Gamasutra Articles

Gamasutra recently posted a few OSG related articles.

First and foremost is a new interview with the lead designer of Civilization V. They cover a range of topics, from the art style and music of the game, to the popularity of the genre itself. They use the same screen shots that have been available fors several months though.

Next is another article about EVE online and describing their single-shard approach to the MMO. The article again emphasizes the game’s strategy to solve technology shortcomings, in this case the inability to host too many players in a single game space, with design decisions.

Finally, there’s this article: “Zynga, Ngmoco and Evony debate whether mobile, social networking, and dedicated websites are the right moves — and each has its own answer to the question.” I think especially interesting is that Evony was included in the discussion, out of all the OSG companies that could have been chosen. I think that speaks volumes both to the current blindspot that the majority of American gamers still have to OSG’s, and the success of Evony’s risky martketing.

Cheers,
Oliver

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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

Facebook Finds

Browsing through the various OSG Facebook pages I came across a few cool images, including some Ikariam concept art and an interesting chart about the “History of Social Games”. I really enjoy seeing the process behind some of these games! Click to see the full size images, and enjoy.

Lord of Ages Review

Regan Mercantile LLC recently released a game, Lord of Ages, that could easily be considered the best OSG ever. Of all time.

Now, there might be some unenlightened that would ask “Oliver, isn’t Lord of Ages the exact same game as Evony, Kingory, Caesary, and Three Kingdoms Online? Granted, it seems that Lord of Ages might have taken a few ideas and concepts from these games, but LoA has also added a lot of its own creative ideas. For example, most of the other games show your hero’s picture on the bottom part of the screen, but LoA has brilliantly moved this to the top.

LoA also one-ups the competition by actually using the word “Lord” right in the title. Evony was only clever enough to use the word in its infamous advertising campaign and nearly make the term synonymous with the genre, but Lord of Ages took it in a whole different direction and literally used the word in the name of their game. The only other OSG’s that have managed to do so are Lord of Ultima, Lords of Evil, Lords Online, and of course, “Lords“.

Where LoA really shines is the graphics. Of course, it doesn’t actually shine… While Evony and Caesary sold out and used bright, colorful graphics like Travian and Ikariam to attract players, Lord of Ages remains committed to providing an authentic Medieval gaming experience, complete with a dark, dreary town that seems to be always on the verge of a storm or the plague.

Further, Lord of Ages has encorporated huge technological advances in the realm of flashing green arrows. While other games might have at most one arrow (and usually they’re not even green), Lord of Ages pulls out all the stops. And let’s not forget the epic quests. For example “Click the Finish button”. This is the stuff of legends.

Finally, the best for last, Lord of Ages is probably the only gave that prominantly features a “Save on desktop” button. I know this is something that fans of browser-based games have been wanting for a long time: the ability to let some brand new game from a Chinese company whose top Google search results include the terms “Rip-off”, “libel lawsuits”, and “malware” save something to their hardrive so they don’t have to waste those 30 seconds loading the graphics from the internet.

Game Site: www.LordofAges.com
Game Developer: Regan Mercantile LLC
Rating: Don’t Waste Your Time

Evony’s New Advertising Direction

It looks like Evony is indeed attempting to clean up its advertising campaign as reported. The latest batch of ads below (that I crossed while playing Social City on Facebook) are much more reputable than Evony’s previous campgain. Looks like Lord of Ultima is getting on board as well. Now I just need to find a Travian and Ikariam ad on Facebook and my collection will be complete!

Cheers,
Oliver

Quick News

Stronghold 3 has been announced, as reported by Worth Playing. Personally, I’m very much looking forward to Stronghold Kingdoms, which is currently in Alpha.

In other news, Gamasutra posts about Evony trying to clean up its act. Good luck with that.

Cheers,
Oliver

Infamous Advertising

Many OSG’s are employing advertising techniques that seem counter productive. Of course Evony’s risque campgain comes to mind. Flooding the internet with their “play now” adds, easily mistaken for pornography sites, certainly helped Evony get noticed. However, this has also painted the game as rather shady and dishonest, and I know several people who stay away from a decent game because of the company’s reputation.

As I mentioned, some OSG’s are adopting the facebook method of game promotion as well, where players are rewarded for incessently asking their friends to the game. Is this effective, or os it merely annoying? One Facebook game I’ve been caught up in recently is Social City. In the game you have a certain plot of land to build roads, factories, restaurants, etc. You can also expand how much space you have, but only if you have enough neighbors. For example, in order to expand to a 12×12 grid you need 3 neighbors, in order to expand to a 15×15 grid you need 10 neighbors, etc. (I don’t remember the actual numbers) The developers are clearly hoping that players will encourage their Facebook friends to join the game, but the players have circumvented those intentions. There’s actually a Facebook group to find people who are already playing the game and need more neighbors. So, instead of players having their friends join the game, they are finding other players to add as friends.

In the end it seems to come down to a game of numbers. When throwing these advertising nets (whether offensive or merely annoying), even if it drives away 95% of the potential players, if the net is big enough and noticeable enough then perhaps 5% of potential players is all a game needs to be successful. Sadly, this puts the developers in a position not of creating a great game that fosters a strong player community, but spending enough money on advertising to drive game traffic. Hopefully this site can help a bit, by pointing out OSG’s that are truly worth playing, not just those with the biggest marketing budget.

Cheers,
Oliver