As you may know, I’m a pretty big fan of the German board game Settlers of Catan, even hosting the GeekWire Catan night earlier this year at the Spitfire bar and grill. So, when Massively Fun founder and CEO Grant Goodale invited me to take a look at the Seattle company’s new “Catan World” game, I had to hop on board.
Developed in conjunction with Catan GmbH and Goko, the free HTML5 game is set to be unveiled today at the big GenCon gaming conference in Indianapolis. The game marks the followup to Massively Fun’s first title, the online multiplayer crossword game Word² in which game players compete with one other to form words.
Traditional Catan fans will recognize some elements of the game. Yes, there’s still plenty of wheat, ore, wood, brick and sheep to go around. And the robber still makes his presence felt, stealing resource cards on a virtual dice roll of seven. But Catan World also features new elements, such as an exploration mode at the beginning of the game in which players can roll back virtual fog in order to reveal new parts of the island. Since you are playing against others in real-time, the game play also has been altered.
For example, when a dice roll of seven activates the robber, it is automatically moved to the desert tile rather than an opposing player’s tile. This is to guard against a robber being placed on a tile, and then having a player log-off and never returning to the game.
“It is almost impossible to say that this is Settlers of Catan, but it is asynchronous and there are no turns,” said Goodale. “We have to do something to the mechanics in order to make that work…. We’ve definitely had to interpret the rules”.
The entire game is designed to be played in as little as five-minutes, much shorter than the current iOS game for Catan, which typically takes me about 25 minutes to play, or the traditional board game version, which can take an hour or more to play.
“It goes very, very quickly,” said Goodale, adding that it is perfect for those short periods when you are looking for a little “Catan-like chunk” of fun.
Of course, any real-time game faces the classic chicken-and-egg problem. You need enough players willing to play at various times in order for it to work. In order to solve that problem, Goodale said that they’ve created an online matchmaking service so that different types of Catan players can be placed in games that suit them. Also in the works are tournaments in which larger numbers of players can join a game, perhaps even pitting players in different countries or zip codes or college campuses against one another. Other fun elements could include customizing the robber, which led me to ask whether we could see sponsorships or advertising. (A bail bonds company sponsoring the robber?)
Goodale said there are no plans for advertising at this point, though it could be in the cards down the road. “Interestingly, there is a way to work with advertisers and sponsors that’s not a display ad, because we have all of this real estate,” he said.
The game is free, but Goko, Catan GmbH and Massively Fun plan to make money through in-game monetization. All three have an economic interest in Catan World, with Catan GmbH planning to start heavily promoting the game starting today at GenCon.
“It is not going to be a case of paying for more dice rolls,” said Goodale, adding that players could pay to get an option to increase the odds of receiving better development cards or additional resource production from cities or settlements. The cost of those add-on bonuses have not yet been set, but it will be in the typical micro-transaction range of 99 cents, he said.
Goodale stopped by the GeekWire offices this week to show off the new game, and we got an inside look. At this time, Massively Fun is doling out invitations to the beta version of game, which is expected to be released later this year.