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Anna Gonzales

Travian and Me

So I've been playing a game called Travian for quite a while now. According to my research I started at the end of August, putting me at playing for 3.5 months or so. I feel like I should spend some time meditating on this latest obsession of mine (neither the first nor last obsession of mine).

I will do this interview style, just for fun.

So, what is Travian?

Travian is, basically, a smaller-scope version of Civilizations 2 (a former obsession of mine, go figure) played out in real time on a large server with hundreds of other simultaneous players. Put another way it's an MMO, but rather than an RPG played with other people online, it is a strategy game.

There are four resources - lumber, clay and iron (which are harvested by each city) and crop (likewise harvested, which must also feed one's army and civilians). I consider there to be a fifth resource: time. The moment you click on the "build this building" link or whathave you, it takes a certain amount of time to complete. Also, one's resources trickle in at a certain rate per hour (to give an idea of scope, one starts with about 10 clay per hour, may quickly raise it to 50 clay per hour within a few days, and my maxed-out city produces 1250 clay per hour). Troops and merchants move at a certain number of squares per hour, so everything is about timing.

So how did you get started?

Some people were playing, so I gave it a try. They made a guild called "404 - Not Found" so I couldn't resist :)

Did you play with them much?

Unfortunately not. The major disadvantage of Travian is it's not very helpful if you want to play with people you know in real life. As I indicated, things can take a very long time if you are far away, and I was unlucky enough to be nowhere near anyone in my guild with one exception (Dev). More than that, I also didn't choose to participate in the day-to-day chatter, so I managed to make myself an outsider in the guild. This is sort of a pattern with me, go figure.

How did you get hooked?

Well I just played on the side for a while, you know, log in a couple times a day, and as long as I only had one city that suited me. With only one city, even focusing on resource production exclusively you will only be able to build one or two things a day.

I think I started getting a lot more into it when the Mean Mugger came.

Who's Mean Mugger?

Mean Mugger is a player on my server who happened to start somewhat close to me. As his name suggests, he is an aggressive raider (using his army to steal resources from nearby players). I was unlucky enough to catch his eye and he started attacking me. This was about mid-October. I was just thinking about getting a second city together (a huge investment when you only have one), and he made getting the second one hell. I *finally* managed it, then afterwords sent Mean Mugger an ingame letter asking if there was anything we could do to resolve the situation or whether we were going to continue this foolish game.

At that point I could be certain he was always losing resources by attacking me mathematically, and if he chose to catapult me to oblivion then I could just start over on another server. However, he agreed to leave me alone, and in fact protect me, if I paid him one hour's worth of resources a day.

For over a month I paid him an hour's worth of resources every day (this number swelled from 3000 to 8000 resources) while I increased my resource production enormously, and started a third and eventually fourth city.

When I tell this story, people perceive me as a coward, appeasing the big guy and chaining myself to being his eternal farm. You could look at it that way, I concede, but you're missing the point. This guy could easily have obliterated me, and I'd have had to start over. While I could have, I preferred to stay with what I had and make something for myself there. I decided, in effect, to play the game of r all it was worth, and a competitive online game requires playing not just of numbers but of people. When I talk about how I vastly increased my resource production, people start thinking about "getting him back", but the truth is the Mean Mugger protected me from a lot of big threats, and continued growing as fast as me. One could consider it vengeance to backstab him (were it possible) but I considered it my initiation. Eventually, I left 404, and a few weeks later I entered CFE, Mugger's guild (ranked #7 on the server, along with other CF alliances constitutes one of the biggest).

Now, of course, I've built my own raid force and new cities. I'm participating in what's basically a World War on our server, and coming out ahead. I'm creating new farms (no, my having been in their position does not mean I should leave them be. After all, Mean Mugger attacking me turned out to be the best thing that happened to me, and if any of my farms decide to open diplomacy channels I will be more than happy to give them teh same treatment I received).

But what about your pride?

You mean, should I be ashamed I had to kowtow to big scary guys in order to become one of them? Well I'm not. It's a game, and in games you play it how you like. I'm almost ranked in the top 1000 players (rank as of now: 260). It's not like I could have gotten there without bowing to bigger people, since the server is old. If I'd been one of the very first players on the server, then I suppose there would have been some shame in being brought low. But me? I'm young and ambitious.

You play it too much

How would you know? "Playing" constitutes fiddling with a web browser for a few minutes every hour or five. I think my mastery of math enables me to optimize not only my resources but my time.

But what about--
No more questions! ;P

Oh fine.

Anyways I'm really, really enjoying the game. I've always liked building, you know, and collecting resources. So yeah. That's Travian and Me.


Update from after finishing.

As my empire expanded I saw I had less and less ability to really keep everything opimized, to the point where stuff was constantly going to waste and troops were starving left and right. I was too big to have fun but too small to be of consequence. An unfortunate side effect of the largest players having hundreds of cities or somesuch.

I had my fun, but when the server ended I opted not to play again. Lessons learned.

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