Arms Races are what unimaginative games designers choose as their number one game mechanic. All of the Castle games, and some others (e.g. Inselkampf), use this approach, which means developers spend all their time deciding what to upgrade to stay on the leading edge of the curve. Build too many troops early on, and you’ll waste your resources while your opponents expand and leave you in the dust. Maybe it’s time to think up new mechanics instead of rewarding the best spreadsheet operator.
It’s About Engagement, Stupid
The problem as I see it is one of engagement: What do users do if they aren’t waiting for enough wood, gold, stone, etc., to let them upgrade their mine to the next level? The old-fashioned mechanic of expansion doesn’t quite cut it when you’ve got thousands of players in the same game. The map is finite and densely populated to start with, with room to build being fairly restricted. Game play is unbalanced, very quick at the start with lots of rapid updates, plus bonuses as you play the “Get You Started Tutorial.” I’m not knocking that tutorial, it’s an excellent idea–rewarding people to try out all the game features.
It’s the middle bit, when you’ve used up all your resources and have to wait for an hour or three to add a level. Unless of course you can find some mug in a clan that you’ve joined who’ll ship you lots of resources.
The first city, island or whatever is always the slowest to start with. The second, third, etc., get progressively faster, but then you’re into micro-management hell, spending hours each day just shipping resources to keep improving the experience. Battles interfere with the logistics of moving resources needed to expand the buildings ad infinitum.
Here Are Some Ideas
- Create smaller games for, say, 1,000 players. You can just run more games. That solves the not-enough-space-to-expand issue, plus you can create shroud maps to hide terrain so it needs exploring.
- That also lets you have cities with one-size buildings. If my first city has enormous buildings, why can’t my future cities also start big?
- Limit the size of clans so the biggest can’t win.
Now can someone ship me 8,000 pounds of iron?