How much will Lord of Ultima Change the Online Strategy Game Marketplace?

The Online Strategy Games Blog (one of my favourite blogs after my own) has a guest article by Jonah Alexander in which he speculates about how the new Lord of Ultima game being released by EA (Electronic Arts) will affect the Online Strategy Games marketplace. I recommend reading the whole things, but here’s part of it:

The addition of EA into the market, at first glance, might seem unfair to many of the smaller, low-budget teams already making strategy games, but I wouldn’t be too worried about them. Consider that many of the titles currently on the free-to-play market are essentially clones of popular games, usually with a slight graphics or theme change. Their game plan is probably something along the lines of create as many mediocre games that play like the successful games as quickly and cheaply as possible and chances are we’ll make profit.

My hope is that EA’s level of quality for Lord of Ultima will force some of these quick-cash-in developers to at least put a little bit more polish into their games in order to try and keep up. I’m not knocking anyone for being not having a huge team or being restricted by a low budget, but a lack of quality is certainly something they can address.

I think it’s more likely that if Lord of Ultima proves to be a runaway success, then quick-cash developers will just try to imitate it as quickly as they can. Lazy game companies out for a quick buck aren’t going to suddenly morph into hard-working game producers with original ideas just because Lord of Ultima is succesful (which I’m not completely convinced it will be, but I wish it the best of luck).

It’s sad that there are so many online games that are just pale imitations of Travian and other succesful games, but it’s nothing new to the videogame industry. There were dozens if not hundred of Super Mario Brothers rip-offs that no one remembers anymore.

It was the same way with Pong, as this great video illustrates: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/angry-video-screwattack/62615 (I’ve been looking for an excuse to link to this guy ever since I started this blog)

Anytime a game is succesful, you get bad imitations. It’s happened with Travian, and it will happen with Lord of Ultima too if that game manages to go far.

Online Gaming and Music

If you’ve been visiting this site for a while, you’ve probably got a good idea about what my musical tastes are like.(See the Brand New video I recently posted for one example).

Since I’m a pretty hardcore gamer, it probably comes as no surprise that I have specific music that I like to listen to when I play Travian and other online games. There’s an interesting post by Goemon over at Online Strategy Games where he discusses some good songs to listen to when playing Lord of Ultima. One of his recommendations:

I prefer something a little more relaxed for my Travian playing, normally something with an epic feel to it. I usually listen to a band like U2 or The Tragically Hip. Coldplay’s latest album has a nice militaristic feel it, even though Coldplay is a pretty mellow band.

Recently I made a Mix playlist to listen to, where I alternate between songs that I like and music from the soundtrack of Breath of Fire 2 (one of my favourite RPGs for Super Nintendo back in the day). A lot of the music from that game goes really good with Travian. Here’s an example:

Do you have music that you like to listen to when you’re playing Travian? Leave a comment after this post and let me know!

The Rise of Free-to-Play Online Games

I came across this while visiting Online Strategy Games:

Electronic Arts is jumping into the Browser-Based Strategy Games bandwagon, with their new “Lord of Ultima” game. The website Gamesutra recently did an interview with the General Manager of their Online Games department. This interview is interesting because it shows how much their game was influenced by Travian (and the interviewer clearly knows his Travian as well). Here are some excerpts:

Ben Cousins (from Electronic Arts): 

(Lord of Ultima) is a game where you really have to plan your moves if you’re a high-level player. If you’re being notified that there’s an attack coming in 10 hours, you need to work out exactly what buildings you can put into place to defend your town, or what troops you need to recruit in order to get there.

The way this works is actually a genre which is already well established in Europe. It’s very popular there. Travian is essentially a much less graphically rich version of this kind of gameplay.

There are some major gameplay differences between Lord of Ultima nd Travian, which the interview discusses. Another interesting moment:

When I played Travian, before I even finished the tutorial I was being attacked by other players and they were stealing my resources. That was not a particularly fun experience.

The general manager of Lord of Ultima can’t survive for a week in Travian. And this is a guy who designs games for a living. I just want to point this out, not as a way to poke fun at the guy, but just to point out that Travian can be a difficult game. This is why I really respect anyone who manages to be succesful at Travian (I wouldn’t have started a Hall of Fame for a game that was easy!)

Read the whole interview here: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4408/interview_the_rise_of_.php

Getting bang for your buck at browser-based games

Online Strategy Games did an interesting post recently where it compared the costs of premium features in some leading browser-based strategy games (including Travian). It turns out that the special features in Travian are a lot  more economical than a lot of its competitors. Follow this link to read the post and see his findings: http://osg1.com/2010/04/16/osg-bang-for-your-buck/

I’m surprised there’s such a wide variance in prices, I thought there would be some sort of industry standard when it comes to these things.

One thing that helps Travian cost-wise is that you get a really good deal on Gold if you buy the largest amount. If you’re planning on playing the game for a while, it’s totally the way to go (and remember that you can transfer your Gold to another server after one ends).

20 Awful Videogame Boxes

Heavy Magzine has an article looking at 20 of the worst video game box art ever. One of my favourites:

You’ll be amazed out how bad some of the others are. Check out the complete list here: http://www.heavy.com/comedy/2010/04/the-20-worst-video-game-box-covers/

The Next Big Browser Based Game: Kung Fu Panda?

Yes, you read that correctly. You can now join the Beta Test for Kung Fu Panda Online.

Read more about it here: http://news.bbgsite.com/content/2010-03-29/kung_fu_panda_world_enters_open_beta_test,1.shtml

Well, it would sure be a complete change of pace from Travian.

Randomgeek’s Recommended Reading

There’s a great interview with the author of a new book called “The Warcraft Civilization” at New Scientist Magazine about the effect that online gaming is having on civilization. Here’s an excerpt that will give you something to think over:

In the book you say: “WoW may have the potential to become the first real afterlife.” How?

Every movement a player makes in WoW is recorded, even their interactions with others. The avatar captures their social self. To what extent the avatar is its controller is a philosophical question, but the avatar can outlive its creator and continue functioning in WoW as a non-player character (NPC). Research is under way that will make NPCs behave more like specific people.

Read the whole interview over here: http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2010/03/william-sims-bainbridge-seeing-the-future-in-games.php

It’s mainly about Warcraft, but it has obvious implications for other online games like Travian/Travians/Ikariam/etc.