Browser Games: Intro

Lately I’ve been exploring the not-new-but-maturing area of BBMMO (“Browser Based Massively Multiplayer Online”) games. They have some cool aspects that drew me to them, and I figured I’d talk a bit about some that I’ve tried in my first-ever series of posts.

These games largely fall into two categories: strategy and role-playing. The role-playing ones are all about you building up a character, typically to compete with other characters. The strategy ones are usually about building up cities and armies and warring with other players or guilds. Both types can be found for all of the standard gaming genres: medieval fantasy/sci-fi/cyberpunk/sports. They also vary widely in terms of competitiveness and social aspects.

Persistence and asynchronicity are defining attributes. They are designed to be played casually, whenever you want. You can attack someone who is not online, or assist a friend on a completely different schedule. This is more like the old play-by-mail games than games like World of Warcraft or Starcraft. Active players often log on several times a day, typically for just a few minutes, and read messages, read reports, launch attachs, issue build orders, etc.

These games typically lack the flair of a downloadable/installable game, or even that of a flash game. Some of them are even almost entirely text-based. They seem to be heavily focused on game mechanics rather than interface, not unlike a board game, and this has a noticeable effect on the type of gamers you’ll encounter. Those lacking patience or the desire to dig deep typically become inactive quickly.

There are hundreds, possibly thousands of these games out there, many with active playerbases in the tens of thousands, yet they are largely ignored by the mainstream gaming community probably because of their lack of commercialization and blockbuster titles. Over the next few days I’ll be discussing some of the ones I’ve tried, including Ikariam, Tribal Wars, Travian, Duels, and Baseball Boss.