Good Wednesday to you,
I am planning on creating a post-mortem analysis for some games I have recently played or enjoyed and felt that it was worth blogging about.
To start of let me introduce you to Dragons of Atlantis (DOA) made by Kabam. Kabam is a developer of “Hardcore Social Games” using a free-to-play business model. They mainly release their games on Facebook, but also have a playable client on their website. They mainly make strategy RPG games or Real Time Strategy MMO’s that can be played in a browser.
The main point of DOA is to build an empire while finding and raising dragons.
The way I was introduced to this game was via the Google Chrome Application Store. Since I rarely play video games (<10 hours month) due to classwork, I am always looking for quick games that I can play for 10-30min that offer a quick and entertaining gaming experience. From the past I have been able to find these types of games on the Chrome App store, which is why I browse the game section every now and then. I find the Chrome App store a good place to find some quality games without going to Kongregate or some other free online game site with thousands of flash games.
The first thing that attracted me was the dragons. At this time I was stoked that Skyrim was coming out and developed a 6th sense that made anything with dragons and Skyrim terminology pop out. Without reading the description I installed the application and got distracted and left it in my App collection. After a few days when I took another procrastination break on the internet I remembered that I downloaded an app for this game and decided to give it a try.
Essentially the point of the game is to gather resources (lumber, metal, stone, food and gold) and build an army to conquer wildernesses (lake, hill, mountain, forest, savannah and plains) and indigenous enemy camps. You use the resources to create and upgrade your buildings (level 1 – 11) and army (Conscripts to Minotaurs to Giants etc.).
Resources can be gained by creating fields (lumber mills, quarries, mines and farms) or by looting and pillaging camps and cities.
Buildings are what your city is comprised of. The buildings like garrisons allow you to build your army and a science centre allows you to research new technologies. There are many other buildings for different purposes like a house to increase your population and a theatre for increasing the overall happiness of your population.
The player is governed by a level and power. Power is essentially what most other games use as experience. Power is governed by the size of your army, level of all your buildings and a few other insignificant gameplay elements. The only real benefit to having a high level and power is to join stronger alliances (guilds) to get higher in the leaderboard ranking. Some gameplay elements like building an outpost and unlocking other dragons are locked if you do not meet the level requirement.
Researching also plays a huge part in the gameplay. In order to get better troops and be able to train a greater dragon to fight in battles, the player has to sacrifice resources to research certain technologies. For example, the player can increase his lumber production by researching Woodcraft. If the player would like to train Longbowmen he would have to have Woodcraft lvl 5 in order to research Weapons Calibration to create the Longbowmen.
Each player starts of with a basic dragon keep at level 1. At level 1 the player starts of with a dragon egg. The more they upgrade it the larger their greater dragon grows. Dragons are very powerful and require lots of resources to advance in level. Once the player manages to find 4 pieces of dragon armour by attacking enemy camps he is able to research Aerial Combat and have his dragon fight with him in battles. The idea is to bring your dragon into battle so she can find other dragon eggs for you to expand your empire with.
The penultimate game mechanic are the troops. Essentially you can group all of them into 5 categories (5th is dragons):
- Pack mules – These are somewhat the “bitch” troops that only exist to carry your spoils of war (resources). Once you defeat someone in battle you get to loot their place. Normal troops cannot carry too much weight and make up for that in combat skill.
- Speed Troops – These are the faster troops (Swift Strike Dragons, Spies etc.) that are used for killing ranged enemies. They are also good for farming for resources because they can reach areas fast, kill quickly in large numbers and return to your city with the spoils of war. This would be faster then sending out an army with many pack mules.
- Ranged Troops – From what I have noticed these are the strongest troops able to demolish the enemy if deployed in large numbers. They seem to be very effective against melee troops.
- Melee Troops – These are the cheap cannon fodder troops that are easy to build and effective when used in very large numbers. However there are stronger melee focused troops like giants and ogres.
Battling is pretty much the last part of the game. In order to start a battle the player picks a target: wilderness, AI enemy camp or another player city. An attack is simply initiated by selecting a General (can use a Facebook friend to be your general) to lead your army and then selecting however many troops to send into battle. If the player attacks a:
- Wilderness – They are able to place an outpost on that wilderness and get an hourly resource increase proportional to its level. For example, a level 2 hill would give a 10% increase to stone per hour to the player whereas a level 8 lake would give a 40% increase to food. The reward for defeating a wilderness is a small number of resources of that wilderness type, the only reason to attack a wilderness is for the hourly bonus.
- Anthropus Camp – The indigenous camp can be attacked for a substantial amount of food and a minimal supply of other resources. The camps are a good place to find items and if the player attacks level 5+ camps he is able to find pieces of dragon armour.
- Player City – These are the other players in the game. Attacking them is the biggest risk of all. Cities have the most amount of resources however they could have the strongest defences. If a player makes the mistake of fighting someone much stronger, they can loose their army and entice a counter-attack. Worst of all if the player attacks a city in an Alliance, he would have 5 or more other people teaming up to fight him because of his initial unprovoked attack while the victim’s guild fights for revenge.
Overall the point of the game is to expand your empire by finding other dragons to build cities around. To find other dragons the player must train his main dragon to fight in battle. In order to train the main dragon the player must procure resources. In order to attain resources faster, the player must construct more buildings and train an army to loot and pillage camps and wildernesses.
Likes and Praises
I have been playing this game for about a week now and I believe it is a fun casual game. Since I do not have the time to sit in front of my wonderful gaming set up (55″ Plasma and 5.1 surround with my Xbox 360) and play Skyrim/Dead Island/MGS HD Collection for hours, this game fills a bit of my gaming appetite. It requires about 5-10 minutes of thought in deciding on what troops to build and what to upgrade then you wait for the command to execute while to get back to your previous task. I found this helpful for time management since I would upgrade an item that would take an hour to complete and then send all my platoons for an attack. After an hour or whenever I remembered I would come back and do it again.
What DOA and most Facebook games do well is addicting you to the game. You become compelled to create a gigantic city and gather all these dragons to reach a goal that you don’t know. You end up adjusting your schedule to comprise for the wait times in the game so that you can create another task as to not waste time. This is where the line of a “fun” game and a game “addiction” begin to cross. When you are setting an alarm at 4:30am just to wake up because your Weapons Calibration Lvl 6 is done and you want to start researching Mercantilism lvl 3 so it will be done by the time you start class is when the game begins to take over your life. Surely this might not have been the designers intention, but nonetheless it is a problem.
I think the best part about this game is the presentation. There are many games that have pretty much the same content as DOA like Tribal Wars and TRAVIAN however DOA does a fairy good job in its aesthetics. While these browser games won’t bring anything special to the table in terms of graphics (Good technical rendering techniques) however DOA’s overall aesthetic is very good. The game elements look every well put together with a nice colour palette and bright colours. Also its not like some other browser games where you are loading web pages, it seems to be presented using flash which allows it to have animations playing. I played Tribal Wars a few years ago and I remember how terrible the aesthetics were. While graphics may make games looks pretty, aesthetics pretty much bring everything together in terms of sound, visuals and gameplay. I think DOA has some pretty decent aesthetics and it would be nice to see more animation rather then just building and dragon animations.
Dislikes and Criticism
I really disliked some technical aspects of the game. Whatever server they were using was way too slow and the update timer for wait times and resources was painfully slow at times. The game would state that it only would take 5 min to complete a task but with the server lag it would take 8-10 min to update. Also at times your entire army would be empty. They would be lost in a state of virtual limbo in-between your city and the wilderness where you can only wonder if your troops are okay and if they will come home safe.
However it seems like the technical issues are being dealt with, and occur the most in high populated servers. Since the game is free-to-play and seems to be in some hybrid beta-release stage where they are adding and fixing content weekly these bugs are expected.
I think their resource system could use a bit of a revamp. Food is a pain to get during the first day and after that point you begin hoarding millions of bushels of food not knowing what to do with it. Stone on the other hand you rarely use, but when you do, the game requires thousands of tonnes of stone to continue upgrade items. Lumber and metal are needed throughout the game as they are the main resource needed for upgrading dragons and training your army. It would be nice if they incorporated more food in that equation to equal out the metal and lumber consumption.
Since this is meant to be a social game, there are very few social widgets available. For now there is just a world and guild chat box, marketplace and a simple guild menu. There should be more options to interact and friend other players to add to the “social” aspect of the game. The marketplace could use more options, as of now you can only trade resources for money, it would be better to trade resource for resources and add a few more options (haggling, gifting etc.). The chat box serves a decent purpose however the guild menu needs a revamp. Aside from browsing other players to send messages, resources and reinforcing their troops, there really isn’t a lot to do. There should be some way for the Guild Master to communicate with the members and ways to coordinate attacks and create treaties and other items like that.
From DOA I have learned how important the technical side is. The server issues are almost game breaking and lack polish, nothing breaks immersion more then a “sorry can’t load page” or issues with resources and in game items. I have also seen the importance of balance, DOA does a pretty decent job of balancing the resources and maybe the influx of food and massive stone upgrades are intentional to let the player focus his time on lumber and metal.
Overall, DOA and social games are good to study for game designers because the design of these games is completely different from any other game I have seen. There are several new parameters to take in as opposed to making a puzzle game or a first person shooter.
Thank you for reading 😀
You have just been Moose’d