Lord of Ages on Facebook

At long last, the premier online strategy game, Lord of Ages, has graced Facebook with its presence! Recently I was purusing Facebook when I saw this ad: “15 Build at Same Time; Click here to enjoy fastest growth!” Finally, a game that addresses the ranks of Travian players who are sitting around with enough resources to upgrade 15 of their structures, but are unable to do so. Surely the best online strategy game is obviously the one that lets you build the most at same time, so I quickly clicked to find out what this epic game was.

The next screen that greeted me brought a smile to my face. While some players might scoff at the idea of recommending a game to all of their friends before actually playing it, since I recognized this as Lord of Ages I knew it was something all my facebook friends would appreciate. Especially the game’s unique take on English.

My excitement was growing and now it was time to choose my image. What face shall I show to my enemies? How about Eomer? I bet New Line Cinema and Tolkein himself were thrilled at the chance to donate their work to such a great game.

Finally I had to chose which Nation I would join. I was really looking forward to lording over my new kingdom, but unfortunately each Nation I chose returned “Error: 1025005”. Alas, I guess I am not worthy enough to behold the majesty of Lord of Ages on Facebook.



Civ News 2011

2011 greets us with some more news from Civilization. First, is that the Civilziation Facebook game, now called Civ World, is entering Closed Alpha today. If you’re interested in getting in on the Alpha, definitely check out the facebook page.

It will be really interesting to see how Civ World adpots the classic Civlization Turn-based strategy to the Facebook platform. I’m hoping, really hoping, that they don’t follow the formula of City of Wonder or City Ville, where you finish construction projects by having your friends click on them. Lord knows USSR would have won the Cold War if more of Stalin’s friends had signed up for Facebook. However, this seeems promising “in Civ World you will be joining your friends to form nations, which will compete with other player-nations to rule the world”. So at least we know that there’s actually competition. That’s a good sign.

You can also read more on Inside Social Games.

In other Civ-related news, Jon Shafer, lead designer for Civilization V, has left Firaxis. Gamasutra has an interview that’s worth a read.


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.”


Bio Break Article

First off, Syp from Bio Break has been kind enough to feature an article as part of his “Guest Blogger Mania ’10”. Check it out! There are a lot of other great articles there about MMO’s in general.

Also, to make up for the two less-than-flatering reviews last week, this week I’ll be reviewing two Facebook strategy games I’ve actually enjoyed: “Lands and Legends” and “NanoStar Siege”. Look for it!


Rock Age Review

Ingle Games is fearless. After Playdom, a developer with a rather solid reputation and a fair amount of experience using Faecbook as a game platform, released a Facebook OSG using the Evony base code, most companies might hesitate before doing the exact same thing. Ingle Games, however, stayed the course, and thus Rock Age was born.

Unlike a lot of the copy-cats out there, Ingle Games made its own creative change to the game, by ripping off Farmville and including it as part of their game. To some, it may seem like this is a horrible idea. The inclusion of the Farmville mechanic (planting seeds, harvesting crops, then selling them) as an additional way to gain resources for your city and armies is merely a tedious chore to anyone who enjoys OSG’s, and in no way improves the game. But this is a short-sighted critique. What Ingle Games has done is taken the first step to creating the Every-Game.

Have you ever been playing Farmville and suddenly wished you were playing Bejeweled instead, but also didn’t want to stop playing Farmville? This is a problem that has plagued gamers for years and finally there is a solution in sight. Rock Age is currently in Alpha; hopefully by the time we reach Beta they will replace the standard OSG warfare and instead send your troops on “jobs”, such as pulling a Heist in an enemy’s city. Of course, each job requires that your troops have enough energy, which replinishes every 5 minutes, and the necessary equipment, which you’ll construct at your Blacksmith by lining up shiney jewels that fall from the sky. You’ll also gain research points directly by posting on your friends’ walls telling them how awesome the game is. Rock Age is keeping some of the core OSG mechanics though, in the form of an end game. Once the official release lands players can claim victory by being in the alliance that purchases the “Win Game” item, available for 1,000,000 Facebook Credits.

Game Site: Rock Age on Facebook
Game Developer: Ingle Games Ltd
Rating: Don’t Waste Your Time

Verdonia Review

Game Site: Verdonia on Facebook
Game Developer: Playdom
Rating: Don’t Waste Your Time

When I saw that Playdom had made an OSG for Facebook, I was quite excited. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Social City for the last couple months, and they have a few other well-polished games, so I was expecting good things. Alas, I was rather disappointed when an old nemisis reared its head.

Verdonia is Evony for Facebook. Understand that this is not a metaphor. Granted, the graphics are original and relatively well done, but it’s clearly taken from the same base code, has the same buildings, the same units, etc. Playdom has made a few changes aside from the graphics, which I’ll go over, but overall these have just made a mediocre game worse.

Perhaps the best change Playdom has made to the game is the adoption of Lord of Ultima’s Castle system, in the form of the Chancery. Basically, you do not have access to the world map until you build a Chancery. This means you cannot attack other players, nor can they attack you. This lets each player decide when he’s ready to enter the usually aggressive PVP side of the game, if ever. Until then, you can still use your military and sharpen your teeth by attacking the NPC controlled areas in your Kingdom (which each player has a unique instance of), which may be enough for some players.

Aside from this, I consider most of the other changes a step in the wrong direction. Verdonia embraces what usually passes for social interaction in a Facebook game (the sending of gifts back and forth), which is just rediculous in an OSG. That’s what the Marketplace (trade) and the March Site (troops) should be for. So instead of having players interact in meaningful ways that you would expect in an online strategy game, you are hit with a pop up window every five minutes or so detailing this out-of-game experience where you can conjure up resources for you and your allies out of thin air by posting on your Facebook wall.

Further, the price you pay for these interruptions? Verdonia uses 33% of my CPU when idle. Granted, I get a couple cool animations like smoke billowing from my academy, or a flock of birds that flies by every few minutes, but is that really worth it? This is a browser-based game afterall. When idle, Facebook, Ikariam, and Travian combined use less than 1% of my processor.

Probably more than disliking the game I’m simply disappointed in Playdom. Bringing OSG’s to Facebook is a great idea (since there are only a few so far), but if you’re just going to copy another game, why not copy a good one? Of course I understand it’s a business decision. The Evony code is clearly for sale, and all Playdom had to do was integrate it with their proven Facebook framework, draw a few pictures, and call it a day. On the plus side, hopefully the game will introduce some of Facebook’s “casual gamers” and leave them craving some deeper gameplay.