Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
 
Anno Online closed beta

Just to let you know, the English version of Anno Online went into closed beta (me, I play in the German language open beta). There are a number of reasons why this game stands out from the usual Free2Play browser game crowd: The game is not dumbed down from the single-player versions, only slowed down in time. Anno Online is a complex economic simulation game with no combat. Not only is there no "Pay2Win", as there is no conflict, but also the Free2Play model is based on the most advantageous purchases being one-off payments. You don't buy some double xp scroll over and over, you buy an additional slot for another island once and that is going to be helpful as long as you play the game.

Now I am very much aware that this is by no means a mass market game. Generally browser "strategy" games in which you need to think very little, but can grief other players a lot appear to be selling a lot better than complex games without combat. But I would hope that as the market for games evolves, there is more room for more mature games. For me Anno Online is the perfect "play for 15 minutes twice per day" game. A game about careful planning, not instant gratification.

Compared to other city-building games I very much like how Anno Online handles the economy. In many games you need to supply resources to your inhabitants to make them happy, and then those inhabitants pay taxes to finance you empire. In Anno Online the inhabitants don't pay any taxes, but they pay for the resources they demand. You don't produce linen shirts because something terrible happens if your people don't get their shirts, you produce them because your people pay more for those shirts than it costs you to produce them. And while producing goods to sell them to your people is the standard way of making money, you can also sometimes buy those goods for less than it would cost you to produce them, and thus make even bigger profits through trading than through manufacture.

By splitting your economy up over several islands, with restrictions on what you can produce where, Anno Online adds a nice level of complexity where you need to ship goods from one place to another, and optimize transport. I find it deeply satisfying to have a game where I succeed by thinking instead by pressing buttons quickly. Recommended!

Comments:
"Anno Online is a complex economic simulation game with no combat."

Off-topic: I think non-combat activities in MMOs represent a great opportunity to introduce a much needed innovation to the genre. We already have enough combat centric gear grinders, and we're getting more by the day.

So developers ... show me somehing different, and I'll show you my money.
 
A very tempting game indeed. I was filling out their signup form when I noticed that it is Ubisoft. No thanks!
 
Hmmm I wonder if we're playing the same Anno Online....

I'm on the french server.
The game is a 100% dumbed down version of similar games like Caesar III, Simcity or Patrician II. In particular, there's no feedback loop people->workforce. You can pretty much stop supplying stuff and the only consequence is that you gain less, but there's no catastrophic sequence: less supply -> people leave -> no workers -> even less supply. This was happening in all the games mentioned above.

The "complex economic simulation" boils down to: count number of houses, put numbers in simulator to see how many factories you need, build them.

After the last patch, the game has become pure P2W: you can now buy *islands* with double fertilities and excellent resources. In particular you have a wax/grapes one with stone/iron/anything you could wish for which is on sale for "only" 80E. Needless to say, there's no in-game way to get anything even remotely close.

Playing without extra island spots is extremely handicapping (and BTW there's no ingame way to know how much the extra islands cost, as you can see the price of the first one, with no guarantees that the additional ones are the same cost).

The building costs are completely out of balance, making the advancment look like "wait 1 day, buy one building, see you tomorrow".

There's no multiplayer element: you can add friends, but you cannot visit their islands, and trading is extremely limited (and not-automatable, compared to the rest).

There are a ton of bugs, many of which are completely blatant and show complete disregard for game quality (like resources vanishing when you cancel trade routes). It's a fine example of "we'll let you pay to play our alpha version and finance the game developement".

Overall, it's pushing me back go TSO.....
 
I was filling out their signup form when I noticed that it is Ubisoft. No thanks!

So you are basically complaining that Anno Online has always-on DRM? I thought that would be obvious.

You can pretty much stop supplying stuff and the only consequence is that you gain less, but there's no catastrophic sequence

That is pretty much what I said in my post. I'm not sure a catastrophic sequence would be a good idea in a game in which it can take months to build up your empire.

After the last patch, the game has become pure P2W: you can now buy *islands* with double fertilities and excellent resources.

I've read that same complaint on the forums and found it pretty stupid. 1) How can it be Play2Win if you aren't in competition with anybody? And 2) Why would buying an island be Play2Win, while the already available island slots wasn't considered as such? In my opinion the island slots give a much better return on real money investment than the new islands.

Overall, it's pushing me back go TSO.....

I found TSO both less complex than Anno Online, and rather annoying in the long run, as I had to click on the same farms and mines over and over every day.
 
A lack of competition certainly means it isn't Pay2Win at all. What are you winning?

Especially when you go on to complain that there isn't really any multiplayer interaction in the game! If someone can spend $100 to have more fun and it doesn't hurt you in any conceivable way how can you call it P2W?

You may be able to make the case that the single player game where you don't pay a lot of money is boring, but that's an entirely different kettle of fish. That particular business model (essentially the same as shareware game of old) has been around a long time. It may not be something you want to get involved in, but it is not P2W.
 
Since when P2Win has required PvP?
With this logic any PvE game could get away from selling +100% character power "boosts" with the justification that there's nothing to win.

If tomorrow Blizzard starts selling +100% raid boost" items, this will turn WoW into P2W, even if your progress does not hinder in any way the other's player progress.

Anno has a pretty well defined "win" condidion: reach 4k nobles. If by paying you can get around any complexity, then the game is pretty much P2W. Even more so when the store proposes items which are impossible to obtain ingame.
 
Since when P2Win has required PvP?

P2Win requires AT LEAST some form of competition. And as you said, in Anno Online you can't even show off your empire to your friends and brag. There is no real "win conditions" beyond the goals you made up for yourself, whether that is 4000 nobles or anything else.

Island slots are not just some dumb "make game easier" purchase. They increase your options, and make your island empire more complex. Nobody would pay for an "instant 4000 nobles, game ends" Pay2Win purchase.
 
So you are basically complaining that Anno Online has always-on DRM? I thought that would be obvious.

It's not so much a problem with having to always be online. That's kind of "well duh" (I think you read my comment as if I were a troll). MMOs have done that for years. I have issues with their history of really badly done (and covert) DRMs, like root kits. Remember when "Pool of Radiance" formatted hard drives on install? If any company is going to pull a repeat of that, it will be ubisoft.
 
I don't understand your hate of Ubisoft. They did bad things long ago? Well, every game company did. Is there any current Ubisoft game installing rootkits on computers? I don't think so! They only DRM they recently use is always-on DRM.

I seems a bit crazy to hate a company because it might some day put a rootkit on your computer.
 
They increase your options, and make your island empire more complex. Nobody would pay for an "instant 4000 nobles, game ends" Pay2Win purchase.

I don't see all the complexity you talk of. For once, pay islands make complexity *a lot less* because they remove space constraints, which is the only complexity present in the game. I've actually decided to see if it's possible to get 4k nobles without any additional island slot (and without commerce, of course).

And I'm pretty sure people would pay for the insta-win 4k nobles, especially if it were sold as 8 different "+500 nobles" boosts.
 
Ive put well over 200 hours into both Anno 2070 and Anno 1404. I even have Dawn of Discovery for the Wii. They have a great game pace where I can really see the impact of my decisions magnified over time by building masterfully created supply chains.

I am really excited to try this out, it will be great for me to have a 10 min a day game that is a bit more involved than my normal iphone time wasters.
 
Yes, the latest issue from Ubisoft is not an issue any longer. It has been patched. But 2012 wasn't all that long ago really. And while it wasn't technically a rootkit and was more like a sketchy trojan, they were still playing fast and loose with my PCs security in the very recent past.

 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
You do realize that they are going to add combat to take over other people's islands, who knows when, but yes this will make those extra islands and resources a p2w game in ways.

Especially if they add combat bonuses as they probably will.

Frankly even right now the game is lacking in content as it's been mentioned right now it's simply a single player game with chat and that's about it.

At least tso had trading with other people early on and you could trade the cash shop items to make your land better.

There is very little to do also once you get the lands you unlock opened and fill them with a decent layout as it becomes a game where all you do is log in 2-3 times a day and upgrade some of your homes.

This is around for a few days until you upgrade enough that you can actually build ships and even then it's just the same thing and nothing new except some different resources.

There is nothing really new once you get to this point and it gets very boring as simply city building alone a online game does not make.

With no risks / rewards not to mention the game is advertised as a economy / trading based game and you won't even need to worry that much about the economy as it's very easy to accomplish and the trading is not something most will experiance as it takes you over a week to even reach that point and it's really not needed by that time.
 
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