A video game that requires the player to manage resources does not make for an exciting prospect. But games like this have been around for almost as long as Space Invaders. The originals were text-only, without graphics, and were turn-based. The player could farm crops, mine resources, build armies and castles, and make war on their simulated neighbors – it was a very simple concept. Over time they have become a gaming genre that includes popular titles such as ‘Age of Empires’ and ‘Civilization’. The genre has become more complex with the addition of graphics, development of technologies, and many other options.
Travian is a relatively recent newcomer to this genre, and it is key features that it is online, multiplayer and lasts for months. It is also browser-based, meaning there is nothing to download onto a PC and it can be accessed from anywhere. This accessibility, combined with the simplicity of the graphics, means that it can be played from handheld devices such as the iPhone.
Travian is at heart a resource management game – the player is given a village and has to build up stocks of resources: crops, lumber, iron and clay. Increased resources allows field to be upgraded, which in turn allows yet more resources to be generated. There is an increasing variety of buildings to construct – from simple grain stores to city walls, a barracks or a marketplace. Each one has a different function – barracks is needed to build soldiers and a marketplace in order to trade with neighbors.
The player chooses their own strategy. They can opt to take a peaceful approach, building up resources by careful farming and by trading with other players. Or they can be more aggressive, putting together an army with which to raid neighbors. Or it can be a combination of the two. The player has the freedom to choose how to use the resources at their disposal.
Travian is played in real time. That is,resources accumulate as the clock ticks by, and the player may have to wait for several hours before they have enough to being constructing another building or upgrading a field. This means that Travian is best played by short, frequent visits to the website. The best players check in several times a day, but players can get by with only the occasional visit.
Alliances are formed by players banding together, where the power of individuals is harnessed for the greater good of the community. But these alliances are only as effective as the players in them, and those who lead them.
One final point about Travian – but a great one – is that it is free to play. It is possible to spend real dollars by buying gold, which allows certain advantages in the game, such as reducing build times. But the game can be enjoyed at no cost at all, and probably the majority of people play it this way.