Tobold's Blog
Monday, December 10, 2012
Peaceful games

I am currently in the mood for more peaceful games, games in which you craft and build instead of kill and destroy. Looking for such games automatically leads me away from triple-A PC games and towards other platforms: Social games on Facebook, mobile games on iOS, and the like. There is a strong correlation between "casual" games and peaceful games.

Facebook games tend to two defining features: A limit on the number of clicks per session, and the need to bother your friends with requests. Many people simply consider Facebook games to be unplayable because of these two features. But as real life often means I have limited amounts of disposable time for playing, a limit of time spent per game session is actually not so bad. And I got around the friend bothering problem by making lots of fake friends on Facebook (to the point that Facebook is now growling at me when I want to add new friends, reminding me that Facebook is only for real life friends).

The early Facebook games often didn't have much gameplay, nor graphics. That fortunately has evolved. There is much more "game" to the new Farmville 2 or Cityville 2 than to their predecessors; and they look graphically a lot more appealing too. But even among Zynga games there is a range of different complexities: Farmville 2 is on the low side, needing not much resource management, and not much interaction with friends. Cityville 2 is comparatively a lot more complicated and in my opinion somewhat overdoes the friend request part. Fortunately I currently have a bug in Cityville 2 where I am not limited in how many times per day I can send out requests to my friends. That led to an explosive growth of my city, but the forums confirm this to be a bug and not a feature, with not everybody being affected. A MMORPG couldn't continue running with some players having such huge advantage over the others, but Zynga appears not to care too much, nor in a hurry to fix the bug.

If you can't stand the friend request principle, you can find similar peaceful games without the need for friends on the iOS. For example Hay Day is a sort of Farmville on the iPad/iPhone, but without the need to ask friends for stuff or a limitation on the number of clicks per session. Instead everything needs some time, which still leads to short play sessions in which you set everything up and then need to wait for crops to grow and items to be produced.

If you prefer games where you can play long sessions, Puzzle Craft might be a good option. Here collecting resources is a tile-matching puzzle mini-game. A farm puzzle provides food, hay, and wood, and then the food is used as fuel for a mining puzzle which provides stone and metal. Resources can also be used to build up your village with various building helping you with the puzzles, or to make tools. Overall a nice combination of puzzle game and crafting/building game.

Other than Puzzle Craft there often is no "game" to resource gathering, just a simple clicking and/or waiting. The game is in the resource management. The advantage of that is that these games generally aren't twitchy at all, and don't need fast reflexes. I find it interesting how closely slow games are correlated with peaceful games, while most games that need fast reflexes are about killing and destroying stuff. Presumably that is a question of demographics, with the fast killer games being targeted at a mostly male and adolescent target audience, while the peaceful games are more likely to appeal to female and/or older gamers. With the average age of gamers going up, I expect more peaceful games in the future. Including big budget PC games, like the new Sim City.

Have you ever tried SpaceChem? It is one of the best puzzle games on the PC. One of the best things about it is that although the levels are challenging there is never a unique solution so there is always room for creativity. Most satisfyingly you can make incremental progress towards a solution so that even if you don't crack it on the first attempt you never feel like you have wasted your time.

Don't worry about it being a busman's holiday. The chemistry is quite fake. Those in the know have said the game is more akin to programming than real chemistry.
Give Waking Mars a go. It's a nice peaceful game where the goal is to activate lifeforms throughout Martian caverns.

It's not particularly challenging but gives a few hours of entertainment.
The industry is following this player fad, where faster = action. I'm always denouncing that is not how I feel at all. I think Vanguard is really action packed.

It's how it's disseminated. If you only look for action in moving pixels and how fast those pixels move, then you're going to have characters that spin like a world wind for a few seconds, while a giant light-show goes off.

In vanguard, a Knight is going to more realistically swing his swords and make more Human-esque physical gesturing, but you have, what I think is, wonderful control over actually managing many, many buffs, skills and attacks. I feel I actually have a direct link to how I'm making an enemies health meter go down. That to me is a TON of action.

If you haven't tried the Age of Wushu beta, you're missing out. This is the surprise of surprises in the MMO-sphere since WoW came out.

Me and another Massively staffer can't speak more highly of it. He even said it's so much more than just an MMORPG. He also said it was just amazing.

And I agree. While there is one-metric-ton of PvP everywhere in the gigantic world, there's so much to do that's sort of about living the Wuxia(Kung-Fu) lifestyle.

I can sit around and do Kung-fu practice solo or with a group of up to 10 total players and it's really just your character doing slow, mellow kata practices built around a stripped down DDR control.

ALL crafting uses different mini-games. They are fully-fledged games of there own, but they weaved them into crafting in really creative ways.

I make herbs(potions), every manufactuing skill utilizes their own version of a Match-3 game(It's essentially designed exactly like Puzzle Quest).

You get better and learn, earn new attacks and skill.

To actually make something, you play Match-3, but solo, with a limited number of moves to fill up the crafting bar. But the "recipes" can be played different ways. One way is to try and make better versios and there's some kind of algorithm that decides it during play. Like if you match more reds than blues you'll get one thing, but if you match enough of all colors before the amount of moves you have run out or before you accidentally score a success, you could get yet another thing.

I don't even know exactly how it decides. It could be random, but I don't think it is. And I don't know if Life(craft)-skill effects it. Maybe when I get better, that same dinky recipe may let me make yet something else, that would be cool, but is speculation.

I LOVE games like WURM, Puzzle Quest, Minecraft, and just the crafting side of many other games.

I'm really enamored by Age of Wushu. If they don't undermine anything with the cash-shop, it will be a dream come true for me. It's amazing. I can't say enough good things about it, and no. No one is paying or "encouraging" me to say anything about anything.
I never liked puzzles but I fell for a board-game by Reiner Knizia - Keltis that is turned into an iPad game.

You can get it for less than 4 euros and it's pretty addictive. There's a campaign mode that you can unlock if you like it, there's play vs AI (up to 3 hard opponents), and there's multiplayer - either online or using the iPad as a table.

Also on the iPad, I play Dragonvale, where you breed dragons. You can race them but that's as competitive as you can get. No violence and it's free.
You should try Port Royale 3. Ive been hooked on it recently. 2 different campaigns, one offensive one economic. If you want a peaceful game with depth you should try it.
If you haven't already, try Plague Inc (iOS). While not entirely peaceful (winning involves eradicating all humans on Earth after all), it is very strategic, not twitchy at all, and each game runs for 20-30 minutes (not very long per se, and not plant-and-wait).
For what it's worth, I enjoy slow-paced games about killing and destruction. And I agree they can be hard to find. Lately I've been playing Blackwings.Defender on my iPod. It ends up working sort of like Plants Vs. Zombies if you controlled the zombies.
I'm quite fond of the casual games from GameHouse (previously Real). They have a free ad-supported game every day. They are usually but not always falling in the categories of Hidden Object, Match 3, and Time Management. I don't care for the latter but if you like Farmville type games, you might. And an ad every few minutes (when I'm wasting time anyway) is not too much of an imposition. If you really like the game you can always buy the ad-free version.
Have you ever looked at Puzzle Pirates? It's a Java-based MMO where you take on the role of a pirate. Accomplishing anything, from crafting to sailing to fighting, is achieved via an appropriate puzzle mini-game.
I played Puzzle Pirates back in 2004/2005.
Hopefully this is just a phase you are going that don't involve mayhem and slaughter? Nonsense! LOL seriously though I do the same thing, though I can't stand pretty much all genres of the RTS/strategy/farm sort, and usually end up in a car racing title or puzzle game to scratch that itch. I personally love titles like Universe Sandbox, Dear Esther (short but worth it), Nightsky, Trauma and Zen Bound 2. All great, non-violent games with lots of potential.
Triple Town is a game I'm very addicted to on my Nexus 7. I think there's an iOS version and I saw it also on the Steam Store for PC (with enhanced graphics and tons more features it seems).

I seriously recommend trying it out, it's a great little puzzler. I go the easy route with no ninjas, but there are plenty of modes to play with. :)
You can try ZombieFarm or... um Wurm Online ? Just don't piss off the deer. :P
I'd recommend strategy/ifiction hybrid King of Dragon Pass. Windows/ios.

And Scribblenauts series. It's hilarious.
The people behind Puzzle Pirates have a Dr.Who game out now. It is similar in terms of mini-games but I didn't find it as good, and I suspect they are more intent on your money than Puzzle Pirates (in which a small purchase of doubloons lasts nearly forever).
You could always do Minecraft in peaceful mode, or creative if you won't want to bother gathering resources.

I just bought Civ V on a Steam sale a couple weeks ago and have been playing it constantly. My most entertaining play through to date I did just this weekend. I played as Ghandi and went for a single city cultural victory. I managed to win without firing a single shot except for fighting off some barbarians in the first 30 rounds or so.
I guess I've found the KING of peaceful-fps-games:

A first-person, essentially combat-free survival game by IonFx, aka brothers Joe and Bob Johnson, and it’s out now. I’ve been exploring its green and dangerous land, and here’s what I made of it (rockpapershotgun review).

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