Home > Uncategorized > Mobile Civilization Building Genre (Draft)

Mobile Civilization Building Genre (Draft)

I wrote this section on MCB games for the genre chapter Gaming the Past, Second Edition, but had to cut it for reasons of space. Just posting it here in case it’s of interest

A somewhat more unique mobile genre is the Clash of Clans clear mobile genre (we’ll call “mobile civ games” for short) These games are clear examples of the freemium game model where players may play for free but get access to extra abilities, resources, etc. if they pay money to the developers through microtransactions. In games of this genre, the player agent leads a civilization—from a list of historical states whether Roman, Chinese, Aztec, or any number of other options depending on the game. The player agent constructs settlement in a home-base location with some geographic features: generally open land and land that must be cleared to be developed upon. The player agent fills their home-base settlement with various types of buildings. The core buildings are houses, each supporting a limited number of workers for the player agent. These workers then construct all the other buildings of the civilization. Buildings range in function from barracks to resource storage to defense to research.

There tend to be a small number of standard resources in these games, two or three: often food, coins, and wood or stone. These are stored in stockpiles with finite capacities in the player agent’s settlement. Resources are sometimes gathered automatically by the civilization when the player is logged out; sometimes the player must log in to gather resources, a design technique to encourage players to regularly visit the game and keep up the player base. If the player agent’s resource stockpiles are full, all additional harvesting of those resources is stopped until the player logs in and spends the resources. So, for example, if the player-agent’s food stockpile is full, all additional incoming is wasted, a lost opportunity, and the player will need to log in and spend food on some project to avoid missing out on acquiring resources. Indeed the whole game is designed around real-world time consumption and players can decide whether they want to commit more real-world time to the game, logging in and playing more frequently, and, as the level up, waiting longer and longer times to construct more powerful buildings and armies, or purchasing special resources with real-world money to cut down on time.

Resources are used to construct building, fund research, and levy armies. Real world time is also important resource in mobile civ games. All construction tasks take real world time—from minutes to hours or days—a certain number of unoccupied workers, and the necessary resources. Levying armies and researching technologies also require in-game resoureces and real-world time. Each game has a special resource, in some ways existing outside the game world—jewels, or crowns, etc.–that is limited and can be purchased with real-world money This special currency enables the player to speed up building times, construct without the required number of workers or resources, or otherwise aid the player agent in constructing or levying more swiftly. Resource harvesting takes time and wasted time tends to be a source of tension for players since they can only do a limited amount without spending real money.

Raiding other player and computer settlements is generally a core competitive feature in these games. The player agent can usually levy armies consisting of different kinds of units; this is an important point where historical flavor comes in as units often point to historical counterparts from Roman legions to Egyptian Chariots, to Panzer Tanks. To keep players in the game, attacks on rival settlements do not generally result in the defending civilization’s destruction. Rather successful raiding armies loot some resources from the defeated settlelements.

To some extent these games address the curricular content found in the other state-building genres (4X, Hybrid, RTGS). But they will do so very simplistically. The elements in the game point to historical peoples, resources, technologies, concepts, etc. but do very little to suggest anything about the historical functioning of those elements. Despite that, they can provide a useful opportunity for student criticism both because of their simplifications and because these games have such strong genre features they can serve as an excellent case study for how a game genre can shape its historical content. They also can provide, as all historical videogames can, interesting introductions to historical topics and concepts that may intrigue players to investigate further.

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