Saturday, 27 December 2014

Game Dev: Upgrade Clicker Madness

Ahh what sad times we live in, where a game consisting of only the most elementary system, Clicking your mouse, and upgrading the abilities of that click, has become a genre unto itself.

I take in point 3 games: Must-a-mine a more recent edition to these style of games, and two quite popular versions in online game communities: Clicker Heroes and Adventure Capitalist

Must-a-mine is a bit of an interesting case, in that its broken. I'll get to that later, but lets first look at Clicker Heroes to get a feel for some underlying mechanics.

In CH, You click on the creature to damage it, based on your main Hero's damage. that's it. no retaliation, no HP, nothing else, just click to damage. when its dead, get cash, use cash to directly upgrade your hero.

Once 10 creatures are dead in the region, click the next region over, harder creatures, with more HP and more $, after 5 rounds, you are presented with a boss creature which has incredibly high hit points, you must defeat him in 30 seconds, or he heals back to full, and you cannot progress further until he/it is defeated.

At first I felt like I was playing the core basics of a Dungeon Crawl, kill monster, get reward, buy upgrade.

the 1st Boss Monster was easy, the second, nigh on impossible, I could not get enough cash to get enough upgrades to click fast enough to kill his 10,000HP in 30 seconds.. a quick calculation revealed I would have to kill 200 odd creatures in a previous level to gain enough gold to gain enough upgrades to beat the boss.. OR I'd have to upgrade the hero Helper..

The Helper (which comes along in many forms in other games) clicks for you. So instead of having to click 300 times myself, I could click 200, and my helper would click the rest.

Many Helpers don't actually click, they merely do a damage per second (or minutes, or hours.. more on that)

So, Helper in tow, I now defeat the 2nd Boss.. Levels are a grind, but my helper clears enough of them, and with enough upgrades for him/her, I can actually stop clicking....

I stop.. clicking... which is the whole point of the game..

So they've dumbed down the very mechanic that the game is based around.. your finger is too sore to play on, so instead of proving your endurance, your ability to click faster, or more than the average joe, no, we introduced the element of not needing to even play that part of the game.. it was there just to get you interested..

Is that what is happening in games? we're taking away the difficulty until it doesn't exist? why not just go watch a movie!!!

Adventure Capitalist makes a point of this, sure you begin clicking, with the lemonade stand, 2-3 clicks to upgrade, but its not clicks for the sake of clicking, the clicking means something, like any game, click the menu, click the button to activate, click on the monster, click the healing potion.. no AC is a different game again.

in AC, you don't click for the sake of clicking.. you click only to get the first few upgrades in place, once you have two or three managers (Helpers?) to do the clicking for you, you just make decisions of what to upgrade.

The Upgrades increase your income, each choice gives you more income, be it a new business venture, Investing into that venture to improve your takings, buying upgrades to improve profits or speed of said profits.

Anyone with any nonce, maths or just plain intuition knows delayed gratification is usually more profitable. and this game teaches this.. sure you could spend 2 billion for the 300th Upgrade to lemon stand, but that brings a meagre $7.50 increase to the stand income (seriously? 2 billion for a $7 increase?) or the same can be spent on your sports team for a 20 million dollar increase... but there are smaller aspects too.. get 25 upgrades to the lemon stand and double all profits! yet again, do the math, and you'll find that its always cheaper to buy the most expensive item

If you can stand waiting... 

That's the core to the game, can you wait? Its a test of your ability to wait for the best prize, vs go for the (seemingly)cheaper boost, because you know, it might just help you get to the bigger prize faster.

Sure, you can be like me, and write up a massive spreadsheet to determine if clicking the 81 billion upgrade to Oil Rig is going to be worth the same 81 billion spent on Doughnut shops.. its not, but if you cross reference the x3 multiplier for hitting 100 upgrades + the fact that you'll get 3515 payouts of 15 mil, before you get that one 500 bil payout.. then sure, those come once every 10 upgrades...

See what I mean? Who else other than a fellow sheldonite is going to go to that degree of trouble.

So, we come back to Must-a-mine.. who attempted to monetize the game.

There is a strange kind of problem with these multi-billion clickers.. When would you spend money? At the start, you don't realise how big the game gets, trillions, quadrillions, septillions, .. luckily the Americanized version, 7 sets of 000 + a 000 thrown in for good measure, and not the classic 1,000^7 as I was trained. If you spend $10 at the start of the game, you'd be likely to buy $1,000,000 with 10 of your diamonds.. worth $0.75, and think you were going to burn this game... to discover after 3 hours, that you'd be earning $1mil every 10 seconds.. or worse, after 24 hours, getting a billion every 10 seconds..

Its all just Big numbers.. and that's probably why people want to see it.. that little inner billionaire wanting to see the big cheques. 

So MaM added equipment, unlockable chests, and more upgrades.. I won't bore you with the maths, but you should either spend $40 at the start of the game, buy all the platinum chests, chew through 300 hours of play in roughly 10 minutes and ignore the whole equipment system or play the 300 hours, and realise that you'll never get enough of anything to resemble any kind of worthwhile bonus to offset the rising costs of all the other mechaMoustaches in the game and know that you just wasted 300 hours for no real reason.

But then again, thats what games do right? waste excess time? But this is worse, it makes you WAIT to waste that time.. you need to get another game, to play, while waiting for the ability to play this one!

Its a test of your sadomasochistic mental state to see how far you'll go before you give up.. (just one more click, maybe it'll unlock the next big thing and I'll chew through the level faster and get to the end?)

Some quick googling reveals, there is no end... all these games have a meta game.. when you're tired of waiting.. or when you get close to the end, or when you get all the upgrades, self reset and earn special bonus angels or tritanium or treasure chests, and play again.. with a 5% speed booster!


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