Playing Travian again has got me thinking about about balanced battle systems. A balanced system is very important for any OSG and are probably very difficult to construct. A game has to be relatively even for the attacker and the defender, and has to consider keeping the game fun for both strong and weak players. I think the two most popular OSG’s right now are Travian and Ikariam, which interestingly enough have battle systems on opposite ends of the spectrum, with Travian heavily favoring the attacker and Ikariam heavily favoring the defender.
In Travian, I’m currently being raided about 10 times a day. Most of the time they don’t get anything, but I get attacked several times over night and they always end up looting something. It is extremely difficult to escape from this situation. The best I can really do is upgrade my Cranny, but raising an army to actually defend myself is near impossible.
For example, I am normally hit with 4 to 6 Clubswingers. If I were to build 1 Legionnaire, the most I could really hope to do between attacks, my assailant would lose 1 or none of his Clubswingers, and of course my Legionnaire would die.
Looking in terms of cost, a Legionnaire costs a total of 400 resources to build, and a Clubswinger costs a total of 250 resources. So essentially in the battle the defender would lose 400 resources and the attacker would lose 250, if any. Now, it’s going to be much easier for the attacker to replace his Clubswinger, and in fact there is no possible way to me to EVER create an army strong enough to defend myself, unless some other players get involved.
I would imagine Travian loses alot of players who end up in this position and just quit.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Ikariam, which has a number of mechanisms in place to help the weaker players, but they shift the balance too far, making attacks too difficult. In Ikariam all units cost twice their upkeep while away. If this were adopted by Travian it would basically mean the blokes that attack me 10 times a day would at least have to pay a bit of wheat to do so, which would discourage them from attacking me so much, hopefully giving me some time to mount a defense. Ikariam also has a very complex battle system that involves the Wall, in such a way that an attacker will usually lose a unit or two when attacking an active player.
The amount of military units required to raid even a small inactive city are huge, making it mostly not worth the while. Further, Ikariam has a resource called Gold (not the same as Travian gold, it’s essentially produced in place of standard resources and used for upkeep) that cannot be raided. So usually what happens is if a player is getting attacked, or whenever a war is started, players will switch all their production to gold, in which case they lose nothing when raided.
War in Ikariam usually boils down to circling Tigers. For example, Alliance A will have 100 units they use to attack Alliance B in City X, who has maybe 70 units. Seeing that they would lose, Alliance B withdraws to City Y. So Alliance A get city X, but there’s no one there so they just go home. Then Alliance B manages to build 50 more troops, so they attack Alliance A with 120 units, but Alliance A withdraws to city Z until they can raise a larger army. The only way to actually have an attack is if the other players are all offline for the 2 hours or so it takes to get to their city.
It would be nice to see Travian adopt some of Ikariam’s policies, to help farmed players pull themselves up, and to see Ikariam make it possible to raid gold, which means players would have to actually stand their ground and fight.
Of course, that’s just my two pennies worth.