It’s all about the organization
A gaming friend of mine called Ogame “a calculator with a clock attached”, he wasn’t saying it kindly. It really is just one vast algebraic equation with some display screens bolted on.
The mathematics of the game are set up so that at a certain point, somewhere around 5,000 points, an ingeniously designed noob protection feature is removed. Once it’s gone you really can no longer survive on your own.
To progress any further you need to join with others in what are called Alliances. These function like Clans or Guilds in other on-line games. The recruitment, selection, interaction and governance of these Alliances is completely outside of the game itself. And it is intense.
Alliances have their own discussion boards, databases, collaborative graphics maps, chat rooms, conference calls on VOIP systems, all to coordinate in-game activity. None of these tools are provided by the game, none of them are even suggested in the standard instructions of how to play.
Some alliances use IM’s as their main communication tool, some email. Most have common access database combining intelligence reports and battle information. Team Speak like voice communication tools are favored by a few groups, and almost everyone has an active discussion board and dedicated web site. While most use web calculators to simulate in-game impact before taking action, a smaller group use common access google docs, especially spreadsheet models.
I dare say that no two Alliances organize and communicate the same way, yet all of them use highly developed web 2.0 tools to interact in the central environment of the Ogame universe. My unscientific correlation says that the more facile an alliance is with its web 2.0 tools, the more successful it is.
And that is what the game is really all about. The light-weight browser technology from gameforge delivers a central data stream that users respond to by creating self forming electronic communities of impressive complexity.
Fully independent of the game, players have created a complete web 2.0 set of communities of vast reach and effectiveness, using off the shelf applications, often at low or no cost. My sense is that the effectiveness of these communities rival the effectiveness of similar web 2.0 networks inside corporate organizations.
The inflection point of web 2.0 is not about the progression along a path of increasing functionality, where each subsequent development leads to more and better. Web 2.0 is about a whole new way of interacting, with conection and interpersonal interaction trumping the output of processors and their supporting databases. At its core the technology has gotten powerfull enough that we can be simple again, and in that simplicity find a vastly new level of complexity.
To take my gaming analogy one last step further, in PacMan we competed against the machine, pitting our hand-eye coordination against the processor’s clock speed. In client based games we are thrust into the action of a graphically represented world. In browser based games the technology falls to the background supporting a vastly more complex web of internpersonal interactions.
So if you really want to know what’s happening in Web 2.0, go spend a few sleepless weeks in Ogame It’s a peek into the future, but don’t forget to fleet-save.