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

Plagiarism 101

So, what is the latest in world of online strategy games? I’m glad you asked. Here I’ve collected some recent news that I stole from other people.

Guzzer posted about the start of Aloriah’s new server. What was great about the post is he included a really good summary of what he learned from the first round. Anyone wanting to succeed in this browser game should definitely check it out. Hopefully he won’t mind if I post it here:

1. Focus should be on civilization build only with scenario points farming on the side. Once built up, you can catch up on scenario points quite easily.

2. Expand as fast as you can, take the risk! You do not need to send an overwhelming force with your settlers as you can just dodge mobs on the way. Once you establish a new village, the hero protective skill, wall, moat and towers will aid your village defense greatly.

3. It is a pve race to the Mother Dragon. Anything else slows you down.

Next, Inside Social Games adds their own Clash of Kingdoms. Christopher Mack echoed that “…a strong cooperative play element makes this particular strategy game feel a bit different” but seemed to be overwhelemed by the breadth of the game. I wonder what he would say about Ministry of War, which was a little much even for me.

Speaking of online strategy games set in ancient China, Gamasutra posted a case study about Kingory which is a pretty interesting read. I think this is an important quote that more game developers should strive for: “The simple idea that drives Kingory? We just wanted to make it fun.”

Finally, I started to check out yet another Facebook game, Urban Warfare. I don’t think I’ll find the time to go more in-depth though, because honestly, it’s not that good. Christopher Mack strikes again with a review on Inside Social Games, this time adding something I’d never considered before that is true for pretty much every online strategy game: “For some unexplained reason, everyone in the universe of Urban Warfare is at war with everyone else.”

Cheers,
Oliver

Clash of Kingdoms Review

Game Site: http://ck.koramgame.com/
Game Developer: Koram Games
Rating:Worth Checking Out

Clash of Kingdoms is an OSG set in the “war-torn plains of Ancient China” currently in beta from the company that brought you Three Kingdoms Online. The homepage reminds me of the box art from a Dynasty Warriors game, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you feel about that particular series.

It looks like Clash of Kingdoms is going to use the same OSG formula we all know and love, but with a few improvements, new features, and some unfortunate shortcomings.

At the start of the game you get to choose a starting location, which impacts things like your resource output and recruit speed in a minor way. The game uses a hero system which is becoming more common, and it works well enough. You can equip them with armor and weapons that give the squads they command boosts in power, speed and defense. You need one hero per army, but it only takes a minute to recruit one. There are several different resource buildings and a few different unit buildings, but it only takes a couple of minutes to have them all built. The layout and menus are familiar enough as well.

Alright, now on to the new, exciting features. First of all there is an “Upgrade All” button. Sounds simple, right? It is, but I never knew something like that would be so completely useful. All games need this feature, now. You also get a four slot queue, which isn’t unheard of, but the kicker is that all of your buildings build at once. Four at a time. Another little thing, but it’s nice.

The best innovation of this game, however, is the Election system. At the beginning of a new server, everyone in your kingdom (the region you chose to start in at the beginning) gets to vote on a few individuals to lead your nation. The player known as Chona is my “Incumbent Premier,” which is essentially our leader. They can leave messages for anyone and declare kingdom-wide objectives, anything like building 500 troops for the capital or focusing on expanding in to a certain direction. Anytime I look at the world map I can easily see what my general instructions are as well as what I and the rest of the kingdom should be focusing on.

This is a really cool feature because it makes me feel like I am part of something way bigger- which is important because in order to progress in the game, everyone needs to contribute to the kingdom. You can do this by sending your hero to upgrade the city walls, patrol to keep the civilians in check, by donating food, or even just money. But the point is everyone has to work towards the same goal; even if you’re not in an alliance you are still part of the kingdom.

This works really well with their map system. Unlike Travian, you can’t just send your army anywhere. You have to travel along designated roads, and will have to fight through anything that gets in your way. This makes Clash of Kingdoms a lot more like a traditional strategy board game where location and movement is actually important, and also adds to the feeling of being part of a Kingdom.

There is also a PvP system which is nice. You can jump into battles with anyone that is a similar rank as you, and you can use either your army or one that is provided for you. This would be amazing if the battle system were’nt so lackluster.

Press releases for the game also claimed it has a ground-breaking new battle system. I have to disagree. It really looks like it has potential. There is a huge movement grid and different unit types, squads, special abilities, cool magic effects and the like. By looking at it you would think the possibility for actual strategy is huge.

Unfortunately, you can’t control the squads, your heroes, or anything else. You can’t decide where to place your units, how to move them, or which squads should attack. It’s all automatic. There are animations, yes, but I have no control over what is happening. If I am missing something, please let me know.

Then again, the game is still in beta, so maybe that’s a feature that will be implemented later? A forum post by a higher up proclaimed “hero skills and abilities aren’t yet implemented.” So I don’t know. But all in all, it’s a solid OSG, and it has potential.

Cheers,>
Oliver

Upcoming Week

Just wanted to give a quick post to say I’ve started checking out a new Facebook game, Glory of Rome. Of course, I still need to put my thoughts together about Trade Nations and Clash of Kingdoms, not to mention an interview with Aloriah coming up this week! The world of Online Strategy games is keeping me on my toes!

Latest Online Strategy Games

So, aside from the browser game Aloriah, (gotta score me some headphones), what else has Oliver been dabbing in? Recently I’ve been taking a look at Clash of Kingdoms, an OSG from the developers of Three Kingdoms Online that is currently in Beta. I also grabbed an iPhone game, Trade Nations, which seems like an online strategy game for the iPhone, but without any war. Finally, Ministry of War had their official release early today and so I’ve started testing the waters. I hope to discuss more about each of these games in the weeks to come!

Cheers,
Oliver