So while I’ve not been writing my own game, I have been playing other ones so I thought I’d give some thoughts on a game I’ve been playing lately.
The game is Idle Planet Miner (link to Android Store, also on Apple Store)
The gameplay is pretty simple – you have a mothership, which is sent to a galaxy and you are tasked with getting as much wealth as possible. You can start mining a planet for resources, upgrade the mining speed etc, and then start mining new planets for new resources.
Gameplay is gated with a research tree, which provides choices as to what you should do next – you can sell your resources to develop the planets you have available, or use the resources to develop the galaxy as a whole, unlocking smelting, crafting, colonisation and more planets amongst other things.
Once unlocked, crafting and smelting allow you to make less valuable ores into more valuable products, from iron bars to lasers. This is generally higher value, but you must decide if you want to get the money now for upgrade, or if you want to wait to process the goods.
Aside from this there is the usual gamut of long term and paid rewards – you can send rovers on longer term missions to get bonuses, which you can also buy for real money, there’s a way to watch adverts for in-game currency, and you can pay to win by buying better ships etc.
Finally, once you have finished your galaxy or you are not making progress, you can “sell” your galaxy and restart, giving you currency with which you can update your mothership to make it easier in the next galaxy. There is also a challenge available periodically where you have 24 hours to make as much as possible from a new galaxy, which gives permanent bonuses.
There is quite a lot to this game despite its simple premise, as the above paragraphs indicate. It certainly is a lot more captivating than I would have guessed, in particular the challenge mode which, because you only have 24 hours and the bonus is very much worth it, takes a bit of planning and forethought.
The decision making is definitely more interesting than I would have expected too. Early on, for example, it is worthwhile to sell the goods rather than save them for research, even if you can afford the research. Unlocking a bunch of new planets is not useful if you can’t afford to start mining them! Colonisation is an interesting extra – you pay a lot of resources for a 25% gain in production – I think perhaps my galaxies are all too small to make it useful, as it is very expensive for such a small gain, but if you were to play for a long time perhaps it would change.
This perhaps brings me to my biggest criticism of the game: The reset mechanism. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to make the rewards for resetting on what appears to be a logarithmic scale; so a galaxy worth $10M gets 10 credits, but a galaxy worth $15M only gets 12. This makes it basically best to reset the galaxy as soon as you can as the rate of wealth gain slows down more quickly than the rate of reward increases. I think perhaps someone didn’t do their maths! It might not be the case in the long run, but I’ve ran one for three days and barely got 30 credits,
But despite this, I still like the game. I have enjoyed doing the challenges as quickly as possible, and I’m interested to know if after a while the start part will become sufficiently quick that it’s not worth resetting quite so soon. But without a proper reward for a reset, I’m inclined to say I’ve probably ran my course with this game after about a month, and it may well go the way of many other games and I’ll move on to something else. Worth a try though.
Lessons to Learn
So this is a development blog, not a review, so what can I learn from this game to add to my game?
Firstly, make sure the reset rewards grow properly. It should be the case that (if you can choose your reset point) the optimum reset point is the point when the rewards slow down relative to your time spent. This reset point should generally increase – so it’s worth spending more time getting further into the game on each cycle.
Secondly, to way the research/colonisation/upgrade decisions are given here is really good. The fact that you can do something shouldn’t always mean you should. In the case of my game, this means I have to make sure that the cost of doing a ritual to improve your gardens should be significantly higher than the cost of building the first few gardens, for example, or that the reward is low but still relevant. It might also be good to make sure that the same resources have a lot of uses, so that maximises your decision making.
The third thing I’d take home is that there’s value in throwing things like the challenge mode in. This really made me want to play the challenge mode, and think about how I could find the time to play to maximise my resources. I felt in control, though – it’s not just an event, it’s an event I can play on my own terms. I don’t know how I can fit something like this into my game, or even if I will at all, but it’s something I can bear in mind.
Anyway, there we go. Not a bad little game, and there’s always something to learn!