Helpless in Nile Online

I’ve had some good things to say about Tilted Mill’s browser-based city-builder, Nile Online in the past, but today all that changed.

One of the things you can do in the game is build a monument. In order to accomplish this, you first have to fight some NPC bad guys who’re occupying a monument site, and then you have to dump tons of workers, bricks and food into the site in order to slowly, laboriously, build your monument. In return, you can mine Limestone and you get a bonus to prestige, though I have no idea what prestige is (in Nile Online terms) or even if it is implemented yet.

Fair enough. But another thing happens. Your site can be attacked by other players. Now given that there are ample empty plots in my area of the world, I wasn’t really worried about getting attacked. Then this morning, at 5 am local time, one of my neighbors attacked my site.

My defenders held, but just barely. And I hadn’t been creating more troops back in my cities since I didn’t see any reason anyone would attack me. So I had to shift production to generating troops to send to the defense of the site.

And then it struck me: that was *all* I could do. The person that attacked me had no monument site that I could retaliate against. And you can’t attack other cities. So all I could do is bolster my defenses and wait for the next attack to come. I felt utterly helpless. I checked the forums and the in-game chat room because it seemed *obvious* I was missing something, but nope. A person who has no monument site can attack you with impunity.

My reaction to this surprised me. I was furious, bitter, and sent off a message to my attacker asking why I’d been attacked. We exchanged messages with me just getting angrier and angrier to the point where I started to despise this person. (I never come to despise people who beat me in other online games, though…in fact that would never occur to me.) The reason for the attack was a stupid one: the person had decided I hadn’t been donating to the local deity enough (if everyone donates enough goods, the ‘segment’ of the game you occupy gets a 10% bonus to productivity). Out of the 15 or so cities in our area, I was #4 in donations, so that was a trumped up excuse.

But I digress. The point is, I’m fascinated at how strongly I’ve reacted to being totally helpless in a video game. Is it because I never feel that helpless in the real world? Or is it because I often do, but I expect a video game world to be more balanced? I think its the former…no matter how bad things get in real life, it always feels like there is *something* that we can do, if we can just figure out what it is, because choices in real life are effectively infinite. But in a game world, choices are tightly controlled by game rules.

As an armchair game designer, I’m pretty astounded that the devs at Tilted Mill fell so completely on their faces with this decision.

As to what I’m going to do next, I’m conflicted. What I’d love to do is “destroy” the monument and let it revert to some land occupied by marauders, essentially ignoring that aspect of the game from here on out. But that isn’t an option. So I’m either going to starve the workers and soldiers there until they all desert, or I’m just going to delete my account altogether. All I know is being this upset over a computer game isn’t healthy, so I need to do *something* and soon. The thing that has me hesitating over deleting my account is that I have trade partners that depend on me for certain goods, and I’d hate to let them down. In the same way my attacker has become a focus of hate and rage in my mind, my trade partners seem like they’re almost friends at this point; I’ve been wishing them all happy holidays and treating them like chums.

6 thoughts on “Helpless in Nile Online

  1. I actually started a Nile Online account because of your post displaying interest in it, although I tried to take the approach of being as uncoopertive as possible to see if it works.

    Currently I have no intention of bothering with monument sites though having only sent about 20 troops to a nearby one to test the combat system to try and understand it. Heck I don’t even have a temple. I pretty much make as much from my own personal resources as I can, undercut the market as much as possible with what I make and use the bread from that as my main form of income for purchase – rather than trading with anyone directly. I only have boats so I can trade between my two cities but i’m thinking of adding a third because i’m fed up of purchasing some other resources.

    I’ve got a level 10 city and a level 6 city – both soon ready to be upgraded if you wondered 😛

    It’s an odd game though – I’ve played similar ones, Xenocide 3001 (now deceased) being really the only real time strat browser game I can think of that had all the elements required of a ‘good’ browser game without the extra schmuck. The invite friends rubbish, the bad alliance control, etc. etc. Yet to find something even remotely close – and where as I find the trade aspects etc. quite interesting about Nile it’s got a fair few problems to it.

  2. Sleep on it. It’s possible you’re reacting so strongly to an asshat because you’ve had a truly horrid week, and getting righteously furious about a game is easier than what you’ve had to deal with — especially if RL has been one of those “it’s not really anyone’s fault but it still totally sucks” kind of things. Nobody to really get angry at and no outlet.

    I’m surprised and yet not surprised … there are asshats everywhere. I’ve been browsing the Nile Online forums and have discovered some … techniques, some would call em, exploits in my book, that I guess some players have been happily using while others won’t.

    Ethics is a strange beast. But just because Joe Asshat doesn’t have any won’t make you feel any better if you abandon your own. 😉

  3. Remember its a beta. Report your thoughts on that aspect and if enough agree it can be changed. It is a work in progress.

  4. I think Ysharros has the right of it. I sent the person who attacked me a link to this blog post, and they commented, but I’m not approving the comment because it just continued the argument. In it, the person chastised me (legitimately) for making such a big deal out of something that happened in a game, which was kind of the point I was trying (maybe not very well) to make in the post. I have no idea *why* it became such a big deal for me, but really I was mad at the game and I just transferred the anger to this person.

    But yeah, it capped off a truly terrible week, and I think all that seething anger and frustration was just waiting for an outlet.

  5. Of all the games to get upset about this sort of thing, this one seems surprising. Isn’t it expected that this would happen in this game? By merely capturing a monument, I would fully expect that I’m exposing myself to attack. It would be like entering a PvP arena in World of Warcraft. I get frustrated when I get ganked or griefed by other players in games as well, but not when I willingly step foot into the designated PvP zone, which this is akin to.

  6. @Mike, Well, first of all yes, it was stupid to get upset about it and that was part of why I posted; because I was “fascinated at how strongly I’ve reacted.”

    But I still think its an incredibly stupid design. It’s like entering a PvP arena in World of Warcraft where anyone walking past the arena can attack you, but you can’t fight back. Plus, the person who attacked me stood to gain nothing from the attack except using up both of our resources (in terms of troops spent). Had their attack succeeded, they would have taken the plot from me, its true, but at a *much* greater expense to them than it would have cost them to take one from the NPCs (and such plots were available).

    (Had I had a larger pyramid built, this wouldn’t have been the case as the person would’ve captured the pyramid, but I only had 1 tier built, and whenever a plot is captured it loses 1 tier of progress, so the plot would’ve once again been an empty one.)

    At the end of the day, Nile Online is a passively-cooperative game. The person who attacked me is a neighbor to two of my cities and we’d both profit more from trading resources than attacking each other. The only scarcity of resources *is* the monument sites, but there were plenty of those still available for the taking.

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