Saturday, June 28, 2008

Two games today, though one of them is less of a game and more of an opportunity to rant.


Castlewars is a cute little card game which reminds me a lot of Mille Bornes with the most frustrating parts of the game removed. I actually like Mille Bornes quite a bit, so you'd think that this would be a lot of fun, but I don't find this as fascinating as you might expect. It might just be that playing it on a computer isn't as fun as playing with a real deck of cards with your friends.

Anyway, the basic concept is pretty simple: you have a castle, some resources (bricks, weapons, and crystals), and a hand of cards. Each turn you draw a card and play a card; the cards will build your own castle, attack your enemy's castle, increase your own resources, or decrease your enemy's resources (or some combination of these). Either getting your own castle to a height of 100 or totally destroying your enemy's castle will win you the game. (You can also build a wall, which doesn't help your castle height but which will absorb most enemy attacks until it's destroyed; building walls is thus naturally cheaper than building the castle.)

Each card costs a certain number of bricks, weapons, or crystals to play. At the beginning of the game, you get 2 of each of these at the beginning of each turn, but there exist cards which increase your rate of accumulation. Naturally, the more expensive cards have more powerful effects. Not surprisingly, building typically requires bricks, and attacking requires weapons, although there exist crystal-requiring cards which can do either, as well as a variety of other effects.

You can also fully customize your deck, so if you're tired of drawing a particular card more or less than you want it, you can decrease or increase its frequency as appropriately. (Somewhat oddly, although I won all of my games with the default deck, as soon as I started tweaking it I kept losing repeatedly. Maybe this means I don't understand the strategy as well as I thought I did...)

The graphics, sounds, and background music are all simple but inoffensive. Now, for the important disclaimer -- like other games, I only tested this against the computer, which doesn't appear to have any horrible flaws in its AI, but I did beat it pretty regularly. There's also apparently a pretty strong multiplayer presence, which seems like it would add a little more interest than playing against the computer. Overall, while it's a fun and simple game, playing against the computer just doesn't remain interesting enough in the long run.

Kongregate Chat

Kongregate Chat is a very simple game. There are at least five, and probably a bunch more, "games" on Kongregate whose purpose is just to have a chat window so you can chat with other people without having a game. Most of these have nothing at all other than the chat panel, but Kongregate Chat includes a tiny, very simple game; you dodge stars and get points. The game itself isn't that terribly interesting (and wasn't designed to be terribly interesting, it was designed to be quick to load, so I'm not really faulting it for that). But Kongregate has awarded an easy badge for dodging 100 stars, which is really quite easy.

So, the rant here is that the Kongregate badge system is gravely flawed. For those of you who don't know, there are four types of badges. Easy badges are 5 points, medium badges 15 points, hard badges 30 points, and impossible badges 60 points. Now, this particular easy badge takes maybe 2 minutes if you're not particularly competent, and most easy badges are similarly not very time consuming. They might take up to 10 minutes at most, and most of them require little to no skill. Now, I'm sure you can guess what my complaint will be -- the hard and impossible badges are nowhere near proportional. Some hard badges are relatively easy, but the bulk of them are going to take a lot more than 12 minutes; probably at least an hour or two. And the impossible badges require a really substantial time investment; at least on the order of several hours, if you're already particularly skilled, and potentially a lot longer than that if you need to build up your skills to get the badge.

For the time being, the fact that there aren't that many badges on Kongregate makes this not a huge problem -- people have to earn hard badges in order to earn a reasonable number of points simply because there aren't that many easy badges. But eventually Kongregate will become large enough (or at least they hope that they will) that this simply will become ridiculous. And I'd really like the impossible badges to have a little more cachet, given how difficult they are to earn. Maybe the solution is to not have all badges measured in points, but to have different numbers of each required to earn levels. (Or, perhaps given how difficult the impossible badges are, have different numbers of easy, medium, and hard badges required to earn levels, and the impossible badges give some extra reward, like gold stars.) In any case, some way to give more recognition to the hard and impossible badges would be a very good thing to add to Kongregate.

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