The Balance Between Entertainment and Frustration - Gaming

Gaming on these little mobile devices has become common and given the number of games that are made on a hit theme, it is no wonder that endless number of hours are wasted on these activities. It is tempting to use this as research for a paper and towards a PhD but then that is for the easy way out. However somewhere at the start of this year I started with Clash of Clans on the iPad and from there grew this experiment and my experience on the genre.


Tis review is looking at a couple of games in this genre, these games are spread over three devices the iPad, iPhone and an Android tablet. The games that are used for comparison are
Clash of Clans (iOS and Android)
Boom Beach (iOS 7+ only)
Battle Command (Android Only)
World Battle (Android Only)
Samurai Siege (iOS and Android)
Second Earth (Android Only)
Kingdom Clash (iOS only)
Backyard Monsters Unleashed (iOS only)
Clash of Lords 2 (iOS and Android)

The test

So after starting Clash of Clans around January it was exciting as the buildings were upgrading quickly and 100,000 gold sounded like an unachievable dream. The game tutorial explained that you need to protect your town hall from raiding enemies and with the wooden walls it was a test of strategy to protect the town hall and resources. The trophies were also fun as at low levels the defenses are very weak. Then comes a stage where with two builders it is near impossible to build anything, if you upgrade the gold mines or the elixir collectors, you cannot upgrade the defenses and if you focus on the defenses, then you can't get the resources. I must confess that my gaming days started in the days when games were slightly different and the word online was science fiction. So the Command and Conquer series strategy games were the rage and the way to play. There if your base was attacked, your buildings needed repairs, they did not automagically repair themselves. The opponent did not steal anything other than wounding your pride and mostly the game was played on the mission levels in the game or online with westwood servers. From that experience the Clash type of games changed the dynamics of war. In many ways similar to how wars have changed from the olden days to this day. The leaders led the armies and the wars were on a battlefield and it was more about the might. These days wars are no longer about honour and might. They are not even fought on battlefields, they are fought everywhere which is a shame as there are no rules anymore. Anyways, the point here is that the rules of engagement changed with the Clash type games. It became more about looting other players.

The problem

The problem with these games is that they are not made to provide entertainment, these are created to make the millions that the makers are raking in. In most of the games, what the game developers call Balance, in reality is Imbalance, wrongly tweaked parameters that opened the doors for a whole lot of cheating. When you start the game you have level 1 barbarians, these guys are the only troops you have and they sound better than green goblins, however when you get raided by other players, you see troops that you might have never seen before. Level 6 giants, Archer Queen, Barabarian King, Flying healers, Golums, Hog Riders, etc. If a beginner gets raided by a player that high in the game then there is definitely a big disparity in the game tweaks or what they call the Balance. As the players progress, there is a big difference in the army a level 50 can have and a level 60 can have. The resources are clamped down to restrict, in a similar way as EA did with Dungeon Master where clearing one tile block was a task for a day or more. Having tried the original Dungeon Master 1 and 2, I must say that it is difficult to wait a day to just clear a tile. It nullifies the fun aspect of the game. It sucks out the essence of the game leaving behind an empty lifeless shell of cartoony graphics that you must visit the next day or pay real money and loads of it to clear that tile faster.

With Clash of Clans, the resource collectors are few and they produce about 1000-2500 (depending on the level of that resource collector) per hour. At a stage in the game you get about 6 collectors each for Gold and for Elixir. 6x2500x12 = 180,000. The equation is 6 collectors x 2500 resource units collected per collector x 12 hours. The reason to calculate this in 12 hour units is the shield is generally set for 12 hours before you raided again. So it is a 12 hours period of peace and quiet. During this time you collectors collect 180,000 units and at the end of this time, the shield is off and you are open game. Like blood hounds these gamers come sniffing that out and raid you, taking away about 240,000 to 340,000 resources. So essentially what happens is that you are now worse off than you were to start with. So now if you want to upgrade your base or defenses you need to buy them using real money. Real money to buy the gems, these gems in turn for gold or elixir or buildings. Even walls that are defenses start with wood and are dirt cheap and as they progress the cost increases to 1000 -> 10,000 -> 30,000 -> 75,000 -> and so on. We are talking prices in gold for each unit of wall in the game. At 75,000 we are talking purple walls which is somewhere in the middle (around 40% upgrade) you can calculate the price of upgrading 100 wall units at 75,000 each which is 7,500,000 and at the rate of 180,000 per 12 hours you need 250 days of collection before you can upgrade those walls and assuming that no one will attack you. Having said that there are players with much higher walls units.

It is slightly different with the buildings and defenses, these cost lesser in comparison but can take very long with average times after level 40+ reaching a day in upgrades. It becomes a big messy situation, you want to build/upgrade your unit/building but you cannot because you do not have a builder free, if you have a builder free, you do not have the resources and if you have say the resources, your total capacity is significantly lower than the price of that building/upgrade. To get a dragon, you need to upgrade the training huts to Level 7 and at that point you see that it costs 1,500,000 for a dragon. That is roughly about 4.5 days of uninterrupted resource collection.

Then comes the raids, the shield is activated for an arbitary time depending on the damage caused by the attacker. They can loot quite significant amount of resources from you. These are in the range of 180-200K and provide a shield of 5-12 hours. Some are smarter, (it might not even be a strategy, it must be their lack of strategy) they do not attack 100% they could throw in a fight but before they do they do steal a significant amount of resources. You win a couple of trophy points but you are vulnerable to the next attacker as the traps, bombs need to be fixed after every raid (if they explode or are activated by the raiding enemy).

How they solve this

The way that it is handled is that you can buy a shield, or boost your resources with gems and the number of gems required for a few gold coins is absurdly insane. The game recommends that you can earn better if you in turn raided other players. This sounds like a good idea, BUT... The moment you attack, your shield is removed and after a battle you lose all troops used in the battle and you need to train more troops which takes time. So either you are glued on to the screen 24x7 it is difficult to manage the game and keep raiding. It takes just one second to slip and you will get raided, losing resources based on what you have, the capacity of your storage and the level of the attacker. If the level of the attacker is higher it is not necessary that you get the advantage, you might only lose more resources to the attacker.

So what's the problem?

These game mechanics might be nice to earn money from gamers but if you are in the game for some fun (Like there are peaceful countries, not all countries are warring nations raiding and looting other countries; there are players that might want to play the game and just upgrade their troops and bases). The breaking point arrives where you reach a point where it is simply impossible to play further, you would simply have to give up or start raiding other players.

What about the other games?

The other games had some advantages and disadvantages while trying to cash in on this genre. Each of the games have some component that works and many others that don't. Supercell will probably not even blink at this cringe as they are making huge amounts of money with their three games Hay Day, Clash of Clans and Boom Beach. About a year ago their game Hay Day suddenly became unplayable with the barn collecting junk and they provided no way to clear it or use it elsewhere so the barns were full and you could not harvest or do anything, it was like stalemate.

Boom Beach

The first game I tried after Clash of Clans was Boom Beach. Being in Australia, we got the chance to try out Boom Beach while it was in Beta. The first thing that appealed about the game was that your troops that survived a battle would stand to fight another battle. The game was fun, free the islands from Hammermann and Doctor Terror. Then suddenly the game turned and you had more online players that would take over an island and fight you or steal your resources and many a times capture your resource base. There are no shields after getting attacked you can get raided in a row (however not by the player that attacked you) At the end of each battle, you COULD get a shard. These are then put together to craft a statue and depending on the colour of the shard, the statue would give some advantage. However, the down side of this is that there can only be so many statues deployed at one time. If you want to upgrade it, you cannot simply upgrade that as upgrades are unlocked based on the level of your base. Leveling up a base or defense later is near impossible unless you start to spend real money.

Other Games

Each game has their own issue, the issues common between the games is the ridiculous amounts of resources required to upgrade a unit/building and the time that it takes to get those resources. They might expect you to upgrade a building that needs 100,000 resources but the storage space is only 20,000 and there is no way that you can collect 100,000 at that time. So you set out to upgrade the storage, which would change to 40,000 capacity, then another upgrade would double it to 80,000 capacity which is very difficult as that would require 5-6 days and till then you would have been raided a couple of times.

Battle World

The game Battle World is a refreshing look as it is a modern day version of the clash of clans.You have mecchas, soldiers, zeplins that look like flying sharks. The only problem with that cheap knock off game (they have stolen the sounds, music most stuff from CoC) Initially since your resource are low, you are unable to do much, after a couple of weeks of upgrading the game finally gave some decent looking building and troops. The problem with this knock off game is that when they copied Coc they did not copy it correctly. The game graphics are also cute and inviting but then the gameplay is the deterrent.

Backyard Monsters

The game is ... interesting but in more times than not, the game is confusing (in terms of graphics) Coc is inspired by this game which makes it playable.

The GOOD bits

Second Earth

The game Second Earth is the same but set in futuristic space colony. The good thing that I liked in the game was Instant Troops. You select the troops you want and if you have the resources for that, instantly you get your troops. However the AI and the balance of the game is a bit skewed.

Samurai Siege

This has some beautiful graphics and the game progresses gradually. However there are plenty that would want to raid, loot and plunder. I have been able to grow the base without raiding another player for resources. The game provides you with troops and buildings as you progress through the missions. This is therefore engaging and progresses with you.

Kingdom Clash

This surprising has a blend of gameplay and graphics. It is easy to figure out the troops and learn their strengths and play the game. It has something similar to Clan Wars that actually give free gems and resources to all participants so it makes more sense to participate in the wars as compared to fighting in the Coc Clan Wars where you would end up going backwards instead of forward with resources if you did not win a war or even if you won a war.

The best of the lot

Surprisingly, I had not even expected this game to be worth looking at. However amongst all of the games, this is the game that I found most playable. The game provides you with heroes. These heroes can be upgraded by cards that you get (each hero is actually a card) You also build your base with defenses and walls etc so that you can defend your base when other players would attack to try to loot. There are trophies, there are resources, there are Experience Cards, Rings, Souls. The game has multiple playable sections. There is a main mission timeline. Then there is a resource raid section where you can raid other players for gold. Then there is the League of Lords, where you fight other players and attack them for points and exp cards (at the end of the fight). Lastly, slightly different on the Android there is an Arena, which is missing in the iOS version. You can also fight in the arena and the points relate to massive resource awards. The game gives a player so much that it provide a pleasant experience that one would look forward to. If you want to build your base, you can keep raiding and upgrading the heroes with the exp cards to your hearts desire.

The only disappointment with this game is that there are no clear specifications and instructions. If there was a repository that explained what are Glory Points, how do different heroes level up and what are their powers, etc. This game would be more fun. Right now it is a stab in the dark as far as information as far as heroes and upgrades are concerned.


From my perspective, I would like a game that would focus on the gameplay balance rather than on the bank balance alone. A good game would allow the player to progress slowly but surely. When the game disallows the user to progress making it absolutely difficult one of two things could happen, people would wean off the game OR spend money on the game. They have a 50-50 chance of making money. However I feel that this attitude has spoiled gaming and brought in a lot of aggression in the gamers (online for sure). If the games instead offered stuff to the players the players would come back and be happy, not frustrated with the game. If a player leaves a game, it would rather be after being content than in contempt and frustration. Secondly why can the games not be offline mode? Thirdly why do they have to be so unrealistic in the time they take to upgrade units and buildings. In Coc, you can plan ahead that your resource which could be at level 1 will reach level 10 or 11 in about 10 weeks then you would be able to upgrade the barracks and collect enough in another 5-6 weeks and then it would take another 4-6 days for the upgrades. So you can get a dragon (hopefully) in about 20-24 weeks which is like 6 months. This is not long term engagement but long term frustration. Lastly if they provide some way to have a raid between similar level players with similar troops/buildings and not match players with over 10-15 levels. At the lower levels this difference is negligible, However after level 35-40 each level makes a whole lot of difference. There should be other ways to get resources than raid, loot and plunder.

Note: There were other games but then not played after a single session as they sucked in gameplay. Like Nozomi, Call to ARms, Clan of Heroes. Royal Revolt was interesting but then there was enough on the plate to add another game that differed in it's story line as compared to all others following CoC.