“Elven Blood,” “Mafia Wars,” “Mobsters,” “Vampires,” “Spymaster,” etc., are terrible games

[Elven Blood logo]I’ve stopped using Facebook almost entirely, because FriendFeed is much more engaging, useful, and easy. But back when I was using Facebook, I briefly played a game called Elven Blood (which has now been removed from Facebook).

The model used by the Elven Blood game is this:

  • You start at level one with low stats, no possessions or money, at a particular location.
  • You can choose to do one of several quests at that location. You complete the quest merely by clicking on a button.
  • Each quest gives you a small amount of experience, and usually money, and possibly a different reward (or a chance at different reward) such as an weapon or armor or mount or key.
  • Performing the quest uses up stamina and may also lower your health.
  • Stamina and health recharge over real-time.
  • As you grow in experience, you increase in level.
  • Each location has a store which sells weapons, armor, and possibly mounts.
  • As you acquire items and mounts, you can then move to different locations.
  • At the new location, there are more quests, sometimes requiring a larger party size.
  • You can sometimes purchase or find land or houses or special items, which give you a monthly income or increase your health/stamina recharge rates.
  • To increase your party size, you can invite your friends (or strangers for that matter) to join your party. Simultaneously you may (or may not) join their party. Joining someone’s party doesn’t really do anything except increase the “party size” stat. Other party members do not actually participate in questing or game play.
  • Pretty soon, the only way to progress in level (or to go to new locations) is to acquire more party members.
  • On the side, there’s a separate player vs. player (“PVP”) activity where you can attack or be attacked by random people. Victory or defeat is determined by what weapons and armor are used by you and your party members, plus random factors. But PVP doesn’t really do anything other than keep track of wins/losses and lower your stamina.
  • You start with a certain number of special points. These special points are used to buy extra party members, or instantly recharge health or stamina. You can acquire more special points by clicking on special offers (such as insurance quotes) or buying things, or paying actual cash.
  • By default the game posts “stories” to your Facebook news feed, announcing when you’ve gained a level or reached a new location.

[Mafia Wars logo]At least two dozen other games, such as “Mob Wars” and “Mobsters” and “Spymaster” and “Zombies” and “Vampires” use the same model. In addition to being found on Facebook, some of these versions are web games, some MySpace games, some Twitter games, some web games, and some iPhone games. (Doubtless other playforms too.) On Facebook, Mafia Wars is a top ten application, with more than 14 million monthly users, per AppData.

TechCrunch reports today that Playdom’s Mobsters is now available on the iPhone. Their review includes this description:

As with other games in this genre, gameplay largely revolves around completing missions and becoming more powerful by acquiring better weapons (there’s also a time constraint that forces you to keep coming back for more). It may not sound particularly appealing until you’ve tried it out for yourself, but once you do it’s easy to quickly become totally addicted.

[iMobsters logo]Already on the iPhone, you’ll find numerous re-skinned version of this game; currently in the top 25 are “iMobsters,” “World War,” “Jet Fighters Online,” “Brothers in Arms,”  “Racing Live,” and “Vampire II.” When looking at reviews, you’ll rarely see customers talk about the merits of the game, but the reviews consist almost entirely of people begging for you to “add me” (listing their user number or ID so that you can add that person to your party, so you can complete quests).

And that underscores the major problem with these types of “games”: The only challenge is finding friends, family members, co-workers and random strangers to add to your party so you can progress. There is not really any game here in the traditional sense: Completing the quest is simply a matter of clicking the button. If the quest is fighting someone, you don’t fight like in an arcade game or in a strategy game. If you meet the requirements, you succeed at the quest. (Some versions of the game may add in a random chance at failure.) There are zero decisions. There is no control. You have no options.

I am flabbergasted that so many are “addicted” to this game; I fail to see how anyone can stay interested for long.

In addition to the lack of actual game play, you end up polluting your news feed or twitter feed with random updates that — I have to assume — are of zero interest to anyone other than you (with the possible exception of other players of the game, who might then see you’re playing, and will then try to snag you to join their party).

To be fair, Elven Blood did try to incorporate some actual game elements. For example, there was a maze where you had to interpret a clue to figure out which location to travel to next. But even with these elements, the majority of the game was simply waiting until you had enough stamina, then clicking a quest button to succeed at a quest and gather rewards. Rinse, repeat. If anything, the best analogy to these games is those Tamagotchi virtual pets popular over a decade ago, where the gameplay consists of pushing a button in response to stimuli, to no real end.

So, then, the only real challenge is how effectively you can spam in order to get people to join you.

Am I missing something? These games are tremendously popular, but I honestly don’t see any lasting appeal. I was initially hooked on Elven Blood because for a little while it was engaging to join up with friends, see pretty graphics, and go through the whole RPG level treadmill progressing from neophyte to powerful warrior.

I’m most impressed by the monetization. The game creates a real incentive for you to pay cash or click on random dodgy offers just so you can grow your party without having to annoy other people. I’m sure that’s a very effective business model. As a game, however, I have zero interest.

10 Responses to ““Elven Blood,” “Mafia Wars,” “Mobsters,” “Vampires,” “Spymaster,” etc., are terrible games”

  1. Akos Says:

    One would hope that the broad appeal provided by such games would continue to expand the market in general to the benefit of all that enjoy the genre. However, I don’t know if I buy into that concept totally, since it also shows that you can just put together what I would consider a partial product and earn a revenue stream off a great number of people.

  2. Stephen Says:

    You’re right. Given how successful these games are, it’s unsurprising there are so many re-skins of the same exact game being made available.

  3. Jasmine Says:

    Hi, I am a owner of bloodmoneymafia.com unlike the other games you were speaking of, my game allows you to play for weekly prizes. It allows you to befriend and trust others. While creating yourself a virtual bad guy. If you disliked those maybe test this one out and see what you think of it 🙂

  4. Stephen Says:

    All right, Jasmine, I will, but I won’t hold back if I think it’s terrible!

  5. Jasmine Says:

    No problem I like all opinions even the bad ones 🙂

  6. Dario Says:

    So, any reviews fo bloodmoneymafia?

  7. Stephen Says:

    Haven’t had a chance to try it yet! Have you played it?

  8. Danny Ritchey Says:

    i love mafia wars! great blog, keep up the good work! i’ll definitely be back.

  9. Jerry Says:

    I don’t care for a lot of those games, but I do enjoy playing Mafia Wars!

  10. tamagotchi mametchi Says:

    I purchased tamagotchi v6 game for my children to keep them away from pc. It appears cute to even an adult like me.

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