Travian Under the Microscope

I’ve been meaning to write about a web-based MMO called Travian for a long time. Travian is, to my mind, the very embodiment of the phrase “so close, and yet so far.” It has all the basic components of a perfect low-budget MMO, but a few maddening design flaws make the game basically unplayable (in the long term) for most people. The following is a very long deconstruction of the game. If you’re interested in MMOs, read on. If not, it’s safe to skip this post. ;-)

Travian in a nutshell

In a nutshell, Travian is a pseudo-real-time massive multiplayer strategy game. You build towns and armies, and use your armies to conquer and pillage other towns. I say “pseudo-real-time” because, while the game operates in real-time and you can take action whenever you wish, each action requires a variable but substantial amount of time to complete. (For example, building a granary might take 20 minutes in the real world; upgrading it might take several hours. And while you’re building your granary, you can’t build anything else. Likewise, sending your army on a raid could take as little as 30 minutes or as long as a day.) There is real genius in this — it preserves the feeling of a real-time game while effectively preventing people with tons of spare time from overwhelming competing players. The eleven-year-old who wants to can obsess over the world map and communicate with allies to his heart’s content, while the forty-year-old parent with twenty minutes to spare can quickly take his turns and tune out till the next day.

Escalating demands on your time

Or that would be the case, if Travian didn’t enable you to keep building towns, each of which require a fixed time to manage. By the time you reach four or five towns, the game no longer feels like a small commitment. Worse yet, Travian does not offer any meaningful way for you or your allies to auto-defend your towns, so players feel compelled to log in obsessively (in order to track and respond to incoming attacks.)

If Travian made player advancement more scalable (from a time-management perspective), channeled all excess time/energy of players into actions that don’t unbalance the game (like team communications, in-game personalization, optional micromanagement, etc), and made it easier for players to defend themselves when away from the computer, the beauty of the game’s basic design could have been preserved.

Alliances that live up to the term “massive”

Alliances are another (conceptually) great part of Travian. To be brief: you can’t survive Travian on your own. Players that don’t form alliances are quickly overrun by neighbors with friends. And eventually, single alliances are overrun by groups of alliances. Travian is by no means the first game to offer this sort of group functionality, but it fits very nicely within Travian, and players really don’t seem to miss the opportunity to play as a loner. (I’m one of those guys who always choose the best “loner” class in MMORPGs, so I can testify to this myself.)

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say there’s something amazing about the feeling of being part of a huge online team, and knowing that your participation really makes a significant difference. I always hated 40 man raids in World of Warcraft because I found it impossible to shake the feeling that (in general) my participation was irrelevant. 39 men were more than enough to complete 99% of the raid content. But in Travian, you can’t help but feel you count, even in a 500-man war. When your army hits an enemy town and you get the damage report back, it feels… substantial — in no small part because your army probably took one week or more (real time) to build, and losses on both sides definitely matter. And at the same time, losses are generally manageable with the help of a well-run alliance.

Dysfunctionally massive

Unfortunately, Travian doesn’t actually offer alliances any meaningful way via which to coordinate attacks or defense. Players are left to rely on external message boards and/or chat clients, which means obsessively logging into at least TWO systems (Travian and the comm system) if you want to play the game effectively.

You’d have to play Travian to truly understand what I’m about to write, but: imagine having to coordinate an attack with 50 (or even 250) people, all of whom need to take a precise set of actions at a precise set of times, without having any built-in communication or planning mechanism for this — not even something that helps manage the different time zones that players (from all over the world) are operating in. Suffice to say, in several months, I never managed to participate in a single, well-executed attack. Not one. And while my alliance may not have been the very best, it was by absolutely no means the worst.

With a simple set of tools, Travian could enable alliances to coordinate attacks and auto-execute defensive actions (so players wouldn’t feel compelled to login constantly, as mentioned previously.) Without those tools, participation in an alliance becomes (at best) a very necessary evil.

Conversion incentives for non-paying customers

I was also intrigued by the ways that Travian gets customers to upgrade to “Travian Plus” (the paid service). Travian is completely playable as a free game. Upgrading simply makes playing Travian more convenient; you can execute resource trades more quickly, queue build orders, etc. In other words, upgrading simply saves you time on a daily basis. Guys like me (with more money than free time) can pay for convenience. Personally, I much prefer that to casual MMOs that sell performance-enhancing items to my opponents, which feels inherently unfair and manipulative. But perhaps that’s just me.

Unfortunately, Travian ultimately turns into such a gigantic time-sink that the convenience of Travian Plus barely helps in the long-term. There’s a balance to be struck here, and I’m convinced that a “better” Travian will strike it.

Stickiness, or lack thereof

On one hand, Travian is relatively sticky (by virtue of the bonds you form with your alliance members.) And on the other hand, quitting Travian is relatively easy (as compared to World of Warcraft), because there isn’t much opportunity to personalize your in-game presence. You’re just a name on a set of villages. At the end of the day, if you’re on the losing side of a conflict (or just getting bored), quitting means saying goodbye to your teammates, but not to a carefully-constructed, lovingly-maintained image. Travian players who convince their teammates to try another game with them, in other words, have basically nothing to lose.

And despite all these flaws…

I witnessed some amazing things while playing Travian. Alliances planting spies in other alliances. Breaking into each other’s private forums. Political intrigue at the micro and macro level. Incredibly passionate groups of people, desperate to defend one another and climb the ladder to #1 alliance. Travian has many thousands of dedicated players, most of whom would probably agree that the game is deeply flawed.. but they’re still playing. It’s a testament to the power of a relatively simple game that enables many people to meaningfully join forces.

There’s much more I could write about the design of Travian, but this post is already too long. Suffice to say, I’m glad I played the game, and even more glad that I quit. I think I learned a few valuable lessons about MMOs in the process.

Last word: someday, a better Travian will come along… and when it does, it’s going to make a giant pile of money. You can bet I’ll be one of the customers tossing bills onto that pile.

59 responses to “Travian Under the Microscope

  1. I agree in large with your opinion. Travian becomes too repetitive and takes way too much time when you go past 20 or 30 villages. I think the solution is implementing features that make the villages easier to build when the game advances enough. I played Travian for a year and a half, and I won a round with my alliance, but I also had lots of free time on my hand.

    But, I disagree with the automated battle system that you\’re proposing. I fail to see what would keep a player playing this game for a year or more if all he needs to do is set automated defenses, train troops and buildings. For me, it doesn\’t have the thrill of seeing 30 atacks on one of my villages and scrambling to gather defenses from my allies.

    Actually, I am working on a game similar with Travian in concept, with a couple of friends and looking to make a better game with many things that we think Travian is lacking. Features like formation of teams and better communication inside an alliance (including mass messages to other alliances), lots of extra statistics for those that enjoy that, 3 ages where the units change in every age so that boredom is reduced for some people, caravans in the second part of the game that can carry 30.000 resources (to decrease the time spent on sending merchants from one village to another

  2. Hmm .. it seems my comment was cut off. Anyway, if you have the time or the mood to visit the website I write this comments with, I would love to hear an opinion or some suggestions.
    Best regards,
    A travian fan

  3. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Travian is an outgrowth of largely text and stats-based games like Utopia or Earth 2025, and appears to have inherited many of their flaws (the game as time sink, constant need to log in to optimize resource management) while introducing new ones (the difficulty of defending your territory that you describe, as well as the difficulties attendant on attack coordination – to the best of my knowledge, coordinating attacks wasn’t an issue in Utopia/Earth, because it wasn’t necessary).

    I personally think that there’s probably a game genre with long-term value and/or wide appeal waiting to be born from games like Travian, but for as long as I’ve been aware of them the internal structures and design of such games have felt as if they were engineered to drive away anyone who isn’t the hardest of the hardcore. I’m not sure if this is a property of the genre itself, or the result of choices (conscious or otherwise) that were made in the course of the development process.

  4. Great post, David. I’ll check out Travian for a bit to become acquainted with it and its pros and cons.

    Adrian

  5. Imperial — defense need not be exclusively automated; it just needs to be automated enough (or designed differently enough) that players can’t be wiped out just because they didn’t log on multiple times a day. Looking forward to checking out your game.

    Alec — not a property of the genre. I played massive-multi strategy games back in the BBS days that were totally enjoyable at 20 minutes a day. Still waiting for a modern translation of those games that doesn’t disappoint in some significant way.

    Adrian — One con I didn’t mention (explicitly) is that Travian tends to feel very tedious for long periods of time. Those periods are punctuated by short moments of extreme excitement. If you only play for a few days (or perhaps even weeks), you may never experience one of those really exciting moments in the game. So be warned: you might be better off just chatting with me about my experience, unless you have a fair amount of time to commit. ;-)

  6. Just chatting to friends, and alliance members on the external forum is fun.. managing a village and getting up the rank is a way, as I see it, to gain respect and to strengthen friendships, which could, outside of travian, go to the realms of MSN :D

    My alliance doesn’t often organise attacks,defense is our speciality, and when I see 15,000 defensive troops against 12,000 offensive, and see the offensive player lose their entire army, that gives me a thrill :D

  7. Server 4 (http://s4.travian.com) starts in 9 hours…

    And some of us have methods of dealing with the time sink that turn into time sinks of their own.

  8. I play the game every ngiht after work for a few min or so. I don\\\’t have time to
    log in. But I love the gaem

  9. My analysis of Travian is the same as yours. I designed a different type of game, as you can see if you check the website. I used my experience as a boardgamer and spent a few months playing several MMOGs like Utopia, Travian, Ogame, etc.

    The ideia was designing a game such that victory would depend on a player\’s strategic skills, and not on time spent in front of the computer. I also hated the ideia of having to log in several times a day, or of having to log in at a stupid hour in the middle of the night, just because of some attack. The solution was to make the game a turn-based game, instead of real-time, or pseudo real time.

    The game is also much more realistic in terms of military operations (no army teleporting for instance), but this means of course that is more complex, and that does not appeal to such a large audience, as does Travian.

    Feel free to visit and i would very much like to hear your opinion/feedback/suggestions

  10. Actually, the point of the game is to make some stratagey, including planting spies…. or stuff like that.

    I find that intresting……

    but your comment is also agreed, it is a little boring when you wait for the time.

  11. I have two other qualms about Travian to add.

    The game is significantly skewed in favor of the aggressors. The majority of military units, in fact almost all of them, are better attackers than defenders. Most troops are great for assault and are weaklings in defenses. The game has buildings like stonemasons, city walls, and a slow method by which to increase the defense of troops. Outside of the right mix of troops in bigger numbers, defense is impossible.

    Travian also is a game where the older kids on the block are significant bullies. People who have been on a world longer have had more time to build armies, villages, and resource production abilities. So if you come along a few months later they’re free to send a massive army and a flood of attacks. There is no honor in Travian. You can have a nice, peaceful 300 person village when you got to bed and wake up to see half of your buildings gone. All done by a player with 8 or 9 villages who has 2 in your area who thought you were growing a little too big too fast for his tastes.

    Personally I’m waiting for the bigger and badder 4th version. Hopefully some truly defensive units will be in place and better communication methods will be developed.

  12. A well-run Alliance can make defense semi-automatic.
    Your absence does not ruin the game – provided your leaders are on the ball.

    Also a \’global vision\’ to warfare can do away with the massive/central method of attacking. What I mean with that is that if the Leadership is able to set the entire map ( or at least a large part of it ) on fire, opportunities for lone wolf attacks abound.

    Many of the flaws that you point at, are not inherent to the game, but to the way the game is currently played.

    In the current round on s7, we have managed to do away with the centralised method of warfare – with the result that one group of connected alliances achieved total domination months earlier than is the norm.

    We hit upon the concept of de-centralised warfare in response to the factors that you have outlined so clearly. The solution to the problems posed by those factors aare not to be found in revamping the game – but in revamping the way people play.

    The world is flat! Some people just fail to notice it, because they grew up on a non-flat world.

  13. Your analysis of travian is very superficial. The game itself has undergone many revisions in the three years it has been available to the public. In that time over 1,000,000 users have played travian. What other online game goes to the trouble of having servers in the language of your choice? Right now they have 26 different country servers, each game averages about 25,000 players. Some servers run a year, and are travian version three with oases and heroes, some run four or five months and are speedservers, and now they are even reviving the travian 2.5 servers that did not have oases and heroes. So there are many many options.

    So many players just play one round of travian, get wiped out and give up. I myself have played in over 50 servers rounds in the past three years. Some servers I do well in, some I do poorly. My personal best is 31 towns, and played for a year in travian version two. Next best was 18 towns, played for four months in a speedserver.

    So really travian has much to offer people. Now with the release of travian gold people who can not play as well as an experienced player can even get instant upgrades, and production bonuses.

    But travian is a lot like chess. It takes a lot of practice and you must always be planning one or two move ahead. If you don’t practice travian and all it encompasses from army movements to diplomatic routines, then sure travian is a boring game. But to say travian does not provide you an in-game presence that is horribly misleading. Most players have a sword or some other icon in their profiles, and many competitely compare their offensive points. Even some kingdoms can be found in many servers, so friends will meet up again a year later in a different server. Many travian groups also have skype, irc or other IM talk, so if you just played travian and never bothered to get involved with your alliance, then that is your loss.

  14. You don\’t have to log in multiple times a day as some people said.
    I joined my server when it was running for months already.
    I was very very weak comparised by my neighbours.
    But my plyaing style was to be small, keep so many resources that raiders couldn\’t steal much of them and to build up the defense bonus so I could build up a nice army fast when I was ready.
    The other people didn\’t saw profit in me and stopped raiding me.
    Then I joined a not bad alliance which made me be able to grow till I could join one of the best alliances.
    I had 5 cities which could defend thereself and help others.
    I can play travian with logging in once every three days for 15 minutes and I will still be alive.
    Haven\’t been attacked for months.

    So you really don\’t have to play a lot when you decide to stay small, but big enough to be in a good alliance in an even better alliance group.

  15. I play on both the S7 and the newly restarted S4. I\’m enjoying that I have different tribes to play with and all their varying strengths and weaknesses as builder, defenders, or attackers.

    Travian is the most fun when you\’re constantly on the attack accumulating resources. It\’s designed for you to attack and grow not to remain dormant afraid of a potential attack. Many of the alliance state \

  16. Many of the alliance state “we do not accept ‘sim players'” which simply means this is not a simulation game it is a “war game.”

    I started S7 late in the game and have a modest set of villages which will probably be wiped out in the next few months since the end game is fast approaching. Hopefully what I learned from S7 I can apply to the new S4 and end up somewhere near the top of the heap.

  17. Mystique Sorcerer

    Playing atm on server 4 and 7. The game is fun, it\\\’s the whole point of it. If you don\\\’t actually have to co-ordinate attacks then it\\\’s boring as hell. I\\\’m in NT Bound on server 4, we\\\’re allies with FFH the biggest alliance and we\\\’re currently at war with the 2nd biggest and it\\\’s allies. The game does get exciting, we have co-ordinated countless attacks on precise timing and managed to wipe out a couple of players. If they made all this auto attack systems then it would get pretty boring.

  18. Travian is a fun game but in recent months there have been several scandals in game support in various servers. Since Travian is run out of a small office in Munchen germany, much of the technical support is outsourced or done by volunteers who do not work much on the weekends. Also with the selling of travian franchises, there has been outright cheating in the HK server and Swedish servers, as the franchise owners have made their family members and friends unkillable.

    Now we have just found the forum admins are disabling their forum in game messages, and automating many administrative functions that originally were handled on a case by case basis. The reason for this is obvious as all 32 servers are coordinated out of the same small travian Gmbh business office in Munchen.

    The emphasis now is on getting players to prepay for travian gold features without clearly explaining that if the player is killed that travian gold credits are non-transferable from server to server. Since many people prepay through their cellphone by dialing the number there is no way to get a refund credited back to their account, as the cellphone is a third party carrier.

    So the free version of travian was fun, but the prepaid travian gold version seems to emphasize income over service and for that reason many faithful travian players have quit playing travian gold version.

  19. I started Travian in August 07, however I don\’t like gold version – I don\’t mind to pay a fixed value each month for some features (preferable only user interface enhancements) but with Travian gold you can pay constantly for features like +25% resources and completeness of upgrades of buildings and researches immediately.

    It\’s great game, but I am considering to quit it as you have much less chance to be successful than people paying a lot. I\’m trying to find another such game – maybe Tribal Wars – the Premium account is fixed value and enables only better user interface already much better I think even in free form.

    I didn\’t know it was free in March, without such bad gold features.

    rob

  20. if they made travian any more automated or made it easier to coordinate attacks, the balance that makes it fun for most people (that don\’t log on 23 hours a day) would be ruined. the constant loggers would rule and then it would be boring.

  21. almost half of the guys in my school play travian, none of the girls lol. everyone starts out making fun of the game and saying its lame, because of how simple it is and it seems like all you do is choose to upgrade something then wait for it to be done and do it again, but after you give the game a try it becomes a lot more than that. I dont think that the automated attack/defense would be very important though. when your alliance plans to attack one village it doesnt really matter how much time is separating attacks, your still going to most likely pwn3n it. when an alliance gets into a war with another alliance one player is most times up against another from the enemy alliance. this means the timing is all up to you. the game does get boring after a while if you play from the beginning but you can always attack someone or find some other thing to do. the game can be made better but its pretty good the way it is. also pick yourself up a iphone, you can play on the go and it makes things a lot easier. if you play on the us speed server hit me up. cashmoneyplayer

  22. HELLSINGPRIEST

    I’ve been playing travian for several years now..and the speed server has just ended.Now i\’m basically stuck because i suddenly have so much time on my
    hands and a very big void to fill.
    Now my dilemma is finding another game very similar to travian..and that is very tedious indeed.

  23. I’m on my second .US server. I’ve enjoyed the game and I agree, it’s a time hog if you really want to play it right. I played several other MMORPG’s including AnnihilationX and Zelderex.

    Success in Travian depends on three things. A build plan, a good alliance and good sitters. The build plan comes with time and experience. When to build, what to build and where to “settle” your villages and what type. The game really hinges on your alliance as it is literally impossible to play without one. Good alliances typically like to take only experienced players so newbies tend to have a rough time.

    Probably the biggest redeeming quality of Travin is the advent of the “sitter” alliance mates or friends who can, within the rules, log on to your account and perform maintenance actions like transfer resources or build troops, etc.

    My recommendation is to start playing on a existing server, get a feel for the game, then start a new server the day it opens. This will give you the opportunity to play when everyone is at the same level.

  24. Been playing Travian for almost 3 years.
    Simply put, it IS a blackhole of your time. You just don’t know you’ve already spent 30 minutes on just a few things on several servers, alliance forums, replying IGMs and sending out attacks.
    So if you don’t have a LOT of time, don’t play Travian. OR you need to find several co-players/sitters in the same AND different timezones. You may laugh if you just started and feel that you have nothing much to do, but when you get to 40 or more villages, you might want to give up because you don’t have time, and you feel bad because you’ve spent the last many months building up that account and can’t hold it til the end.
    And believe me, if you don’t have a sitter/co-player in different timezones, you will get up one morning and find out your villages being conquered or destroyed.

    Good coordinated attacks are down to seconds, you have to be online and click at the exact time to send out the attack (so you won’t lose expensive troops like catapults or chieftains in following attacks), that tells you how hardcore it could get if you want to play it right.

    I agree with the writer, I am glad I played, but even more so that I quitted. I’d rather spend my time on something else.

  25. I have played Travian and I agree with the column. It’s basic flaw is that one or a group of players can make the game completely unplayable for other players. Since they now want people to pay for features, that’s kind of ridiculous because people will get really angry if they pay to play a game and then have their fun ruined by bigger, badder, more experienced sorts. Why should you need two people in different time zones on a single account in order to stay alive? And if it’s a cutthroat wargame, why dont’ they advertise it that way? All of the ads talk about the excitement of building a village.

    Also, Travian takes advantage of the fact that new people will get pummelled and give up. The “delete” feature is really difficult to find, so most newbies who decide to stop playing just abandon their villages, which encourages bigger experienced players to try to get new people out of the game so they can have free resources. Again, since Travian is now a game that encourages paying, why should it run on a structure that relies on getting people to STOP playing it?

  26. I play Travian regularly, on both us3 and speed.us (both the first and now the second installment of the server).
    Though i will agree at some of the ‘flaws’ that the lot of you see in the game, one of the basic “problems” that i see that that most of you don’t like how certain players overpower their areas. Well, to shed a little light from the other side of the spectrum, that’s how the game is. And, it is one of the reasons many servers open up. If you show up late on a server, of course you are at a disadvantage. Servers run for a year, or in the speed server, 4 months. It takes dedication to suceed, and your so-called “bullies” are those who have started at the right times, made their allies, and dominate their areas…one of the points of the game, or at least the beginning of the game. I wont even get into the end-game with you.
    Nonetheless, dedication is key. And, no, you dont have to check up a million times a day after you get 4 or 5 villages. By the end other the first speed server, i had 13 with a collective pop. of 11000+. the game employs a sitter system so that at any given time, up to 2 of your allies can assist in monitoring your account. and trust me, there are alot of rules to keep things as legit as possible.
    I have a full-time career and still have the time to support 2 servers of which I have always maintained a top 700 ranking. Of course, not the best, but it goes to show that you can have a regular life and still be agressive on the game.
    The point is war, so agression with allow you to succeed.

  27. BORING TO READ IT TOOK ME FOREVER

  28. I’m with Craig, 2weeks of safety is not long enough to grow and keep up with the ppl that have been playing for months longer than you have. I have a guy name masher that types like he belongs in a mental hospital bothering me on the site.

  29. I agree with what a lot of you have said, especially about the time sink. If you enjoy this game and play
    it often you will literally have no life left. Those of you who play for a few minutes a day, are certainly
    not anywhere close to doing good and there is no way that we would ever let you play in our alliance…haha

    But one thing I very much disagree with is the person who said to make the defenders more powerful. In my
    opinion, they should be WEAKENED if anything. Keep in mind you can COMBINE defense…your entire alliance
    can put every single defender you have in one place, at one time, and they all fight together. As of yet,
    there is no way to combine offense. So when I attack you, I’m basically attacking your entire alliance,
    not just you. And obviously, no matter how big I am, you can beat me easily if you’d just try.
    So for those of you who say that bigger people are picking on you, join an alliance, build some troops, and
    combine them and defeat him. It’s really that simple. If 10 of you build 1000 each, suddenly you have 10,000,
    plus the defense bonuses from your wall (huge) and your palace (really huge), and can easily defeat him.
    If you’re not winning, you’re just not trying ;)

  30. TWilliams, if you don’t let your resources laying around, you are not a profitable target for experienced players and will be left alone.

  31. > sacrcasm filt off

    Once again, a strategic conquest game with micromanagement issues arising from increasing scale and complexity? Damn, who could have anticipated *that*?

    >sarcasm filt on

    If some group of developers was ever motivated to produce a game that solves this little problem, they’d find that their potential market for next year’s sequel has suddenly shrunk by three fourths. There’s no economic incentive to produce the perfect and perfectly replayable strategic conquest game. This shortcoming has been repeated in every such game over the last 25 years.

  32. http://www.traviansentinel.com

    is a tool that sends an SMS to your cell if somebody attacks you

    I’m using it and is doing his job!!

  33. You would gain a greater audience if you made it more playable defensively. To state that you can play defensively easier because of alliance affiliations is somewhat misleading. Clearly teuton raiders start with a solid advantage.

  34. Travian is by far the WORST game I’ve played on-line in a long time. As many others have mentioned once a server gets up and running (read as over 2 weeks old) there is no way for any casual gamer (read as someone not willing to pay for Gold) to have any fun. You get farmed from the get go (read as GRIEVED)! It was no fun what-so-ever. I gave it a month of my time, playing casually ever day but using up all my resources and turns. Needless to say all I accomplished was giving other players things (not by choice) and having my crops destroyed and my army decimated. It is by far the WORST game to play casually. DO NOT PLAY TRAVIAN!

  35. kingsheathmasiv

    The issue I have with Travian is that due to the fact that someone will always be able to put more time into the game than you, it is not an on even playing field. Limiting play to a certain amount of hours each day for each player may make things a bit more even and a bit more about strategy. I am currently ranked 400 ish on 3x server and just cannot devote the amount of time needed to get higher. Great game though! As for Ploute’s comment; there are certainly a lot of players who fail and end up as farms. There are tactics to avoid this which he /she obviously missed.

  36. Having just finished S4 to through the end game, I can attest to the 1 year that was dedicated by many players, nine months personally, and that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the investment of time that is necessary to even be competitive. Many players in my alliance will not be back, myself included for at least one cycle.

    The game does not allow walkaway confidence, that is, you leave for the weekend and you come back to find every village you have catapulted to the ground and being farmed for resources.

    But that is the nature of this MMOG, it is a war game. Granted the rules of war are very flawed. For instance, I can only attack with one force one time. In real life I would have a primary attack group with reinforcement to “shore up” losses and apply pressure alone the front, but that much sophistication is very difficult to emulate on-line and definitely not in Travian.

    My number one complaint is the expense of being a “gold” user. This is way too expensive for the average person to afford and I think with the current economy headed south, they are going to see this portion of their business model be impacted.

    I await a Travian killer app. The theory behind it is great, but it has some serious usability flaws that the next game should solve.

  37. Those looking for an alternative to Travian’s aggression would do well to check out Ikariam (www.ikariam.org). Although Travian definitely is more mature (and this is reflected by the myriad of well-designed greasemonkey scripts available), Ikariam seems to be much more supportive of a trade-oriented style of play. I’ve been playing for 3 months now, have never attacked another player and still find myself ranked in the top 25% on the s12 server.

    Ikariam has several features to prevent the farming of other player’s resources that seems so common in Travian, like a vacation mode, anti-“bashing” rules (say goodbye to the 0-gain attacks every 2 hours that I personally find very annoying), the ability to demolish one’s port to limit the amount of loot that can pillaged in an attack, and, once the tech tree has been adequately researched, extremely powerful defensive units called steam giants.

    I’ve only been laying Travian for about 2 weeks, but already, I’m starting to see that it’s not the game for me. The commenter who mentioned that the marketing for this game seems to emphasize trade while, in fact, it’s basically a wargame, makes a valid point.

  38. I WANT TO PLAY TRAVIAN

  39. I don’t care what you people say, Travian is the best browser game ever!!!

  40. I’m on my 2nd foray in Travian. David your analysis is excellent and your experience echoes mine. I’d like to add a few remarks myself.

    Good:
    The coordination of attacks is quite possible, but it takes a good organiser who can handle the complexity of a fluid situation & the planning (rules me out ;-), but things can go badly wrong, but thats what happens in the real military, so I think that is good!
    I agree, the relationship you build up with fellow players is the most important part of the game, its totally a team game, some people never understand this.
    The intelligence & diplomatic side of the game is fantastic, Above what you saw (& similar stuff happened on the server I’m on) I’d can add I’ve seen MSN messenger intercepts (don’t ask me how, a transcript of a plan being discussed by an enemy appeared once on my alliances forum) and also discussions to agree pacts between several alliances that went on for weeks.

    Bad & Ugly:
    I’ve seen people who played too intensively suddenly quit in a huff, with implications that their (mental) health has not been too good recently, they just needed to chill more thats all ;-)
    I spend far too much time in the game, this year is a write off, but I want to see this server to the end, then I vow no more. If a server ran for 3-6 months rather than a year it would be OK, but I sense the milking of a cash cow. Still any game has a shelf life, it will drop in popularity one day & perhaps rise anew (maybe modified) in the future.

  41. I started playing over 2 months, into a server. I’m not an experieced gamer,
    in fact I’never played any games, like this. I didn’t have friends, or outside
    advice. I wasn’t wiped out my my big neighbor, I survived and now as endgame
    starts, I’m in the top 200 players. Why did I survive, and many others don’t?
    I played smart, I was polite. It is a lot like chess, you have to think ahead.
    I enjoy it, and I’m not a typical gamer. I’m in my mid fifties and I’m an artist.
    I recomend it to folks who aren’t gamers. It is a time sink!

  42. travian is one the crappiest boxes ever created. The real time aspect of teh game is horrendous( what do Euro’s have with using real time strategy in games, ala Travian and Cyber Nations?) While waiting the 15 minutes for a cropland to get extended to lvl 3, or sending an army against someone who is 23 real time hours away, is just lame.

  43. Travian, as already said by many, is a time sink. But that is not its flaw, I haven’t played a single strategy game in past 25 years that isn’t a time sink. However it is also a boring time sink, as you cannot actually do anything with the time you spend in front of it. I will give you an example: On my first game, I decided to build a chieftain when I had three villages (I now know that it was too early.) So I opened up an excel sheet and travian help to plan ahead. The whole build plan (excluding resource transfers) was in excess of 30 different actions and would take 8 days with precise timing. Planning was time consuming and FUN. If you don’t like that sort of thing you probably shouldn’t play a strategy game. However executing the plan was boring as hell. There is no way to tell travian what I want to build and when in advance. Waiting in front of the computer just because you need to produce 452 more wood before being able to build academy to level 17 is tedious, time consuming and a waste. Veterans of the game would know that that is the norm rather than the exception. You plan ahead a few weeks, and spend those weeks doing nothing imaginative. Just wait and do what you have to do. What is the fun in that?

  44. msg sent to traviangames today

    Hello and merry xmas,

    There has benn gross misconduct from the members of the travian team in the .gr server….s1 world…

    First of all the announced truce period due to xmas was changed and reduced by 24 hours without providing the gamers with sufficient time to make accomodations [the change was announced after the truce was in place], in order to be prepared.

    The change in the the truce period was because one of the opponents had transfered the plan out of his account to another player…Due to the truce being in effect, the player could not conquer the plan and therefore keep building his WW

    Secondly and more importantly, several accounts where banned including an account who constructs a WW

    I have the links with the excuses, provided by the MH…
    several of excuses made by the MH are completely unfounded…A simple check of ip adresses and sitters of the accounts in question is pretty straight forward. It will also provide proof that there was no wrong-doing

    After our dynamic response all accounts were un-banned. This does not change the fact that they were banned wrongly in the first place

    We have contacted the game admin of travian.gr but he refuses to discuss what happened and to offer an apology…Furthermore the game admin has ingnored all our calls for justice and refuses to reprimand the MH of s1.travian.gr

    Further more there is strong indication of collusion between members of the travian team and one of the alliances of s1.travian.gr

    I have the links from some of the excuses made by the MH…they are at your disposal…

    I want to ask you if it is possible that someone outside the greek travian game admins can investigate our claims

  45. Great post! Though I disagree with some points and even to some of the comments.

    You see, you can’t rant that you’re being raided most of the time, it is the basic design of the game, farm or get farmed! The game focuses on strategy, at a personal and alliance-wide levels. In Travian, you may be an offensive, defensive or even a political player, or better yet, you have those 3 skills. Either way you chose to be, a good strategy will always get you somewhere in the game, even when you register late.

    And there are ways to handle time constraints in the game, Travian offers sitting, and players create dual (or any number of user) accounts, for people who can’t log in frequently.

    And what’s also great with the design, is the game’s availability on any device that has Internet access. If I can’t sleep at night, because there are incoming attacks on my villages, I logged on using my mobile phone until I see a dozen of reinforcements from my allies and friends.

    Don’t get me wrong, after a few months of playing and with a couple of villages added to my small empire, the game did become boring. And yes, almost unmanageable after 4-5 villages, but as we come back from (sometimes during) our so called “Travian holidays,” where we don’t login to the game for day/s, we miss it, that you became addicted all over again.

    Travian is fun, to say the least. And, might be, a great way to relieve tension and stress. But Travian is not for those who looks for just a casual game. Because, as you said it, it is (very) time consuming, and adds a lot of stress, if you can’t channel it out.

    Hopefully, with S1.com ending today, I have a lot of free time to make my own review/guide with the game in my blog. Thanks! And a Happy New Year!

  46. im in the top 50 ( out of 11,000 ) on uk s3. the game isnt that far in and i only have 4 villages, 5th on the way in the next few days;]
    you need to be on atleast 8 hours a day to be any good. i have a dual(another player playing with me) which is also on around 6-10 hours a day to raid(and kill all the clubies i built=P)
    you need to play it too know the satisfaction of destroying months and months of someones work and even better when its part of a hiuge operation by your alliance.
    it does take over though, and i say whats wrong with that. if you work with computers then you can get on 8 hours a day and get payed for it. then more when you get home. ive got 130 skype contacts, no social life and angry parents(no im not 40 im 14)but who likes people in real life anyway. i just like talking to them on skype and knocking their travian villages to the ground

  47. shut down my account at 2 weeks it was very clear that I was just going to get continually raided by a city of 800 in my area seen every one else in the area got clean out as soon a there 2 weeks was up. Not my idea of a strategic game someone compared to chess and clearly they have never played chess first both players start on a equal footing and then it unfolds with no benefit to the idiot that has friend is multiple time zones and endless amount of free time. To that idiot it may be a great source of joy but not an ounce of true strategy. Thanks though to the replies above found Almansur looks promising and started on Imperial Ages also found in these comments had a new server and the most anyone has is 1 city with about 130 right now. I don’t mind a small disadvantage but Almansur looks like a winner in the realm of real strategy, time will tell. Hope this helps other adults that just enjoy a small distraction but still have a social life and endless responsibility in the real world.

  48. I played Travian many times and indeed I still like the concept. I quit playing
    exactly because of what David wrote and really needed to relax for more than a
    year. I started playing Land of Destiny now which seems a bit better in the way
    you can ask for imperial defence when players try to bash you when not looking
    for a minute (that comes with a price obviously).

  49. It’s not travian fault that you suck at it.
    The game is easy. It takes alot of time, and if you can’t have enough time to play on even a REGULAR server you will never be good at it. That doesn’t make it bad, it just means it isn’t appealing to you or people like you. Their market are the hardcore, plus buying, 24/7 players.

    I think Travian is fine the way it is.

    G

  50. Hi
    Travian is one of the most fun and enjoyable MMOG out there,
    I play Travian since its first server started 3-4 years ago.

    They developing the game all the time, improving it and keep the fun up to date.

    Now days, they have so many server (I stopped counting) for every country there are at least 5-6 server and one speed server.

    Travian is truly one of the best!!
    Amit

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