Mixing OSGs With RPGs: Hey, Why Not?

Goemon muses about combining the two genres. Global Agenda has done something similar, fusing OSG and FPS gameplay. Perhaps the same could be done with MMO’s, creating more player-driven content and less random quests to kill 15 boars or what have you. Anyway, enjoy!

Mixing OSGs With RPGs: Hey, Why Not?
– by Goemon

OSGs and RPGs, and more specifically MMORPGs, already have a lot in common with each other, and adding more of these aspects could make for some interesting new gameplay. Lord of Ultima doesn’t really count even though Ultima is one of the longest standing RPG series out there- it really doesn’t have anything to do with the series or even the genre at all.

Sorry in advance for all the acronyms.

So what do they already have in common? For one, every OSG is already an MMO. When you log on to Ikariam or Travian, you’re playing with all other real people. Same goes for World ​of Warcraft or Everquest. The world is also persistent. In an offline RPG, the game world stops if you turn it off and stays that way until you turn it back on. In MMOs and OSGs, the game world keeps on going without you.

Plus, Lord of the Rings Online just went free to play- probably due to the success of free OSGs like Lord of Ultima. I don’t think anyone will say no to more free MMOs.

A few OSGs, Evony, Aloriah, Age of Ocean, etc, have started incorporating a hero into the mix. In every RPG I can think of, the hero is the focus of the game. As you progress, you level up your character, get new skills and abilities, and you usually outfit him or her with new weapons and armor. In Age of Ocean, you can hire heroes which are used to lead your fleets. As you explore new territories and finish quests, naturally your hero levels up. You can then lead even bigger fleets and explore further out. The weapons and armor you equip provide bonuses to your fleet when you’re attacking other players. And for the most part it works great; having a hero brings the player a little closer into the game and provides another customizable element that can make each person’s experience a little different.

Let’s try it the other way around- what about putting some OSG elements into an RPG? Many MMOs have a guild war system, and these guilds can often own fortresses or something similar. This could be expanded upon for some cool new gameplay elements. What if every player was given the option to build a city? The game could “zoom out” to the standard OSG isometric view, and a player could arrange and build buildings from there. Afterwards, he could walk around in his town in 3d. Of course, the resources for these buildings could come from loot from monsters, treasure chests, etc. The player could recruit NPC troops to guard his town while he was away, or be able to send them to attack other players.

The typical resource buildings could be used to provide materials to craft armor and weapons for your character. The buildings would also provide a source of resources to use for trade between players, which is a huge aspect of MMOs.

I think I covered the main points, but do you guys have anything you want to add? Disagree with me perhaps? Let me know!


Add a Little Music to Your Age of Ocean

Goemon here again with a few song ideas to help you make your OSG experience a little bit more enjoyable. This time I’ll be talking about the aesthetically pleasing yet auditorially (I may have just made that word up) lacking pirate/navigation-themed game Age of Ocean.

Senses Fail “Rum Is for Drinking Not for Burning”

Allow me to preface this one with a warning: it’s pretty emo, and I know how much of a bad rap that word gets, so if you hate it then this song probably isn’t for you. This particular song came out a couple years before the world found it fashionable to hate emo music though, so if you give it a listen your friends might not make fun of you. Musical classifications aside, it’s a damn good anthem for all your sailing hijinks. With lines like “Now set the sail to quarter mast, We’ll jump their ship we’ll sink ’em fast. Men follow me to victory, Red is the sea, red is the sea.” Presumably, they are referring to the blood in the water from your fallen enemies. Plus, what about that title? Isn’t that a reference to Jack Sparrow, everybody’s favorite pirate? You really can’t go wrong. I recommend you give it a listen when on the way to a naval battle.

Senses Fail “Rum Is for Drinking Not for Burning”

He is Legend “The Widow of Magnolia”

This song from the southern rock/metal/hardcore/whatever-you-want-to-call-it- band He is Legend tells the tragic tale of a shipwrecked sailor desperate to get back to his wife. Long story short, she waits as long as she can, but gives up, as she believes her lover “chose the ocean floor over me,” a.k.a. drowned. He’s still out there, but I guess a girl can only wait for so long. What a heartbreaker. Anyways, I recommend this one if you’ve been out on the digital sea just too long- it can definitely take awhile to find those new ports or even just to sail to ones the you’ve already discovered. Ideally this will give you the courage to continue. Or give up, whatever. Unfortunately all I can offer you is the live version, and the lead singer looks to be a bit drunk. Hopefully on rum! You get the point.

He is Legend “The Widow of Magnolia”

Bright Eyes “Another Travelin’ Song”

I think this song applies pretty nicely for a couple reasons. First of all is the spirit of travel! This song captures it perfectly. And while Conor (the singer) might be talking about the open road, the theme of freedom is the same. The open road, the open ocean…close enough. Also, I think we can all relate to lines like this: ” Now I’m hunched over a typewriter…I’m still staring at a clean white page.” Why, you ask? Because whether we’re at work, school, or home, there’s most likely something we should be doing other than playing Age of Ocean (or any OSG for that matter). Hell, I’m hunched over a keyboard right now with Age of Ocean in the background. I can’t be the only one.

Bright Eyes “Another Travelin’ Song”

Zombie Ghost Train “The Undead Sea”

This one’s a bit rockabilly, and it’s also an instrumental. I think the title is a play on The Dead Sea. Clever, right? Think of that eponymous “Wipeout” song, only more sinister. Maybe mixed with zombies. Since it’s an instrumental, there’s no lyrics to analyze or try to relate to, but that also means it’s perfect for every occasion. Personally, I recommend it for the maiden voyage of your newly created fleet. Unfortunately this one’s not on youtube…but for a taste of their sound, check out “Long Dark Night” if you want.

Zombie Ghost Train “The Undead Sea”

Thrice “The Digital Sea”

From The Undead Sea to The Digital Sea. I’m going to go ahead and say the title of this song is the most fitting for the premise of this game- after all, Age of Ocean is all about digital sailing across a digital sea. With lines like “I am drowning in a digital sea/ I am slipping beneath the sound,” this song is less about conquest or victory, and more about introspection. But that’s ok! You’ve got plenty of time for that out on the open water in between ports. Or maybe you’re like me, and it’s 3 AM and you really do not want to finish that ten page paper (or TPS Report, whatever’s your poison), so you’re logging some time into AoO. But you can’t get that horrible feeling of procrastination out of your head. Play this song to calm down a bit, finish your trade, and then get back to work. Or fall asleep, whatever. If you like this one, throw on the entire Alchemy Index Volume II CD for more water/ocean-themed goodness.

Thrice “The Digital Sea”

Age of Ocean vs Other OSGs: Fight!

I suggested Goemon check out Age of Ocean so he could write us another music article. While he’s writing that one he was kind enough to give us his own thoughts on the game. Consider it a second opinion. Also, if you can’t wait for Goemon’s next musical selection, Randomgeek just posted his own musical tastes to accompany Travian.

Age of Ocean vs. Other OSGs: Fight!
– by Goemon

This isn’t actually intended to be a fight. It’s more like two mothers bragging to each other about their respective child’s accomplishments. There might not be a clear winner, and both kids clearly have their positive points and negative points. Alright that’s a pretty terrible simile as well. Let’s go back to the fight analogy.

Round 1: Time Devotion

Age of Ocean is in kind of an awkward place when it comes to time devotion. I know Oliver touched on this in his review, but I think it’s an important point so I wanted to bring it up. Age of Ocean falls somewhere in between OSGs and traditional RTS games. Essentially, the build system is different than that of, say, Lord of Ultima for example. In LoU, the point is to cue up all the buildings you want built or upgraded, and depending how far along in the game you are, come back hours later to check the progress and maybe add some more to the cue. Even in the early game of AoO, buildings and technology take around 10-30 minutes to complete. This requires you to keep checking back on the game constantly, rather than just a few times a day. Obviously, this will be a blessing for some and a curse for others. At first, for me, I liked Age of Ocean’s approach, but it grew kind of tedious and I now I think I prefer the “set it and forget it”(oh yes, I went there) method.

Winner: It’s Your Personal Preference, But I Choose OSGs

Round 2: The Glorious Static Interface

Age of Ocean has beautiful visuals. Beautiful, non-moving visuals. This is a bit of a double edged sword; with this comes no building placement customization. Your buildings don’t even have spots on a map, in fact. Instead, they are relegated to two bars on either side of the screen. On the positive side, though, every dock and screen has a different, attractive, background to check out.

I’ll continue my comparison to Lord of Ultima, since that happens to be the other game I am playing the most at the moment, and is a pretty good representative of the OSG genre. In it, there are nice little building animations, smoking chimneys, rippling water, and the like. In addition, since the background is not static, you get to choose where to place your buildings. This element of customization really makes it feel like your town, as opposed to just a game interface. I think for this reason, even though the static backgrounds in AoO might be more attractive, LoU gets the edge.

Winner: Standard OSGs

Round 3: Game Goals

The standard OSG usually sets the player up with a couple of choices in regards to how they want to play the game. In general, the goal is to expand your empire. You can either do that by harvesting resources and building up an army to protect yourself, or you can harvest resources, build an army, and conquer your neighbors. Age of Ocean takes a slightly different approach. Yes, you still have your town (known as a Dock in game). But instead of harvesting crops and mining, well, mines, you focus on teching up and trading goods to make money. In addition, you get the nice bonus of exploration. And although the game has such a simple interface, I really did feel like I was exploring every time I set sail and showed up at a new harbor. And of course you can still build an army of ships to lay waste to nearby docks, like any self-respecting OSG would allow. So who wins this round? Once again, it comes back to personal preference, or in this case, personal play style. Normally, I enjoy sitting back and counting my money. But I like commanding a fleet and exploring the European coast. Maybe it’s just the novelty of something new in an OSG, and maybe that novelty will wear off, but for now I have to give it to Age of Ocean.

Winner: Age of Ocean

Well, it looks like Lord of Ultima and the other standard OSGs won this battle. Does that mean you should just keep playing Travian and not give Age of Ocean a try? No way! It’s still a fun game that mixes in some new elements to the genre and I think everyone should give it a shot.

Art of Age of Ocean

Graphics in an OSG are certainly secondary to gameplay, but can still greatly impact the player’s experience. Poor graphics, especially in terms of the UI, can prevent players from discovery and enjoying the gameplay experience, and captivating graphics can help pull a player into the game. A lot of recent OSG’s such as Ikariam, Imperion, Evony, etc., employ 3d renders of buildings and characters. One game that breaks the trend, however, is Age of Ocean, which has almost a painterly feel to its background images.

One of the cool things about the game is getting to explore the world and eventually reach a new continent and a new culture. But, for those who haven’t gotten that far yet, or who are just curious about the game, here’s all the art I could find. Click on the dock and port views to see the full size. If anyone has made it to any other continents beyond Arabia, Europe, and East Asia, let me know!


Game Themes

I’ve been thinking about OSG Themes, or perhaps more accurately, settings. In my hunt for new games I keep coming across the same thing over and over again. It seems there are some themes that are very over-populated, while there are other interesting themes that OSG’s haven’t taken advantage of. Looking just at the List of Games on this site, I came up with the following breakdown:

Ancient Europe: 13 games
Classic Fantasy: 9 games
Space: 7 games
Ancient Orient: 5 games
20th Century War: 2 games
Modern: 2 games

Then there are a few games that, as far as I know, are the only games in their theme. Stone Age Kings presents a refreshing Prehistoric setting, Nile Online tackles Ancient Egypt, Age of Ocean is a very unique OSG set in the 17th Century, and Freesky presents an interesting blend of fantasy and Steampunk.

Still, there are other themes I haven’t come across that I would very much like to. I think both a “Western” and a “Nuclear Fallout” setting would be perfect material for an OSG, since those eras are all about building (or rebuilding) a civilization. There’s also pre-Columbus America (Aztec, Mayan, etc), which has yet to be explored in an online strategy game.

All to say, I’m growing tired of the seemingly endless line of Ancient European OSGs (if you combine Ancient Europe and Classic Fantasy that makes up for over 50% of the games). If the developers insist on copying the standard OSG gameplay, the least they can do is wrap it in a unique skin.

I’d like to compile a sort of wishlist for OSG themes. If there’s a game setting you’d like to see, let me know!


Yesterday’s News

Yesterday Ikariam sent out their first of a monthly newletter, mainly talking about internal happenings. Of interest is that they’re currently looking for Game Operators and Board Moderators.

Also, Age of Ocean had its official Grand opening if you wanted to check it out.


Age of Ocean Review

Game Site: ao.hithere.com
Game Developer: Hithere
Rating: Worth Checking Out

Age of ocean is an OSG set in the age of exploration, where players command fleets of ships that trade, battle, and explore the world. The game just finished it’s closed beta this morning and the official grand opening time is Jan 27th.

The core gameplay is very different from most OSG’s, and very refreshing. Each player starts with a Hero and a Dock. The Dock is essentially your home base, and is part of a Real-World port-town, such as Nagasaki. From there the player buys goods at the market and sets sail for other parts of the of the world to sell those goods for a profit.

With the money you earn you can purchase new, faster ships and upgrade your dock. Players will also have to purchase ship-weapons and defensive structures such as coastal mortars, to fight against pirates and other players.

One of the highlights of the game is that it really captures a sense of sailing off into the unknown. Each city you visit is slightly different, carrying different goods for you to trade, and the further you go the more exotic new cities you will find.

The graphics, while few, are gorgeous. Though I never made it far enough during the beta, I’m assuming each culture has its own City and Dock screens, which will be exciting to discover. The UI, on the otherhand, could use some improvement. The game throws most UI screens as a separate window on top of the main view with a slight transparency, which can make them difficult to read and smaller than they should be. Further, some tasks you do constantly, such as sail to a new port to trade, require navigating down several menus to access, when it should be a simple option from the world map.

The game in general suffers from poor translation. Similar to Evony, the game follows a “quest” system. However, it often uses different names when describing the task than what made it into the final UI. For example, one quest was to upgrade the “Hiring Center”, but in the main UI it’s called “Workers.” Though annoying, it’s not a huge deal once you figure out what they’re trying to say.

One of the main complaints I have about the game was that the required time to complete some tasks was too quick. One of the good things about the OSG genre is that it doesn’t require too much attention to be a successful player. In Travian or Ikariam, I can play for a few minutes, order my new structures or send out an attack, and then come back maybe 9 hours later without worrying that I’m falling behind in the game. Most of the tasks in Age of Oceans, however, are completed in about 20 minutes, which means that any time I spend not playing the game is wasted.

The beta version had some serious bugs with the exploration and combat systems, but hopefully these will be ironed out before the official launch.

Despite all these problems, I found the game to be very enjoyable. I was very excited about filling my hold with goods and trying to sail off to Ha Long, or even all the way to Scotland. Assuming they are able to correct some of the problems they found in the beta before the full launch, it should be a pretty fun game and add something new to the genre that is starting to get bogged down with too many Evony Clones.