The Lord of Ultima Castle System

The Lord of Ultima Castle System
– by Goemon

The castle is an optional building in Lord of Ultima. It doesn’t give you access to any new types of units, or any other new buildings. It really acts as a gate to the game’s form of PvP- or you might say all the game’s action.

Until you build a castle, your main focus is building up your city and your army, and either trading or raiding dungeons. The only interaction you can have with other players is trading or sending your army to support a city under attack. You cannot scout, siege, plunder, or assault any other cities. The tradeoff, however, is that you cannot be taken over by any other cities. It’s still possible to get plundered, and trust me, it happens. For those that don’t know, plundering consists of an enemy army attacking your base and making off with the resources. They can’t destroy any buildings or take over your city though, and they have to contest with all of your cities defenses (i.e. the hundreds/thousands of city guards as well as traps you probably have), so rest assured you’ll make it out ok.

Ben Cousins, the general manager of EA’s free-to-play team, said that he put this feature in as protection for new players. Apparently, he played Travian and got destroyed right away, so he felt the need to implement something to prevent that from happening (source: Gamasutra). The concept of the castle allows the player two distinct ways to play: as a builder/trader, or as a fighter. Even without the castle, you can still found new cities as long as there is a vacant area and you have a baron.

There’s one more big difference that comes with a castle: Your maximum army size is increased from 5000 to 400,000, which is pretty huge.

If you do decide to build a castle, though, the gloves are off. That means anyone can siege your city or even take it over, so before you do build a castle, there’s a couple of things you might want to do first (this stuff might seem like common sense, but hey, you never know):

1. Be part of a strong alliance. This is helpful all the time, but if your city is going to be susceptible to takeover, then you are definitely going to want some backup. Ideally they’ll be as close to you as your enemies. Or closer!

2. Defense! Lord of Ultima gives you lots of options. You’re going to want tons of city guards- and why not, they don’t even take up space in your army. You’re also going to want to make sure your wall is leveled up and full of pitfall traps, barricades, etc. And don’t forget Hideouts! They’re an oft overlooked building that keeps some of your resources hidden and from your attackers.

3. Check out your neighbors. If you are surrounded by enemies much bigger than you, maybe you should hold off on the castle until you get situated.

I think the castle system is a pretty great idea. It keeps the little guy alive long enough until he’s ready to fight for himself. In theory, this in turn makes him less likely to get frustrated and give up the game. And more players is always a good thing.

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Can EA Change the Strategy Game Genre?

Another guest article from Jonah Alexander regarding EA’s step into the OSG genre. Cheers.

Can EA Change the Strategy Game Genre?
– by Jonah Alexander

Electronic Arts, one of the largest video game companies in the world, has recently entered the online, free-to-play, browser-based strategy game market with Lord of Ultima. The company hopes that using the popular Ultima franchise, as well as their own name brand, can help expand the user base for these type of games, which are already immensely popular throughout Europe and other parts of the world.

For the most part, their attempt can only do good for fans of the strategy genre as they essentially raise the bar and will hopefully force newcomers and established publishers to improve their…well, strategies.

Gamasutra recently interviewed Ben Cousins, the general manager of EA’s free-to-play division, and I found it interesting that their talk seemed to center more about the online strategy genre’s struggle and place in English speaking countries, rather than the actual Lord of Ultima game itself. In a sense, the game is more of a means than an end for EA.

One quick look at Lord of Ultima and the colorful graphics immediately draw you in. The thorough tutorial helps people new to these types of strategy games get up to speed and not feel intimidated, and overall the title has the kind of polish you’d expect from a big name company. What does all this mean? Well, with a solid first step into a market that had been previously neglected by the big name game makers. It’s safe to assume that if EA succeeds, their rivals are likely to put out their own titles to compete which could result in a strategy game arms race. But I digress.

The addition of EA into the market, at first glance, might seem unfair to many of the smaller, low-budget teams already making strategy games, but I wouldn’t be too worried about them. Consider that many of the titles currently on the free-to-play market are essentially clones of popular games, usually with a slight graphics or theme change. Their game plan is probably something along the lines of create as many mediocre games that play like the successful games as quickly and cheaply as possible and chances are we’ll make profit.

I’ve seen games, even as Oliver has pointed out, that illegally copy graphics and art from other sources for the characters. Then when you enter the main game, the gameplay graphics are many times pretty bland. And that’s putting it nicely.

My hope is that EA’s level of quality for Lord of Ultima will force some of these quick-cash-in developers to at least put a little bit more polish into their games in order to try and keep up. I’m not knocking anyone for being not having a huge team or being restricted by a low budget, but a lack of quality is certainly something they can address.

In the end, the winners are the fans of online-strategy games, both new and old, since now that more people are finally starting to pay attention there’s only direction for the genre to go.