OSG Popularity II

Following on on my previous posts regarding OSG popularity I did another, more extensive Alexa search and am happy to share the results. Granted, as with last time this isn’t a completely accurate analysis as I’ve only referenced the most popular domain, so I haven’t taken travian.de or travian.us into account, both of which are very popular. Further, some games share a domain (for example, Freeksy and Lods Online are both subdomains of igg.com) and so their numbers are combined.

I’ll confess some of this is rather surprising. I had no idea that eRepublik was so popular, and thought Utopia Kingdoms would do better than it apparently has. Anyway, hopefully this information can be useful for players looking to join a thriving game community, and for any future OSG developers to know what they’re up against.

Cheers,
Oliver

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Pacing of OSG’s

It was always difficult to get a multi-player game of Civilization going, despite the variety of options. There was play-by-email, where player A would take a turn, email the saved file to player B who would take a turn and email to player C, etc., but this could take a couple days for a turn to get back to you and was a very sluggish method of play. Alternatively you could get half a dozen players together and play via LAN. This was always a lot of fun, but very difficult to coordinate, especially back in the day when not as many people had laptops. These made for very intense gaming sessions, but would usually need to be wrapped up come dawn and could only happen a couple times a year.

Thankfully, OSG’s solve all these problems. An OSG’s unique pacing allows players to play a thorough, persistant game without a huge time commitment. OSG’s achieve their pacing by making everything real-time and continuing regardless if players are online. Even if a player has to go out of town for the weekend, the game doesn’t grid to a halt: his workers still harvest resources, work on any building orders he left, and his troops will still defend his city. Further, since most orders in OSGs (raids, constructions, etc) take several hours or more to execute, even if a player misses a day he’s only missed a couple order-opportunities.

Ideally, success in an OSG would stem from a player’s choices and his response to other players, not from grinding.

Nevertheless, some OSGs still emphasize time spent online as a means of victory. When you are required to be watching your account all day long, wouldn’t it be better to play a genre that allows you to do more with your time? Whenever you have constructions that only take half an hour, or give a combat bonus to players who are online, you start taking away from the heart of the OSG.

On the other hand, some games take things too far. eRepublik is a great game, but each player is only allowed a few actions every 24 hours. This means that even if you want to play more, there’s really nothing for you to do. There are many of these games that are more turn-based than real-time, and should definitely appeal to players who want a very casual experience, but I can see how dedicated OSG players might find them limiting.

Finally, some OSG’s fully embrace the genre’s pacing and offer further game mechanics to let the player manage his empire without being tied to it.

Freesky has a system where you can, for free, instantly finish construction on a building that only has 5 minutes left. This is a very convenient feature because it allows players to hurry through the first stages of the tutorial and early stages of a structure, and also means that if you log in and find a building only has 5 minutes left you won’t be stuck waiting for it to finish before queing up your next 4-hour long order.

Travian’s choice of servers is another great method, allowing players to choose how active they want to be. The more laid back player can jump into a standard server, and the more dedicated players can join a speed server. I would very much like to see this feature expanded, perhaps with a .75x server for those of us who can’t even keep up with the standard speed 😛

Lord of Ultima’s expanded building que is also very helpful. Even if there are structures that only require a couple of hours to build, you can que up six of them and not not to check your account for the rest of the day. The paid option of the advisors takes this even further by adding a lot more que slots.

Even within OSG’s it seems there’s a good variety of pacings, so it’s important to find one that works for you. As a genre though, it’s great to find an alternative to the FPS that requires everyone to play at the same time, the MMO that emphasizes mindless clicking your way to the highest levels, and the slew of casual browser games that, while quick, aren’t very engaging.

Cheers,
Oliver

eRepublik Newsletters

One of the cool things about eRepublik is the newspapers. Players can subscribe to user-created newspapers and the writer can receive some in-game currency for keeping everyone up to date about the state of the world. Player Lieutenant Scheisskopf recently put out a new issue of his “The Week That Was” chronicling the recent war.

Here’s a short excerpt:
“EDEN Attacks London, Phoenix Defends
The moment much of the eUSA had waited for finally came on Day 817, as eUS President Josh Frost met the urges of the masses and pressed the button to attack London. Against a slew of activated mutual protection pacts (MPPs), the eUS attack fell short and was aborted as Phoenix raised a gratuitously insurmountable wall in London’s defense.”

I think having people keep track of these major events in the game world is a great idea and really helps the game feel more alive. Imagine if in Travian or Ikariam there was someone chronicling the major alliances merging, splitting, growing, and fighting. Could be interesting.

Cheers,
Oliver

eUK Wants You

eRepublik has ereputed in war this last month, and the UK is not fairing too well. We’ve lost a lot of territory, including Scotland!

In eRepublik, what really decids a battle seems to be how many players fight for each side. So if you’ve ever though about trying the game, now is the time!

Cheers,
Oliver

eRepublik Review

Game Site: www.erepublik.com
Game Developer: eRepublik

Erepublik describes itself as the first massive online social strategy game. Like most OSG’s it’s browser-based and free to play, but that’s where the similarities end.

Most OSG’s start the player as a ruler of a country, but in eRepublik you start as a citizen. It still has resource management and massive battles, but they take place on a higher level. For a casual player the game feels a lot like Mafia Wars. Your first step is to find a job. There are thousands of different jobs, and each focus on a certain skill. For example, my job is a Manufacturing job. Every day you have to click on “Work”, which will both increase your skill in that area and earn you game currency. As in life, as you increase your skills you can find jobs that pay more money, which you can use to buy food, weapons, etc.

Aside from working you also need to Train. The same as working, all you need to do is click on “Train” and you will gain a little bit of “Strength”.

The interesting thing about the game is how far you can go with it. All of the companies that offer jobs are run by players who earned enough money to start a company. From that point the game is much more complicated since you have to manage all the resources you bring in and all your employees who, by working, transform the company’s resources into goods that can be sold to other players. Going further still, you can be elected to a Government position, where you will be able to go to war and try to conquer other provinces.

Once a war is started every player from the opposing countries has the option to fight in the battle, using their strength and any weapons they’ve bought to contribute. Essentially, each player is a single military unit. Players cannot die from a battle, but every time you fight you lose Wellness, which needs to be replinished by eating food or other items you can buy.

One of the great hooks of the game is that all the countries are real-world countries. I currently live in and am fighting for the UK! It is also very casual, and players who want a very low-maintenance game can play for five minutes a day, contribute to their country, and be done with it. Of course, players who want to be more involved can start companies, run for office, start newspapers, etc.

One of the main drawbacks of the game is their experience system. You gain experience by doing pretty much anything, but every feature requires a certain amount of experience. For example, to participate in the battles you need to reach level 5, and to start a company you need to reach level 9. This means that a player who is just starting the game has very little to do. I feel that when a player first starts a game his excitement level is at its highest. To prevent new players from really diving into the game until they’ve played for about a week is a real turn off.

Players who are very competitive and most interested in raising armies probably won’t take to this game. For more casual and social players however, it offers the chance to play an OSG at your own pace, watch your character grow, and still contribute to a larger empire, which is a pretty cool concept.

Cheers,
Oliver