Lately, I’ve been checking out a brower-based game called “OGame”. It’s a space-based 4x game, and I was curious about what they were doing. Being a browser-based game, there’s not much in the way of flashy graphics, but they use some nice 2d images to inspire the imagination of the player. (I had to laugh a little at the flashy video they put on the front-page of their website, which shows a fast-paced battle scene in space. The scene has absolutely nothing to do with the game, except, perhaps to inspire the imagination of the player. In fact, space battles are automatically handled and you don’t see any visual representations of the fight.)
The game has three main resources: metal, crystal, and deuterium. You use these resources to upgrade your planet’s buildings, research, and build ships. Instead of building “a metal mine”, you upgrade your buildings continuously. For example, your metal mine can be upgraded to level 30. The level determines how much metal your planet produces per hour and how much energy it requires. All of your buildings are upgradable.
You can build (and upgrade) research labs, shipyards, and other facilities that affect your ability to do technology research and build ships. The ships have prerequisite technologies and buildings. For example, the “light fighter” (the first combat ship you’ll get) requires a level 2 Robotics Factory, level 1 Shipyard, level 1 Research Lab, level 1 Energy Technology, level 1 Combustion Drive.
The game runs continuously, so your planet is adding to it’s metal, crystal, and deuterium when you’re logged out of the game. You’ll want to log-in maybe three times a day or so to spend those resources to build things. You can’t really spend too much time playing the game in one sitting because it’s easy to spend all your resources (which means you’ll need to wait 4-5 hours for them to build-up again before you’ve got enough to buy something new). If you wait too long between logins, your resources will max-out and you’ll lose those excess resources.
OGame is massively multiplayer, and there’s 10,000+ players inside your universe. I’ve been playing for weeks, and I haven’t had much interaction with other players. There’s been a few failed raids against me, a few espionage probes (which allows other players to see the some details about the state of your empire), and an invitation to join an alliance. Part of me wonders whether interaction with other players is even a major part of the game. If not, then I’m just building up my planet without the thrill of war or conquest. I’m not sure yet what the purpose of war would be, anyway. I know you can conduct raids on other player’s planets – if you win combat, you can steal the resources they’ve saved up. Though, that would only get you maybe four-hours worth of saved resources, and if you’re attacking a player weaker than you (which you probably are), it’s worth even less than that (in other words, you could probably save-up that many resources in one or two hours). Maybe as I get stronger, the value of war will become more apparent. I’d assume you can capture other players planets.
One initial problem I had with the game was knowing what the effects would be of my actions. For example, I wasn’t sure how powerful a “light fighter” was compared to a “rocket launcher”. I wasn’t sure how much my metal production would improve if I upgraded my metal mine. I eventually found some places that give me some information, and a wiki page that gave me a lot more information.
It’s free to play and there are no ads, so as a game developer, I was curious about how they make money. They make money by selling “Dark Matter” (which you can buy, but generally can’t earn inside the game). “Dark Matter” is a resource that gives you special advantages in the game – like faster build times, and various other advantages in the game. So: it’s a “freemium” model.