Instead of debating the good and bad of the social, Facebook, or casual market, I would rather take the neat parts of Tynon and explain how MMOs might benefit from them. It's important to note that my playtime was a press-only beta of sorts, so the cash was flowing and I grew rather fast, without really noting much about how I grew. Either way, let's get to it.
In case you're not familiar with an energy mechanic, picture a sandbox MMO that uses a "stamina" system. The more a player does something, the more she grows tired. If she grows too tired, she needs to rest, eat, take a potion, or do something else to raise her stamina high enough to do more. A stamina system in a sandbox MMO is the exact same type of system used in Tynon or other "casual" games like FarmVille.
I'll pause to let the comments be made... but stick with me.
In both systems and styles of game, you have activities that "cost" the player time. That wait time can be shortened in many different ways, like the ones I mentioned a moment ago. Now, how these systems are implemented varies, and how they impact gameplay or game "quality" depends on the game. In Tynon, my energy pool seemed to last quite a long time, but once my pool was depleted, the recovery times in FarmVille or sandbox MMOs were dwarfed by the hours and hours of wait time I needed to recover in Tynon.
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Let me quote the developers here:
"With Tynon, we wanted to differentiate it in quite a few subtle ways from other 'social' games out there. From a player perspective, it is annoying to jump into a game and see you have about 15 energy or actions you can take for the entire day, and often it isn't really enough for you to do anything. With Tynon, we give a significant amount of stamina to the player so they can actually get involved with the storyline and carry out actions that impact on how the story unfolds.Notice that he called it "stamina." See, it's all the same.
Yes, you can purchase daily stamina refills; however, unlike I think any other game out there, we limit the amount of daily energy purchases a player can have. We don't want this to become a boring two minute grind; we want it to be a rich and enjoyable play session. We do though allow extra daily energy purchases through our VIP system which rewards players who contribute to the ongoing development of the game with what we felt are pretty awesome rewards."
I would love to see more MMOs use an energy system. If that word bothers you, you can use stamina and call yourself a sandbox fan. All I know is that energy or stamina both try to represent a bit of reality, something we don't see enough of in our MMOs. I don't necessarily want to be punished, but imagine an MMO that used a rest system that required hours of rest after a hard day of work; that would be neat. Maybe then MMO players would become social again!
Tynon uses an automated combat system. In case you're not aware of what I mean by that, watch the embedded video. If you cannot, let me explain. An automated combat system takes away button-mashing or real-time action bars. Well, I should say that it often does; there are some games that allow real-time interaction during mostly automated combat. In Tynon, your job is to stack your troops against the enemy's. You figure out which ones work best, outfit them, level them, and send them into an automated battle that plays out in front of you. I see this as primarily the same as, let's say, an MMORTS battle system. Even though I might have a hero character in an MMORTS, one who has abilities that I can activate during combat, usually I make up my army and send it into battle. After some time, I am told of the outcome. I truly enjoy this style of combat as much as real-time combat because it switches the emphasis from reaction time to strategic thinking. I would love MMOs to be more strategic.
Casual is popular for a reason
As you can see from the quote above, the developers would like you to play as much as possible. Let's not lie about the situation: The developers would have no issues with your spending amazing amounts on time in the game, possibly spending a lot of money. Developers need to make money to make games. Still, the casual pace of Tynon is refreshing. Normally my day job is covering games that require quite a bit of tweaking and learning, so sometimes it's fun to just log into a game and have fun. Tynon, like other social or casual games, allows for casual play (see the connection?) but will often charge those who want to play in a much more hardcore fashion. It makes sense to me: Let the coffee-breakers play in 15 minute intervals five times a day for free; charge those who play the most and eat up the most server bandwidth. Time is money, and you sometimes have to pay for more time within a casual title.
I had fun with Tynon, but the game was reset near the end of the week. I got to something around level 22 and enjoyed the arena, the only aspect of the game that was anything like an MMO. I'm not sure how much real-life money I "spent," so I can't say whether my time was fun because of my access to the funds or because it was simply fun, but around level 20 I did run out of gold (used for all sorts of things in game) and was surprised to see that I could gain it back relatively quickly. Energy, on the other hand, took some time to get back once I ran out.
So will MMO players enjoy Tynon? It depends. I enjoyed it. The art style was lovely, and the music was great. It ran in my browser in seconds. If you've ever wondered how casual, Facebook, or social gaming has become more popular than any MMO out there, Tynon can show you. It's easy to learn and easy to jump into, but it does provide enough depth to make you think. While not an MMO, it does bring up some great designs that would make almost any MMO better.
Next week I will be looking at Divina, a return to Anime-styled gaming! I will play the game live on our Twitch.tv channel at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Monday the 25th of June. Join me!
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!