Sunday, November 30, 2008

Speaking of sandboxes... Kingdom for Kelflings

Kingdom for Kelflings is the kind of game I'd like to put in front of casual gamers to see whether it appeals to them or not. It's a pretty relaxing city builder game (like the Sims or a non violent RTS). You get to play using your 360 avatar (the Xbox version of a Mii) as a giant amongst peons, which is actually quite fun. And I'm assuming this will get even cooler when you get to meet up with your friends in online play.

There isn't too much to it -- there's a giant "tech shrub" that you can plow through via a combination of exploration, quest completion, and econ management. The learn as you play experience was a little jumbled at the beginning and strangely left me unsure of what to do next... I was told to "build a Keep", but unlike with any of the previous tasks there were no apparent clues as to the next steps required. It turns out that this was the LAST objective and it's the goal for the rest of the game. The problem is that the game never let me know that this was the case (I need to figure out how to advance my civ until I can build a Keep) which made me feel like I had broken the tutorial since there wasn't any obvious direction to pursue.

We did something like this with Rise of Nations -- only we made it very clear when players moved from "follow the voice of god" to "you're on your own -- take what you've learned and try and defeat the enemy". The whole frustration would have never occurred had the message been "The tutorial is now over. Try and figure out how to build a Keep to win the game!"

Oh, well.

Anyhow, the game was relaxing and fun enough for me to purchase it (800 points or $10). Reasons that I think the upsell was successful:
  • I was offered a chance to purchase the game each time I gained an achievement. I gained 3 achievements in the first 10 minutes. It's hard to pass that up if you're into gamer points.
  • The initial experience was quite pleasurable once I stopped trying to treat it like a watered down RTS that lacked important advanced features (like resource rates, quick keys, queuing up of remote peons, selecting all idle workers, etc).
The basic decision that they made was that you control an avatar (like Pikmin, Overlord, Goblin Commander) instead of a targeting reticle (like Battle for Middle Earth, Supreme Commander). What this means is that the moment-to-moment game play is all about your avatar and how he interacts with the world. And, because combat is not at the core of this game, there need to be other higher order competitive or collaborative goals. In this case it seems like world customization is important... But I'm not sure how you share and compare with other players yet. 

Maybe it has something to do with the World Traveler achievement: "play in an online game where 20 different player banners appear"?

I'm willing to play it some more to find out.

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