Recently I have been taking a look at Triad Wars, a new “asynchronous MMO” from Square Enix. I won’t get into every aspect of the game and how it is in no way a “real” MMO – I’ll let William Murphy cover that in his video – but I would like to use Triad Wars as an example to ask:
“Can a multiplayer game survive on such a limited set of mechanics?”
Look, I don’t like technical mumbo-jumbo and I certainly am not a fan of casting titles on every single aspect of this hobby. That trend has caused more fun to be sucked out of the gamespace than almost anything and has led to things like e-sports which are poised to take down actual virtual worlds by preying on gamer’s often-inborn competitive streak and need for guidelines and rules.
Having said that mouthful, Triad Wars offers a limited set of mechanics or things to do.
In the game, players take on the role of a male gangmember (sorry, all it offers are male characters. This alone might scare you from the game, but let’s skip that for now even though I want to write 1,000 words on how ridiculous it is) and will set out in the world of three different gangs, attacking bases, and defending home turf with the hopes of climbing up the gang ladder of success. One day, the player might just grow past “thug”… if only in a dream!
Minus all of the clichés and gritty cityscapes that populate the game, there are some nice mechanics behind the curtain. Essentially, this is a grittier, harder-to-run Clash of Clans. As you play on a server with thousands of players, you never actually see those players. Instead, you see their bases and their NPCs, and they see yours. The (basic) idea is to attack the rival base, break through defenses and grab the cash.
You’ll assign NPCs different jobs to raise money at your base, something that feels like sending a builder to upgrade a building or take down a tree in other games; all of these automated tasks result in cash.
That’s the thing about popular mechanics like card battles, tower defense or button-mashing combat; once you see them in one form, you see them everywhere. Gaming is not always the territory of the most creative individuals in the world. In fact, even though gaming can often show us things we have never seen, the hobby is populated more with programmer-types than artist-types. What better way to make a game than to copy particular mechanics with slightly different graphics?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with copycatting or repeated design. It really depends on what we are using as an example. Triad Wars at least steals some popular mobile mechanics and puts them on a completely different device (gaming PCs) which does result in a different interaction. I couldn’t care less about the cityscapes and insulting gangland clichés like cockfighting and prostitutes, so it’s a shame that these same mechanics could not have been wrapped in something more spectacular and original. How many times do we have to play grizzled toughies who drive recklessly?
How long can a game last when it offers such basic mechanics like base-building and hand-to-hand combat? Well, if we take the example of Clash of Clans that William used during his video, we can see a game that has been massively successful. (We can also try to look for a “real” MMO as an example but will probably be disappointed; after all, just the presence of players in real time offers more variety to play than you’d get in a game like Triad Wars. Real MMOs are just in another league, and so are not valid for this example.)
I am a very big fan of casual, action-based or strategy-based games like Clash of Clans. As William points out in the video, games like this are great for short sessions of maybe 30 minutes. My normal Clash of Clans sessions are five or 10 minutes, and then longer ones at the end of the week as I rebuild my base or attempt to upgrade. I have spent all of $10 on the game.
This model works for Clash of Clans, but I’m wondering if it will work so well for Triad Wars, at least when looking at the amount of content the game currently offers. For example:
Clash of Clans can be found on mobile devices; this means that a person can log in from anywhere they can find a device.
Triad Wars requires a pretty beefy gaming PC. That means you can log in from home. From your gaming PC.
One piece of hardware is perfectly tuned to casual, short sessions that are supported by more infrequent, longer sessions. The other is supported by grabbing a drink, sitting down and playing for hours. Sure, someone like myself is perfectly happy to skip in and out of several MMOs or multiplayer games within an evening, but most fans I know like to commit, and they’re stubborn about it.
Remember APB (now APB:Reloaded)? We all had some fun in that one, and it offered similar mechanics and graphics to Triad Wars but also featured true multiplayer, massive customization, missions, and all sorts of options for gameplay… how many of us still play that one?
I am not sure that casual multiplayer mechanics can be so successful in the realm of the hardcore gaming PC, but it’s possible that multiplayer and MMO fans could be attracted to the “daily quest” aspect of Triad Wars. I tend to hate dailies simply because they suck all of the fun out of virtual worlds for me (they feel like homework or, worse yet, a job) but many players love them or, at least, tolerate them for some reason.
Perhaps the secret sauce in Triad Wars will be its job-like quality. Log in, check with your buddies, attack a base or three, log out. Repeat.
Hmm, now that I think of it, it just might work.
What are your ideas? Could the casual gaming mechanics in Triad Wars work in multiplayer PC gaming?