Meso-American Strategy Browser Games

Finally, after looking for a while, I found some strategy browser games withe a Meso-American theme. Both of these MMO’s are available in Spanish and English. Unfortunately, neither of them are well-polished.

The first, Native Kingdoms, seems a lot like eRepublik. I liked eRepublik, but one of my biggest complaints was that there isn’t much to do your first time playing, which makes it very hard to get into. Coupled with Native Kingdom’s lackluster presentation makes this one a pass for me. Though I did find this part of the introduction mail quite humorous: “…Finally a polite request! Please do not buy more than 2 Tortillas per day, we have a lot of new players and tortillas are scarce, buying more than you need leaves someone else to starve! So be considerate and only buy what you need! (buying to sell at profit is strictly forbidden and profiteers will be severely punished, as will those hoarding food stuffs)…” Again, with the honour system. Can they not just code that into the game? It’s as if Travian sent you a mail “Whenever an attacker defeats you, please send him the appropriate resources he would have raided, had we finished programming…

Next is Mesians. This one is an actual strategy game, in the classic Travian style. Village, resources, troops, all the good stuff. Logging in for the first time can be rather eerie. There’s no tutorial, nothing flashing, no welcome mat, nothing. All you have is a blank village. It was very disconcerting. Since I basically know what I’m doing it wasn’t too difficult to get my village going though. I upgraded all my mines a few levels, built a warehouse, senate, wall, and upgraded my “central pyramid” as much as I needed. Then I went to check out the map.

More eerie. Page after page of abandoned cities. Never a good sign. They do have some active players though, so hopefully there’s a strong user base that will stick with the game long enough for it to up the presentation so it can actually compete with the larger online strategy games. Eventually I did find a tutorial though. Unfortunately the translation still needs a little work…

Cheers,
Oliver

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Clash of Kingdoms and a Discussion on Loyalty

I’ve been playing Clash of Kingdoms and it has gotten me thinking about Loyalty.

In Clash of Kingdoms every player starts in one of six kingdoms. Over the course of the game the kingdoms fight for control of the various cities on the map and try to wipe each other out. Starting all players in a kingdom that has a good chance of winning the game is a great game element and something that’s pretty unique to the genre so far. However, it also bring up questions of Loyalty. The game gives each player 3 chances to “Betray” their kingdom and join a different one. Surely this is a tempting offer, especially when my current kingdom, Tao, is quite far behind. However, there is a sense of loyalty that keeps me fighting the good fight. Tao for life! There is a stigma attached to mutineers, but I am wondering why this is.

When first choosing a side in Clash of Kingdoms, the player is given very little information. There is a very brief description of the real-life Chinese province the kingdom is supposed to represent, the location of the kingdom on the map, and then there are two in-game values, “Resource Output” and “Recruit Speed”, and there’s only a 5% difference in the various values. With so little information, it’s safe to say that the player is going in blind and the kingdom he chooses is quite random. In fact, “Random” is actually a choice.

So then, after a week of game play and discovering that his team sucks, why wouldn’t a player decide to jump ship to one of the stronger kingdoms? Mostly this is because of loyalty. But are we bound by loyalty, even to strangers in an online strategy game? Does this work in the real world?

Of course it works in sports. If you support Arsenal, you have to support them even when they don’t win the championship. You can’t suddenly decide to support Manchester because they’re having a few good years.

I also watched “Scent of a Woman” recently. In this film the main character, Charles, witnesses some classmates set up a vandalism prank and has to decide to accept a bribe to rat them out, or stay silent and be expelled. The film suggests, and probably most of us feel, that the noble path, the path of integrity, is for Charles to hold his tongue. Certainly this makes sense if these classmates were his friends, but the film describes that they were not; they just happened to attend the same school; they just happened to be in the Tao kingdom. Nevertheless, we must be loyal.

But how far does that loyalty go? In the film, the classmates splattered paint on a car owned by the school. Sure, it was a prank, but what if it was worse? If the classmates had stolen something, is Charles still bound to be loyal to these acquantences? If they had killed someone? Lord knows if I saw some random classmates kill someone, I’d call the bloody cops. At the same time, I know that even if the other kingdoms conquer all our other cities and have Gaung-ling surrounded, I will proudly die a loyal member of Tao.

Cheers,
Oliver

New Games

I finally updated the List of Games again. Today’s additions include Baltheo, Excalibur Online, and Warflow, as well as Clash of Kingdoms and Glory of Rome which I neglected to add earlier.

I feel pretty confident when I say I won’t have time to do a full review of Baltheo or Warflow. Far as I can tell from the screenshots of Batheo, it’s the same as Warflow but set in Greece instead of China. Also, based on the few minutes I spent with Warflow I know there are much better games worth your play-time.

For example, Antzzz, which is a great game, just opened a new server. Despite the low graphics, the game play is fun and refreshing. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with Clash of Kingdoms lately, but more on that later.

Cheers,
Oliver

Best Browser Games of the Year 2010, pt2

Well, it looks like I’m going to have to take back everything I said earlier: Browser Game of the Year is back! Though curiously they skipped 2010. Anyway, this year things are different as there don’t seem to be nominees yet, but you can vote for whatever game you want. Definitely check out the Strategy Category and vote for your favorite game. I know I’m going to have a hard time deciding which was my favorite game this year, but I’ll keep you updated!

It’s a good thing that BrowserGameOfTheYear.com decided to come back, because BBGsite’s Best Browser Game of the Year 2010 is really dropping the ball. Not only do they have a special icon to indicate which games are bribing you to vote for them, also 1100Ad is obliterating most of the competition, not only in Best Strategy Game, but in Most Popular BBG. 1100AD? Really? BBGsite.com also mysteriously removed the link to my review. Curiouser and curiouser…

Cheers,
Oliver

Lord of Ages on Facebook


At long last, the premier online strategy game, Lord of Ages, has graced Facebook with its presence! Recently I was purusing Facebook when I saw this ad: “15 Build at Same Time; Click here to enjoy fastest growth!” Finally, a game that addresses the ranks of Travian players who are sitting around with enough resources to upgrade 15 of their structures, but are unable to do so. Surely the best online strategy game is obviously the one that lets you build the most at same time, so I quickly clicked to find out what this epic game was.

The next screen that greeted me brought a smile to my face. While some players might scoff at the idea of recommending a game to all of their friends before actually playing it, since I recognized this as Lord of Ages I knew it was something all my facebook friends would appreciate. Especially the game’s unique take on English.

My excitement was growing and now it was time to choose my image. What face shall I show to my enemies? How about Eomer? I bet New Line Cinema and Tolkein himself were thrilled at the chance to donate their work to such a great game.

Finally I had to chose which Nation I would join. I was really looking forward to lording over my new kingdom, but unfortunately each Nation I chose returned “Error: 1025005”. Alas, I guess I am not worthy enough to behold the majesty of Lord of Ages on Facebook.

Cheers,
Oliver

Ikariam Winter

Last night was my first snow in Ukraine. The ground was covered with a blanket of white. And when I checked my account this morning, it seems the same has happened to Ikariam.

Ikariam does a lot of this redecorating, changing the graphics up for Easter, Halloween, etc. It was very nice to see this so well coordinated with my own winter experience. And who doesn’t like penguins? They went even further this time, by dropping some snow on the island view as well.

This is a nice touch, but it’s also a bit sad. My island seems so desolate now. Even when I wrote my review of Ikariam, there were a couple less players on my island than when I started. And now it’s practically deserted.

I know I have the unfortunate luck of being on one of the smaller servers, but it’s sad that Gameforge doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help this game that’s slowly dying. Well, hopefully something will happen in the spring.

Cheers,
Oliver

Geeking Out

Three posts in a day! Either I’m on a roll, or should have consolidated.

First, I wanted to note that Inside Social Games has put up a review of Trade Nations for the iPhone. In case you can’t wait for my own forthcoming review, feel free to check it out.

Now brace yourself, it gets pretty geeky from here on.

Gamasutra reports that theStargate Resistance FPS servers are shutting down in January. This is really a shame. Stargate is a great series, and I’ve been really enjoying Stargate Universe, and it deserves a great game. I’ve actually thought for a long time that Stargate would make for a great online strategy game!

The dynamics of the Stargate provide so many unique strategic options which would be fun to explore. The fact that a Stargate can only be open in one direction, and you never know for sure what’s on the other side, is fascinating. The ability to shut down a planet’s Gate by dialing in, and then sending in your fleet of motherships, is a great tactic. There’s also the Stargate itself which can be used as a weapon. There was an episode of SG1 where the enemy was pumping energy through the Gate that would have made it explode, so the team had to take the gate itself into orbit so Earth would be unaffected. There was another where the Replicators attached rockets to a Gate and fired a giant laser through the other side, so the Gate could then fly around the galaxy blowing stuff up. Ahem… all to say, Stargate would make an excellent OSG.

Which leads me to Star Trek Infinite Space. This is a browser-based game being developed by Gameforge, based off the Deep Space Nine series. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be an OSG. DS9 was by far my favorite Start Trek series, and is also ripe for an online strategy game. There’s a variety of different races with complicated diplomatic relations and political intrigue (the Federation, Cardassians, Romulans, Klingons, Bajorians, and Dominion), there’s the Jem’Hadar who are fierce warriros but rely on a supply of Ketracel White, and there’s the wormhole that functions as this huge choke-hold for cross-quadrant warfare. How can you not make an OSG with this!? Anyway, Star Trek Infinite Space is approaching Alpha, so sign up if you’re interested.

Cheers,
Oliver