Daily Archives: February 17, 2010

Playing Alone Together – View #937

Yahtzee Croshaw, best known for his Zero Punctuation videos over at The Escapist, also has a weekly column called, cutely enough, Extra Punctuation, because nobody can ever resist pushing an analogy too far or beating a joke to death. (We had to ban analogies at the office for a while because this phenomena.)

The column is generally a response to whatever complaints he received about the previous week’s Zero Punctuation video.  This week, however, nobody appeared to step up to take issue with his trashing of Borderlands, so he had to fill his two pages with other items.

So he chose to take a look at that oft mentioned bone of contention on the virtual world front, “Why do people insist on playing a multi-player game solo?”  A comparison to Goths (no, not those Goths, these Goths, the ones with the clove cigarettes) ensues.  And then we learn his horrible Team Fortress 2 secret.

Meanwhile, Zero Punctuation this week goes after Mass Effect 2, which gets compared at the last second to EVE Online.  We’ll see if that leads to more complaints for next week’s column.

Maybe that is why Darren likes Mass Effect 2.

Crown of Byzantus Beta Ends Friday!

I received a note the other day from a Finnish company called Casual Continent.

And when I say “the other day” I mean about a month ago when I was in Hawaii.  Furthermore, the email fell into my spam folder and I only fished it out after it sat in there for two additional weeks.

So it seems like just the other day to me.

Anyway, the email came with the subject line:

Casual Continent takes on the German Giants!

As far as subject lines go, that one nearly didn’t get fished out of the spam filter.

And even when I decided that it didn’t look like porn (after trying to read something obscene into the sender’s name, Pyry Lehdonvirta… turns out he’s the CEO) it still wasn’t clicking with me.  What sort of “German Giants” would somebody from a casual continent feel fit to take on?

Mentally, I could only come up with one option.

I was wrong of course.

It turns out that Casual Content makes browser based MMOGs and competes in a segment that is, unbeknownst to me, dominated by Germans.  You learn something new every day.

So these plucky Finns are out to take on these non-rabbit German giants with their new game Crown of Byzantus.

(This is why I’ll never make it in journalism.  I get a couple of paragraphs in before I even start answering the questions you’re supposed to cram into the first paragraph of any newspaper article if you want to keep your editor off your back.)

“And what is Crown of Byzantus?” I hear you ask?

Well, here is the blurb from their press site:

The medieval genre in browser games is choked with village building, farming simulations and gladiatorial combat. Crown of Byzantus steers clear from that crowd and instead makes the player a hero, a knight and a warlord in search of gold and glory… at least for a few minutes a day.

Crown of Byzantus is based on historical events in the 14th century but with supernatural elements based on the region and writings of medieval scholars. The player starts by building his army, unlocking new units and features as he rises through the titles of nobility. Eventually he will become embroiled in an epic war of conquest that determines the Emperor, the leading player on the server.

Wait, what was that about gladiatorial combat?  Oh, that is some other game.  And don’t get me started on farming simulations.

Along with this press blurb, they sent me a beta account, so I was able to go and play the game for a bit.  I suppose in a free-to-play game being given an account does not constitute an actual material relationship, but be warned I have been given consideration of some sort.  Consider this potentially a COMPLY LEVEL 1 WARNING worthy event, just to put the most dire spin on it.

But back to the gladiator-free 14th century.

You start out as a knight with three peasant recruits and set out to make your way in the world.

One little segment of the world

The world is presented to you in small chunks.  In each there are cities where you can heal your troops, recruit more when you are able, and conduct the usual trade and training.

There are also little encounters in the world represented by appropriate icons.  The ones with little locks on them are not available to you.  At low levels, I seemed to be stuck with sacred groves.


Heretics and mythical beasts… I’ve been to those parties before.  They’re probably all smoking clove cigarettes.

You can explore or leave… and explore means enter and start fighting with whoever you find.  I’ve been to that kind of party before as well.

Scenes from a low-class struggle

I haven’t quite figured out the mechanics of battle… not having actually read any of the instructions… but it seems to at least follow the “my army is bigger so I’m more likely to win” model of the world.

And thus you run around and earn Gold (money, duh!) and Glory (experience points), and pearls (cash shop currency, so you have to buy those actually), which are displayed on the upper right of the map screen.

The limiting factor of the game is Legend Points.  That is the fourth item on the upper right of the map and you earn them slowly over time.

You need Legend Points to move around the world.  Want to go to the next map segment? It costs a Legend Point.  Want to explore that encounter on the map?  Legend point please.

Legend Points, I am going to guess, are one of the keys to the money making aspect of this free to play browser game.  I seem to be capped at 10 points, but I would bet that once the game goes live, a visit to a cash shop or some such would raise that number.

All of these I have gleaned from about 90 minutes of total play over the course of a week.  In a way, the game is very nice in that you can open it up in a browser and let it sit, attending to it when you have free minute, but otherwise leaving it in the background.  A fine game to play during pauses in other games I suppose.

And there is much more to the game than I saw.  You can fight other players, build your army, acquire holdings, and become emperor.

Not my cup of tea perhaps, but an interesting peek into the doings of our browser based MMO brethren.

Now, the nice people at Casual Continent also sent me 5 keys to give out to readers who might like to try out this game while it is in beta.

Unfortunately, as the title of the post indicates, the beta ends on Friday at 12:00.  All that lingering in the spam filter and then my simply not getting around to writing this post has not left much of a window of opportunity.

Still, there is a little bit of time.  If you desperately want to try this before beta ends, leave a comment and I will send you a code.  There is nothing up about when the game might be back for an open beta or a live launch.  The whole thing could go Kart Rider on us!

This might be your only chance!