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.”



Social Interaction in Online Strategy Games

The core principles of the OSG genre lay the foundation for some of the best in-game social interaction between players. More recently, casual games integrated with a social network such as Facebook or Myspace have hijacked the term “social game”, even though the in-game interaction between players are usually trivial. Now, several OSG’s including Evony, Kingory, and Lords Online have started integrating with social networks as well and are adding some of these meaningless mechanisms on top of the standard OSG principles already in place.

Recently, the first game to come to mind upon hearing the term “social game” is usually Zynga’s Farmville or any one of its clones. Although these games come with a players’ friends already in tow, they really offer very little in terms of in-game social interaction. This usually boils down to clicking a button to send all your friends some in-game item, or spamming all of their walls to inform them of the most recent level you’ve gained. None of these actions actually affect your own game though. In Evony Age II, a message pops up every 5 minutes or so saying that you’ve found some buried treasure, felled an excess of lumber, or some such nonsense and suggests you send some to your friends. In reality, you did not find any such treasure on your own, and sending it to your friends only adds one more to the ever growing list of tiny gifts that they must mindlessly click through to accept next time they log on.

To realize the rediculousness of this game mechanic, and perhaps all the wasted potential, imagine if all your Farmville friends, instead of connected online, were sitting around a table playing in real life. In a classic board-game such as Monopoly, there would be trading, debate, laughter, and if you are anything like my own friends, a lot of yelling. In these so-called “social games”, however, all of you friends are merely staring down at their own hand of cards, each one occationally exclaiming “hey, I gained a level” or perhaps giving everyone a small item for no reason at all. When it comes down to it, you aren’t playing the same game at all; rather, you are each playing your own copy of a single-player game, and merely updating each other as to your progress.

In the traditional OSG, the in-game social interactions are far more meaningful. If you send another player 2,000 of your own lumber supply, or send your army to attack him, that’s a meaningful in-game interaction. Players can help each others’ empires grow and flourish, can protect each other from enemies, or can become enemies themselves and battle to the death for months on end. There’s a rich system of trade and combat, of alliances and diplomacy. With such a foundation, it’s curious why any OSG would add such a trivial mechanic. In my experience with Evony it was just annoying, and in my experience with my Facebook friends, they would much rather I help defend their village against raiding hordes than spam them with my account updates every day.


Castle Age

I stumbled across a nice looking Facebook App, Castle Age. Based on the ad I thought it might be an OSG but it turns out to be a re-skin of Mafia Wars (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

For more info you can check out Inside Social Games (sorry for all the ads there, not my cup ‘o tea either).

Apparently the game also had some copywrite issues last year, and there’s an interetsing article about that at You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice. Reminds me alot of the Chun Li Kingory ads a while back.

Anyway, it seems like they’ve since resolved the conflict and the game is pretty fun. If anyone wants to help me defeat Krull, the Orc Captain, you can find me as Oliver Godfreed on Facebook.


Civilization Like Web Based Games

The Gamer’s Circus is doing as series of articles on what he calls “Civilization Like Web Based Games”. His first review was of Travian and his second was Kingory.

His label of “Civilization Like Web Based Games” is interesting to me. That’s a pretty unwieldy name for a genre. The more technical name would probably be Browser Based Massive Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy Games, which is also quite cumbersome, and thus I shorten it to OSG!