My brain has surfaced from the depths of family life. At least long enough for me to compose thoughts into words and sentences!
I’ve been dabbling in phone games a lot for the past two years because I love having hopes shattered by bad freemium models. But in that time I’ve played two games that ran into the concept of community in interesting ways.
Game the first is Tap Titans 2. This is a clicker or incremental game. You “fight” titans, and can unlock heroes and artifcats that either improve your performance or automatically attack on your behalf. It is a perfect skinner box of the prestige-based clicker loop. The first game was an entire single player affair. Even the tournaments are really just single player races against the clock to see if you can hit an arbitrary stage cap. The second game is also single player, except the devs added Clans. You join a clan, and can contribute to Clan Quest fights. These run for a limited time and each player gets one “free” 30 second attack every hour. Killing the CQ Boss increases your CLan’s “Clan Ship” bonus. The clan ship fires a large hit into your personal game every few seconds. Cool. But they also gave the clans a chat room in the app and ranks. Turns out that is a pretty good way to get people to identify not with the game (which is stupid and pointless) but with the other people playing the game (which makes for intangible pull-strings that keep you coming in). It’s a pretty cool way to let players create little communities that reinforce participating.
The second game is RAWAR ASYNC. If you go look for this, there is a game called RAWAR. Same dev, not the game I am going to talk about. It’s a multiplayer RTS with horrible graphics and very simple rules. But RAWAR ASYNC is strangely compelling because there is nothing there but a simple game based around controlling space and capture enough “Milestone” tiles to win a personal or alliance victory. The build list consists of Armies, Boats, Castles, Walls, and Sea Walls. You can conquer goldmines to get income to build the other things. That’s it, and they all do what you think they do. The graphics are squares and stick figures, and it is gloriously unsophisticated. The entire point of the game is the mechanics of the game. Which is where the game soars and fails at the same time.
Here is how a game goes. Some player decides to generate a map. Then other players spawn in when they join. You start with one tile having some 50 units, and a random number of other tiles with 0-9 units. This is all random. You then build castles to build troops to take over squares and cover the map. You can make alliances of up to three players, and there is an in game chat. The big maps can end up with at least 9 players on them, so it can get frenetic. Figuring out when to align with whom is a big part of being able to win. The other interesting thing is that over the last three weeks, it seems like there are about 10 people that regularly play this app. Maybe fifteen. We are a bunch of weirdos playing some tiny free game in beta on our Android phones. At first this was really cool. Then it changed.
One really funky mechanic of the game is you can resign from a map. But then you can rejoin. Your old squares become inert and hold whatever you left there, but your respawn gets your 50 troop tile and your starting gold and some random tiles that were NPC held. This means you can, if you desire, spawn snipe. Join game, assess, resign, join, assess, resign, etc. Sometimes this is valid, like getting your 50 troops on a single tile island in the sea. But you can also do it just because. And it covers the map with 50 troop dead zones, and lets you build a bunch of walls and castles and resign, leaving barriers in place. For a few weeks, this wasn’t much of a problem. Then something happened, and now some of the few players will respawn multiple times to find the best spot, or in one case a player got bored and spawned sniped me repeatedly, surrounding my initial area with walls and castles and wiping out any “normal” strategy to counter this.
This is all fine, and I’m not particularly angry at that player. He was having his fun within the rules of the game. But knowing how small the group of players is, and how long games can takes (days), I have no desire to log in again. It’s not worth it, for me, to play a game where I can spend a day trying to play well, and have another player decide they just want to remove me this round. This wasn’t like a League of Legends toxic swear fest or such, but knowing this guy could get bored and do this utterly shut down my caring about the game.
So there you, two little case examples of how the community playing a game can help or hinder growth of the game.