An Honest Review – Cyber Nations

Lots and lots of massive multi-player experiences exist online today. And they are built in all ways. The oldest started decades ago, text based Dungeons and Dragons type adventures and bound by the technology of the era. Today, the news is filled with hints of the “next matrix” – an online world where anything could happen, and one that soldiers on persistently. World of Warcraft is the predominant beast on the interweb, consuming player’s lives since 2004. With the expansion of Facebook into the everyday users life, social MMO’s like Farmville became behemoths of their own. Somewhere in the middle, lives a little gem named Cyber Nations.

By Robert Graves

The story is a familiar one: started as a school project based on Google Maps. Players interacted through a few commands, but had a limited number of actions per day. 9 years later, Cyber Nations has evolved into one of the best political simulators on the internet.

The beauty of Cyber Nations lies where the players fill in the gaps left by code. Over the years, the evolution of single states to alliances to blocs of alliances has been the main driver of politics. And politics do matter. EVE often touts an evolving player base as one of its great achievements. Its something that games like Everquest or The Old Republic can’t do by their very nature. Those game developers opted for guiding narrative. To that extreme, Phantasy Star Online is the game farthest from freedom. Cyber Nations in contrast has only player driven content. There are some events, but these are localized to the player’s nation. All the game asks you to do is keep your citizens happy. What you do beyond that is up to you – and ripples across the game as a result.

Joining Cyber Nations is as straight forward as it comes. Using Google Maps, the player picks the location of his capital city. The player answers various questions and establishes government positions, religions, and race. A balance must be struck between Land, Infrastructure, and Technology. Improvements, wonders, and trades round off the list of economic items. A cost / benefit exists for everything in the game and over the years several player guides have been written to help out the new folks.

a typical nation

a typical nation layout. including stats, wonders, improvements, etc.

Citizens ask to change government and religion from time to time, but this is presented as a riddle. Finding the correct answer is a bit of a challenge at first, but getting the wrong answer wont destroy your nation. Cyber Nations is extremely forgiving in this instance. The only way to lose is for your nation deleted (!!!) and this is accomplished after 25 days of national debt.  The game developers have built in a way for you to bring your nation back to life after this period of inactivity.

The military side of your nation gets a little more complex. The player’s nation will grow into several different facets of war: An army, a Navy, an Air force, a Covert Ops group, and a Nuclear force. The player is allowed two attacks of each type per nation per day, which leads to interesting player driven strategy. Damage is calculated on a handful of factors, and nations are limited to a range of opponents – based on Nation Strength.

Since the formation of Alliances, Cyber Nations has seen some large global conflicts. Sometimes these are based on legitimate Casus Belli, but can be based on the whim of a mad man. Individual alliances are often based around themes. These stretch from Bronies to Pacifists to Terrorist Raiders to Moralists.

The History of Cyber Nations – Bollywood Style

A few of the classics have shown up, such has GOONs or FARK. Some alliances are based from pop culture references, such as The Mostly Harmless Alliance, or House Baratheon. Some travel from other similar games like Nation States – the New Pacific Order acting as the prime example. Each of these alliances has created its own internal and external political structure. Almost all alliances have their own websites. Communication and politicking is achieved mostly by IRC.

Cyber Nations at its core is a simple game that works as expected. The developers decision to step back and let politics take their course really sets it apart from most other games in the genre. While EVE can be truly epic in scale, it still costs a premium to get involved. Cyber Nations on the other hand is free to play and is text based so lag is virtually non existent. As a game that only requires as much time you want to give, Cyber Nations is highly recommended for both casual players and the hard core RP crowd alike.

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