One of my favorite parts of being a crypto blogger and video creator is when a fan requests that I review a specific crypto related game, coin, or protocol. In a previous article, Prof. Magic made a request for an overview of the Town Star game on the Gala Network. It is my pleasure to honor this request, and in this article, I will provide a brief overview of the game play and economic model of Town Star as well as sharing some of my tips and general impressions of the game. Town Star is an online, blockchain-based game similar to FarmVille. The object of the game is to create resources and sell them to other towns. As players sell resources and generate cash, they can use that cash to upgrade their town with better farming equipment, more efficient transportation, and industrialization.
After registering, the player is able to select where they want to build their town. Different locations have different advantages. For example, a town near a river allows you to create and use shipping transportation, but a town near a mountain allows you to build an iron mine and mine ore.
After selecting a location, players give their town a name and begin the game. When the player first creates the town, they start of with a few basic resources including a small wheat field, a well, some storage facilities, ponds, trees (for lumber), gasoline, and a transport truck.
One interesting point about Town Star is that the economic model is always in motion, and the game seems to be a constant race against time. What I mean by this is that as soon as you start the game, you begin loosing money. The farmer and truck driver that are provided as starting resources cost money even when idle. If your town runs out of money, all your workers go inside their homes to sleep, and the town shuts down. Therefore, the pressure begins early in the game, and players have to quickly develop a solid strategy for making their town productive. Not only that, but players start out with a limited amount of gasoline to ship their commodities -better make enough money to build a refinery before you run out of gas. The top left of the screen shows the total cash the player has and a list of commodities that the player has on hand. The icon with the spinning wheel beside it its the cost per minute you spend on paying your employees. It is critically important to pay attention to this and balance it against how much you are earning through commodity sales.
Players have several options for developing an economically productive town. Under the "Shop" tab, players can create different types of buildings that fall into one of 4 broad categories: farming buildings, ranching buildings, industrial buildings, or trade hubs. Each Town Star player must perform a cost benefit analysis to determine the optimal economic strategy by balancing the costs of production against the sale price of their commodities.
Let me give an example. A player can sell 10 units of wood for $4,000, but selling 10 units of wheat only yields $2,500. However, wood is considerably more expensive to produce and requires a lumberjack house with an initial cost of $2,500 and a per minute salary of $120. However, the farmers house costs $1,250 to purchase and only $12 per minute. If that wasn't complicated enough, players also have to factor in pre-requisite resources and time constraints. Growing wheat requires water (which means buying a well) and planting an initial field (an additional cost). Harvesting wood simply requires the lumberjack to chop down trees. Oh, and both the wood and wheat will need a storage location to be built, or the workers will simply throw it out.
As players gain cash from trading basic resources, they can invest in more expensive means of production and produce more expensive commodities. Instead of simply selling wheat, players could build a refinery to produce and sell petroleum, gas, and jet fuel. Or, in keeping with the agricultural route, they could elect to build a bakery and sell butter, dough, and baguettes. While building higher-order means of production does generate more income from sales, it also incurs a higher cost of production. Whereas a farmer's salary is $12 per minute, a refinery costs $240 even when sitting idle.
Not only that, but more advanced means of production require more dependencies and pre-requisites which also means more money spent producing them. The lumber jack simply needs a place to store the wood he cuts down, but the refinery needs electricity, water, and crude oil to operate. And if you simply think you can build an oil rig, wind turbine, and water facility to provide this to the refinery, think again. The crude oil, energy, and water don't simply go from the rig, windmill, and water plant to the refinery. You need to build storage sheds to store those materials, and you also need a to hire a worker to move the resources from the rig, water facility, and windmills to the storage sheds. Like I said, the economic model is very complex, and requires significant calculations to be profitable.
-Every building and worker that you hire consumes resources, even when idle. Stockpile resources before building higher order production facilities to maximize efficiency. For example, pre-stock water, batteries, and crude oil before building your refinery so that you aren't paying your refinery to sit idle while you accumulate pre-requisite resources.
-Locate near a major city. When you pick the initial location for your town, you can pick from almost anywhere in the world. Locating your town near a major city seems to help decrease shipping times. This means that instead of waiting 2 minutes to ship each load of commodities, you can ship once every minute. Commodities earn nothing sitting in your town's storage shed, so faster shipping times means you can ship (and thus earn cash) quicker.
-Work towards producing gasoline. At some point, you will need to produce your own gasoline. Selling commodities requires gasoline, and without fuel, you can't sell the wood/wheat/etc that your town produces. Although you can sell commodities to other towns, I couldn't find a way to purchase commodities. This means that it isn't possible to simply be a farming town and sell your crops for gasoline to continue shipping. If you wan't to remain economically viable, you will have to plan to begin producing your own fuel.
-Be prepared for trial and error. As I will discuss below, the in-game instructions can sometimes be confusing, so be prepared to make some mistakes.
-Sell ponds for emergency resources. Players start the game with several ponds in their town. These ponds do have economic benefits and are useful for the game, so they shouldn't be sold for no reason, but they can give the player an instant $5,000 cash if the player really needs it.
I want to be clear that I understand the game is in Beta and it is also free to play. These suggestions are simply things that I think would help make the game more easy to play, accessible, and enjoyable and are not meant to put the game down in any way. With that being said, here are a few options that I think would help the game improve.
-Make a list of commodities and expected sale prices. One of the most important aspects of any economic policy is balancing the cost of production against the expected sale price. However, I couldn't find the sale price of commodities until I invested in the resources needed to produce them. For example, the player starts out by producing wheat, which sells for $2,500, but they have no idea how much crude, water, gasoline, or jet fuel will earn until they invest in the refineries, oil rigs, and water pumps to produce them. I had to restart my game several times because I invested in a lot or resources to produce a commodity only to find it wasn't going to be profitable to sell it. I can see the sale price for wood, wheat, and gas, but I can't see the projected sale price for jet fuel, petrol, etc. Maybe adding those items in a grayed out tab next to the colored items that I do have would be a good solution.
I understand that in the real world, businesses don't know exactly how much something will sell for, so this feature of the game might be built to implement some real world economic uncertainty. I'd argue that especially when selling standardized products like the in-game commodities, even real world businesses have a general idea of how much they will be able to sell their oil/wheat/etc for and implementing some kind of pricing would make it much easier for players to formulate an economic strategy.
-Allow both buying an selling of commodities between towns. In the real world, no town produces all of what it consumes. Allowing players to buy commodities from other towns would create a richer economic model and also be more realistic. The current model of producing everything forces the player towards industrialization and producing gasoline simply to export their commodities. Not all players want to industrialize, just as many real world towns are largely agricultural. These towns (both real and in-game) simply produce agricultural products and trade those products for other things they need (fuel) which is produced by other towns.
-Give more in-game building info. As I was running low on gasoline, I looked under the buildings tab and saw I could build a refinery which produces petroleum, gasoline, and jet fuel. Only after building the refinery did I see that the refinery can't produce fuel by itself, but it also needs crude (from a rig), water (from water facility) and electricity (from the wind turbine). Since I can't simply buy those prerequisites from another town, that means I had to backtrack and build the turbine and water facility. While waiting for the turbines and water facility to be built, I was loosing $240 per minute on my un-productive refinery. Again, not knowing the prerequisites needed to produce a product makes it incredibly difficult to properly plan. After playing for a while, I did find such a list on the website, but I believe the game would be much more accessible and easy to play if this was listed in game. Maybe players could click on the Petrol icon, and it would tell what is needed to produce it.
Or this could be handled by adding some kind of a commodities index that allows players to click on a commodity and see what pre-requisites are needed to produce it. I like the commodities tracker on the home screen, but how about making a large menu that includes all possible in-game commodities with those not currently owned grayed out. The menu could be clickable, and players could click on each commodity to see both the sale price and the inputs needed to produce it.
Although the game does have some quirks and can be hard to figure out, I did enjoy playing it. I like Town Star's realistic economic model and the fact that the game forces you to build up prerequisites (though I wish it was more simply explained) to industrialize. I'd really love to see inter-town trade implemented at some point as I feel this would be a huge advancement and take the economic model to a new level. FarmVille, Zoo Tycon, and other world-building games have proven extremely popular and shown that there clearly is a demand for this type of game. Although the game is currently in beta, it has a lot of promise, and I'm looking forward to seeing what updates the team releases as the game continues to develop.