Interesting Comments

One of the develoeprs from Aloriah left a comment! Depending on how the poll goes this weekend, I’ll be starting a game with them when they start their new server.

Mytheria made a slew of comments during my absense, so I’ll return the favor by including a link to his Freesky Blog which recently has been discussing Plants vs zombies.

Finally, Uryxt pointed me to another OSG, Cultures Online. Unfortunately, aside from the home page it seems the game is in German. Coupled with Stone Age Kings, that makes two OSG’s I really wish would hire a translator.

Cheers,
Oliver

Which Game Should Oliver Play Next?

Alright, during my posting lapse my Travian account fell to ruins, so now I’m looking for a new OSG to pick up. I’ve put together a poll of a few I’m interested in, but I’m open to suggestions as well. If there’s a game you’d like to see me play and chronicle, feel free to add it to the comments and I’ll take that in consideration as well.

The game with the most votes (and / or comments) after seven days wins a brand new player.

Aloriah

Imperion

Freesky

Medievo

Cheers,
Oliver

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

OSG Bang for your Buck

As you many know, most OSG’s employ the “free-to-play” strategy where the game itself is free, but players can spend money to gain advantages, usually in the form of more convenient features, increased production, etc. I was interested in which games offer the most for your money and did a little cross-game comparison. Be aware that this can’t necessarily be considered a 1:1 comparison due to the differences between games and the varying price of in-game-currency based on quantity.

Game
+25% Production
Plus Account
Travian $0.83 $0.41
Wild Guns $1.90 $1.25
Ikariam $4.50 $1.25
Freesky $4.80
Lord of Ultima $1.70
Lords Online $14.00
Evony $20.00

I arrived at these figures by assuming the player is spending $25.00 USD, then extrapolating the closest Real Money to In-Game-Currency ratio. From there I found the cost of a Plus Account for 7 days, and the cost of a 25% production of ALL resources for 7 days. Again, not all of the games make this comparison easy. For example, Freesky only offers a 20% production increase for 3 days, so I simply multiplied the cost by 2.9. Further, some games like Evony offer “bonus packages” with every purchase of in-game currency, so if you really did spend $25 you would also receive some items to speed up construction or whatnot.

Honestly I was expecting to see the games much closer together. I was surprised by how cheap Travian is, and was also surprised by how expensive Evony is. Now, it can certainly be argued that in some games resource production isn’t as useful as in others, but nevertheless, since it’s something all these games share, it’s an interesting note of comparison.

Game Themes

I’ve been thinking about OSG Themes, or perhaps more accurately, settings. In my hunt for new games I keep coming across the same thing over and over again. It seems there are some themes that are very over-populated, while there are other interesting themes that OSG’s haven’t taken advantage of. Looking just at the List of Games on this site, I came up with the following breakdown:

Ancient Europe: 13 games
Classic Fantasy: 9 games
Space: 7 games
Ancient Orient: 5 games
20th Century War: 2 games
Modern: 2 games

Then there are a few games that, as far as I know, are the only games in their theme. Stone Age Kings presents a refreshing Prehistoric setting, Nile Online tackles Ancient Egypt, Age of Ocean is a very unique OSG set in the 17th Century, and Freesky presents an interesting blend of fantasy and Steampunk.

Still, there are other themes I haven’t come across that I would very much like to. I think both a “Western” and a “Nuclear Fallout” setting would be perfect material for an OSG, since those eras are all about building (or rebuilding) a civilization. There’s also pre-Columbus America (Aztec, Mayan, etc), which has yet to be explored in an online strategy game.

All to say, I’m growing tired of the seemingly endless line of Ancient European OSGs (if you combine Ancient Europe and Classic Fantasy that makes up for over 50% of the games). If the developers insist on copying the standard OSG gameplay, the least they can do is wrap it in a unique skin.

I’d like to compile a sort of wishlist for OSG themes. If there’s a game setting you’d like to see, let me know!

Cheers,
Oliver

Scamville

There’s an interesting article over at Tech Crunch talking about the Free-To-Play model and how some of the methods they use to make money from users are rather unethical. The author, Michael Arrington, specifically mentions a couple of scams from Offerpal, one of the services Ikariam has.

There’s also a quote from the Cofounder of IGG (who brought us Lords Online and Freesky) recommending developers “get users in the door to play free, then monetize the hell out of them once they’re hooked”.

It’s a pretty interestiong article if you’re interested in the industry or just want a heads up on some potential scams.

Cheers,
Oliver

Site News

One more day for the Ikariam Battle Contest! Be sure to get your battle reports to me for your chance to win 100 Ambrosia.

I also added a few more to the list of games, including Freesky, from the makers of Lords Online.

Also, if there’s anything you’d like to see on this site, more contests, more reviews, more rants, let me know!

Cheers,
Oliver