Tobold's Blog
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Ikariam mini-review

For the last couple of weeks I have been playing a free browser game called Ikariam. It is similar to other free browser games, like Travian. If you don't know the type, think Civilization in a slowed-down massively multiplayer version. I started Ikariam in the beta, where it was still absolutely free, but while you can still play it for free now, you can now also speed up your progress by paying money, something I didn't want to do.

In Ikariam you start with a town on a randomly chosen small island. The randomly chosen part is important, because it means you can't really play with your friends. I joined Ikariam because DM Osbon had told me about it, but our two towns turned out to be far away from each other, so although we were on the same server we just exchanged goods once. And military cooperation would have been downright impossible.

Every island has building materials and one of four possible other resources: marble, wine, crystal, and sulfur. Marble is needed for most buildings beyond the basic levels. Wine is needed to keep your population happy. Crystal is used for research and to improve your units. And sulfur is needed to build most units. As initially you only have access to one of those goods, but need all four, there is a lot of trading going on. Later you can build colonies on islands with other resources, and get all the goods you need.

Where Ikariam is more advanced than lets say Travian is that it has not only land units, but also ships. There are transport ships for trading and transporting goods. And there are ships for combat. The biggest army can't attack you if it comes from a different island and doesn't have enough ships to beat your naval defense. There is also research, which you advance by building academies, and you can research military, naval, economic, or scientific research. That gives you access to bonuses and new units.

But after a couple of weeks, Ikariam got boring. I had access to all goods through colonies, had most technologies, had 1 million gold, and just out of boredom built a huge army and attacked some other cities. It turned out that Ikariam isn't well balanced here. All these browser games have some way for smaller cities to store goods in warehouses so they can't be robbed, so that players that have been playing longer can't simply rob newer players blind. But in Ikariam even large cities can still hide all of their goods away. Perversely the best defense in Ikariam is to build no army at all, because then you never lose any soldiers. And with all your goods safely hidden, even the biggest army can't do you any harm. I did several raids on other cities and never pillaged more goods than the cost of the raid was. And given that an army is immensely expensive, having an army with nothing to do isn't much fun.
Too bad the game didn't work out so well, it seemed to have some neat basic ideas for a game. (Though i can see some issues that might make it difficult to balance.)
I am still playing Ikariam but i'm a little bored with it as well.
After reading about it here, I decided to give it a go. Seems really slow paced. Is combat interesting at least?

If you are looking for a free RTS/Empire building game, I'd suggest you give Saga a try (www. It's not perfect either, and there's the ol' micro-transaction fees that they're pushing, but it's not bad, IMHO. I'm having fun w/o paying for anything so far. (Admittedly I'm still new at it - lvl 5, lol)
Agreed that it seems to get dull; some of the senior players of our alliance have dropped out for exactly that reason. I log on once a day, ship wine & stone around between my cities, build a building or two, and log out; with an active alliance & politics, conquest might have a point, but that doesn't seem to be developing.

I thought the limited-radius commerce, rather than the global auction house you see in games with a less explicit spatial model, was a nice touch.

One thing that exacerbates the problems with the games is the narrow information channels: I only know anything about what's going on outside my city if I send mail about it, and the only group that it's easy to send mail to is my alliance. The game doesn't tell me about wars or other events on my islands or in the water nearby.
It's an immature game, too much bugs and some options don't work well or are not logical. The potential is great but only in future revisions the game can be more interesting by adding new stuff...
Some of the game rules are nonsense and you can be banned without the possibility of defending yourself.
You can give it a try! It can be fun specially if you play with a group of friends and if you build an alliance with them but expect to find bugs and minor inconveniences that can make you loose your mind... and game resources....
I played this game for about a month and then my wife started playing a week ago. WE GOT BANNED!!! For having similar names, and they wanted more proof to show them that we are 2 different people we were like "Want our id?" needless to say I will go back to my other games that I will pay happily for so I dont have to put up with Poor Customer Service!!!
I played this game for about two months and it was very slow and boring. They updated the game to version 0.3.0 which I hoped would add a new level of enjoyment to the game but not so. Instead I feel it threw the game more off balance but primarily making ground and warship units much cheaper to maintain. Before a larger member could easily attack and pillage a smaller member for resources over and over again. Yes I know Tobold mentioned hiding materials in warehouses but that was changed so very little of your supplies are safe. Anyway with the cheaper military upkeep the larger players have gone on a rampage pillaging smaller towns and the game isn't balanced to deal with that sort of problem. I found no reason to maintain my 5 minute drill per day and deleted my game today.

I wouldn't suggest anyone bother with the time to play. Better to try something like CyberNations which at least has a restriction in place to keep the large players from taking advantage of the new ones.
I had the same experience as Anonymous. I was playing along for a while and was pretty happy until I got my brother into the game. Because we share the same internet connection we got banned too.

The staff was entirely unhelpful in this regard, hiding behind 'policies.' The particularly annoying part about this ban was that prior to the ban I had been in an alliance that was fighting another alliance who was blatantly cheating. They even admitted to us that they were using a bug that enabled them to have huge armies at no upkeep cost and when we complained to the Game Operators, they said they had no plans to do anything about this.

So its a great game, but your account could be banned at any time for a random reason while cheating apparently can be gotten away with.
Just a warning to those who are curious on this game: Do NEVER ever spend real money on it, unless you spend time to make sure you know every little intricate detail of the game rules.

My story will tell you why:

A group of 5 people at work decided to play the game "Ikariam" (also from Gameforge) together and we formed an alliance. During a lunch break, we figured out that we should help one of our colleague by sending him some materials. And so we did. All of us.

Some days later, 3 of us got permanently banned from the game because we had co-operated while sitting on the same network (behind the same firewall). According to the game rules, this is illegal. If we had done the exact same thing, but from our home-networks, it would had been legal, according to the rules Gameforge had created. Everyone reading the License Agreements on all applications and games they play, please raise your hands now.

Getting banned is one thing. We also lost a lot of money. Gameforge do not reimburse the money we had left on our account when they decided to ban us. This make me question their ethical values...

So 3 out of 5 was banned. What happened to the other 2? They did the exact same thing from the same network, why didn't they get banned? I don't know, but they have not heard a thing from Gameforge.

And the dumbest thing, according to the "support" people: We can create new accounts and then spend more money on those... yeah right. :-/
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