So here is the first in an overdue series of articles that I had put up over a month ago so that I would get off my lazy so-and-so and actually write something.
A few months back, I had been looking around for a free browser-based game that I could play during my lunch break. It had to be browser-based because I have only HTTP access at work and free,cuz well :D.
Since I am a HUGE strategy game fan, I was eagerly looking for a RTS game and I was very happy to find OGame.
OGame originally started in Germany and is a space RTS. You start with a planet on which you collect 3 resources (Metal, Crystal and Deuterium) for which you need power (either using Solar Plants, Satellites or Fusion plants). Once you have collected sufficient resources, you can build research labs and shipyards.
Now this is classic RTS stuff and I dived right in – I should mention that OGame has a fairly attractive interface for a web-based game and I found that a pleasant surprise. Ogame also has “noob protection” built in, so you are safe from high-level griefers while you are still levelling up.
For those of you interested in playing Ogame, I recommend this site – it’s a very useful collection of tips.
As is my wont, I spent a fair bit of time turtling in my home planet building up my defences. A few weeks later, I launched my first attack – and even though it was against a idle player, it was the most nerve-racking 3 hours of my life (OGame plays in realtime, so if the game says 3 hours to reach a planet, it will take 3 hours). At this point, I was completely sold on the persistent RTS experience.
About 2 months into my Ogame experience, I went past the 5000-point mark and that meant the gloves were off and I was fair game for all the high level players. And that;s when it sinks in – since Ogame is a persistent RTS, you can be attacked at any time.. even when you are not playing.
Now I had heard about ‘fleet-saving” from ogame-tips, so I would faithfully log in every day, load all my resources on my fleet and send it off really slow to some debris field, so that no-one could attack it.
Unfortuantely, that isn’t a guaranteed method for escaping attack and sure enough, I missed doing this one day and almost immediately, a high-level player executed a classic “fleet-crash” (attacking a smaller fleet with an obscenely large fleet to collect the resources that become “debris” when the smaller fleet is destroyed).
So 2 1/2 months into the game, I had my home planet, 2 small planets and about 50% of my defences. Over the next 2 weeks, I poured all my resources into re-building my fleet and thinking dark thoughts about the player who had crashed me and vowed, one day, I’d get “even”.
So I had finally re-built my fleet to back where it was, but that just meant I was fair game again. Back on the “Fleet-save” treadmill again. And this time I guess it was worse, since I knew what happens to mid-level players that don’t remember to “fleet-save”.
And so it was, one saturday afternoon, out shopping, I found myself in a panicky search for a Internet cafe. Why? Cuz I had just remembered my fleet was due back any minute and I didn’t want another crash. I log in, fleet save again and then my brain starts working again.
The next day, I log in at 8PM in the night, just so I can “fleet save”.
Monday afternoon, I find myself logging in and thinking “Why the fuck am I doing this? Where’s the fun in this?”. Over the previous 3 days, I had caught myself thinking many times “Is it my time for my fleet to return?”. For a married guy, working 11 hours a day, that’s too much time spent thinking about gaming in the little time he gets to spend with family.
I deleted my Ogame account that Monday afternoon and have never looked back.
Looking back, I think I finally get why all the big titles (starting from Age of Empires upto Civ IV) only support PvP play and have never branched out into supporting any kind of persistent gaming. The thought of knowing you could be attacked and not be able to do nothing kinda kills the point of the game.
Still looking for a free browser-based game that I could play for 5-10 minutes at a time, I came across Star Wars Combine.
It’s an MMORPG set in the Star Wars Universe, somewhere in the time before Episode IV. Plays in realtime as well and many features like combat and items (MMO staples) are still missing.
But it’s quick, it’s free and I can log-off without ever having to worry that my character will be dead by the time I log in again.