costik's blog

Settlers Mini

Our friends at the Themis Group (for whom I've consulted in the past, and who, among other things, run The Escapist) have launched a new promotional game called Settlers Mini. I'm not sure it's worth a full review, but might be worth looking at.

Settlers is, of course, a long-running series, and one of the best known exemplars of the aufbaustrategiespiele, the genre of (mostly European) computer games that are RTS-like, but downplay combat and concentrate on building up your civilization. Settlers Mini is funded by Ubisoft, which is releasing a new version of Settlers, and intended to promote it.

It's a database-driven web game; you sign up, and either start your own settlement, or join one created by someone else. Each player starts with 4 family members, to whom you may give orders once per day. "Orders" are things like "fish" or "cut wood", which provide additional resources to your settlement. The "mayor" of the settlement--initially, the person who creates the settlement, although there's a mechanism for voting him/her out of office and having another player in the settlement assume that role--can decide on what buildings to construct next.

Or to put it another way, it's something like a multiplayer web-based version of Settlers, played on a "one-tick-per-real-world day" schedule.

Looks to me like it's pretty dull to play unless you are the mayor; telling four people to hew wood or draw water five minutes a day doesn't sound like a lot of fun. But of course, Settlers Mini has a leader board and ranks settlements on a number of different dimensions--and never underestimate the power of a leaderboard. People will do surprising things to see their name on one. As Richard Garfield once said, "All you need to create a compelling game is rock-paper-scissors and a leaderboard."

Settlers Mini is a bit more than that, but not much; still, if a short daily game fix sounds like something you'd enjoy, might be worth checking out.

Playing Columbine

Danny Ledonne (documentarian and developer of the Super Columbine Massacre RPG) posts a section of his forthcoming documentary about the controversy surrounding his game.

Via Kim Pallister.

Service Links

I just added "StumbleUpon" to the links under each post, so if you're a StumbleUpon user you can Stumble a post with one click, if you wish. Other things there are Digg, Delicious, Furl, and Reddit.

So--I know quite well that people use Delicious, Digg, and StumbleUpon. My question is: Does anyone actually use Furl or Reddit, or is this wasted space? And are there other meta-services we should be adding? (Respond in comments....)

And you know, if you do use any of these services, and find a game page or something you like, do click through... We can use the traffic. Thanks!

Offer to Indie Developers

Selling an independently developed game?

Got a banner ad?

Either selling the game through Manifesto, or via any of the affiliate programs below?

Contact me by email (or via the contact form here). I'd be happy to put your ad in the banner rotation--no charge. It'll be better targeted, and more interesting to our readers than what's showing up at present--and seems like the right thing to do anyway.

Affiliate programs: BMT Micro, Plimus, RegNow, Reflexive.

Help Make our Recommendations Useful

One of the features available to registered and logged in users is the ability to rate games--and to receive recommendations of games based on your ratings, and those of others, suggesting games that others with similar tastes liked.

The basic problem with this scheme, however, is that to work well, we need as many ratings in the system as possible.

So if you have a few minutes of downtime and want to help us out--please login, look down the All Games list, click through to the ones you've played, and rate them--high or low, whatever, anything is useful.

It'll both make your recommendation page more useful--and those for everyone else as well.

And thanks...

Site Updates

I got dozens of game review suggestions after launch, and went "Uh oh." I realized this could turn into a long-term management hassle--tracking what had been suggested, and who was writing what, and so on.

Clearly, we needed a better way to track things.

The "suggest games" link above used to go to a contact form that sent email to me; now, it allows you to create a post on the site with information about the game. And to look at (and comment on, and rate) games suggested by others.

My initial thought was to make this information available only to our writers and admins--but then, it occurred to me that that's very old school. Why not allow users to look at--and comment on, and rate--suggestions? They might enjoy it, and it gives us a sense of what others are eager to see.

So take a look--and if you see a game you think we really should review, rate it up and/or comment. And if there's a game that you think should be there and isn't, add it.

"In progress" means someone is working on a review; "suggested" means no one has picked up on it yet; and "declined" means we've looked at it and decided not to go for it. I've added all the games that came in via email--need to add a few more on my personal to-do list, but it's getting tres late, and that will have to wait for another day.

You do have to be logged in to comment, rate, or add new game suggestions; I'm not thrilled by that, as our previous email system didn't require a log-in. Unfortunately, given the nature of things, allowing anonymous users to add content is an open invitation to spam bots to add links to pr0n and such, so its necessary. Registering is easy here; we don't require email confirmation. But if for some reason you object to that, you can always suggest something through the contact form.

Other minor updates in the last few days:

1. Clicking on banner ads actually takes you to the advertiser (instead of to our development site--wince). Not that you care, but I do.

2. Items on the front page now show the number of commenters, instead of an unchanging "Add New Comment" link even if there were lots of comments previously.

"Games for Change" Column on

Eleanor Lang, a Manifestian, is writing a column for about "games for change."

Oddly (from my perspective), she's going contrary to type: WorldChanging is basically a leftie site, yet her first two columns are:

  • Kill Pixels, Not People, which is basically about Super Columbine Massacre, and why violence in games isn't necessarily Evil, Evil, Evil; and
  • The Tragedy of the Commons... And the Bunnies, which is about a Flash game called Tragedy of the Bunnies. It demonstrates the economic principle of "the tragedy of the commons," basically making the case for free market economics and private property. (From Liberty Arcade, a site with several other "serious" games from a libertarian perspective.)

I don't have any problems with this--except that as a new writer for a leftie site, maybe she'd be better off gulling them into sympathy by pointing to, say, PeaceMaker or Global Conflicts: Palestine before defeating their expectations by defending violence and libertarian economics?

When Musicians Play Interactive Fiction

A cute thread on Grand Text Auto on this subject. To give you a taste:

Leonard Cohen
Manhattan: Taken
Berlin: Taken
Rolling Stones
I see no shelter here.

Welcome to Play This Thing

Hi, and thanks for checking out the site.

Our basic idea is to feature one interesting game a day--to point you to the most interesting, creative, innovative, or just plain weird games out there. About half will be free, and about half games with some kind of free play option that you have to pay for if you want the full game--with, on Tuesdays, a tabletop game (board, roleplaying, or card game). Some of those will be free, too, as a PDF download or the like.

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