Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blogger of the Year 2011

What would you say if I set up a website with a few blogging friends, and organize a vote in various "Blogger of the Year 2011" categories, with a jury award from me and my buddies, plus a reader's vote from a predefined list of mine and my buddies' blogs, virtually guaranteeing that my and my friends' blogs all received lots of jury and reader awards? Sounds completely ridiculous? Well, then have a look at the sponsors of the Browser Game of the Year award website: You guessed it, it's a bunch of the browser game companies running the games that received the awards. Clicking on any of the links there will lead you to the GalaxyNews portal page for that game, with GalaxyNews also running the Browser Game of the Year website. Doh!

I've been playing the browser game Die Siedler Online (The Settlers Online) from Blue Byte / Ubisoft since August of last year, first in closed, then in open beta. The fact that I've been playing this for months now should tell you that this is in fact a good game. But I haven't written about it yet for two important reasons: 1) It is up to now only available in German. And 2) it is far from being complete. The whole multiplayer part is still missing. There is chat, and there is trade, but neither PvP nor cooperative PvE are implemented yet. Also missing are various statistics and convenience functions, and all content beyond level 30 is still greyed out. I really like the design where your initial city / island can never be attacked by other players, but as long as that initial island is all that is there, the game can't possibly be considered complete.

I would consider Die Siedler Online to have strong potential as a good browser game. But advertising it as the "Strategy Browser Game of the Year 2011" is borderline fraudulent. I'm not even sure there is a big market for such a game outside Germany, as the game is heavy on economic simulation, and light on combat. You need 3 different buildings to produce the most basic wooden planks! I love it, but I'm not naive enough to believe that this comes anywhere close to lets say US mainstream gameplay. The game also has a curiously front-loaded item shop business model, where the first 50 to 100 bucks spent bring you huge and permanent advantages, while any further money spent is less effective and not permanent. And for a browser game Die Siedler Online is a bit too time-demanding day by day, because of what I consider a design flaw, that if you increase the level of your buildings you need to click more every day to refresh resources. Thus while I would recommend Die Siedler Online to some people I know speak German and are into that sort of semi-peaceful city building game, I think that award is both premature and not really fitting for such a niche game.

Your "Blogger of the Year 2011",


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