Friday, February 27, 2009

Hooray again! And yet, I think I'm done.

When I got home last night, I popped onto my two online empires, and discovered I'd been attacked on Ogame. A real attack this time, not some accidental misclick with an espionage probe!

At first, I was thrilled! Just like last time.

I've been unable to attack anyone else - you're under "newbie protection" till you hit a certain point value, which means little guys can't attack each other (though it's main purpose is to stop big guys from smashing little guys into cosmic dust). Problem is that once you're out from under newbie protection, you don't want to pick a fight with someone way above you. You're such a small fish, you can't do a damn thing. So, you sit around building up defenses in hopes of one day being able to compete. There wasn't anyone near me (on the map) who was anywhere near my score, so I didn't have much to do. For a couple months, I could only attack inactive players. I'd been slowly giving up hope of it ever getting exciting, and was really looking forward to some measure of conflict. But I stuck with it for a while, in hopes that someone else would crawl out from beyond the newbie shield near me and we might start a puny little war.

Instead, I got pummeled mercilessly by some random guy ranked 500 places above me, whom I'd never interacted with before. The biggest ship in my fleet was a Battleship, which I had just unlocked, and only had two of. I was attacked by a fleet with 125 Battleships, plus 70 Bombers and a Battlecruiser, neither of which have I unlocked yet, and 15 cargo vessels to haul away the wreckage of my world. The fight lasted 3 rounds. I destroyed 2 of his ships in the first round, and then inflicted zero casualties in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. His surviving 13 cargo vessels (you'll note I didn't destroy any of his actual military units) made off with nearly 200,000 resource points from my world. (And in case it wasn't clear from the above: he destroyed every single ship and planetary defense I had at the world in question).

All of this without an opportunity to do anything - battles are completely computer-moderated, with targets chosen randomly round-by-round. You just get a battle report showing how much your fleet and planetary defenses failed to accomplish. I'd imagined some sort of excitement to come from an epic battle, but instead it felt like reading a spreadsheet. No oomph, no color, just a list of ships and "the attacking fleet did a total of 328,000 damage, of which 16,000 was absorbed by shields. The defending fleet did a total of 25,000 damage, of which 18,200 was absorbed by shields." Lame.

Worse, I never had a chance, and I have no capacity to strike back in any meaningful or productive way. My overall score is like 12,600 development points, and his is 181,000. He's got a lot more ships than me, twice as many planets, and much higher tech development. If I did nothing but build Battleships, it would take me a month and a half to build a fleet the size of his - and he'd have those 2 months to make more of the really big ships I haven't unlocked. A totally one-sided affair, and there's 400 players that out-rank him in our Universe. I spent every remaining resource in my "Empire" just rebuilding the defenses on the planet he blasted, and two of my three other worlds are every bit as vulnerable as that one was.

Now, I realize there's things I could have done to mitigate this disaster. I could have "fleet saved" - a strategy that involves constantly rotating your ships from place to place at slow speeds so they can't be attacked while you're away from your computer. I could have spent every spare resource on defenses so there'd be nothing stockpiled to make it worth a raid. Both of those sound tedious, and I wanted a game I could play for 10-20 minutes a day - which Ogame claims to be.

So, though it was an interesting experiment while it lasted, and kinda fun a couple days, I think I'm probably done with Ogame. It's a poor design. Too slow to get started, and too unbalanced once things start happening.

By contrast, I'll keep my x-wars account active, at least for now, as it still has me fooled into thinking there's some potential to enjoy the game for it's trading and starship-designing subsystems. It doesn't look as pretty as Ogame, but it's got more to do. There's various posts from the X-Wars moderators asking people not to attack the same target more than 20 times an hour, so I suspect it may have the same balance issues that Ogame does. I wouldn't be surprised if a similar painful disillusionment occurs at X-wars in a few more weeks, but for now it seems to be the more rewarding game.

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