I can't stop playing Tiny Adventures

August 28, 2008 at 1:00 pm
filed under Roleplaying

There’ve been numerous problems with the new Facebook application Dungeons & Dragons: Tiny Adventures. It was down for a day or so. During what I assume are prime time hours (i.e., now), I consistently get that evil little Try Again button. There was even a de facto server wipe, presumably due to a hardware failure.

When the game works, there’s also not much “game” there, so to speak. For instance, you only make a few decisions: which class you play, which items to equip, which adventure to choose, and which potions to bring with you. It’s not like D&D in the sense that you don’t pick which attack powers you have, or even in a more granular sense, you don’t choose whether to go down the left or right corridor.

This makes it sound bad, right? Like you wouldn’t want to play? Well, I can’t stop playing. I’m on vacation this week, and since I can basically play this game while doing something else, I’ve been doing just that.

Matthew needed a 20 to resist… and rolled a 2.

I’ve been trying to puzzle out just why it’s fun, as it’s a bit mystifying. I’ve settled on a few reasons.

One, there’s loot and XP, which are tried and true mechanics. Updating the page to see what items he gets is addictive, and keeps you coming back, as you can equip stuff you find in the middle of the adventure. And I don’t need to explain why leveling is great, do I?

The potion mechanic is another clever trick to keep you glued to the app. If you’re getting your ass kicked, you can salvage the adventure by pounding down a potion. Of course, if you’re downtown with your friends, you cannot do this, which is why the “Update Result” button is a tool of the devil.

I’ve long felt that any game with any meaningful cooperative element instantly makes the game more fun, which is where the social component comes in: you can buff and heal your friends! This is reason three to keep clicking the Friends page: you are HELPING.

Finally, on an adventure, you always win something. If you fail an adventure, you don’t get extra special rewards for completing the adventure, but you still get items, XP, and gold. Dying just means you need to either get your friends to heal you or spend some time waiting.

Final words

This game isn’t really about strategic depth, which is a strength and a flaw. It’s a strength because it doesn’t really require much attention to play; you get the same thrill from this game as you might from refreshing your e-mail or RSS feeds.

It’s a flaw because I don’t really feel like I have much input as to what happens. It doesn’t seem worth it to figure out how to win various adventures when you can just plod along. Put another way, I feel like being good at it requires you to be a bit more obsessive than a casual game like this warrants.

In all fairness, there does appear to be some way to even the odds. According to the FAQ, different environments have certain associated stats, meaning you can optimize for an adventure if you know what’s in it. Story encounters are also always the same. So there’s a bit of gameplay in deciding what potions you’ll use to shore up weaknesses as well as what items can help you do this.

I’d give this a shot, but, er, Castle Crashers just came out. Then again, the Fire Lord just handed my ass to me, but I got a new item on the way, so maybe this time I’ll bring along a Dex potion and see how this works out. This is what laptops are for, right?

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