ORB Investigation: Micro Alliances in Politics & War

Politics & War is a free to play browser-based persistent massively multi-player online game where you create your own nation and rule it. Forced to make grueling political decisions you are truly in charge in Politics & War. Play together with friends and strangers, pit your armies against each other and wage war, or work together cooperatively for mutual prosperity. In Politics & War you call the shots. – www.politicsandwar.com

There has been argument over what constitutes as a ‘micro’ alliance in Politics & War. Some players focus on mere number of nations, others focus on score, and some mix in various other elements to decide who exactly fits within their definition of micro – but we can all agree that micro alliances are generally small and offer no real sway to the in-game politics. Over the past few months, micro alliances have received a tremendous amount of (negative) attention and ORB wanted to investigate whether micro alliances fit in this game at its current state, if they are a problem, or if they actually benefit the political dynamic of the game.

On September 11th, 2018 – Thalmor, a well known player, posted an interesting topic outlining a segregation of micro alliances from the main community of Politics & War. The idea was to remove the micro drama and clutter out of the main spotlight for alliance announcements – and it was pretty well received. These types of posts that have called out micro’s for posting their alliance announcements within the major billboard of the world have only increased since then with players on both sides of the fence.

As we stated before, micro alliances really do not have any sway with the major politics in the game. Instead, they usually maintain their politics within their micro sphere of alliances. The status quo of most new and existing micro alliances is to build up, fight each other, treaty each other and then fade away. A rare few will break through and grow and become a part of the greater community of Politics & War. The issue we see is not that they have their own politics and not that they post within the same field as the greater player-base, but that they may not offer anything worthwhile to the game and may fail their members by having leadership die out – thus taking their membership with them. So, we are faced with a game that grows stagnant due to incompetency.

Like micro alliances, browser-based online simulation games like Politics & War generally have that same lifespan. These types of games cater to a very small niche group of people and usually this group will belong to multiple nation sim sites across the internet or migrate over when another one dies out. A good example of this would be a migration of players from another game called CyberNations – although many people still play Cybernations, a lot of those players came here to start fresh. Many variables go into maintaining a game like this – but the main ones would obviously be players, maintenance, and expansion. Without players, there would be no reason to go on to maintain the game and there would be absolutely no reason to expand on said game. This brings us to the route cause of question for this investigation – it’s not the idea that micro alliances are considered inadequate or useless and it’s not even the opinion that micro alliances do not and will not contribute to in-game politics, it is the question that micro alliances do not do anything to progress on the game, to apply players which forces admin to work maintenance and finishing the circle to expand on the premise of the game itself.

Because this not a strict opinion piece like the ‘What Max Thinks’ articles that are promoted through ORB, we wanted to get as much exposure on this topic as possible – we went to the Politics & War forums to find out what the entire community thought about micro alliances. It is worth knowing that many players in the Politics & War community believe that there is an equal balance of pros and cons when it comes to these smaller alliances, they become an issue when they cross over the edge..and that edge is usually the length of time they stay small. Sir Scarfalot who is, at the time of writing, the director of Department of Opposition, a two-man alliance, says “on the one hand, they do cause harm…on the other hand, their polar opposites, the mass-recruitment blob alliances can and do far more harm to the game’s progression.” We asked Sir Scarfalot to expand a bit more on the ‘harm’ aspect micro alliances cause.

Well, the worst harm that they can cause is pretty much the same harm as the mass alliances can cause, which is to be so structured, defensive, and cautious as to give a completely boring and terrible gameplay experience to their membership, and thus turn otherwise promising players off of the game. We don’t have nearly enough retention as it is.

Player retention is incredibly low and it is well-known that many new alliances will come into games like this, amass a pretty large following and then quickly die off due to the inadequacies of leadership, like discussed before. This means that all of those members who joined the game to play vanish just as quickly as they came in and its largely due to the lack of knowledge of the community as a whole – just think, if you’re new to this game without any history of nation simulation games, you join a secluded group, your leader goes away – if you have no knowledge of the basics of the game that would point you to salvation, what do you do? Likely look for another game.

We put a simple poll up on the community forums asking if micro alliances help or harm the progression of the game, 71 players voted in said poll with 38 people saying that micro alliances help and 33 players saying that they harm. Obviously, there is a lot that goes into this question – it is not simple and easy enough to just say yes or no, but we wanted to get a better reading on where the community was at and we are given a pretty close reply – nearly 50/50.

In general, it’s always good to have some kind of goal in mind and some kind of way of assessing what “success” and what “failure” will look like. I don’t particularly car much to define it for others, but if you can’t state a clear goal for your alliance in the mid and long term, you probably are spinning your wheels and better off seeking alternative employment.” -Auctor

Auctor is an Officer in the #1 alliance in Politics & War, New Pacific Order. NPO is also the largest alliance by membership with a total of 161 members and over 50 nations sitting on their applicant list. NPO is clearly an alliance that has set their goals correctly, they have made it to the top with the stats and numbers to maintain that position, but when does it become too much? When do we set aside pride to continue expanding and progressing? The answer to that question likely requires some therapists and a much longer article – if we were to put it simply, the thought of being #1 greatly outweighs the reality that the harm you cause crumbles the steps that brought you there, thus bringing you right back to the bottom.

For those of you who missed that analogy, the idea here is pride exists, it is human nature. The pride that builds you will also fault you – which is to say that pride that exists within these large alliances that stay on top harm the game progression just as much as micro alliances due to the fact that on one side, everyone is grouped into a massively large alliance with over 50 people waiting to get in or just in limbo and the other side being many new players and nations joining into micro alliances and falling off the end of our world due to inadequacies and improper motivation to set goals, succeed, and become more – as Auctor said.

So, what is the conclusion here? We entered this investigation searching for the answer to one question. “Do micro alliances help or harm the progression of this game?” and we are left with even more questions. The community came together for this investigation to share their opinions not only on what makes a micro a micro, but to share what micros do that harm or help and we found out that the community is close to split over the question with some saying they help and others saying they harm, but at the same time placing the same blame on large alliances in the game – a large top-tier alliance can do as much harm as a small, micro alliance. That is fascinating because for small alliances it comes down to being uneducated, lack of drive towards goals and success and for large alliances they have the drive and the success, but they are also hit with an immense collection of pride.

Who’s wrong or right? You can throw in the biggest shrug right here, nobody should be made to feel bad because they tried to succeed and failed and nobody should be made to feel bad because they tried to succeed and they did and made it to the top. The idea of a game is to win and to continue to follow that path of success. The only thing we all should keep in the back of our minds is, when it comes to winning that usually calls for a game to end – restart – and be played again. These types of games don’t ever “end” – wars can be won and lost, but the game never ends. So, think, if this game never ends and you remain on top and retention is extremely low – is it worth remaining on top for a game that retains fewer and fewer nations?

Thanks for tuning in PW, you can check out the full thread of responses to our investigation below, stop by our discord and talk with us on what you think about micros and large alliances and maybe how you think this game could progress and expand.