Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Blogger of the Year 2011

What would you say if I set up a website with a few blogging friends, and organize a vote in various "Blogger of the Year 2011" categories, with a jury award from me and my buddies, plus a reader's vote from a predefined list of mine and my buddies' blogs, virtually guaranteeing that my and my friends' blogs all received lots of jury and reader awards? Sounds completely ridiculous? Well, then have a look at the sponsors of the Browser Game of the Year award website: You guessed it, it's a bunch of the browser game companies running the games that received the awards. Clicking on any of the links there will lead you to the GalaxyNews portal page for that game, with GalaxyNews also running the Browser Game of the Year website. Doh!

I've been playing the browser game Die Siedler Online (The Settlers Online) from Blue Byte / Ubisoft since August of last year, first in closed, then in open beta. The fact that I've been playing this for months now should tell you that this is in fact a good game. But I haven't written about it yet for two important reasons: 1) It is up to now only available in German. And 2) it is far from being complete. The whole multiplayer part is still missing. There is chat, and there is trade, but neither PvP nor cooperative PvE are implemented yet. Also missing are various statistics and convenience functions, and all content beyond level 30 is still greyed out. I really like the design where your initial city / island can never be attacked by other players, but as long as that initial island is all that is there, the game can't possibly be considered complete.

I would consider Die Siedler Online to have strong potential as a good browser game. But advertising it as the "Strategy Browser Game of the Year 2011" is borderline fraudulent. I'm not even sure there is a big market for such a game outside Germany, as the game is heavy on economic simulation, and light on combat. You need 3 different buildings to produce the most basic wooden planks! I love it, but I'm not naive enough to believe that this comes anywhere close to lets say US mainstream gameplay. The game also has a curiously front-loaded item shop business model, where the first 50 to 100 bucks spent bring you huge and permanent advantages, while any further money spent is less effective and not permanent. And for a browser game Die Siedler Online is a bit too time-demanding day by day, because of what I consider a design flaw, that if you increase the level of your buildings you need to click more every day to refresh resources. Thus while I would recommend Die Siedler Online to some people I know speak German and are into that sort of semi-peaceful city building game, I think that award is both premature and not really fitting for such a niche game.

Your "Blogger of the Year 2011",

Settlers play style, in an easy to access, online format? I learnt to play Settlers I without a manual, without tooltips or any other text... and loved it.

There goes my productivity.
It's odd imagining the Settlers as a clickfest browser game. One of the main draws of the single-player predecessors was that the economy chugged along more-or-less automatically once you gave the initial orders to build the appropriate buildings; Ingredients would be gathered, manufactured and delivered automatically and the villagers assigned themselves jobs as soon as the buildings and the tools were available. You didn't have to optimize and micromanage if your initial orders were reasonable.
I gotta say ... you had me at "The Settlers", "Online" seemed superfluous, and I mean it.

I look forward with great anticipation (a) your review of the completed game, and (b) the completed game.
discovering marketing, tobold? :P
I'll vote for you if you add me to your jury.
1) You'll always be my blogger of the year (2011), Tobold.

2) I don't trust any web-browser games as far as I can throw them. No matter how fancy the frills they are always just a method for convincing you to put down cash on micropayments. Nothing more.

Some are more obnoxious/obvious about it than others, but the ones that really get my goat are the iphone app ones or anything with facebook/twitter integration. "Collect your friends! Get THEM to spend money too!"
there's already a few blogger of the year awards, and seem to work much the same way, the wider community only hears about them after the fact because the circle who makes the award makes no effort to get the idea and votes out of their circle.
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