Automating the Gameplay

written by Fyren

 

Many unscrupulous players of online games will run bots or scripts that allow them to perform repetitive tasks in game while not actually being present at the keyboard. This sort of thing is frowned upon by nearly every online community, and is often punished by the developers of the game with a ban, permanent in some cases. This is only in online PC games though, the mobile game space is looking entirely different from this. A new mobile game comes out every day that is designed to essentially play itself. The combat is all automated, requiring only the occasional input from a person. Why on earth would this be the case? Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of playing a game to start with?

 

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The purpose is not exactly defeated I believe. In order to truly understand this trend though, we need to look at a different type of game. The idle game. These games are all about purchasing upgrades, in order to buy better upgrades. The most famous of these are Cow Clicker and Cookie Clicker. Since then, many of new ‘clicker’ games have sprung up. Some of them have added features or become more complex than their predecessors, but the general premise remains the same. You passively earn currency at a rate determined by the upgrades you have purchased, and then you spend that currency on further upgrades to increase the rate at which you are earning said currency. The game plays itself, only seldom requiring input. These games were developed initially as a form of satire on gaming, laying bare the mechanics of games that trap you in a loop of constantly needing the next thing. Unexpectedly, they became popular in their own right. Mostly among people that had better things to do. They weren’t interested in actually playing the game, but rather checking in on the game a few times a day to feel a small accomplishment as they watch numbers gradually get bigger.

 

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Now, the defining characteristics of the classic ‘clicker’ games are becoming prevalent in a wide array of mobile games. Brawlers, dungeon crawlers, RPGs, action games, and even MMOs on mobile devices are now incorporating some sort of automatic gameplay features. One such MMO, now available on Android and iOS so you can see what I’m talking about for yourself, is Lineage: Revolution. This game is beautiful by mobile game standards with a full 3D world and some stunning particle effects. One of its key features though, is the automatic questing system. You accept a quest from an NPC, in the standard MMO fashion, but then your character sets about completing the quest all on their own. You watch as your character traverses the world, finds the quest objectives, and completes them. Your character will even then return to the appropriate NPC and turn it in, without any input needed from the player short of collecting the reward and accepting the next quest. This type of design is unheard of in the PC gaming space, and yet it is becoming more and more prevalent on mobile devices. Lineage is not the only game to employ such a system.

 

It is sad to see that as mobile devices become more powerful and more capable than ever, the games available on them continue to get simpler in terms of gameplay. Rather than opening up new ways to play and innovating with increasingly powerful hardware, it seems to be a regression. This however, is the opinion of a long time PC gamer who enjoys digging into the complex intricacies of strategy games, or learning the attack patterns of difficult bosses. It is clear that these games are not meant for me.

 

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Instead, these games are being marketed and developed for an entirely different audience. That audience is primarily adults with children who have limited time, attention and energy to spare for playing games. These games provide an outlet for those who would not otherwise be able to play an MMO a way to do just that. By automating much of the gameplay, one could be completing a dungeon while also attending to the needs of a small child. Perhaps, for someone who works long days may not have the energy to sit at their PC and devote their time to a ‘hardcore’ game. Instead, they may lay down on the couch to watch a movie and also play a game at the same time. The evolving audience and markets of the mobile gaming space has given us many trends that hardcore gamers consider to be terrible, but for the people these games are developed for, they are a way to continue gaming within the context of their often insane schedules.

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