Clash of Clans: A Social Sandbox

Clash of Clans is a mobile video game that is developed and published by the Finnish game developer Supercell. The game is currently only available on iOS and Android platforms.

The game may appeal to those who have an interest in medieval fantasy, as it features barbarians, goblins, witches, dragons, and more! Interestingly, while Supercell markets the game for ages 13 and above, more than 50% of the active player base falls into the 21–35 age category. This can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the game is almost a decade old and has a very loyal player base that has aged with the game.

Clash of clans is a social sandbox that features multiple player interactions. Essentially, each player is a medieval lord who has to upgrade and defend their base, which is the main sandbox element.

Protect your townhall and resources by strategically placing your archer towers and cannons

The social component comes in two forms. First, players can train troops to loot other players’ bases.

Train troops to strategically attack other players’ bases

Second, players can join a clan and participate in clan wars.

Players can join clans and fight as a team in clan wars

The combination of player vs player and team vs team interactions allows players to find their own balance between competition and cooperation, thus catering to a broad audience of players.

Given these varied player interactions, Clash of Clans is very different from most sandbox games that usually serve as a source of ‘pointless fun’. Instead, the game encourages players to outwit each other by exploring and continuously evolving their attack and defense strategies based on recent upgrades and updates. For example, successfully attacking enemy bases requires lots of analysis such as taking advantage of possible gaps in their defense, predicting traps, deciding what combination of troops to attack with, which direction(s) to attack from, which resources to prioritize looting, and much more. Given the endless strategic possibilities, the game lives up to its fundamental purpose of allowing players to practice and learn new things.

However, players can still choose to focus on constructing the base without engaging in too many battles because as one progresses to high townhall levels, a single base upgrade can take over a week, thus making time a stronger limiting factor than resources. Only players who want to gain more trophies and play more competitively continue attacking other bases. Therefore, just like in the case of dynamic player interactions, players can set their own objectives and determine their playstyle, thus catering to both casual and hard-core gamers.

The game transports the player into a medieval fantasy where the player lords over a base while attempting to conquer other bases. This does a great job of immersing new players into the game, especially as they unlock new and exciting troops such as witches and dragons.

Witches and dragons

The game has a very strong aspect of competition. Competitive players and streamers regularly share their new strategies and base layouts with the online community. By sharing their victorious battle records, players can express their dominance while also helping the community grow.

Maxed-out base

As mentioned above, after Supercell added clan wars to the game, this competitive aspect was balanced by a feeling of fellowship to your clan-mates. Furthermore, Supercell took it one step further as players could also donate troops to clan-mates to help defend their bases against enemy attacks. Interestingly, even though players made a net loss from donating troops, many players actively donated the maximum amount of troops, thus demonstrating Supercell’s success in achieving this type of fun.

Players can also choose to express themselves by creating cool base designs. However, these designs usually leave the base a lot more vulnerable and are usually just for aesthetic purposes. Therefore, in instances like these, this game can also seem like pointless fun (a toy!).

Cool base designs

The game does a great job of combining different concepts such as player vs player and team vs team interactions, achieving a healthy balance of competition and cooperation.

The Supercell team has also actively listened to their player base and continuously added new features (such as clan wars) in order to seem inviting to both new and veteran players.

Supercell has also beautifully incorporated in-app purchases in the form of monthly pass that a lot of other games have also adopted. It allows new players to accelerate their progress at a relatively low cost.

Gold pass in-app purchase

Despite the array of features and new updates, the application itself is relatively lightweight and works on most old generation phones, thus again opening itself to a larger audience.

Despite the frequent updates, the end-game can seem monotonous as everyone at that level has maxed out bases and troops. This makes every attack and defense seem very similar and it is exacerbated by the fact that many players follow ‘recommended’ base layouts and use certain troop combinations that have been proven to work well in most cases.

Although early gameplay is very interesting as a player slowly unlocks new upgrades and troops, due to the competitive nature of the game, it can seem a little demotivating as there are players who have already maxed out everything and it is impossible to compete against them.

It is difficult to suggest improvements for a game that has maintained a strong and loyal player base for almost a decade. Perhaps one thing Supercell could try out is further accelerating new player progression by offering free alternatives to the monthly pass. Overall, Supercell seems like it's on the right track in designing fun games as they have seen similar success in more recent games like Clash Royale and Brawl Stars.

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