[Game]Cloud Raiders

“Cloud Raiders : Sky Conquest” isn’t the most fun game — the troops are the same as CoC. But they added interesting stuff, good and bad.

Their base-defense mini-game has 4 stages, with a break in-between. You’ve got 3 special defensive spells and are allowed to deploy your army. After an attack you’ll probably need time to retrain killed troops. The second is the same, but the third wave includes a unique pirate boss (a pauses mid-attack announces its arrival). The fourth stage is a counter-attack — you attack their pirate base using your normal army. That’s a fun little story. But you’ve got 24 hours to complete them all or you get nothing. It can be too much of a commitment.

There’s another defense mode they call a “Titan Invasion” — a single huge monster attacks. When you finally beat it, you go to a screen showing you’ve passed 1 out of 5 stages. You can pay real money to collect your winnings now, or keep going (which realistically will be next week, since it’s tougher). That rubs me the wrong way. I understand that games need to monetize, and there’s nothing wrong with unlocking a new way to spend cash. But they should be more clear about it.

I really like their new reserve idea. Every so often the game gives you random troops for free, set aside in a “reserve”. They last for a few days, then vanish. Sometimes they’re troops you normally wouldn’t use, but they’re free and you can’t save them for later.

All games try to push you into joining a clan. The idea is you’ll make friends and play the game longer. Some force you to join, but most try to impress you with the benefits. Cloud raiders idea was giving you 25 wall sections and 3 traps for joining. I’m not sure that really works, since it won’t encourage you to stay there. But it sure is creative.

The aesthetics are great. Instead of evenly spaced fake-random junk to clear, it comes in realistic clumps — some grass around bushes or trees. There’s lots of whispy fog drifting over — you’re an island floating over the ocean, in the clouds. The elixir is even named “clouds” with collectors pulling it out of the air. When you change island skins there’s a lovely animation showing floating pirate ships lifting buildings and dashing to your new home. It’s really impressive.

The walls use hand-made pictures. A stand-alone wall section is a big post. Line them up and the posts are replaced by a log-fence picture. There are hand-drawn T-sections and 4-ways. The ends parts of long wall sections slope down into the ground. Two touching wall sections, along, makes a low berm. Just beautiful. 30-year-old ACSII maze-games used that trick: “the picture is based on what other walls you touch”. It’s nice to see someone remembered it.

Something I really didn’t like: the game starts out showing you how the Beacon spell works — the thing where you can make all troops walk to a spot, usually to regroup them to another side of the base. But it’s a consumable. After you cast it once, it’s gone. You can’t use it in any more battles until you somehow get more. The only way seems to be with gems. The other annoyance is a beautiful tentacle rising from the ocean, shaking gold out of a chest. Tapping it brings up the daily gem deal. After choosing NO there’s a second window with Cancel/Skip. It turns out that Cancel cancels skipping, which returns you to the previous Yes/No screen. When you tap it by accident, the proper sequence is “No, Skip”.

This is advertised as cross-platform: Android, iOS, Windows and FaceBook. It’s from 2014. Was cross-platform a new thing in 2014? Were Windows games still big then? The studio, Game Insight, is based in Lithuania. Was Windows big then in Europe?

Army Tanks Aren’t

People love army tanks. They’re tough, fast, and do high damage at a long range. If your clash-like is modern or futuristic it’s gotta have tanks. But a clash-like can’t have realistic army tanks. The amazing thing is we can make something that’s nothing like a tank, call it a tank, and players will agree it’s a tank.

The problem is that in a point system, everyone instinctively thinks of units pound-for-pound effectiveness. A tank doing the damage of 10 men but costing 20 is a low damage unit. That’s not just math. Your last army had those 20 soldiers and you can clearly see the tank is killing at 1/2 the rate.

You can make a deadly, tough unit — costs 6 but has the damage of toughness of 10. All you need to do is give it some horrible drawback. But tanks only have advantages. Their high speed is nice, and long-range is a huge advantage. They suffer in rough terrain, but clash-likes don’t have terrain. You can’t have a unit that’s above-average in every area. It’s a super-troop that ruins the game.

To make tanks fit into a point system, we’ll need to give them drawbacks. We’ll change their speed from fast to slow. That seems crazy, but treads feel slow and everyone’s seen war movies where a tank crawls along city streets. Next we’ll give them low damage. We have to make a big cut somewhere. We preserved toughness and long-range. It turns out that’s almost enough to make them feel like tanks.

We use the rate-of-fire trick to make tanks shots feel stronger. Instead of firing for 50 damage every second, they fire for 100 damage every 2 seconds. That’s the same low damage, but when they first drive up to something and deliver that double-strength hit, it feels strong.

The net result is a group of tanks slowly rolling to within long range of a building, then slowly knocking down its health. The tanks are taking very little damage in return. Then slowly moving a bit to the next. These tanks feel like an unstoppable force. The entire effect is so … well … barely acceptable as an army tank, that it’s widely copied.