So, I’m playing this stupid mobile game I downloaded over the weekend.

I’m not going to name it for a variety of reasons. As to why I’m “playing” it (it’s an idle dungeon crawler), that’s the subject of this blog post.

See, in THEORY, this is exactly the sort of game that I want. It’s an idle game so stuff changes when I’m not playing it. That’s kind of a big deal to me, and it fascinates me about the entire “genre” of idle games. So that’s one reason to play the stupid thing.

I hate online games–I think I’m just going to come right out and say it. I don’t like a game whose experience relies upon A) a connection to a server, and B) other human beings. Honestly, other human beings are a significant reason why I play games. But I think I would be willing to accept the former if I could avoid the latter: an online game I can play without other people.

Now, I loved the Facebook D&D Tiny Adventures. I mourned its loss–still do, actually. It was exactly what I wanted (well, close enough), an “adventure simulator” that ran in the background while I was at work. I could check in every 15-40 minutes or so and see how my “tiny adventurer” was doing on his or her own journey.

Encounters ranged across the spectrum from silly to serious, so it was almost always an entertaining read and something to look forward to between individual tasks. I would’ve appreciated more interactivity but on the whole, it was fun and I enjoyed it.

This game that I’m playing though… is not good.

I mean, without getting into its many, many flaws, it is the very soul of exploitative, money-grubbing, Skinner-boxing nonsense. It wants your money and it will do anything it can to make you think you need to pay to win. I’m not going to give them any money, so I’ve taken it as a personal challenge to see how much of the game I can experience without paying.

The thing is, I might be willing to pay money for a better game. It’s just that this game has so many shortcomings and obvious cash-grabs that I was made almost instantaneously suspicious of nearly everything it offered me, and I have devoted a just-shy-of-unhealthy amount of energy to figuring out ways to exploit the game’s poorly-conceived mechanics.

Everything from abusing reset timers to farming (which is a weird way to think of an idle game’s mechanics), to simply waiting for things the game expects you to impulse-pay your way past. I’ll concede that it’s a strange way to have fun, but I have another purpose which is to see the various different modes they’ve incorporated into the game to try and squeeze money out of players.

I recognize a lot of classic MMORPG time and money sinks, as well as a host of mobile-borne ones. They’re just implemented so badly… the commodity/currency system demonstrates such a fundamental failure to understand… basic math and… economics?

Here’s a generalized example:
– You don’t just get new adventuring companions, you get “pieces” of them. Once you collect X pieces, you can add them to your party. You continue to collect pieces for them though, because you need those pieces to continue upgrading them.
– You can get companion pieces through a variety of channels: perhaps by defeating them as MOBs, perhaps as rewards for defeating other MOBs, by pulling them randomly from a “loot box.” You can also purchase them in the store.
– Stores accept a variety of currencies, including the “commodity currency” (the one you spend actual money to get). Since you can buy the pieces using almost any available currency (which are offered at different rates), you can avoid spending real money by using the in-game currencies.
– Only so many deals are offered at one time however, so the game allows you to “refresh” the available deals by… spending real money.

Here’s where it breaks down though: there are so many things to collect, period, and so many followers, that your chance or randomly finding something in the store that you want is ALREADY low. The deals refresh automatically, so there’s no reason to rush it. Lots of the deals are for trash.
– Why pay money for trash you can get by playing the game?
– Why pay money to refresh the shop with trash you can get by playing the game?
– Why pay money for trash you can buy with stuff you can get by playing the game?

The above doesn’t even take into account finding a deal you WANT.

What this should do in a healthy player is actually push them to “play the game,” though I think those players who have developed a habit for “paying to win” will sink tons of cash into the shops because of gambling addiction.

All of the above problems might be lessened (or at least be more obvious) if not for the fact that this is an IDLE GAME. You continue to play the game while you aren’t even playing it.

Time is literally on your side.

If you have patience, which I realize a lot of compulsive gamers distinctly lack, you can literally wait to get everything you want from the game.

My first complaint about the game (after a slew of others I won’t mention) is that there’s literally no challenge. It’s an idle DUNGEON CRAWLER, which is a genre traditionally demanding at least some strategy or skill.

There are some perks to constructing a party, but so much of the game is automated that you can brute-force your way through almost anything. There are no “wrong turns” or “dead ends” or even traps.

The basic cycle of gameplay is skiwampus. You kind of want to adventure for a while until you have a bunch of “advancement trash” (the stuff you need to level up all of your stuff), so you go back to town to… do that. But you then spend ages in the town grinding that trash into other trash and rubbing it on your advancement bars until they increase… which should make you want to go back to play.

Well, except it doesn’t Converting trash into other trash has the side effect of unlocking more trash and so you grind that trash down and make more trash and rub that trash on your advancement bars. You spend less and less time playing the game that it’s easy to forget why you’re doing anything. Oh, but see those advancement bars get bigger!

This is of course beside the point that the “game” is this rush from one single-monster encounter to the next. After a few encounters your damage becomes automatic and you don’t have to tap anymore, and after less than an hour of the game you’ll scarcely want or need to tap against unless you want to keep playing it.