I’ve been trying to research a level four wizard. For about a month.
It all started when I gave my son my old iPhone. One day he asks “Hey Dad, have you played Clash of Clans?”
Obviously he asked without the link or that’d have been weird.
Well I’d seen ads for it in various places but honestly hadn’t felt the need to explore it at all before, as I know too well that these things can be somewhat insidious, slowly creeping in and, like digital freaking vampires, sucking your free time away.
“It’s fun and I have a clan that my friends play in” he says.
Hmm, I think to myself, maybe I could have some fun with this. Maybe I could set the thing up in such a way as to be a generator of resources for his clan. Not really investing much into the game but making things and giving them away so they can benefit from some extra stuff.
“Ok,” says I, “I’ll download it.”
That was in early December 2013.
After a few days I’d made what I thought was pretty good progress. I hadn’t invested a whole lot of time or effort into it, and I’d managed to pull some gold and elixir (the fundamental resources needed for making much of anything else) out of the ground and into storage, and in the process had reached level-10-going-on-11 pretty quickly.
At this stage I didn’t really have a plan, I was simply figuring out what I could do and how. One thing that did dawn on me pretty quickly was the business model behind the game. And it’s a canny one indeed. I could see how the game was going to increasingly and relentlessly test my patience, making it more and more appealing to spend real cash on extras that make resource gathering, and therefore building and progression, quicker.
But no, I think to myself, I won’t give in so easily. After all this is a low-commitment endeavour, a bit of a lark to help out my son and his clan.
So time moves on. I join his clan and continue trying to be smart about gathering and building. I generate troops and happily donate them when clan members ask. It’s a pity I can’t share the gold or elixir I’m generating because they’d find that useful. But I can’t, so the building goes on.
Along the way I’ve been raiding goblin villages and getting to know the combat system, gathering up some additional gold and elixir. Occasionally I’d get trounced by their defences, retreat, regroup brew up some more troops and then go back for another try.
And of course my village would be raided by other players regularly. But that wasn’t too bad because the resources I was collecting would replenish quickly and I could still make progress in terms of upgrading, building and fortifying.
In fact by doing nothing by way of attacking or seeking revenge on other users I’d pick up quite a few trophies here and there because some raids on the village were unsuccessful against my defences. Trophies are awarded to the victor of a battle, and as pacifist I was doing quite well, which I found amusing.
Anyway about a month ago, I hit a wall and since then this damned game has occupied far more of my conscious thought than I ever intended to allow it. The current problem is that I need 1.3 million units (litres/pints?) of elixir to begin the research of the level four wizard, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gathered almost enough.
Inevitably the shields that went up after the last enemy raid on my village come down and allow some other player to jump in and snatch just enough from my reserves to see to it that I can’t quite generate that magic quantity.
It has almost reached the point where I’m actually considering setting an alarm for stupid o’clock overnight, just before the shield is about to drop again, so I can have a chance to harvest just enough to kick off that research.
Fortunately it hasn’t come to that yet, and instead I decided to change tack a bit and spend days at a time upgrading other things around the village. Better walls around the elixir storage, better defences, better collectors and so on.
Of course, I could buy my way out, by stumping up cold hard cash for a longer-lasting shield perhaps, or a bunch of stupid gems that can be converted into the requisite gold and/or elixir. But it’s now a test of my resolve to not be played by this game and drop money on it to make more progress.
But Supercell’s mechanics behind the game’s number system are clearly very skilfully honed so that it presses all our impatience and frustration buttons quite effectively. And for a free-to-play game that turns a profit from those precious in-game micro-transactions that’s only to be expected.
After all’s said and done it’s still fun to play. More so that I expected to be honest. And the battles go on: me vs. the game mechanics, and the enemy clans vs. my little pacifist (for now) village. My son’s clan is getting on with things oblivious to my plight and I’m still patiently upgrading, collecting and fortifying. Again and again, round and round.
Supercell I salute you. I hate you, but I salute you.