Best Browser Games of the Year 2010

Merry Christmas! I’m sure it’s still Friday in some parts of the world (which means my Tales of Aloriah isn’t technically late 😛 ), but for the rest of us it’s Christmas. Though interestingly enough, in Ukraine Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. But anyway, as the year comes to a close, it’s nice to look back on what has happened in the world of Online Strategy Games. But, until I have a chance to put down my own thoughts, let’s have a look at what other sites are doing.

Last year, I really appreciated BrowserGameoftheYear.com. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that they will be doing this for 2010. However, BBGsite seems to have picked up the mantle with their “Best Browser Games of the Year 2010”. Alot of Online Strategy Games are represented here in the strategy category, and it would be great if everyone would vote. The list is a little shady, with some games represented several times (for example, Imperial Warfare, Ministry of War, and Terra Militaris are all the same game), some games aren’t on the list at all, and while Stronghold Kingdoms is a great game, it’s not actually a browser game. Nevertheless, you should definitely check out the contest once it starts.

Also, if anyone knows of any other similar contests going on for the end of the year, definitely let me know!

Cheers,
Oliver

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Which Game Should Oliver Play Next?

Alright, during my posting lapse my Travian account fell to ruins, so now I’m looking for a new OSG to pick up. I’ve put together a poll of a few I’m interested in, but I’m open to suggestions as well. If there’s a game you’d like to see me play and chronicle, feel free to add it to the comments and I’ll take that in consideration as well.

The game with the most votes (and / or comments) after seven days wins a brand new player.

Aloriah

Imperion

Freesky

Medievo

Cheers,
Oliver

What’s Your Favorite Game Genre?

Taking a look at last fortnight’s poll results, the Blitzkrieg strategy is clearly the most popular. No real surprises there. It seems that to be successful at an OSG you almost always have to take a very aggressive roll. What is surprising is that the Isolationist came in 2nd place, even though Randomgeek suggested it’s a terrible strategy. Regardless of whether or not it leads to success, I feel that interacting with other players is a huge part of what makes an OSG fun, and the game designers should do all they can to encourage players to do so.

For today’s poll, I’m curious as to what other games OSG players enjoy. Aside from Strategy, what’s your favorite genre? I think it would be very benificial to game developers to really know what else the OSG audience enjoys. A lot of Online Strategy Games have started to encorporate RPG elements in their game, most likely due to that genre’s immense popularity. Is there another genre that OSG’s could pull from?

There are so many other genres, so I’ve allowed multiple choice. Also, if there’s something I missed, just post a comment and I’ll add it to the poll. Some games of course are hard to place into a genre. What’s Grand Theft Auto, for example? Somewhere between action adventure and racing I assume. I haven’t included “City Management” games like Sim City, since OSG’s already include much of that style anyway.

Cheers,
Oliver

What Do You Look For In An OSG?

What do you look for when trying a new OSG? Granted, all of these are important, but what’s the highest on your list. Or to approach it a different way, what should OSG developers focus the most on? Polished gameplay? Originality? Pretty Graphics? A lot of players to interact with? Let your voice be heard!

I wish I could get these polls to allow ranking instead of just casting a single vote. Alas, we’ll have to make do with what wordpress allows. Also, I’lm going to let the last poll run for another week before discussing it. Hopefully we’ll get a few more votes! There’s only a small fraction of readers who are voting… exercise your democracy!

Cheers,
Oliver

New Poll: What’s Your Play Style?

Time for another (now weekly) poll. What’s your OSG play-style or strategy? Do you start the game as aggressive as possible, raiding anyone unfortunate enough to start nearby? Do you start upping your production and city walls, knowing that the defender has the advantage and wait for the aggressors to waste their resources on your armies? Do you try to lay low and find some powerful allies to protect you? I think I have a hunch which way this one’s gonna go, but it’ll be interesting to see.

I figure I should speak to the previous polls as well.

Currently, about 50% of people prefer the current free-to-play monetization strategy that OSG’s currently used. That makes a lot of since, as the current system probably inconveniences the greatest amount of players the least. That said, I wonder if other genres (either traditional RTS or more MMORPG’s) will start leaning on the free-to-play model? I know Gameforge’s MMORPG “4-Story” and a dozen others have already gone this route. Still, these games aren’t nearly as profitable as the MMORPG’s that get a constant flow of income from monthly subscribers.

As for people’s favorite aspect of OSG’s, warfare (unsurprisingly) takes the lead with 33%, followed by City-management (27%), then Social (18%), and Browser-Based (15%). People also submitted “able to play on a linux laptop” (which probably ought to be added to Browser-Based) and “economics”. It seems to work out pretty well that the focus of a lot of OSG’s parallel that break down (i.e. a strong Travian player probably spends the bulk of his time raiding and planning his army, followed by upgrading cities, followed by diplomacy). Seems like the designers already knew all this, but I’m happy to reinforce it 🙂

Cheers,
Oliver

Free-to-Play Alternatives

As I’ve discussed several time, a lot of Online Strategy Games employ the free-to-play model of monetization. For most players this means we get a great game and don’t have to pay a pence. For some dedicated players, it means they get to shell out a heavy amount of coin to get a lot of extra features, a good advantage over the rest of us, and keep the game company profitable, essentially paying for the rest of us. There’s an interesting article here that sheds further light on the concept.

The free-to-play model comes with some disadvantages as well, to both players and developers, and there are two issues that are quite prominenant specifically in OSG’s. First, the paying players gaining a significant advantage over everyone else. In a genre that’s so competive, a lot of players don’t like the idea of being out-spent instead of out-maneuvered. Second, since the players are always a potential customer (even the paying ones) some games tend to be constantly encouraging (or even begging) players to buy their in-game currency. This can grow very annoying if not done tastefully *cough*evony*cough*.

Given that game developers need to make a profit, are there alternatives to the Free-to-play model that might work better?

One-time Purchase
The most common strategy of a one-time purchase (just as with console games at the store, digital downloads on iTunes or Steam, etc.) could be applied to OSG’s as well. Instead of offering the game for free at all, OSG’s could require players to buy the game. Of course, a standard RTS has a much higher production value than an OSG, so this might be difficult to get players to buy in to and would have to be priced carefully. Further, as with MMO’s, OSG’s are perhaps more of a service than a product. Afterall, having “bought the game” does little good if the server has been shut down.

Subscription-based
Alot of major MMO’s, specifically WOW, use the subscription model, which might work for an OSG as well. The most likely scenario would be that registration and the first week or so of a server would be free, but from then on every player would have to pay $5 a month or so to access his account. This would work better than the one-time purchase, since there would be no risk to the player that something they pay for is going to be shut down. Also, any single month of play would probably cost less than the one-time payment (attracting more customers) and yet still acts as a steady stream of income for the develor. Lord knows this has worked out well for Blizzard.

Ad-supported
Another option would be to have an OSG be supported by advertisements. This is the way a lot of internet media works, and television uses this method as well. Granted, many games have banner ads on their site, but for a game to be entirely ad-supported it would likely require more prominent ads, such as a video commercial every time a player logs into his account or something along those lines. It would certainly be an annoyance, especially when trying to check quickly check the game at work, but if that meant all the plus-account features were activated and all players were on an even playing field, would it be worth it?

What are your thoughts? If you’re not a paying-player now, what method of monetization would you like to see your favorite OSG adapt? Would you “buy” an OSG to access the plus features forever and make sure everyone was at an equal level? Would you pay a subscription if it were priced right? Would you be willing to sit through a commercial each time you checked your account? Or would you rather leave things as they are and have a small group of players support the game and receive advantages? I’m looking forward to seeing what people think.

Cheers,
Oliver

TC8: Fin

Ever since my “demise” a week ago I’ve been contemplating that this might be the end of this set of Travian Chronicles. After checking my account today I realized that, unfortunately, there’s really no hope for the people of Athenry. The best thing to do is call it a game and start over. It’s definitely been a nice run and a lot of fun. But now I leave it to you to decide where I go from here.

While waiting for the results, let’s take a look at how I did, what went wrong, and what I learned.

First, here’s an image that shows my progress. It looks like I was doing pretty good up until that fatefull day. Hah.

Also interesting is the change in my ranking. It seems that for the first month I was constantly losing ground. I assume this is the time when all the experienced players were hitting the ground running and fighting for the top ranks right off the bat. During the second month, however, my rank started to increase drastically. Most of this was probably due to alot of players who started the game but soon grew bored or defeated and left. It looks like the number of active players dropped by 50% during February, and has gradually fallen to about 1/3 of the initial players.

Looking back at my own ranking, it seems my rank was steadily (though very slowly) improving up until the end of March. This is when Archer started to catapult me and basically wrecked my second village. Interestingly, despite basically losing a whole village, my resource production and military continued to rise at a steady rate. My population, however, remained stagnant, and since this is the only thing used to measure “rank”, I started to decline. Then, of course, there was the epic conflict with “Inside”. I’ve taken the liberty of snatching his player profile:

So yeah, never really stood a chance against him. Sadly, he struck JUST when my new alliance was getting together. However, I don’t think they would have been able to help much either. Travian Champions showed me this cool tool where I was able to get a map of the whole server. I’m the yellow dot. The blue is my alliance, and the red is Inside’s alliance group, Vandals. They occupy both the first and second place spots on the server. Unfortunately I ended up much closer to some power enemies than anyone who could help me.

Overall it was great fun and I certainly learned a lot about the game. Next time I need to be much more aggressive about getting help, in terms of sitters and a powerful alliance. I’ll definitely be taking advantage of some of these tools to help me identitfy the poewrful alliances near me and trying to get on their good side before I become a farm.

Another thing I’ll have to reconsider is my non-aggressive strategy. I really don’t like picking on the little guys, as I know how much that sucks to log in to your account and see dozens of raids. My peaceful strategy also seemed to work really well up until my enemies started using catapults. Up until then I was free to focus on just improving my resource fields and building new cities, but once those catapults come… I may have to re-think things for next time.

Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to Randomgeek and Rylar, who offered a lot of help and advise. I’m very much looking forward to the next game, whatever it may be. Remember to vote on the poll!

Cheers,
Oliver