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.

Tilted Mill pwns my Saturday

After running around in the rain doing errands all day I sat down for some sweet MMO gaming. But I decided, maybe I’d play a bit of Hinterland first, since I haven’t been back to that game lately. Next thing I knew, 4+ hours had gone by!

I won my game, which sprang me from the grasp of its spell, and then…logged in to Nile Online to check the status of my cities. I was almost ready to upgrade my palace to level 5, but I need to ship some goods from my new city to my old. But the new city wouldn’t have a ship ready for about half an hour. So I puttered around, twiddling my thumbs until that was done, then shipped the goods, which would take 18 minutes to arrive. So more thumb twiddling even though it was after midnight and I was beat. Finally got everything where it needed to be and started the 5 hour build.

So I didn’t log in to War, or Wizard 101, or activate my EQ2 account. Because Tilted Mill apparently owns my soul. Dunno what will become of my when Mosby’s Confederacy comes out!!

Totally unrelated and random side note. One of my chores was taking a bunch of change to a Coinstar in the local supermarket. I assume this is a national thing: it’s a machine that you dump all your change into and then get some kind of money out of. I took mine out as an Amazon gift certificate (no charge that way…they take some percentage if you get cash for your coins), but anyway… Much to my surprise, I got a bonus coupon for $10. From now until Dec 7th, if you turn in at least $40 worth of coins, you’ll get $10 extra (after you fill out a coupon and send it in). I had no idea this promotion was going on, and from sheer luck turned in $41 worth of change. Yay me!

Details here. Maybe be worth emptying that change jar of yours.

Random sidebar to random side note. I turned in 147 dimes, 42 nickels, and 2,447 pennies.

Nile Online status update


» [8:02 pm] You sent off ships loaded with resources to found a new city! It will take 12 hours to complete.

It took me three or four days of focused gathering and buying, but I established my second city!! Or am establishing it.

I’ll now have leather as well as kohl to trade.

In other news, I got all official and stuff and added an “About me” page.

Nile Online

And now for something completely different…

Tilted Mill, the folks who made the rather enjoyable Hinterland that I’ve previously posted about, have a broswer-based city-building game now in beta, Nile Online.

I’ve been playing it for a week or so now. At first I thought it was really interesting. Then I got kind of bored with it since it seemed to lack depth. And then I realized there was more depth than I at first saw, so now I’m finding it really interesting again.

The basic idea of the game will be pretty familiar to strategy gamers. You start with a small settlement and need to feed your people and grow your empire via resource management. Every starting plot, as best I can figure, has wheat, clay and reed resources. Also each plot has a 4th resource that varies from area to area. I started with Kohl, used in cosmetics. Huh?

Each city has a finite number of building plots. You’ll erect bakeries, brickworks, basket shops, pottery shops, etc. Then you assign your labor pool to either gathering a resource or working in a shop. There are more products than there are building plots, so you’re not going to be able to make everything you need. Building a Market gives you access to goods that other players are selling. Curiously, the currency of the world is bread, which is also the way you feed your people. Buildings and resource plots can be continually upgraded to become more productive.

Nile Online runs in real time and is kind of low-impact gaming. As an example (I’m writing this on my lunch hour) I started upgrading my Market at the start of the hour, but its going to take about 2 hours for that upgrade to happen. So I’ll check in when I get home tonight, perhaps. Early on, level 1 buildings go up pretty quick… 10 minutes or so. Also low level buildings require pretty basic resources, so they’re easy to get going.

Soon enough things become more complicated. My next palace upgrade (which will give me a larger labor pool) is going to require Bricks, Baskets, Perfume, Pottery, and Jewelry (and 3 hours, 40 minutes of time). I can make the Bricks & Baskets, but I’ll need to buy the other items from the Market. I can grow a lot of wheat and bake a lot of bread to buy them, and I’m doing that, but I’ve also been trying to sell some extra pottery. I have a Cosmetics shop to turn my Kohl into Cosmetics, but I also need Henna, which I can’t produce, so I have to buy that. Hopefully I’ll be able to sell Cosmetics for enough to cover the costs of the Henna and still make a profit. Cosmetics are required to found additional cities, and if someone is rich enough to do that, I figure they can pay me well for my goods.

As far as I can tell, there is no player vs player combat in the game, but you can produce troops. Outside my city are “Monument plots occupied by raiders” and I assume these are what troops are for? Documentation for the game is sparse, to put it nicely (but again, this is beta) so I’m learning by doing, and I don’t have the resources (Bronze and Leather) to produce anything from my Spearmen building.

So, still a lot of questions, and ultimately it might not hold my interest. After the initial building process there’s kind of a dead spot where you’re just waiting to have enough bricks and bread to build a new building. But things get more interesting when you start playing the market and needing resources that you can’t product on your own.

It seems like anyone can join the beta. You do have to apply but getting in is really quick. If, like me, you have a lunch hour to fill every day, this is an interesting way to use up a bit of it. And I do find myself checking in before and after work. I’m looking forward to seeing what else the game holds as I grow my city.