Category Archives: Browser Game

The online game you’ve been playing the longest…

I am always shocked when I see the sign-up date below my character’s name in World of Dungeons, which I’ve been playing since May 2005. Without a break even. The servers restart every 2 years or so and I’ve just never managed to get away from that game.

It’s not an MMO, but it’s not your standard browser game either. It requires a fixed group of players (if one leaves, you’ll have to find another one as playing with less than 12 heroes gets very difficult) and it’s 100% text-based (and the dungeons are on a 7-hour schedule). In a time where action and graphics are more important than anything else, this is still a very rare jewels in the world of browser games.

I know I’ve mentioned this game several times over the life of this blog. It still is to this day one of my favourite games – quite obviously, or there’d be no sense in playing it for that many years. However, it makes me wonder… apart from the obvious problem of games shutting down and closing servers, are the current MMOs I’m playing games that could keep me for this long? Amazingly enough, World of Warcraft may be such a game if only I hadn’t grown tired of paying monthly subs. ;) But it’s not a real comparison since I had taken breaks from the game. A break is not possible in that browser game since the rest of the group marches on through the dungeons and your character always strolls along (thankfully, they do that automatically, so you won’t have to be in front of the PC once every 7 hours…). However, you can give control over your character to somebody else for the time you’re away from your PC or are too busy with something else (exams at university were the reasons I had the most often that kept me away from playing).

In this game’s case, it’s also partly the community, I guess. The small group has gotten a core of four members that have been together for most of those years. Bookahnerk, me and two others. We don’t know much about each other’s private lives, though, as we mostly just chat about the game and communication is almost exclusively on the forum.

Which online games have you, dear readers or passers-by, been playing for the longest time? Or was a game closed that you just know you’d still play if it was still available?

First Impressions: Anno Online

I received a beta key for Anno Online a few days ago. Unfortunately, I was at work when I got that email, so I had to wait till I got back home in the evening.

For those who have never heard about it before, Anno Online is a browser game that’s currently in closed beta with its German version. The English version will follow soon, according to tweets from the English Twitter account. I was lucky enough to grab a beta key and have been playing the game while playing Guild Wars 2 in the last few days. That’s always the good thing about browser games: You can play them on the side as they usually don’t need your full attention.

Anno OnlineMy very first impression was that it felt like “yet another browser game”. It reminded me of The Settlers Online, with the exception of not having to dig for mines all the time (thank the asura for that!). It seemed like a typical browser game of your standard building strategy genre. It also comes with the typical cash shop: You can buy wares and building material for “diamonds” which are in turn bought with real money. There are also things you buy with in-game coins, though. So far, it’s either things you can definitely get in the game, e.g., wood. Or items where I’m not sure if you can gather them within the game but it doesn’t matter because you buy these with in-game coins. On the other hand, this is a closed beta and I don’t know how much of that is final and how it will work once the game’s released.

When you start with the game, the cash shop is certainly not what receives your attention first. It’s one little icon right next to other little icons that let you manage your island. You will immediately get a pop-up window with your first quest asking you to place a building on the island while explaining the mechanics to you. There are lots of quests guiding you through the game in the beginning. A few of those actually do ask you to buy something from the cash shop but at that point, I already had some of the cash-currency and as a reward for doing the quest, I did receive more of them than I had spent. So you will not be stuck if you refuse to buy anything for real money at that point!

Whenever you get a quest, a window pops up and disables everything behind it. I felt rushed during the beginning and would have liked a subtler tutorial or a slower pace. However, that part is over now and while I do get a popup for a new quest every once in a while, it’s certainly not that annoying anymore. Still, it does feel a bit “on rails” sometimes as with the next step in your town’s development, you unlock new buildings and immediately get a quest that tells you to build said building.

In the beginning, the game sometimes did not react when I tried to move the map or click on anything. That was annoying, until I switched from Firefox to Chrome which has been a much smoother experience so far with no issues whatsoever.

Anno OnlineYou’ll also notice really fast that the game is still in beta as there are several features that have not been enabled yet, “settings” being one of them. The song that’s playing in the background is certainly nice, but not if you’ve been listening to it for the umpteenth time. Trading with others, selling and buying is also not possible yet. I have also heard rumours that there will be PvP later and only your first island will be safe. But I have only found people speculating and writing “this is what I think” or “this is what I read somewhere” without citing any definite sources. So take this piece of information with a huge grain of salt!

As I said, my first reaction was rather “another typical browser game”. I continued playing Anno Online because I was curious and hey, even if it’s the zillionth browser game of the same sort, I still like them! Now, after several days of playing the game, my opinion has improved. It’s not just another of those games. It already offers more depth and especially complexity which is intriguing.

Anno OnlineBasically, you build houses for peasants. Later on, you can upgrade to townsmen, patricians, etc. (please keep in mind that those are not official translations! I am playing the game in German, of course, and try to find the correct words in English here). On top of that, your inhabitants demand food, something to drink, clothes, entertainment, a church and lots of other things. You also need resources like wood and stone. Some buildings, like the church or the marketplace, only have a specific range around them where your inhabitants can reach them. And those buildings cost money. The happier your residents, the higher your taxes. If they don’t get everything they want, they will not pay that many taxes. On the other hand, the things they want cause you running expenses. You’ll have to juggle and plan before you place a building somewhere to try to get a positive balance.

With the recent patch, they introduced some balance changes which make it very difficult to actually earn coins. Without coins, you can’t build anything anymore. I already destroyed a lot of buildings, trying to “turn back” to an earlier stage of the game in the hopes of getting into a positive balance once more. So far, no luck. But next week, we will experience a wipe and then I hope I can start all over again with more experience and more luck. That is, once I do understand why exactly I’m in the negatives now and what I’m doing wrong. I’ve read through the forums but haven’t found an answer.

Anno OnlineI like that it’s not an easy game, but I’m not sure if it’s because they made it too hard now or because I just am not too good at those games. ;) This also shows my biggest problem with games like this: As much as I love them, I just suck playing them. I can never manage my balance and stay in the positive area. Long gone are the days of the good old single player games with helpful cheat codes (rosebud, anyone?). ;)

If you like games like Anno, then right now, I’m pretty sure you’ll like Anno Online. It is still in beta, though, so we will have to see what happens and what it will be like once it’s finished. At the moment, I’m enjoying myself and that’s what’s important, after all.

Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (November 4, 2011)

Welcome to today’s Bookahneer’s Geekwatch! The place about LotRO, Guild Wars 2 and any other interesting news related to gaming.

Today, I’m starting with two pieces of bad news. Massively reported about Gameforge laying off 100 employees. I’d written about their upcoming browser game Star Trek – Infinite Space before and it seems that with a bit of (more?) bad luck, this game will never see a release day. Gameforge is also publishing the European version of Wizard101 – which probably explains why I had trouble logging into my account the last time I wanted to play. I’d gotten redirected to the EU site and my account didn’t exist there. Very annoying! And then, Lego Universe will close at the end of January, 2012. I’ve never played it. I just liked the general idea of it.

I’d written about Star Corsairs in my last blog entry. Its developer is contemplating and openly talking about how to get more players. I think it’s interesting to follow an indie developer on his quest to get to a healthy population of active players in their game. And no, I’m not getting paid by him for mentioning his game twice in a row. ;) I’m just fascinated with “behind the scenes” stuff, so to say. You’re usually not told about numbers or worries of the people making games.

Now, back to Lotro. I haven’t had much time to play lately with my new job and Nanowrimo. The last time I did play, though, I finally finished that annoying “Tracking an old goat” deed (or whatever it’s called). I had unfortunately finished the main quest before doing the other quests. I hadn’t handed it in but now the quest giver had the orange ring above his head (indicating I have a quest I can turn in) prevented me from seeing any new quests he might have to offer to me. I finally found the coordinates for those quests (scroll down a bit). Once you’re at the exact location, click on the quest giver and you can accept the new quest.

Also, DocHoliday posted about the recent LUA updates. Finally! I’ve gotten so used to my few plugins already that I really missed them. If you’re interested in Lotro plugins and how to get them to work, check out my Lotro plugin guide. DocHoliday also gives an explanation of how to use them.

Last but not least, we finally heard something from Guild Wars 2 again. And it’s all over the Twitterverse and in blogs. I’m sure you’ve seen the posting linked to in several places already. But eh, too bad, you’ll get the link posted here again. ;) Jon Peters talks about engineers, rangers’ pets and cross profession combos. I can’t remember… are rangers going to be able to give a name to their pet? If yes, I wonder if you can, for example, give your raptor a name (no idea if there are raptors in the game. I’ve just had one in WoW and when I think of rangers/hunters and their pets, I immediately think about raptors ^^), then switch to cat and bear and when you take out the cat and choose the raptor again, it will still have the same name? Hmm… that’d be cool.

Star Corsairs – f2p browser-based space MMO (a first impression review)

Star Corsairs is still a rather new game having been released on October 17 (according to the developer’s blog entry). I added Dave Toulouse on Google+ some time ago. The first time I heard about him was on Massively (his game Golemizer was mentioned there). Anyway, I’d read about Star Corsairs and saw him writing about the release of the game a week ago or so. I’m always curious about indie developers and their games. They may not be as epic as, for example, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be. But they often do have a certain charm and they’re more daring and go for fascinating niches (Minecraft is a good example for showing us that a game can be successful even if it doesn’t have the best graphics). I’ve only reached level 4 in Star Corsairs so far, so this here really just qualifies as a “first impression review” and nothing more.

When I first started the game, I was greeted by a wall of text. Think “Star Wars”. ;) It flows through the screen… unfortunately, I’d just come home from work where I’d been reading all day long and I didn’t really feel like reading more. Especially not at a predefined pace. I only caught half of the text (English isn’t my native tongue and while I usually don’t realise that much of a difference in my reading speed, I do realise it a lot more when I’m tired and have trouble concentrating) and I can imagine that it’s even worse for people whose English isn’t that great. But that was just the introduction into the game world. Still, I missed it, so that was a bit disappointing. ;) On the other hand, I don’t think I missed that much because the game doesn’t have quests or any other things that really give you an overarching story.

There I was, a newbie in a game I’d not read much about (in fact, I only knew what you can read in the subject line here… f2p, browser-based, space setting). You get a starter spaceship and are put next to your space dock. The tutorial (text windows with tips on it that you can click through – and either enable or disable in the settings) was pretty good, though, and told me about the most important things (movement, how to attack, how to gather resources from asteroids etc.). You have enough time to read all the text here! ;) And then it told me how to join a mission. I wanted to test that immediately and an error message appeared telling me that the destination is too far away. This happened for both missions that I could have started. That was too bad. So far, I haven’t been able to do any missions. But that was also the only gripe/problem I’ve had with the tutorial. All in all, it’s nice. It’s not as annoying as some facebook tutorials with their pop-up windows that don’t let you even see the game and demand that you do what the pop-up says right now or else you’ll never get to see anything of the actual game. ;)

This picture shows pretty much everything that I’ve encountered so far. My own ship is in the middle (more or less). Then there’s the enemy ship above me. Note the buttons at the bottom of the screen. The left one’s for your weapon. It shows a little radar which is where the enemy ship has to be in in order for you to fire off your weapon. I found the movement a bit confusing. But I’m slowly getting the hang of it. On the left of the enemy ship, you can see a little cube. You can analyse them and get a random reward (or nothing). So far, I found credits and several pieces of alien data. Once you’re at your space station, you can use those alien data pieces to make power ups. E.g. a 10% damage reduction that lasts for 5 minutes. On the top right, you can see an asteroid which you can use to gather materials. There are 14 different types and each asteroid has two of them. One of the 14 types is “raw illium” which you can trade in for XP. A very nice way of levelling without having to fight if you don’t want to! On the very top of the screen, you can see the federation alert informing you of a new mission (I think… as I said, I haven’t done any of those yet ;) ).

Currently, I’m trying to avoid combat because I’m not good at it (by the way, you can turn PvP on in your space station if you like that kind of gameplay and excitement). In the picture on the right, you can see the space station interface. This is where you trade with other players, repair your ship or craft a new ship, turn on PvP, etc. When you level up, you get another window that lets you choose some “bonus”. A buff to your ship’s speed or your ship’s shield and several other things.

And if you’re lost or want to know how something works, there’s even a wiki. I really love wikis and their structured way of giving information about a game, so I was very happy to see it. I haven’t used it much yet, though. As I said, I’m only level 4 and got there mainly by gathering resources (my ship can carry two types of resources at a time and I usually choose one plus raw illium for the XP). Then I’m trying to sell the resources and hopefully, I’ll be able to get a bigger ship soon!

The one big negative part of the game is that it doesn’t have many players yet. I personally don’t actually mind it that much but I’m sure others do. ;) I like being on my own and knowing that somewhere in this virtual world, there are other players around (and I don’t think I’ve ever had the server only to myself ^^). So far, I’ve managed to sell all the resources that I put up for sale. So I’m rather happy. But I’ve mainly used the game for gathering resources and thus, haven’t really had a need for direct contact with others yet. I’d imagine PvP to be rather boring without others, though. ;) All in all, I’m curious what’s going to happen with the game and if it will attract more players. I certainly think it’s good enough to get a more active and larger playerbase. It’s probably just a matter of time and word-of-mouth to reach others. The chat window that you can see on the bottom left appears to be server-wide, by the way. So you can chat with everybody who’s online and I saw it kind of active earlier today.

To sum it up: I’ve found Star Corsairs to be a nice little game that so far works flawlessly (we always expect that but how often does a game launch without major bugs etc.? ;) ). I’ve not spent any money in the game yet and I haven’t felt pressured to do so this far, which is always good because I first want to make sure that I actually want to spend more time in a game before I spend money on it. It does come with a cash shop and an optional monthly fee. But it’s not unplayable if you choose not to pay for it (though I don’t know if that changes when you want to do PvP). Most of all, it needs more players. And if you only like games that give you quests and tell you what to do, then this is probably not for you. Also, you don’t have an avatar and can’t walk around on planets.

RPC Köln 2011

This weekend, we had the roleplay convention in Cologne. Bookahnerk and I went there. Originally, to hear Martin Kerstein (German community manager of ArenaNet) talk about Guild Wars 2 – but we didn’t actually stay that long, so we missed it. There were no demo stations and he apparently mainly talked about things we already know about the game, so we probably didn’t miss much. And by the time he held his 30 minute presentation, I was already so tired and my leg hurt, so we left.

Anyway. This convention is about all things roleplaying. This includes LARP (live action roleplay), board games, pen & paper roleplay, PC games etc. Lots of people were in costumes which was great to look at. I especially squealed at the few women not dressed as elves but as trolls or goblins instead.

Rather annoying was the fact that we’d only been there for a few minutes and had already collected what felt like a ton of flyers.

That actually looks like less that we’ve collected. Most annoying was that a lot of firms hired women in tight and short pants with even less of a shirt. -.- Only a tiny minority was wearing some fantasy costumes. I don’t really get it. Why not have somebody wear an appropriate costume? That makes them stand out more than “that hot chick in hot pants”. Every one of them was a chick in hot pants that a lot of people probably would call “hot”. ;)

Five of the flyers were about online games, though. And I decided to have a look at them.

The first is one for an Ultime Online freeshard “Old World”. It was strange when we passed those little PCs (Shuttle XPCs – my first PC that I’d bought from my own money was a Shuttle, so I squealed a little when I saw those and others probably thought I’m weird – but I’m used to that impression by now) and I saw the Ultima Online client open on them. Bookahnerk was looking at something else and didn’t hear me at first but then he saw it, too. We passed, we went a few steps further and we turned around because he wanted to know what that was about. We couldn’t really believe to see some people advertise their freeshard on that convention. Ultima Online is still running (Bioware Mythic is responsible for it now) and they’re actually charging a regular MMO monthly fee for the game. But there they were. A freeshard advertising on the RPC. Well, why not? ;) When looking at their website, it was no surprise they advertised. They have about 1 or 2 people online at a time. Rather sad. But they’re a shard that has roleplay on 100% of the time and while I love roleplay theoretically, I don’t actually do roleplay that much. So it wouldn’t be for me anyway.

The second one was a picture of what looked like a Charr and some humans at first. Sadly, it’s not a Charr. What it is, we don’t know. Sphira.com is printed on the back of it. The webpage itself doesn’t offer much information. It’s coming in Autumn 2011 – but WHAT is coming? MMORPG? Browser game? F2P? P2P? PvP or PvE? Wtf? ;) A look at their Facebook page shows that it’s a “free to play Action-MMORPG” – but I have to say: Why print a website on the back of a flyer if that website doesn’t give the viewer at least the most basic information about what it is they’re looking at? (Oh, their trailer does give a tiny bit more information but I use Firefox + Noscript and didn’t realise there’s a trailer in the middle… – still, it doesn’t say it’s an MMORPG or that it’s f2p)

No. 3 on the list: Star Trek – Infinite Space. We actually heard a bit of their presentation. We continued walking when they mentioned the holy trilogy (tank, healer, damage dealer). Been there, done that. ;) But… as space ships? I do hope I just didn’t understand them correctly. I don’t want to be a healing space ship. It will be a few browser game, though, that will essentially be an MMORPG just that you won’t have to download a client. You can sign up for the beta here.

The fourth one is for Drakensang Online. Drakensang was originally part of “Das Schwarze Auge” (The Dark Eye), but when the licence ran out, they continued on their own without staying in that RP world. They are also accepting sign ups for their beta. They’re probably best described as “a game like Diablo” and people who are fans of “The Dark Eye” will probably not be too happy. But eh, it’s not in their world anymore, so they’re not butchering it, at least. ;) I am not in the beta, so I can’t say much about it other than I like the screenshots! It looks pretty.

Lat but not least, we have Black Prophecy. They didn’t just give us a flyer. They gave us a little magazine with the most important information about the game including an installation guide, a short text about the story, keyboard settings, etc. Also included is a DVD with the client. Now THAT’s nice advertising. It’s also f2p and well, set in a science fiction setting. The second question in their FAQ is “Is Black Prophecy comparable to Eve Online?” which they answer with “Black Prophecy is an MMO Space Shooter with roleplay elements. Its focus is on fast and exciting space combat in real-time. Fast and easy fun is what’s important, not developing your character for months.” It was released on March 21, 2011, so it’s brand-new. The first add-on for 2012 was already announced which will introduce walking on the ground etc.

I haven’t played or tested any of those games, so I can’t say whether they’re good or not. I just wanted to summarise which MMORPGs we “met” (or rather which ones were thrown at us ;) ) during our visit.