Thursday, July 12, 2012
Building a kingdom
The internet is full of Free2Play games that let you build a kingdom. Unfortunately about 99% of them then have free-for-all PvP in which the kingdom you built is inevitably destroyed by some big alliance you don't stand a chance against. Games in which you just build a kingdom, period, and there either is no PvP at all, or the PvP takes place on a neutral battleground and doesn't destroy what you built are extremely rare. That tells you something about how nice a place the internet is. But I'd rather talk about the few exceptions.
I am not currently playing The Settlers Online any more, but that is mostly because I have already been playing it for a long time, since it was in beta and only available in German. Very nice game, and one of the more fair Free2Play models: The first money you spend has the biggest effect on your kingdom, then diminishing returns make overspending less attractive and thus less likely. The Settlers Online has PvE, first to conquer your island for your kingdom, afterwards in instances where you fight for resources. Interaction with other players is often cooperative, like with trade, in guilds, or cooperative PvE instances. All the fun of online kingdom building, without any of the ganking the majority of kingdom building games offer.
The majority of non-PvP kingdom-building games on the internet are found on Facebook. One game I have been playing since it came out in November 2011 is Castleville by Zynga. Somewhat surprisingly that is one of the best kingdom-building games out there, in spite of being made by Zynga. Zynga took the basic Farmville concept (click on stuff every X hours to collect rewards) into an actual game by making you collect resources with that clicking, which are then transformed through crafting buildings into various items. There is an endless stream of quests asking for these items, and rewarding you with decorations for your kingdom. It is the most peaceful game to build your kingdom, with no PvP whatsoever, and very limited PvE in which you occasionally slap around gloom creatures blocking access to your resources. The game appeals to me because it is all about resource-management, and doesn't involve any twitch or button-mashing skills.
The only thing that is extremely weird about Castleville is its business model, of which I fail to understand how it could possibly work. I've been playing for free for many months now, with no incentive whatsoever to give any money to Zynga. You *can* buy stuff, but everything is so expensively priced and more easily available by other means that I don't see who would actually be buying that stuff. Castleville is based on the old Zynga/Facebook game principle that has you asking your "friends" for the stuff you need instead of paying for it. But as every one of the many millions of Castleville players has the same problem, it is very easy to find lots of "Castleville friends", people you don't know at all, but who are perfectly willing to send you virtual resources in exchange of you sending them back what they need.
Lately that has gotten even weirder, because Zynga is trying to get away from Facebook, and allows you to play their games on Zynga.com. And there you get a sidebar of random strangers asking for stuff, and can make fake friends with a few clicks, even easier than on Facebook. Plus if you are actually using Facebook to communicate with real friends, you can have all your fake friends and game spam on Zynga.com instead. And every friend you have makes it less likely that you buy anything from Zynga. Well, I guess if you have so many millions of players, even 35 cents per player per year adds up to serious money.
Now I only explored PC games. There are more peaceful kingdom-building games on mobile platforms, as looking after your kingdom on your iPhone for 10 minutes from time to time has obvious advantages over doing so on a PC. But I'm wondering why there are so many more peaceful games on mobile platforms, while the PC games are so dominated by games that are all about bashing each other's skulls in. Apart from A Tale in the Desert I'm not aware of any cooperative building games out there. Isn't that sad?