MMObility: Travians and socializing on any device

Last week I told you a little bit about Travians, a neat little mobile- and browser-based game brought to us by the same good people who brought us Travian. (Notice the singular title of Travian, the island-based MMORTS.) I was intrigued as soon as I saw it mainly because it looked like it was doing something different: creating a mostly non-combat experience that is so very rare in today's market. I had also a lot of experience with Travian before, and despite not enjoying some of the aspects of the game, I enjoyed playing with friends. I hoped that Travians would allow a player to insert a single avatar into the greater world of Travian islands, and that's sort of what you do.

If you have played The Sims before, you'll have a basic idea about the what you have to do in Travians. You must point your little person to the bathroom, aim him toward a food source, and even tuck him into bed. Your character won't die or wet the floor if you don't perform successfully, but he will lose some ability to gain experience and other points. If you have enjoyed a conversation while in an online game, found yourself crafting away an evening, or spent a great deal of time decorating your virtual home, you'll have a basic idea about the optional activities in Travians.

Click past the cut and I'll tell you more!
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I took some time to send off some basic questions to the publisher of Travians, mainly because I was a little lost at first. Well, OK, I'm still a little lost. It was interesting to find out some of the statistics behind the social game. I knew that the browser-based MMORTS Travian had done very well, but I wasn't sure how Travians was doing. There are always players on to hang out with, at all hours of the day, so obviously the game has an international appeal.

Travian Games was happy to answer me: "Our games are played all around the world; this is why we have achieved the massive amount of players (more than 110,000,000 confirmed registered players in the past years up until today). Travian, for example, is played in 42 different languages in over 50 countries –- I personally doubt that there is any other game that is played by so many users in so many different countries and languages!"

How much crossover is there between the two games? That I am not sure of. I imagine that the crafting and extremely social nature of Travians attracts a different crowd than its military- and combat-based older brother. At the same time, both games really shine when players group together to achieve great things. When I played Travian heavily, I encouraged members of my social network to play with me. We had a blast, but I remember a lot of trading and shipping, with very little combat. Perhaps the two are not so different after all?

If you have ever played either game, then you understand that there is no sound featured. At first this shocked me, but then I remembered how many browser games feature very little sound or none at all. The developers were simply concerned with compatibility with all browsers and so decided to leave sound out. Even minor beeps and whistles would require a download of some kind, a download they would rather avoid. It's easy to see how this lack of a download might translate into more players. As Travian Games clarified, "This is the reason our games are pure browser games and not streaming tech games with Unity or other technologies. This would limit the number of potential users in an enormous way. Travian Games is always looking forward to releasing games in other countries as well, with the same technology to guarantee equal rules –- like on the current world champion tournament server, where 30,000 people from over 20 countries battle for the official world championship in Travian!"

Travians is mobile gaming in its purest form. I really, really like that. While there currently exist technologies that would allow the developers to make a fully 3-D experience complete with all of the standard bells and whistles of today's modern MMO market, they have decided to go the low-tech route. If you ask me, it takes a good developer to make a good game within Unity or any of the other newer, fancier engines, but it takes a great developer to attempt to make a good game using limitations. Travians is mostly a social game, unique in that way alone, but it's also trying to run successfully alongside its giant older brother, Travian. It seems to be doing pretty well.

So far in the game I have earned enough social points -- points earned for hanging out in social events or playing minigames with other players -- to buy a nicer washing basin and chess table for my house. Players can very slowly earn enough to buy much larger and better-furnished houses. I visited a few that were unbelievable in their size and decoration. I literally became lost in one while trying to leave. The community is very helpful, although I did have a strange run-in with one of the chat moderators. Other than that, it has been fun to log in, wake my little guy up, get him cleaned up, and send him out for the day. There is obviously much more to learn, like how to trade successfully and how to get the most out of social events, but I plan on figuring it out.

The game ran successfully across all of my devices (my iPad, iPhone, HTC Inspire Android, laptop, and desktop), but generally, the smaller the screen, the less smooth the performance. I've bought a stylus from the phone store, and that helps to activate the tinier buttons on the screen. There have also been a few glitches, but nothing game-breaking.

My mind starts to boggle when I consider the possibilities of such an accessible game. The developers could add expansions to the combat system, more and more furniture options, new lands... the possibilities in such a game -- and world! -- are endless. When your game is set up to run across so many devices, you could even add in real-life functionality. Imagine having your Travians character wake you up every day or getting emails delivered by your in-game character. Travians is a perfect example of how I think mobile gaming might go. I only wish many of my readers would quit talking about the graphics. Not only are fully realized 3-D browser games here, but the new technologies will make the look of these games even better. Don't concentrate on the graphics.

Notice, however, how clever some of the mobile market games like Travians are. Within such games is an obvious concern for accessibility, but the gameplay is still rich and interesting. Travians will probably be an even more unique experience within time. So will the entire mobile market.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Raptr.
This article was originally published on Massively.