Utopia is a massive multiplayer internet-based strategy game. It won the People's Voice Webby Award for Gaming Site of the Year twice (2002 and 2003). Utopia is free to play; the game is supported by revenue from banner and pop-up advertising. Players can either pay a small fee for each Age or a one-time fee permanently for some minor in-game bonuses and removal of all advertising in the game.
Utopia came online in January 1999 after a series of betas, referred to by players as "First Beta," "Long Beta," and "Short Beta." Game creator Mehul Patel was involved in the BBS-based gaming movement, and authored the BBS games Barren Realms Elite and Solar Realms Elite prior to moving to the web with Earth: 2025 an online multiplayer game.
Utopia was originally created under the company Solaria Games, which had its roots as early as 1996. In 1999 Solaria Games was renamed to Echelon Entertainment, then renamed in July 2000 to Swirve.Com.
Previously there were three game servers available: "World of Legends," where both new players and more casual players were encouraged to play, "Battlefields," where the game's most competitive players were found, and "Genesis," an experimental server where possible play changes are tested. As of Age 30, the Battlefields and the World of Legends servers have been merged, uniting both servers under the name of World of Legends. The Genesis server retained its name.
The game site no longer has the Battlefields server. Instead, another competitive server was born in its place - the "Utopian Stand-Off" Server. The Utopian Stand-Off is a one-time only tournament server in which players get randomly assigned a kingdom and have the opportunity to compete until only one kingdom is left standing. All players sign up in advance of the game starting - once kingdoms have been assigned, no more players are allowed into the game. The game is designed to get more difficult as time progresses and is expected to last no more than about 3 months.
As of May 13, the Stand-Off has been officially brought to a close. It has since been replaced by "The Great Utopian War" which offers a newly revamped style of play in that kingdoms will participate in a series of wars until one is left standing. These wars will last a random amount of time (usually 3-5 real time days) following up with a general recovery period of 2-3 days.
On July 1st, 2008, Swirve.com was acquired by OMAC Industries.
Gameplay is divided into periods called "Ages," with each Age lasting between three to four months. At the end of an Age, all accounts are reset to their initial states to give players a fresh start, any new balance and gameplay changes are put into effect, and the competition begins again. On May 1st 2008, the game entered its 39th age, which is called the Age of the the Scholar.
Utopia has a real-time gaming environment. A player's province continues to grow, produce resources, and recruit soldiers even when he or she is not logged on. This also means that a province may be attacked even while its player is not logged in.
Upon selecting a server and creating an account, players are given a choice of Race (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Orc, Gnome, Dark Elves), and Personalities (Merchant, Shepherd, Sage, Rogue, Mystic, War Hero, Warrior, and Artisan). Each Personality and Race has its own strengths and weaknesses; some have access to unique spells, some have bonuses to offense or resource production, and so on. In addition, each Race has access to a unique military unit called an Elite, and, until the most recent age on both the main server and the experimental server, each Personality used to have a bonus related to the number of Elite units.
Players' provinces are grouped into Kingdoms; each Kingdom is a team of up to 25 provinces. Provinces within the same kingdom can send resources to each other, have a private forum for discussion, and can elect the leader of one province to become a Monarch. The Monarch is elected by a vote among the provinces in a Kingdom, where players with higher levels of Honour (see below) have more than one vote. The Monarchy is also automatically given to any province obtaining over half of the combined Networth (see below) of the Kingdom. This Monarch can then decide whether or not any of the other provinces should get Monarchy instead.
A Monarch has total control on political issues such as declaring wars on other kingdoms and moderating the kingdom forums, but otherwise does not have any direct power over other players. The Monarch also has certain bonuses in resource production and defense during hostilities.
In the interval between the end of an Age and the beginning of another, players are able to log in to their accounts and interact in the forums in order to plan ahead. However, no actual gameplay takes place, and although players may issue commands to their province, no changes will happen until the game officially begins. Once the Age proper has begun, players are given 72 real-time hours of protection, some land and a fixed amount of resources to develop their province before military attacks are allowed. New players joining later in the game also receive the 72 hours of protection, but start with more resources and land than they would have been given at the start of the Age.
One Utopian day (the smallest in-game unit of time) is equivalent to 1 real-time hour. One Utopian month is 24 Utopian days (or one real time day; 24 real time hours). One Utopian year is 7 Utopian months, January through July (or one real time week; 7 real-time days; 168 real-time hours). The year begins on January 1 (Sunday, 12:00a.m.), and progresses so forth. This system allows for easier coordination within the kingdom, due to the fact that players from across the world exist in the same kingdoms and using standard chronology of GMT would be too complicated. The days of the Genesis server 'ticks' at the half hour, to reduce stress on the servers.
Strategy and growthEdit
Gameplay in Utopia usually revolves around one key resource: land.
Land increases the total population of a province, providing more peasants which can be taxed or drafted into the military. Buildings can be constructed on owned land to provide further bonuses, and the combination of buildings built by a province is usually a major part of its strategy. Land is measured in acres; each unbuilt acre supports a population of 15, each acre with a normal building supports a population of 25 and provides 25 jobs, acres where Homes are built supports a population of 33, but no jobs.
Land can be acquired in four ways; exploring, casting the Paradise spell, casting the Land Lust spell, or through attacking another province.
- Exploring consists of paying soldiers to settle new land. The land is taken from the Kingdom's Explore Pool, a given number of acres available for exploration. Players who choose only to explore their provinces to abnormal sizes are in general frowned upon, as they (usually) don't contribute in any way to the overall growth and prospering of the Kingdom, they take up a place which could be filled with a more valuable player, and they occupy a disproportionate part of the Explore Pool.
- The Paradise spell creates new land, not occupying acres from the Explore Pool. It is the most difficult (benign) spell, with the highest Rune cost (the Dark Elf race has free spells), and is thus mostly used by T/Ms (see below). It cannot be used during War (see below).
- The Land Lust spell captures land from anyone it is cast upon. It is the most difficult and costly (malign) spell, with the highest Rune cost, and is only available towards Kingdoms with which one has a hostility level of Unfriendly or higher (see below). The difficulty and cost means that this spell is mostly used by T/Ms.
- Attacking is the most-used method of expanding land. Through training an offensive army, players can send out troops to attack another province and capture some of its land. The land gained is calculated from the net worth and land relative to the player's opponent, and the time it takes before the army returns with the captured land is calculated from how far apart the player is from the province they attack. There are many factors which can affect the ability to attack another province (or defend from attacks). The most straight-forward are the modifier Buildings. Aggressive buildings are Training Grounds (increase Offensive Military Efficiency), Barracks (lower attack time) and Hospitals (reduce losses). The defensive buildings are Guard Stations (decrease enemy gains), Forts (increase Defensive Military Efficiency) and Hospitals (increases chance of curing the plague and lowers military losses).
Inter-Kingdom relations and warEdit
There are five levels of relations possible between kingdoms. Most relations are not reciprocal, i.e. it is possible for a kingdom to be hostile to another, even if the other kingdom has not declared any relations. The only exceptions are Ceasefire and War.
- Ceasefire: Usually, a ceasefire results from two kingdoms breaking off from war. However, a ceasefire can also be proposed by a kingdom in order to avoid war in the first place. A Ceasefire prohibits hostile action between kingdoms (e.g. attacking).
- No Relations: The standard relations between any two kingdoms. No special bonuses or penalties are incurred; however, only a limited number of spells and thievery operations are available against a kingdom which has no relations.
- Unfriendly: Unfriendly relations result from a small number of attacks. Once Unfriendly relations have been reached, most spells and thievery operations become available. However, at this point they are relatively ineffective and difficult to perform. Unfriendly status also gives the kingdom small bonuses.
- Hostile: A large number of attacks will bring about the Hostile status. Thievery operations and spells cost less resources to perform and are more effective. Unique bonuses are also granted to both aggressor and defender. If both kingdoms reach hostile level, each will gain all applicable bonuses.
- War: War allows two kingdoms to engage in extended conflict without outside interference. War can break out between two kingdoms through hostile actions towards each other and formal declarations of war. Once the aggressor kingdom gains Hostile status, its target can declare war as long as it has reached Unfriendly status. Thus the 'less hostile' kingdom earns the right to declare war. If both kingdoms have reached hostile status, then the 'less hostile' can declare war at any time. Spells and thievery operations are at optimum effectiveness only in war. War does not end until one kingdom surrenders or withdraws, or both kingdoms negotiate a mutual peace. The results of all a kingdom's previous wars are displayed on their status page, and is often a good indicator of how good a kingdom's teamwork is.
In Age 30, Stances - which had been tested previously on the Genesis server - were instituted on the World of Legends server. Stances are packages of modifiers that affect the entire kingdom, and which can be chosen by the kingdom's monarch. Stances do not work during times of war and cannot be changed during protection.
Utopia keeps track of the players and kingdoms with the most land, honor and net worth throughout the world, and on each individual Island. At the end of each Age, the highest-ranked provinces and kingdoms are enshrined in the Hall of Honors. In addition, there are unofficial player-made lists for War Wins (though the value of such a ranking is disputed), and there are also player-made rankings for alliances.
- Land is the key resource of the game. In addition to a player's skill, a province's size at the end of an Age is also relative to whatever curves are created by changes in the gameplay mechanism from round-to-round, and the prevailing strategies of Utopia's top players in reaction to the changes.
- Honor measures a player's renown. Generally speaking, Honor points cannot be produced like other resources, but must be taken from other players. There are nine different Titles of Nobility (Peasant, Knight/Lady, Lord/Noble Lady, Baron/Baroness, Viscount/Viscountess, Count/Countess, Marquis/Marchioness, Duke/Duchess, Prince/Princess) which are determined through one's Honor. Successfully casting hostile spells, performing thievery operations, or invading another province all take Honor from the victim and give it to the aggressor. In addition, a military attack made during war generates new Honor for the attacker. However, attacks made while under the spell Anonymity, which causes the next attack made to only show the island and kingdom number, instead of showing both and the attacking province's name, will generate no honor. Having a greater Title of Nobility gives a player some minor bonuses, the bonuses becoming more beneficial as one's Title of Nobility increases. Though if the player chooses to be an orc as his or her race, he or she will not receive any bonuses from Honor.
- Net worth (NW) is not a resource, but an approximate measure of a province's raw power. Land, buildings, military and more all have a set value of Net worth, and larger, more powerful provinces will usually have more Net worth. Because attacks are most effective against players of similar size, having a high Net worth per acre is desirable. Networth is the most popular measure of a players value, as having a higher networth shows that the province has had success against its enemies.
Players are encouraged to interact with other players in the same kingdom; each kingdom has a private forum that is accessible only to its members. Players that do not wish to remain in the kingdom they are assigned to can defect to another kingdom. However, defecting costs 15% of everything a player owns -- land, military, honor and resources -- and is generally used as a last resort. Players are limited to three defections for each Utopian age, and unused defections are lost at the end of the age.
One social aspect of the game which has made its way into play is the existence of alliances. Alliances are not officially endorsed by the game's maintainers and are often disdained by non-alliance players, yet are treated with a certain level of tolerance as an inevitability. Alliances form when groups of competing kingdoms decide to band together and operate as a group. The first organized alliances rose as defense against "unofficial" alliances (not public, just friends working together etc) or multies, but through the ages alliances have formed for a variety of reasons from almost purely social, often nationality-based ones, via educational ones, to defensive ones whose main purpose is to defend their members against "unfair play", and finally to offensive ones who actively use their alliance to gain advantages over others. They often employ tactics that single kingdoms can not use, such as overwhelming an opponent by outnumbering them. The basic structure of the game itself was not designed for these kind of groupings and Utopia gives few defenses against such strategies. Alliances usually coordinate their operations using non-Utopia forums and other non-sanctioned communication channels. In the past, there have also been Alliance Wars, where most kingdoms of one alliance fight other kingdoms belonging to an opposing alliance, recent examples include: NA (Nordic Alliance) vs NH (Nation of Hope) & OA (Order of Avalon); 9F (Nine Fates) vs Lotus; NA vs HaJ (Honor and Justice), Absalom vs BF (Brute Force).
Players also commonly use IRC, which has become a huge part of play within growing and experienced kingdoms, and has allowed players to interact like never before, channels have been setup for alliances, nationalities, kingdoms, strategy debate whilst also allowing for easy creation of new channels, as well as private messaging between any two users. Instant messengers are also used., such as ICQ, MSN, AIM and Yahoo Instant Messenger, to aid in communication outside the game. However it is against the rules to force other players to use these methods against their will.
The player community has developed many free Utopia-related tools that not supported by the game developers. Most are formatters, designed to help players quickly share in-game information with each other. These tools include Utopia Angel, Utopia Prophet, Utopia Pimp, Utopia Resource and Utopia Metatron. Some of these, like Utopia Angel, are third-party software that have to be downloaded and installed on the player's computer, while other tools like the "All-in-One Formatter" from Utopia Temple are used through a web browser.
Utopia also hosts several interactive forums, these being the Bugs and Suggestions forum, Strategy Talk, Utopia Talk, General Talk, Politics, Roleplaying and the now defunct Relations forum. There are three other forums here which only moderators may post in, which are a vital source of information regarding the forums and much outdated information.
Utopia has eleven forums in use, seven of which are open to the players, three which are read-only boards and a special board exclusively for moderators. The seven open boards are Bugs & Suggestions, Strategy Talk, Roleplaying, Utopia Talk, General Talk, Politics and Relations Discussion. The three read-only boards are Announcements, Moderator Comments and Questions & Answers. The Moderators' board cannot be viewed by a non-moderator/admin, and as such information on it is only assumed.
In addition to the actual boards hosted on the Utopia website, there is also an IRC community which has channels ranging from assistance for people new to the game to channels for individual kingdoms and alliances, and also many channels not directly connected to the game but used generally by people who play or have played the game.
Although Swirve has run Utopia for many years; there have been many who have criticized the games inability to deal with bullying. A factor that has had a negative effect on its reputation and credibility in recent years.
Another common complaint has been the failed attempt to control players with multiple accounts because of the game's inability to track players via their IP addresses. This is made difficult by the fact that recent versions of the Windows operating system allow for the creation of multiple IP addresses for multiple users, allowing people to easily have multiple accounts. These problems are not unique to Utopia, and have been growing across many online multiplayer game platforms.
- ↑ 6th Annual Webby Awards Nominees & Winners, 2002, http://www.webbyawards.com/webbys/current.php?season=6#webby_entry_games, retrieved on 28 February 2008
- ↑ 7th Annual Webby Awards Nominees & Winners, 2003, http://www.webbyawards.com/webbys/current.php?season=7#webby_entry_games, retrieved on 28 February 2008
- ↑ Swirve Announcement, http://boards.swirve.com/board.cgi?boardset=utopia&boardid=announce&thread=4&spec=6695031
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Races and Personalities, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/races.htm
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Kingdom Politics, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/politics.htm
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Kingdom Relations, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/relation.htm
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Overview, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/overview.htm
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Magic, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/magic.htm
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Magic, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/magic.htm
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Combat, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/war.htm
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Economics and Growth, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/growth.htm
- ↑ Utopia Guide: Kingdom Relations, http://games.swirve.com/utopia/help/relation.htm
- ↑ www.utonet.org
- ↑ Swirve Blog >> Blog Archive >> Some Clarifications, 2008, http://blog.swirve.com/2008/10/31/some-clarifications/, retrieved on 8 November 2008
- Official Utopia website
- The Utopia Angel website with Public Forums
- Utopia Pimp - External forum and intelligence bank for Utopia users
- Alliance Rankings - Website about ingame current events and the Utopian alliances
- The Dragon Portal - Website that provides various support tools for the web-based strategy game Utopia
- uTimes - Independent News for the Utopian Community
- The unofficial Utopia forums/Real UGT
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