Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Shop Heroes

Napoleon is said to have called England a nation of shopkeepers, presumably in contrast to warrior nations. But while there are a lot of games in which you can play a warrior, there are a lot less games in which you can keep a shop. Recettear comes to ming. Of course some MMORPGs like Ultima Online or Star Wars Galaxies enabled you to open a shop, but it is far more frequent that you're playing the hero instead of the shopkeeper. Recently the Apple app store featured Shop Heroes, so I went and tried it out. It turns out that keeping shop is more fun than you might think.

The basic gameplay of Shop Heroes is that you have a shop with workstations and resource bins. The resource bins create basic resources over time, and with the right workers hired and the right workstation you can transform those resources into weapon, armor, and other typical fantasy game equipment. Heroes come to your shop and buy things. Sometimes they ask for the stuff you already have in your inventory, sometimes they want something you need to craft first. There is also a system of "hearts", which you can spend to persuade your customers to pay more for an item, or to buy something else, and which goes up if you sell them what they want.

Curiously the heroes never equip the gear you sell them. Instead you can equip them with gear and send them out adventuring. They will earn xp and levels from that, and bring back rare resources for crafting. Crafting has a huge "tech tree", where crafting basic items often enough unlocks blueprints for higher level items. So over time everything levels up: The heroes, their gear, the items you can craft, the workers, even the workstations and other furniture.

In addition there is a city shared by 4+ players in an absolutely brilliant system: The buildings in the city level up in function of what the players invested in them. But your investments remain yours: If you quit a city or get kicked out by the major, you take your investment with you and contribute it to the next city you join. The sum of the investment of all players determines the level of buildings, and that unlocks heroes, workers, new resources, and gives various bonuses.

Shop Heroes runs on iOS, Android, and Facebook. You can link the iOS and Android versions to Facebook and run your same shop on different platforms if you want. The game is free, but of course you can spend real money on buying gems, and gems can speed up a lot of things, or get you additional slots for workers, crafting, or quests. In general I found the monetization scheme unobtrusive, except for one case: When you send out heroes on quests, there is a chance that a piece of their gear will break, and then the game is very pushy about offering you to repair that item for gems. But you can ignore that, let the gear break, and craft a new piece. Quests also can give you chests, and it is rarely that you find a key for those chests, so you might be tempted to unlock the chests for gems. I did buy the starter package for $5 which came with various additional slots, and found that to be good value for money. I wouldn't go overboard with buying gems and using them for everything, it doesn't really make the game more fun.

Overall I like Shop Heroes as a resource and time management game. You constantly need to make decisions, like whether you craft just what your customers demand, or whether you produce a lot of one specific item to unlock better versions. As crafting or quests frequently take minutes to finish once you have reached a certain level, it isn't a game which takes your full attention for hours; but it is quite fun if you just play it occasionally, or in parallel to watching TV. Recommended!

Hmmmm... it seems to be the perfect candidate for poo time. I'll give it a try but I fear I'll inevitably hit a wall as soon as the game will start nagging me about real money payments.
I recall an old pen & paper RPG named "Maelstrom" in which you could play fruiterers etc. Ever come across this one? Figure you might have since you do pen & paper and are, like me, not excessively young. :-)

I remember Maelstrom. Without googling it I remember it was published by Penguin as a regular paperback book and was written by someone in their teens. It got a lot of publicity for being a "literary" approach to what was then still a controversial genre (at least as far as mainstream media was concerned).

I had a copy - probably still do, somewhere - but I never played it.
Stopped playing it already, because of the social aspect of it. You have to be part of a "guild" (called "City") with other people to unlock mandatory elements of the game and my friends don't play any game.

I tried joining random cities. The first one was really good, but I got kicked out after 2 days because the leaders were pretty hardcore and invested tons of money in the city, while there was no way I could have done the same. My next City became a dud...I was the only active member 2 days in.

Another game wasted by tacked on social component.

P.S.: no, despite the appearances, you can't level your city alone. It costs waaaaaaaaay too much money.
I remember playing this on the web (kongregate maybe?). But the graphics was not the same at all, it was a lot more cartoonish.
In any case it got annoying really fast and I dumped it because of the repetitive gameplay and the problem Carl mentioned about developing the city alone. I don't remember having even tried to join a city, I guess I remained with the default one.

Sounds like they expanded on the idea from Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, a gem of an Rpg/management Sim from Japan that got a western release in 2010. It has much the same themes: primarily you run an item shop and haggle with customers over the price of your wares. You also can send adventurers out into dungeons and they can bring back things for you to see. Crafting specific items can also be done for customers who will come in requesting specific things.

Still $20 on Steam but is discounted as part of just about every sale and is well worth picking up
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears as though you cannot hire more than two workers at a time until you either spend $4.99 on the bundle (250 gems) or hit level 12. And unless you have more than two workers, that means you cannot actually craft armor for the heroes you are attempting to send out on quests/attack bosses. Is this accurate? Am I really supposed to spam weapons from level 6 --> level 12 before I can actually equip my heroes with armor?
The limit on two workers is two workers *at the same time*. Workers keep their level and skills if you fire them. So the idea is to craft a stock of weapons, fire the weaponcrafter, hire the armorcrafter, craft a stock of armor. Rinse and repeat. Costs a few hundred gold, but even at low level that isn't significant.
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