My year of War

I did not log on to my Game of War account today.  It was the first time in almost a year that I did not play.  In fact, I deleted it off my phone and Kindle.  It was a year of ups and downs, but ultimately the game became unplayable, and really ought to be avoided.  However, for almost a full year this was my major form of video game playing, so I wanted to take a few moments to explain what the game is all about.

My Sister in Law first got me into Game of War.  They also had a major marketing effort using Kate Upton as the spokewoman for the game about a year ago when I first started playing.  Its your fairly standard social/ timer based game.  You have an Empire, with a city, as well as troops that can leave your city and do things in your kingdom with both friend and foe.  Within your city you have buildings and researches to upgrade, troops and traps to train, and equipment to build.  All of these things take in game resources, and time.  Without spending money, you can send your troops to collect resources outside your city walls.  Your city buildings can also produce resources.  But if your city is unprotected, you can be attacked and lose what you have.  Troops gathering outside the city are especially vulnerable.  The time it takes to do something can be reduced with help from your alliance, or through the use of speed ups, which can be earned in game, or bought.  And that’s basically it, you grow your army and city, and improve the quality of what you have to be able to take on bigger and bigger opponents.

The growth aspect of the game is what draws in most people, right now I can only do this, but with a little time and work, I will soon be able to do that.  Your Empire improves with each task you complete, you can do more, and do it better.  The social aspect of the game is also a lot of fun.  You find an alliance that matches your playing style, you get to help each other out in game, and you spend a good amount of time just talking to each other about anything if that’s your thing.  You won’t always get along with everybody, sometimes a member of your group does something negative that might cause trouble for your alliance.  Or they might do something that really helps you and the group.  Just a slice of life really.

But it is a war game.  Within each Kingdom, there is a wonder.  Maybe there are a thousand or two active players in each Kingdom.  Your goal is to conquer and hold this wonder.  Only the strongest players and alliances can even think about ruling the kingdom, but there are rewards for being number one, but also a large target on your back.  In my year of play, I never even came close to fighting for the top prize.  But I still had fun.  Early on, you might fight some other individual cities or alliances.  But over time, our Kingdom got to the point where we were fighting other kingdoms ever other weekend or so.  I always thought that the prizes for doing well in these battles was quite small, especially for what you had to risk in order to fully participate.  But lots of people seemed to be into these events.  At this point in the game, there are still some feuds between alliances in your own kingdom, and there’s still fights to take over the wonder, but a large part of the game becomes fighting the other kingdoms.

I participated a little bit in these events, but my army never got big or advanced enough to really do damage to a strong opponent.  That’s after a year of play.  And I played a lot.  I was more advanced than many of my team mates or opponents, but not even close to others.  With too many stronger opponents, there just wasn’t much I can do.  So what’s a typical day like?

Wake up, check on my empire.  Are my shields up, do I need to start some research, building or training?  Check my VIP level, start my quests for the morning, don’t forget the alliance city quest.  I’ll check my in game messages, respond to anything if I need to.  I’ll send my hero out to kill a few monsters nearby, then send some troops out to gather resources.  This takes maybe 15-20 minutes if I go through everything.  I’ll check in again briefly before going to work.  After work it’s the same routine.  But there’s more time between when I get home and when I go to bed, so I might stay logged into the game for an hour or more, keeping an eye on what’s happening, talking to people, spend some time on the more time intensive tasks like combining materials or opening chests.  It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t always require your full attention, but you can spend a lot of time on if you want to do everything that needs doing, or you participate more in the social aspects of the game.

So where did it go wrong?   I spent a good amount of time on the game, but not much money.  They call it a free to play game.  This is true, you could play for free all day if you wanted.  But you wouldn’t win a thing, and your empire will grow at a snails pace.  When you log in to the game, the first thing they do is take up your full screen with an advertisement to buy a “pack” A pack contains resources, speed ups, boosts and materials that can be used for making stronger equipment.  Early on, given the amount of time I spent on the game, and wasn’t spending on other forms of entertainment and gaming, it made sense to but some packs.  $5, I can do that.   Oh, and even better pack for $20, sure, for a special occasion, why not.  Then boom, a pack costs $100.  That’s crazy, who is going to spend that much money?  I did, a few times, for my birthday or something like that.  With how much I was playing, it still cost well less than $1 an hour for entertainment.

This still only made me a mid to low level spender.  There were a few people in my group who would regularly buy a pack or two per month.  The stronger players easily spending several thousand dollars a year.  The strongest players could be into the five figures, and the strongest player in the whole game is said to be over a quarter million dollars in.  Money buys power.  Your empire and army becomes stronger with each pack purchased and used.  So you technically don’t need to buy anything, but right at the moment, a $100 dollar pack can advance your research some 15 years.  You’re now 15 years stronger than someone who spent nothing.  Guess what happens when those two armies meet?  And there aren’t really “weight classes”  you can attack whoever you want for any reason, or no reason.  Someone who spends a lot of money to create a strong army might choose to fight for the wonder, or strong players from another alliance or kingdom, but they can just as easily fight those much weaker.  I think pretty much every time I was attacked, it was by someone at least 10 times stronger, sometimes closer to 20 times stronger.  There’s not much you can do, you lose, badly.  For a while, there were kingdom rules, if you don’t step on other peoples toes, you won’t get attacked.  But as the kingdom grew, and the strongest grew, the rules sort of went out the window.  The rules could only people enforced by strong players, and the strong players didn’t really care, or didn’t want to risk their armies against a strong opponent, the kingdom sort of descended into chaos.  The strong players could just buy their armies and resources, they weren’t playing the game the same way as everybody else.

So here’s the thing about winning.  You get nothing.  Setting up your army and target might be strategic.  But the battle itself is nothing, you get a ping showing that you got a new e-mail with the results of the battle included.  You might win a small in game prize, but generally it’s not big enough to cover the cost of building your army and the troops you lost in the battle.  Plus the strategy part is out the window if you attack someone ten times smaller.  Typically the sort of person who is going to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars of real money to win an in game battle that means nothing is not really the sort of person you want to know.  I’ve met a few good ones, but most will go on to brag about how good they are to spends lots of real money to beat a much smaller opponent.  The defeated player either accepts the loss as part of the game, spends more money to rebuild to get revenge, or quits the game.  As the bullies grow and get stronger, low to mid level spenders are quitting in droves.

The game itself isn’t even that great.  The animations are pretty basic, strategy is pretty minimal since you can just spend your way out of having to really make  strategic decisions.  Not to mention that the game is glitch and lags sometimes.  You will be playing, the game will crash, and it will be a minute or two before you can log back in.  In the meantime you might be getting attacked and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Then you start the game up again and have to wait to load the advertisement first.  And people are spending real money on this to see their investment lost while the game doesn’t work.

So it became a “wallet warrior” game.  If you spend, you win.  And people were spending, a lot.  The game developers suddenly had people willing to spend large sums of money, so its hard to blame them for selling more.  But the rich players don’t generally want to attack each other and lose their investment.  And the players who aren’t spending money are leaving in droves.  Kingdoms have to be merged due to lack of players.  And the big players complain over lack of opponents and people playing.  They are all backed into a corner, and I’m not sure what the solution is.

I backed off a few weeks ago, played very minimally.  I left my alliance, and only logged in once or twice a day to do the most basic improvments.  Over Christmas vacation, I started playing a bit more, trying to complete more of the tasks you need to do to grow full strength.  At this point, I just found the work to be time consuming and monotonous.  It would have cost 100’s of dollars to improve my VIP level to the point where some of these tasks could be completed more easily.  100’s of dollars just to make the game simpler to play.  Still, I was still debating whether to get myself a Christmas pack and make a comeback, or quit completely.  Then I actually got attacked again on Christmas day by a much larger opponent for no reason.  And that was that.

In the end, I quit for a number of reasons.  I feel like I went as far as I could in the game.  Additional time, or even money, won’t get me much further in the game.  And of course, there are no real prizes.  If I spend nothing, I can do very little, so I’d at least want to buy a few packs a year.  But spending that money might keep me occupied, but it doesn’t really improve my position in the game too much.  At that rate of spending, I won’t be able to afford the best equipment, troops and researches.  I’d always be in the lower tier.  I wouldn’t be able to attack the stronger players.  And I couldn’t even really attack players my own level or a weaker level, because to attack anyone would expose me to the strongest players, who are just going to attack anything that moves.  So without spending thousands of dollars, the War part of Game of War really isn’t an option.  But you’re still spending hundreds of dollars.  Hundreds of dollars, and you still can’t fight.  That’s too much money to not be able to really do anything.

I wonder if the big spenders even have fun?  They spend thousands to tens of thousands to build a pretend army to beat up on people who have not spent as much.  They avoid other strong players generally, because they might lose that investment.  Then the weaker players quit because they are tired of it.  Finally, the game keeps requiring more money.  Every few months there’s a new piece of equipment, or troop, or building, the packs get bigger.  And if you don’t pay to get the new thing, those who do spend the money will advance past you.  They have already spent thousands, can they really sit back and watch others go past them?  That’s what really drives the game these days.  I already spent this, but I need to spend this much more to get the most out of it.  But that’s not quite enough, you need to spend more to get closer to the top.  Now you can do this, but there are still people better than you.  Now you’re into the five figure, or more.  But if you stop now, you will lose everything you’ve built up so far.  And that ladies and gentlemen, is the game of War.

Oh and by the way, the new game, Mobile Strike, that’s been airing commercials lately starting Arnold Schwarzenegger, same exact game with a different skin.  They don’t mention this, but it’s the same exactly style and philosophy.  As Game of War collapses under its own weight, the game developers are looking for the next thing.  I’ve gone over lots of the pros and cons, and I can’t say I completely regret my years spent with the Game of War, but I won’t be moving forward with it, and I can’t really recommend the game to anyone.




About garybraham

I grew up in Mahopac NY, studied geology at Colgate University. I've moved to Queensbury NY to teach HS earth science. I also coach soccer and wrestling, take pictures at local sporting events, and am the Scoutmaster for the Glens Falls ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My wife and I will be married 5 years this October, and we have a two and a half year old little girl.
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