Lessons in Analytics From Mobile Gaming — Warlords Of Aternum
Levels, Layers, and Iteration
Developed by Innogames and currently boasting 4.4 of 5 stars — Warlords of Aternum is a turn-based strategy game. This early in our series (this is article #5) that is really enough. I will be releasing a deeper dive on the importance of turn-based games to analytics in my other series, tomorrow (available here). In this article, I want to focus on how well WoA (my acronym, I think) visualizes the levels and layers of an iterative model.
Turn-based Games Are Iterative Models
But WoA does a superb job of visualizing that through numerous layers, levels, and game progressions. It is found in nearly every aspect of the game!
Let’s take a step back for those who have never played. WoA places the player as the leader (or Warlord) of the City of Dewport. You begin with a single small army, surrounded by territories filled with goblins. Your goal is to clear the lands of monsters and in the process build your army. Combat involves a turn-based system on a hexagonal maps. Not much too it, really.
While combat involves a fair amount of strategy — concentrating attacks, protecting units high in attack power but low in defense, and exploiting the landscape. Basically, each unit can absorb so much damage and each unit can cause so much. The battles are mostly math. There is a bit of Rochambeau (there always is), but the battle boils down to a simple concept — Are your forces more powerful than your opponents? The rest is an optimization exercise… all be it an entertaining one.
Let me be clear. The game provides a clear sense of agency during the combat phase but it more comparable to a game of Black Jack than Poker. In other words, there is more you can do to screw up than to actually win in most battles. Only the marginal ones truly pivot on the choices you make. Much more is determined by the forces you start with than the choices and strategy you employ.
On the other hand, your character (well in this case army) progression is based on a myriad of iterative decisions that take you through a string of layers, levels, trade offs, and investments. The ultimate value of one choice over another is certainly questionable, but feels more important to the overall outcome of the game. The player is essentially tasked developing their armies one step at a time.
Much of this is presented visually in the game through a series of layered drop down boxes. It is a leveled hierarchy of choices, itself layered under each unit type. Will you provide your cattle resources to your archers or your newly acquired, odd, purple ogres? Each choice changes or at least throttles your progression. It is a game of investment choices. But what does all this have to do with analytics?
Analytics Is An Iterative Model.
That makes it loosely, turn-based. There is much analysts can learn from a simulation like this. Not about Ogres and fantasy fighters, but about the way decision tree models progress. They can gain learning on iterative investment models. They can gain insight on patience, planning, and even learn lessons when the choice appear to really not matter at all.
Non-gamer analysts often struggle with step-wise concepts in analytics. They want to jump to the end. Perhaps that is why they aren’t gamers. They just don’t have the patience. Or perhaps it goes further, gamers are entertained by the progression and their sense of agency over it.
So will playing Warlords of Aternum make you a better analyst? Yeah, maybe. It certainly is worth learning a few things from. It is an entertaining model that has some solid lessons and strategies build in. Think of it as practice… the type that doesn’t suck.
Will a thousand hours of WoA prepare you to analyze the markets, model a complex customer ecosystem, or develop a great machine learning algorithm? Of course not, at least not directly. It may give you some ideas on how to visualize aspects of those things. You might draw some analogy from an aspect or two of the game. Just don’t get carried away.
Enjoy the game and thanks for reading!
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