit like the reversal of the growth process.  Over time the creature decays and diminishes as does their resources until eventually it is gone from the world for good.


on Overpowered Spawnlings: When spawnlings were born into the world, they are born small and physically grow over time. Things like health, energy and mass also scale with the growth. We think it is a pretty nifty physics-based system we have.   However, there was an oversight we noticed when testing.  These little newborn critters were moving extraordinarily fast and kicking alien butt!  Further testing (and a bit of digging around the engine), we realized that not all the physical attributes had been scaling.  It created these little super-powered, speedy spawnlings that were cute and small and deadly.  The underlying issue took a bit of work (a fix is rarely as simple as it appears on surface).


on Combat Animations and Other Misc Fixes:  As you know, we only post a few of the highlights in the news here.  There is always a long list of small and substantial fixes, enhancements, and issues to address beyond what is posted.   For example, we fixed an annoying little animation problem that started awhile ago. During combat with Natives, they would fight back, but there was no animation.  You would just stand there staring at their idle animation while they pounded on you. That has been fixed.


Coming Soon:

Character Death System:  We will be working on implementing the first iteration of Atriarch's Character Death System which is a bit different than most other games. It incorporates the possibility of permanent death to your character with in-game Atrian solutions to prevent it from happening.  More on this in a future update.

Body Energies:  As we implement more, we will discuss in greater detail how Character's health, energy and physical attributes are related to the physics of the world.

October 2, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on bandwidth load balancing:  When you only have a few internal people testing a game, bandwidth is not really an issue.  Every player can take up almost as much of the pipeline as they can handle, because there is plenty to go around.   However, as more and more players are added to the mix, bandwidth allocation needs special attention. It is not feasible for a company to match every single player bit for bit, particularly during times of large patch downloads and updates.

Part of our solution is to monitor the amount of bandwidth available to the player (e.g, if the player has dial-up, cable, etc) in comparison to the amount of bandwidth made available on our side.  We will allocate as much download speed as is available to each player.  The system will dynamically load the distribution of bandwidth to maximize the efficiency and speed for all players. We are working on the implementation of this feature now.

on enabling partial downloads:  Previously, when downloading a file, the entire thing would have to be downloaded.  If the download was interrupted, it would have to start over from the beginning.  Obviously, that is not the most efficient approach.  So, we are implementing the ability to download parts of files in Atriarch and start back up again later.


Atriarch in the Press, Part 2

The second part of  Serafina's comments in Game Bunny's Developer Shakedown were posted today. Here is a snippet:

GameBunny: What can be done to attract more women to the genre and have you designed or changed your game in any way to attract more female players?

Serafina:  I think it is a mistake to design games based on gender...

"Female" is just too diverse of a category to design for. Instead, I would focus the design on different play styles rather than gender. I believe drawing female players to the genre is in how the game is marketed to females, not that the game is "designed for females".

When a female player gets to a game, then it will be a matter of how well her play style is supported that will keep her in the game. She will stay for the same reason a male player would stay... is it fun?

She also talks a bit about where she thinks MMO's will be in 10 years, her opinion on voice communication, and the first MMO she ever played.


September 25, 2003

Atriarch in the Press, Part 1

Lead Designer, Serafina, took some time from development to participate in a developer shakedown (roundtable) at Game Bunny.  You can read the entire article at GameBunny.  Here is a snippet from two of Serafina's answers:

GameBunny: What is the single most difficult aspect of developing a massively multiplayer game and why?

Resisting the urge to do everything at once and making a feature list as thick as the California state consitution is difficult to resist.

I think it is important to focus on a few key essentials that make the game fun and distinguished, and then add from there.

GameBunny: What keeps MMOs from attracting larger audiences? Is it monthly fees, the time sink involved, competition from other media, etc.?

"In the U.S. and Europe , I think there are two main categories that prevent MMO's from attracting larger audiences. The first is the extremely high barrier to entry to these games, both technical barriers and gameplay learning curve. The second is the cultural view of online games and the stereotypes of people who play them."

On the development side, the internals of the engine are being addressed.   We are continuing to focus (and more importantly make progress) on the same issues as posted in last week's development update.


September 18, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on engine architecture:  At the end of June we posted information about our plans to refactor a lot of the engine's internal infrustructure to improve server stability and connectivity. This week we are starting the last major rewrite on the Volcano architecture...  persistence.  (sidenote: Volcano is the engine/technology that runs Atriarch.)

For a long time, we have been using a version of an object database that is proprietary.  By that we mean it is owned by a company and is definitely not open source.  There are some bugs in their database, and we are not allowed access to their code to fix them. (Let us take a moment here to hail the benefits and value of free software/open source.)

In the past, we have coded around their issues, but now it is time to remove their database from our technology.  We have researched and tested out replacement options and approaches, and found the one that we think will work best for Atriarch. Overall, we anticipate this last major architectural change will take about a month.  (Of course, we will continue to update you weekly.)


September 11, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on authoring:  We are flushing out Atriarch's current authoring system.  We call the people who build Atriarch, Authors.  Basically, the Authoring Tools are used to import artwork, change stats, A.I. behaviors, etc.  What is nice about the tool is that we can use it as a means to build many different test worlds with different scenarios.  For example, last week's out of control Andol birthing was an example of an Atriarch test world.

on chat:  We are adding some new features to the chat system.   Atriarch supports double-byte characters for those languages requiring it, for example, Chinese.  We are also fixing a bug that spits out gobblygook periodically.   We think the machine is trying to speak Atrianese, but we are still looking for a Native to translate it for us.

on firewalls:  This week our networking focus has been directed toward login through firewalls.  As with all online games, we are addressing the issues surrounding gamers who play the game behind various forms of security.


September 4, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on creature spawnlings:  Creatures now birth spawnlings into the world as a baby rather than as a full-grown adult.  Basically, the spawnlings are miniaturized versions of the larger ones.  Over time the creature gets bigger and bigger until it grows to full-size.

The capabililty for world authors to change the birthing rate and the growth rate was added.  Our test was interesting. We experienced our own episode of Star Trek's "Trouble with Tribbles."  We set the birthing rate for the Andol at 5 minutes.  Soon there were more and more and more and... omigod... exponential growth... stop the madness!  They were everythwere... thousands of green bean creatures with staffs.

The good news is that the game was able to handle the thousands of Andols and was stable.  The bad news was that if a player looked at the area with thousands of Andols, their computer would get bogged down by millions of polygons.  That is something for us to deal with in a future iteration.  *big grin*  but did I mention the game remained stable?  Woohoo!  Anyway, a player should probably not expect to see thousands of the same creature in the same small area.

on player trade:  We are currently working on the first iteration of player trade. Only the internals are being implemented for players to exchange items securely.   The user interface component will be added later.  (You can read more about why we were only working on the internals below under the info on Austria.)  Currently, a player must first drop their item in on the ground before another player can pick it up.  We soon plan to have a more hygienic form of player exchange ;-)

strictly for the curious... on Austria:  For those wondering where we were for two weeks, we were at a conference in Austria.  We were in the countryside in a town that even many Austrian maps don't list.  Someone thought it would be a nice change of pace for us city folk.  They were right.  It was beautiful with mountains and waterfalls and lakes and amazing food.  Unfortunately, the country is not the best place to be when troubleshooting hardware problems.  The video card in the laptop used for Atriarch development went haywire.  This small town did not even have an ATM let alone a computer store.  So, we could only work on the internals of Atriarch, nothing that dealt with user interface or graphics.   Unfortunately, that also meant we couldn't play any of the games we brought with us.  Can you imagine two whole weeks without computer games and email?  I really enjoyed it out there, but am happy to be home to my computer and cable modem :-)


August 28, 2003

Atriarch Community Update:

Jaruh, Atriarch's Community Manager, took the web-reins and is posting this quick update while some of the Atriarch development team members are away at a conference.

You can read an editorial at Atriarch Vault called Why Atriarch Can Survive in a Saturated Genre. Written by Nephand, a long-time fan, its a great read!

Also, you have a few days left to join a Atriarch Watcher forum story-writing contest hosted by Atriarch Watcher.

The next update will occur on Thursday September 4th! See you then!


August 14, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on creature birthing:  In other games they call it creature spawning.  Although spawning is a perfectly good alien-style word, we want a term that captures the reality of what actually happens in Atriarch. When new creatures are born into the world, they are either born from its progenitor (parent) or are born into dens.  This is part of the dynamic ecosystem that makes up the world of Atriana.   It is part of the ecosystem in which players will influence and live.

How exactly are Atrian baby spawnlings made you ask?  Let's talk a bit about the birds and the bees, alien style of course.  Yesterday, I saw an Andol (the creature image from last week's update) give birth to a beautiful baby alien spawnling... ok ok, it was a full-grown baby, but still I oooh'd and ahhh'd as the very first iteration of creature birthing was implemented.  I think it is safe to say that this will probably a first in the history of massively multiplayer online games.

Currently, creatures can get knocked out, but they don't die.  As soon as we have the Andols reproducing on their own (right now it requires an author to trigger it), we will add creature death.

Atriarch Community News:  Now that the former Atriarch Vault webmaster is working for us, DQ has been replaced by the very enthusiastic Awenyddion. Please drop by the Atriarch Vault Discussion Boards to welcome her to her new leadership position.


August 7, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on new team member:  World Fusion welcomes DavidQuick to the Atriarch Team.  He joins us from RPG Vault where he ran the Atriarch Vault fan and community site.  He will be working on content management which includes the messy task of organizing the Atriarch content (which is a tad scattered at the moment), testing graphics, making regular test builds, and of course, retrofitting content to work with the latest version of the engine.

on defense:  What would combat be without defense?  Well, it would be what our combat system was last week, defenseless... ha  ha?... ok, bad pun.   Anyway, this week, we are implementing the first iteration of combat defense.   Unlike offense where a player can opt to choose individual attacks, defense is automated according to the character's defensive knowledge and the skill proficiency.   In other words, offense will rely more on player choices, and defense will rely more character choices.

A player will still have some input into the style of defense.  This is important, because some defensive styles work better against certain attacks.  However, we did not want to weigh a player down by requiring the micromanagement of every defensive move.   Our focus is on making combat more strategic.  So, the while the player is concentrating on attacks, the character will take care of most of the defense.

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on the Andol:  For the curious... what is an Andol?  The Andol is a friendly nomad that originated from the Cavolon swamps.  In true Cavolon style, we've made the Andol our alien guinea pig for quite some time. The engineer who first began implementing the A.I. needed a creature to test with.  A thorough process and careful analysis of the options brought us to the Andol. (It was the first on the alphabetical list of creatures in Atriarch.)  Ever since then, the Andol has been the first in Atriarch to walk, talk, idle, attack, and walk into walls repeatedely.   Our test area is filled with an Atrian gaggle of Andols running around... many of them are even doing what they are supposed to.  Yippie!


July 31, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on the skills system:  Atriarch has a unique approach to player skills.  Almost every action a player can make in the game will be a skill.   There will even be a skill for doing nothing more than living. Our current focus is on getting the foundation for the skills system in place.  In the past we have not spoken much about how Atriarch's skills system will work.  As soon as we have some of it in place, we will open up the information and share it with all of you.  Currently, nothing in the game requires a skill or is improved by one. For example, anyone can construct anything.  Over the next month as we implement the first iteration of skills, that will all change :-)

on player actions and duration:  Atriarch now has implemented the concept of actions.  Every action has a duration.  For example, a combat maneuver is an action which can take 2 seconds (or whatever length the authors give it).  Building something has a duration.  (Could you imagine what the world would look like if player construction were instant!  ... an alien sardine can comes to mind).

Anyway, everything a player does has a time duration associated with it.   Nothing in Atriarch is instantaneous, except movement.  Even picking something up off the ground has a duration.  It may only be a one-second duration which seems instantaneous, but there is still a time required to pick up an item.

There are several benefits to requiring an action duration. For one, it will cut down on the opportunity for cheats and dupes.  The server will only process one of your character's actions at a time for the duration that is assigned to it.   Duration also aids in the prevention of server lag.  Players will be able to queue up more than one action, but the server will only process one at a time.  We'll go over this part of it more in the future when the next iteration of character actions are implemented.

July 24, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on player construction and foundations:  We continue to make headway on Atriarch's premiere feature, player-construction.  The first iteration of Atriarch's construction was completely free-form, meaning any building block could be placed anywhere.  A player could build anywhere, except in the air (the forces of gravity on building blocks was added in quite awhile ago).  The next iteration of construction requires the player to place a foundation down before they can build upon it.  A foundation currently must be placed on flat and solid ground. So, wherever there is flat ground, a player can place a foundation and build upon it. This feature is successfully tested and working.  Yippie!

on creature combat: Combat was doing great for awhile, but some recent combat system changes has sent our poor little AI guys into a wandering and idling frenzy.    I'm not sure what alien plant they are smoking, but they do not seem to want to fight back.  The good news is that they are getting really really good at wandering and idling... hehe  We'll get back to you when we diagnose the problem.

on things that go wrong:  Every week we bring you a development update.  If you are the type of player to read development updates, then you are probably also curious about what truly goes on in games rather than just the purty PR stuff.  We could tell you about only the things that go right and that go perfectly well, but what fun is that?  We all know that no game in the history of gaming was developed without a glitch or two (or two million).  So, we will continue to share with you the things that go haywire as well as go right :-)

on iterative development:  This section is more for the curious than an update.  If you follow our weekly development updates, you will probably notice that we use the word "iteration" quite a bit.  The approach we take to development is doing very tiny chunks of a feature at a time.  We call each of these chunks, an iteration.  Features like player construction and combat are overall categories of features and are not done all at once.  The absolute minimum usable requirement are implemented and tested.  Then each feature is enhanced through an iterative process.  For example,  the very first bit of combat we had in Atriarch (quite awhile ago) was the ability to hit another player.  At this point, there wasn't even any gui for it, just a single keystroke.  The next iteration was adding damage.  The next iteration was adding a gui, then animation, then stamina, and so on and so on.  So, by the time we get to something like combat techniques, we've gone through many, iterations.  We don't want to bore you here with every iteration we do, so our development updates include an iteration or two that we think would be of interest to you.


Atriarch in the Press: Serafina participated in Part 2 of RPG Vault's Roundtable on Small MMOG Development Teams.  The Vault asked what impact being a small company has had on the game.  Here is Serafina's reply to the roundtable:

"Out of everything said on this panel, I think Piotr hit the nail on the head when he said that being a small team requires looking for unique solutions. I know this has been true for the Atriarch team. When a small team wants to accomplish the same as a team six times its size, then it definitely requires different approaches to the same problems. For example, we never knew with Atriarch whether or not we would have a traditional publisher. We knew that it was a very real possibility we would release and support the game ourselves. Knowing that we would have to keep up with better-funded and larger teams, we had to kick out conventional thinking and figure out new approaches to achieving the same thing. If we started off with a large team, I think a lot of our best solutions to problems would never have happened. Why? Simply because there would have been no burning need to figure them out.

Necessity is definitely the mother of invention; which I think naturally flows into originality. As others mentioned, I agree that being a small team affords us more room to be creative and try new things. I believe a game like Atriarch would never be done in a large company. It is too risky from a creative standpoint for a risk-averse large company, whereas for a small company, originality is almost a requirement so that companies like EA and Sony do not eclipse your project. If done well, originality is one of the best ways to a small team can really shine."

You can read all of Part 2 here.


July 17, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

ISP and Server Upgrade:  Good news :-)  The upgrade and change is officially completed!  We thank you very much for your patience during the upgrade.

on testing Atriarch server cluster:  Some of you who have been following Atriarch have heard us discuss Atriarch's unique server clustering architecture.  When we moved ISP's we used the opportunity to build the new internal testing servers for Atriarch and wasted no time breaking them in.

"Testing" is an ongoing process, but our initial technical test on the new server cluster went very well.  After a few hardware glitches (bad memory, etc), we got everything up and running.  The cluster has been up and stable without interruption since we brought it up two weeks ago. World Fusion remains on the road to the holy grail of server stability!

Our server clustering architecture is helps to maximize the benefits of Atriarch's game and software architecture. World Fusion's clustering design works in tandem with the game architecture to provide the volume and complexity of seamless landscape, creatures, characters, and unique player-buildings expected from Atriarch.

on content:  Recently, we were sent an email by an avid Atriarch fan, EdgeofEpsilon of Atriarch Watcher, who asked how we could possibly get all of Atriarch's content done with such a small team.  It is a good question, so we are posting the answer here

1. We have some third-party artists helping us out with some of the graphics that we still need.  (Of course, we are always open to more help.)

2. Besides that, we did development a little backwards. We had a lot of the content done before the engine was ready to utilize it. That means we have quite a bit of content just sitting there waiting to go in when the engine is ready for it.

3. The focus of Atriarch is player influence which means our emphasis is on player-made and less on developer-made content. However, there will be developer-made content available as well.

4. Yes, it is also true that some content will be scaled back for release and added as "events" or "updates" afterwards. That will allow us to keep Atriarch within the scope that our current team can handle within a reasonable amount of time.

on the patch server:  We have tested the patch server.   Woohoo!  It worked as planned!  The next thing on our patch server list is to add the file compression to aid in the performance.  Currently, it works, but it is really slow.


Atriarch in the Press: Serafina participated in RPG Vault's Roundtable on Small MMOG Development Teams.  The Vault asked what impact being a small company has had on the game.  Here is a snippet from Serafina's answer:

"I think the biggest impact being a small team has had on Atriarch is to make a real effort to focus on player-driven content and reusable gameplay. We couldn't possibly keep up with the players in terms of building new cities, areas and content. Therefore, we aren't going to even try. Make it so players can do it themselves."

You can read Serafina's entire response here.


June 27, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

ISP and Server Upgrade: In preparation for bringing Atriarch live for testing in the future, we are upgrading our bandwidth and servers to a secure, state-of-the-art co-location facility.  Our website and email may be temporarily interrupted while we make our move.

on Native (npc) combat behaviors:  A couple weeks ago, we added player combat maneuvers, as well as giving Natives (npcs) their own combat maneuvers.  Now we are working on the behaviors that Natives exhibit while in combat with a player, specifically when a Native should "end" combat.

For example, does a Native keep attacking a player forever no matter what?  Well, no, and that is what we are working on implementing.  Things like a Native making decisions whether to flee, pursue, fight back, and so on, and of course, why a Native makes these decisions.

on the patch server:  We are chasing down a memory leak.  Other than that our patch server test went well :-)

This week we are mostly focusing on making the upgrade and move as smooth and efficient as possible.


June 20, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on the simulation engine: The team is working on the refactoring of the simulation engine for Atriarch.  Many internal changes have been made to enhance the manageability of complexity inherent in large online worlds, such as Atriana.  The refactoring also improves upon server stability and extensibility. 

Evolving the Atriarch servers is important for maintaining a back-end that is malleable as well as stable.  World Fusion has two decades of experience designing and building large-scale, distributed software systems for companies, such as telecoms and financial institutions.  This background is invaluable in achieving our goal of a solid and stable deployment. 

on the patch server: The patch server test was moved to next week, so we can incorporate the refactoring of the simulation.

on world content:  The process of updating the world content to be compatible with the simulation engine changes has begun.  New city areas are also in the works.

Player Factions: Ynarrah has sent an announcement of his intention to form the new Atriarch Faction: Imperium of Khalisen.  We'll bring you an update on that when Atrios Ynarrah is prepared.


June 12, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on combat techniques: Fighting Techniques have been added to Atriarch's combat system.  Combat Maneuvers are grouped into Techniques.  A Technique can be anywhere from 1 - 18 Combat Maneuvers... basically, two Combat Grids.  A Combat Grid represents the 9 directions from which a player can attack its opponent.  

You can see the current version of the combat grid on the left in the Bolera Cavern Screenshots below.

In these shots, my character is the Eshlar.  The left screenshot shows the Eshlar choosing to attack from its lower right.  In the right screenshot, the Eshlar selects an attack from the high center.  These are both Shallow Maneuvers.

on shallow vs. deep maneuvers: The first set of Maneuvers represents Shallow Attacks.  The second set of maneuvers in a technique represents Deep Attacks.  Shallow Attacks are when your opponent is near.  Deep attacks are when your opponent is further away.  Deep does not mean projectile.  Rather, it requires some sort of lunge, reach, stretch or some movement toward the opponent in order to make contact.

The Lokai in this screenshot is performing an attack form the upper center direction as it does a forward flip.  This is a Deep Maneuver because it moves the Lokai Player forward to reach an opponent in the near distance.

on the patch server: The first version of the patch server has been completed.  We we will be testing it this weekend.  We'll let you know how it turns out :-)


June 5, 2003

Atriarch Development Update:

on tactical combat: This week, AT game dev is working on the tactical aspect of physical combat.  By physical, we mean using something physical for fighting, for example, a knife, fist, tentacle, etc, as opposed to casting.  Each species has been given a set of "intrinsic attacks", including Player Characters and Natives.

Previously, a player character only had one attack.  Now each player character species will be born into the world with a full set of intrinsic physical attacks rather than just one. Below are actual images from some of the current intrinsic maneuvers.



View more images of the Player Character Species here.

on Native (npc) combat: Natives (npcs) and creatures will also be given sets of attacks, not just one maneuver.  So, when fighting a Native or Creature it may not fight you the same each time.  Our combat is designed to be a highly tactical-oriented fighting system.


New Atriarch Faction:  We would like to welcome the French-speaking faction, Les Guetteurs, The Watchmen.  This is the most recent political faction to be formed in the World of Atriana.

"Our purpose is to build a community and build our city, a great place for trading, communication and for fun :-) In our city we want to collect lore and knowledge on Atriana, all this knowledge can be put in our great library. We are peaceful, we want build a city, collect lore  and explore Atriana, we are not an expansionist or  an aggressive Faction !!"

-Atrios, Les Guetteurs


Atriarch Dev Chat Log Posted: Atriarch Vault hosted an open discussion with Atriarch developers.  It was a huge success and gave players the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the developers offering their opinions and asking questions.  The entire log is posted here.

There were several topics discussed including, AT combat, E3, goals in games, and more.  Here is a brief snippet in response to someone asking what the difference is between beginning builders and advanced builders...

WF_Serafina: The smaller the piece, the more variety you will have in building. For example, the difference between a beginner piece "a wall" versus an advanced piece "a brick"

WF_Arc: Initial capabilities aren't difficult, just simple, rudimentary, and coarse-grained (large chunks).

May 29, 2003

Atriarch Developer Chat: Atriarch Vault is sponsoring an open Developer Chat with Atriarch Team members on Monday June 2nd, at 6pm PST (9pm EST) on the Sorcery mIRC server( in the #Atriarch chat channel.  This chat is a casual open discussion about Atriarch and games in general.  That means no moderation, unless required.  This will be the first chat since we attended the E3 Expo this past week, so be sure to stop on by if you want to find out about what we saw and how Atriarch fared in the face of its competition.

If you have never logged onto IRC before.  AT Watcher has an easy to follow IRC tutorial here.  Everyone is welcome.

This picture is courtesy of Jaruh who was in town for E3 week.  This is a picture of Arc and Serafina getting ready to demo Atriarch.  You will notice Serafina engaging her oh-yeah-everything-is-going-just-as-planned emote.  Actually, everything went very well.  Visit us at the chat to talk more about it :-)

Atriarch Development Update:

On player construction: we redesigned some of the construction pieces, particularly the newborn pieces (newborns, aka: new characters, newbies, etc).  All the player construction pieces are currently the same.  However, we are starting the process of making different parts for different skill levels.  We want you to be able to build in Atriarch even as a newborn player.  Why wait until you are level gazillion before you can do some of the most fun stuff in the game?  Of course, your options get broader as you go up in skill.  The beginning Tryusin pieces are the first to be redesigned.

On server-side issues:  we are programming the Atriarch version of the patch server.  We are also continuing to fix some server bugs.

May 22, 2003

E3 Recovery: Whew!  E3 is over and we are returning to the normal 18-hour work day instead of the E3 48-hour work day.  E3 is a big show for many developers and publishers.  It is when the latest games are shown to the press and distributors.

We did meet with a few people regarding Atriarch while at E3... nothing that is possible to report publicly at this time.  I will say this, we did sign papers this week with regards to Atriarch.  In the upcoming months, we'll bring everyone up to speed on recent developments.  Atriarch Vault will be sponsoring an open developer chat in a couple weeks.  We'll chat more in detail about E3 then.

If you have never been to E3, this is what it is like... as you step onto the E3 expo floor you are immediately met with a cacophony of sound, pounding music, flashing lights, game show style announcements, massive screens flashing images almost fast enough to be considered subliminal, and of course, scantly dressed women luring you into the expo booths.  Once you move beyond the media circus and recover from sensory overload, there are games, lots of them!

Of course, we paid special attention to the mog's (massive online games) in development.  There were plenty of them to see... everything from 100% fighting worlds set in medieval past to online puzzle games set in other worlds.  As a gamer, my philosophy is the more the merrier.  Some of these games look really good, and I look forward to playing them.

On the other hand, as an online world/game developer, I specifically combed the expo floor in search for online worlds that capture a similar flavor to Atriarch in gameplay, story or style.  In my opinion, Atriarch remains the most unique and compelling online world game in development.  (of course, this is purely an objective opinion *grin*)

Atriarch is the only world that we saw that offers the player something different and unexpected, an environment and alien culture that is bizarre, yet compelling and fun.

Atriarch Development Update:  Yes, during the E3 crunch we continued to make progress on the game, mostly the multiplayer parts of it.  Atriarch had been offline for a long time while we worked on fixing several bugs. One of the good things about E3 is that it gave us a definite deadline to put AT all back together again and get it back online to demo.  We are happy to report that Atriarch did successfully go back online for demos and internal testing.  We have spent time enhancing the multiplayer capabilities and back-end servers.  We are still working on some packet delivery issues.

Since some of the Atriarch content was done two years ago (for example, Pallidrost), a significant chunk of time was spent retrofitting Atriarch content to work with the new multiplayer features and enhancements.  A few of the new features that work offline are not adopted yet for online. We plan to have those features working in multiplayer mode soon.

We are happy to further report that the first Dubo Plant we had growing in our last AT Dev report is now a whole garden of them!  We placed over a dozen Dubo plants in corn-stalk rows.  Each individual Dubo Plant has its own growth rate and growth cycle.  Woohoo!  The World of Atriana is growing :-)

All in all, Atriarch development is picking up momentum.  Progress is coming along better than planned.  We'll keep you informed with these brief dev updates.

In other news, a move from our current location is planned in six weeks.  We are preparing to move the Atriarch server cluster to a new hosting facility.  There will be a minor disruption while DNS resolves itself.  We'll post about this again closer to the date.

May 8, 2003

E3 Demos: The Atriarch Team will be attending E3 Expo in Los Angeles next week.  We will have a "wandering booth" which means I'll have a laptop strapped to my back and ready to whip it out to give a demo.  So, if you are an Atriarch fan and will be at E3, then go on up to anyone you see wandering around wearing an Atriarch t-shirt.  We'll be happy to give you a look at the game :-)

Atriarch Development Update: We are currently working on making our Natives (npcs) smarter.  They now have a brain. Natives have lost their dazed and confused look.  Well, except the Andol natives, they always look that way ;-)  We made our first plant in Atriarch grow... woohoo!  No longer is the Dubo plant a plastic, static statue, now it actually grows like real plants in a world should!  On the server-side of things, we are addressing some long-standing issues regarding packet delivery.  Above and beyond that, we are preparing the game for demoability (is that a word?) for E3. That includes putting a lot of pieces back together after being apart for awhile.  That about covers it for this week's dev update.

Atriarch Points: Synon was kind enough to remind me that he/she/it (not sure what gender Synon is) has 12 Atriarch points from a previous event that we overlooked.  After aubs of arduous research in the Atrian rock vaults, we discovered he/she/it was right. That puts Synon in the lead with 63.1 Atriarch Points. All are all welcome to join in the collection of this rare Atrian commodity: Atriarch Points.


April 30, 2003

Atriarch Chat Log Posted: AT Vault posted a log of the Atriarch Open Developer Chat.  Three of the Atriarch team were available to chat and answer questions: Mythfit (Writer/Designer), Arc (Chief Architect), and Serafina (Lead Game Designer).  You can read the entire log here.  Here is a short snippet from the chat:

Serafina: I remember a question I read on the boards that had to do with resource gathering. It asked about mining resources.
Serafina: .. and about carrying them
Serafina: One of the ways we avoid 4000 players having to lug a large rock across many kilometers is by making the resources small, but expandable.
Serafina: Like a sponge.
Serafina: ... or like a plant that grows.
EdgeOfEpsilon: you take a seed plant, and it grows into something usable for building
Serafina: EdgeOfEpsilon... yes

New Atriarch Points: The Atriarch Point Rankings have been updated.  Synon is still in the lead with 50 Atriarch Points.  Since it has been awhile since the points were last updated, everyone already on the list was given an extra Atriarch Point for the wait :-)  Some time this Summer after we have published more details, visuals, etc about the game,  community events will begin again.  Currently, Atriarch Community sites give out points for activities they have on their sites.

New Atriarch Community Site: Atriarch Stratics as redesigned and got a new look.  We welcome ATS back!

New Player Factions: As soon as we receive the welcome messages from the leaders, Atriarch will be introducing two new player factions: The Watchmen and The Torpor Collective.

Atriarch News Release Coming Soon: The Atriarch Team will be making an important announcement some time during the next few months.  We were going to make it this week, but decided the timing would be better if we waited.  In the meantime, we will continue to update the site approximately once a week.

April 18, 2003

AT Vault Sponsors Atriarch Open Developer Chat:  Members from the Atriarch Development team will be online to chat on Monday, April 21 at 6pm PST.  Everyone is welcome to join in the open discussion about Atriarch and games in general.  The chat will be located at  #atriarch.

If you have never logged onto IRC before.  AT Watcher has an easy to follow IRC tutorial here.

For those who are unfamiliar with our use of the acronym "AT", that is the shortened version we use for Atriarch.  So, AT Vault is the same as Atriarch Vault.  AT Watcher is the same as Atriarch Watcher.

Coming Soon: Next week we will post information about the latest faction to join Atriarch's ranks, The Torpor Collective.  We will also be updating the Atriarch Points section.

April 7, 2003

Part 3: Storytelling in a PSW: RPG Vault posted part three of a developer's roundtable on Storytelling in a PSW (persistent state worlds).  In Part 3, Lead Designer, Serafina, responds to other developers in the roundtable.  Here is a snippet from Serafina's response:

"I think that although players will mostly stay within their network of friends (guild, hunting parties, etc.), they still want to feel as if they are a part of something beyond themselves and beyond their network, in other words something epic. Epic is what a macro world story can provide.

"Sure, many players may not participate or experience macro story-affecting activities or events. However, the impact on players' perceptions of the world from the mere possibility they could affect change if they chose to try is worth the time to develop a well-integrated macro story. It creates a sense that the world is bigger than just the player, and that the player can make a difference."

You can read all of Part 3 here or read ony Serafina's response here.

AT Discussion Boards are buzzing again with spirited debates and feedback.  You are welcome to join in and give your feedback.  Here is a snippet 

Some of the current discussions include:

PvP, Beyond PK

Should Atriarch Allow Creation of Permanent Public Works?

Current games and Monster AI. What gives?

Here is a snippet from Serafina's PvP (player vs. player) discussion:

"There are many forms of pvp, but the form most people think of is combat. Yes, there will be combat-based pvp. However, it will not be absolute pking freedom. There will be wild areas and safer areas and penalties for breaking city laws, etc. Also, young spawnlings will be protected.

After release (not sure if we'll have it for release), we have planned something unique and something I think is very exciting: non-lethal forms of combat pvp. Basically, the ability to fight the other opponent without killing them. This feature will go well beyond just duels or sparring. Anyway, this is something you'll have to wait for, but is definitely a planned part of our pvp system."

In other Atriarch Community News: Atriarch Stratics is getting a whole new look.  We'll let you know when it is ready!

April 2, 2003

Atriarch welcomes the player faction, Daedral.

"We stand here in the midst of a tedious and hostile land. We have risen from the ashes of a fiery ancestry and come to rest upon this beautiful land we now call Home. We are a diverse group, coming from a myriad of different cultures and different lands. We come together now to form a union of these cultures, a metamorphosis of greatness that is in this world. We come together now to form the Technocratic City Daedral.

Our primary concerns are one of peace, trade and technology. To accomplish such tasks, my government has formed various mechanisms for those outside our union to become involved within. We invite all those interested to peruse our laws and documents and to form lasting relationships with our government that will be beneficial to all sides. May reason and peace overcome the fires of our ancestry."


Minister of the Exterior

Technocratic City Daedral


Storytelling in a PSW: RPG Vault posted part two of a developer's roundtable on Storytelling in a PSW (persistent state worlds).  Lead Designer, Serafina, discusses her view that the game world and the story are one in the same.  Here is a snippet:

"In a PSW, the world itself is the story. In other words, the story is the sum of all the parts - players, NPCs, cities, geography, events, weaponry, crafts, monsters, etc. Regardless of a designer's intention, everything a player sees or interacts with is the story."

"I think one of the keys is making our worlds more dynamic, particularly giving players ways to affect the world beyond their own character. Think about the concept of heightened moments again. If you give a player the opportunity to leave a mark upon the world, then the time in between those moments feels more purposeful. The player's "story" is created not just for your character, but for the world. I can think of no other type of story that would be more engaging than making a player a true part of the world."

-Serafina, Lead Designer

Read the entire roundtable here.


Atriarch's Creature Crucible, developed by Iimzodar, has been a huge success!  Over 3,000 creatures have been made by players.  We are temporarily taking down the flash program for maintenance, so it will be unavailable for a short time.  When we bring it back up, we will begin to showcase some of the incredibly innovative and cool creatures gamers have made.

Here is one example.  Made from chopped up Atriarch creature parts, AT website visitor, Dogs-of-War, created these new creatures.


March 26, 2003

In the weeks since we got back from the Game Developer's Conference, the Atriarch team has been participating in many ongoing discussions about Atriarch and games in general.  We do not have official discussion boards on this site for now.  Therefore, we do frequent the discussion boards of Atriarch community and fan sites.  Everyone is welcome to participate in the discussions.

Currently active discussions include:

Defining Atriarch's Ethos: does 'building' capture its essence?

Positive Feedback about Atriarch at GDC

Current State of Monster AI in Games and Atriarch

Here are links to the two most active discussion boards currently for these Atriarch topics:

AT Watcher

AT Vault

Coming Soon: Next week we will post information about the latest faction to join Atriarch's ranks, Daedral.


February 10, 2003

Developer Chat Log Posted:  Stratics postponed last week's radio interview due to technical difficulties.  However, Lead Designer, Serafina, decided to stick around and have an impromptu dev chat since so many people had shown up to hear the interview.  Edited logs were posted on both AT Watcher and AT Vault.  Here is a snippet from the log:

[Rogerthat] By the way, I don't see how this game is any different from upcoming MMORPGs.
[Serafina] There are many reasons Atriarch is different...
[Serafina] 1. We focus on the player.
[Serafina] 2. We take a lot of time to integrate realism into the world.. .meaning consistency within the world.
[Serafina] 3. FUN FUN FUN... must be fun.
[Serafina] 4. Friends can play together.
[Serafina] 5. Skills and story based rather than level based.
[Serafina] 6. Non-combative paths are viable and fun.
[Serafina] 7. Characters are persistent... that means you character can make progress even if you are not online. Yes, you can protect your character from being killed even if you aren't there.
[Rogerthat] My god this game is different.

Find out more by visiting Atriarch Community Sites.


February 3, 2003

Today: Live Internet Radio Interview with Lead Designer, Serafina

Stratics will be hosting the first live interview with Serafina in over a year.  They will be taking questions from the listening audience.  Find out what the future holds for Atriarch.  Here is the notice sent out by Stratics:

It's that time again, time for another Stratics Radio, hosted by yours truly, Dariuas. Oh, Aldaris will be there too. This show will be a bit different then any show I've hosted in the past. The past show's I've done are about games, or their developers that have already been released. Well, its time to turn the page. The next Stratics Radio show will be done with Serafina Pechan Lead Developer of Atriarch. Of course, this is a Stratics exclusive. The show will be Monday Febuary 3rd, at 8:00 PM eastern time. The show will be done from the Stratics IRC server. Details will follow below. Now, this show, since it is pre-release, will be a bit subtler then past shows. Questions will be filtered by Stratics affiliates, and then relayed to Serafina. The questions will be asked on the air, and credit given to its author.

To connect to the Internet Relay Chat server you will require an IRC client, mIRC just released their latest client,  and you can get that at <a href="". After you get the client, you'll get a prompt to put in an IRC server address. To connect to IRC, you can use, or, or one of the other server's located at here at Stratics Chat including the Java client, found using a link to the left. The channel will be #radio on IRC, so you would type /join #radio in the your IRC client. How to connect to the show will be posted at a later date as I said.

To connect to the show, you will need some sort of media client, such as Winamp, or Windows Media Player. Once you have your desired client, you will need to "Open Location". For Winamp, simply pressing CTRL-L will open it. In Media player, you'll need to goto file then Open Location. Once you have this box, you'll type in Press Ok, then listen away, remember you will need to turn up your speakers to actually hear the show.


January 29, 2003

The Atriarch design team has been participating in several discussions threads with gamers on the boards of Atriarch Community sites.  You are welcome to join in the discussions and offer your feedback.  Here are some of the topics:

How many character slots should an account have on the Atriarch Vault Website?

Questions and answers about Atriarch inventory system on the Atriarch Stratics Website.

Discussion about symbiotic armor on AT Watcher.


January 1, 2003

Happy New Year!

9 New Screenshots are posted of the Drasius Platform, located in the port city of Drasius on the Eshlar continent.  Here are four of them:

Over 100 Atriarch Screenshots collected... in the near future, you can look for a renovated screenshot section that will make it bit easier to navigate.  In the meantime, you can check out every Atriarch Screenshot that has ever been released in the newly updated Full Screenshot Section.  It is a collection of every Atriarch screenshot ever released to a magazine, fansite, or on this official site.  If we have missed any, then please email us and let us know!  *Warning*  This page takes awhile to come up on slow connections. 

Last updated: January 06, 2005

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