In the farthest reaches of the galaxy, dark volatile rocks orbit unstable stars. Nobody would even care if it weren’t for the Crystal, the ultimate natural resource.
Extracting Crystal is hard enough given the hostile aliens and the volcanic storms, but it’s the rival miners that make life really difficult. Every hothead and tweaker this side of Polaris is looking to strike it rich.
Be the first to meet your quota, earn your bonus and live happily ever after. That or fight just to stay alive.
They call it Jupiter’s Folly.
And that’s all the plot you need to know.
Iron Helmet, developers of Neptune’s PrideÂ and Blight of the Immortals, debuted their latest browser-based real time strategy game Jupiter’s FollyÂ a couple of months ago. Like their previous games it remains an ongoing project and its rules will continue to be tweaked and balanced based on player feedback, but having now played a trio of matches I’ve got a few thoughts to share about the game.
LikeÂ Neptune’s PrideÂ andÂ Blight of the Immortals, Jupiter’s FollyÂ is constructed around a map that sees you vying to control points on a map, many of which contain deposits of the crystal which you must mine both to finance your growth and defences and to work toward ultimate victory. Unlike its predecessors it utilises a card-based system that offers you a wide range of tactical possibilities. Cards range from abilities like deploying security teams of varying strength to buffs and debuffs for your and opposing security teams, plus others that can enhance the size and aggressiveness of the AI-controlled alien swarms, use orbital strikes to cut swarms or security teams in half, or simply increase the crystal output of your mines. The cards available to you are randomly allocated; each day players can select a card to add into their hand, although there is a maximum hand size that requires you to acquire and discard cards based on the strategy you’re pursuing or pure opportunism.
First up I’ll mention that the game has a single-player mode which serves as a reasonable introduction to the game’s basic mechanics; it throws you in at the shallow end with no AI opponents beyond the swarms of roving aliens that, if left unchecked, can prove either an annoyance or a genuine threat. It’s almost impossible to lose in this environment but does mean that your grasp of the game’s workings is sufficient to survive a multiplayer match long enough to really understand how the game plays.
My first real match began with disillusionment, I will admit. I’ve previously spent about six weeks with assorted Iron Helmet games and am a little burned out on the investment of time and energy that their titles demand. Sure, you’re not required to be always-on (although you can be – The Aspiration is proof enough of that) but it’s a core requirement that you check in regularly to issue orders at specific intervals. Your armies cannot be contacted when between nodes on the map, which from a gameplay perspective ensures that, as in Neptune’s Pride, players must be fully committed to any given action. On the other hand, it’s a genuine pain in the arse when you need to issue a vital order at 4am. For some players this will pose little problem, but for those with other demands on their time it’s inevitable that opportunities and pivotal moments will simply be missed, leading to setbacks or even defeat.
Alas, this is how my first game played out: after acquiring a few new nodes, constructing new mines and building up my security teams, I failed to pay attention to the game for a couple of days. (I play in a punk rock band, a hobby that demands both time and the excessive consumption of alcohol, and following a day at work, a sound check, a headline gig and the inevitable hangover, I was in no mood to take care of my business elsewhere in the solar system.) I should add that this is no way a fault of the game, but it is an unavoidable prerequisite of the game that players not lose touch for long. It’s a prerequisite that almost inevitably leads to up to half of the players in any given match dropping out a few days in, with luckily-positioned opponents able to gobble up their territory and quickly establish themselves as a dominant force. Therefore I feel that it’s a worthwhile comment to level against the game, even if it is one that demands I reveal my somewhat pathetic excuse for losing focus.
What was interesting, though, was that although my neighbour did annex much of my territory, they also messaged me to say that they’d taken about as much from me as they wanted to. “You’re of more use to me alive,” they said, and offered me a peace treaty. I accepted, recognising that I no longer had a chance at victory, but I did have an opportunity to explore a dynamic unique to multiplayer strategy games like this: playing a minor, supporting role to another human player. And this I did, using my meagre forces to capture some low-level crystal nodes and push my forces northwards against a now mutual foe.
The possibility of betrayal did cross my mind, but I’m a peaceable sort at heart, and opted to play by the rules we’d agreed. The rest of the game played out in a predictable fashion: I finished in the bottom half of the 8-player scoreboard, with my merciful partner coming out on top.
I immediately began another game, having found the last’s human diplomacy interesting. My experiences with Neptune’s PrideÂ taught me that space is cold and hard and merciless. My experiences with Blight of the ImmortalsÂ taught me that co-operation was key to victory. I wondered ifÂ Jupiter’s FollyÂ could be the game that finally struck a real balance between co-operation and self-interest.
This time around I was focused from the start. I shored up my defences and expanded as much as possible into neutral areas. To my east a player named Brimmer was expanding fast, and to my north a player named Quorth appeared to be turtling. Caught between these disparate strategies, I wondered how my game would play out.
Brimmer’s aggression soon became apparent; he struck at one of my more vulnerable and valuable mines, managing to capture it before I was able to merge my smaller security units present into a stronger, unified force. I dispatched a large and high-level army to take it back. At this point Brimmer messaged me, stating that he would not advance any further if I recalled the army. I responded that I’d lost a lot of men at that mine and would not rescind the order, confident that I could win.
I didn’t. Brimmer and Quorth had, unbeknownst to me, established an alliance of convenience, with their territories not bordering each other. They struck at my powerful army with abilities that weakened it enough that it was defeated on arrival. Brimmer advanced once more, and I retaliated in kind. I lost more often than I won, but I was bloodying his nose and was determined not to give up. Around this time Quorth advanced, presumably recognising that his strength and my perceived weakness were worth abandoning his protectionist strategy for.
At this point Brimmer messaged me again.
Ok we’re at each others throats, and it’s kinda fun. But I think we’ve proved that we’re both damn good, and we’re going to kill each other in the end. We should stop this.
I’ll stop advancing on your turf. No more. I’m not giving anything back, I won’t darken your borders.
Let’s call it peace and I’ll help you fight Quorth. Take his mines. I want to win this, but I think you’ve earnt second place – the others are benefitting from us fighting and are going to overtake us.
What do you say?
I liked this idea. For all my belligerence, I knew I couldn’t beat Brimmer – not with Quorth coming at me as well. But this? This was delicious betrayal, and to my favour. And, based on our prior communication, I felt I could trust Brimmer. Besides, a partnership between the two leading players seemed like an entertaining alliance. I accepted. I even let Brimmer know that I’d informed his northern enemies that he was focused upon me and probably vulnerable to the north (heh heh).
Throughout the remainder of the game I took only a little from Quorth, aware that he had built up some powerful armies and wary of over-extending myself, but I stopped his advances and demolished most of his armies. Brimmer refocused his attention to the north, where another player had built up substantial forces and was preparing to invade. Brimmer eventually cracked the line facing him and was advancing further north by the time the game was won.
The strategies used were entertaining gaming fodder, certainly, but they’re similar to what has been seen in Iron Helmet games before. But the shifting alliances and opportunistic partnerships? These were new to me; an experience that I gather others found in Neptune’s Pride, in games with dedicated players, but something I’d never found with Internet Randoms. Brimmer and Quorth allying against me, before Brimmer turned on his former ally – a decision I feel confident was motivated by the enemies amassing to his north, an enemy that I had invited to try their hand against my once enemy and now ally.
Jupiter’s Folly is, perhaps, the wrong name for this game. Jupiter’s Opportunism might be more suited, or perhaps Jupiter’s Treacherous Para-Military Corporations. Regardless, I was pleased to find an Iron Helmet game which offered me both their compelling strategic gameplay and the tangled web of diplomatic trust and lies that I’d always hoped for. Whether it’s a product of the game’s design – which I feel is a fair assertion but not one I can support with more than anecdotal evidence as yet – or merely a lucky coincidence of playing alongside communicative players, I’m happy to have experienced it.
If you’ve prevaricated about trying one of these complex and involving games before now, but are attracted by the rich possibilities of this kind of multiplayer environment, then allow me to suggest that Jupiter’s Shifting Webs of Alliance and GreedÂ is the game that you should invest some time into.
28 responses to “Jupiter’s Folly: An Experiential Review”
One thing that in retrospect I'd like to add to the above is that I'd love to get a proper game going involving 7 friends. It'd be difficult to organise (and one of us would need to be a paid-up user, rather than a cheapo like me), but I think it would really bring out the full experience of the game.
Something I might try out.
I know that Kenty has signed up as well. However, after playing Blight of the Immortals, I would only entertain the idea of playing this game if I wasn't working at the time. These games are brain and time sink I can ill afford.
They are either that, or you struggle to remain competitive. My first game of JP is evidence of that!
A peaceable sort at heart? What kind of punk musician are you?
JUDGMENT. And JUDGEMENT. The first is from Neptune and the second is from Jupiter.
Punk rock is a broad church, old chap. ;)
Neptune vs. Jupiter: Blight of the Immortal Folly and Pride?
Yeah most punks are busy singing about how to get girls and how their Daddy never bought them a pony when they were little.
Most of them never reach Alestorm awesomeness
Pirate Metal is where it is at.
You're thinking of emo there I reckon. Happily, the entitled, corporate strain of pop-punk mostly died off after everyone got done laughing at Good Charlotte and forgot who they are. Is Avril Lavigne still a thing?!
(The above is a joke but I read it back and it didn't seem very funny, so I thought I'd best explain.)
Actually I was thinking of the album Rancid released straight after Brody Dalle started shagging Josh Homme. Holy shit, is that balls-less crap.
Oh yeah, the album that tried to recapture the spirit of And Out Come the Wolves but with all the passion and intensity of a man who owns a big house in LA yet still pretends to be street punk. Shame.
Brody Dalle, mmm. (Watch what you say, Dylan is inexplicably a huge man of the Distillers! Me, I just adore girls with mohawks.)
Sing Sing deathhouse or whatever it is called is actually alright. Then she turned into Courtney Love minus the crazy, and you know how much I love me some crazy.
Hearing someone say sing sing deathhouse is 'actually alright' is like hearing someone say that food and drink is 'quite good when you think about it'. It's a glorious album, full of colour and life and endearingly bullshit pop-punk anger. It aint no self-titled, but I like every song, except for the ones I love, which make up about 50% of it.
Their post-sing-sing stuff isn't as bad as you make out either, it's actually actually 'actually alright', and not to be dismissed. About 40% of it is to be quietly ignored admittedly, but the other 60% is anywhere from good to awesome.
I do enjoy your percentage-based analyses of albums.
As much as I might enjoy it, I disagree with it. But hey, I'll fight anyone who says that Ugly Kid Joe were rubbish so what do I know?
At the end of the day we can all come together and laugh at any easy target, like Coldplay or Pat Boone. And isn't that what music is all about?
I'm a dance-punk man, myself- just poking the odd bit of fun.
Haha, fair enough – unless I know people I'm never quite sure! I do still get people who ask if we spit on our audience, or who assume we sound like Green Day or the Pistols or whoever was big when they last noticed punk music existed. Sigh.
Also, dance-punk is for WUSSES! Muahaha!
Great write-up, game sounds awesome. I will probably never play it though. Long-term multiplayer commitment + playing on a PC + responsibility to other players = too many things that frighten me.
It is a little odd that I enjoy these games as I'm not really much of a multiplayer or competitive gamer, but I do like strategy games that play out over the long term – all the more so if you can just dip in and out again without a big, continuous investment of time. Iron Helmet are basically making the kind of browser-based game that I always wished Planetarion, Kings of Chaos etc. actually were – i.e. something that felt grand and competitive but that didn't ultimately come down to how many friends you dragged in with you, or how early you joined the game.
Nice read. Seems like pretty much the same deal as Neptune's Pride. Too Long, Didn't Play. It's easy to get sucked in- clear in your second game you were far more involved. You also note that there's also something very interesting about not being the top dog, perhaps some of the most interesting narrative-work and gameplay exists in that layer below the top (maybe I'm just reading too much in to my own experiences).
I'm going to write something new at Christmas on NP, a different take on the whole thing.
Oh P.S. your link to The Aspiration is broken.
Once upon a time, there was a blogging platform which could correctly interpret a URL even when the transfer protocol was accidentally left out.
What a lovely story that is.
Good point there – I think that playing the underdog is a fun thing to do, and many games tend to frame their narratives (if not their mechanics) to at least partially reflect this appeal. If you're the guy on top, well, not only are you the guy to beat, and not only are you the arsehole who crowded everyone else out, but you've also got no challenges left other than maintaining your primacy. Of course you can tell yourself that you got to where you are through skill or experience, though even if that is true maintaining an advantage is a lot easier than fighting for it. Strategy game mechanics that deliberately set out to undermine this are interesting – King of Dragon Pass, although not a competitive game, does something a little like this.
I'm just throwing thoughts around here, nothing really coherent at this point, but even with games like Jupiter's Folly it's true that when you're on top you can be hard to dislodge. One thing that I didn't bother mentioning above as it wasn't relevant is that the yellow player in the north-west allied with his northeastern neighbour very early, and he didn't share a border with anyone else. Whilst the rest of us were fighting (or turtling), he spread west into space abandoned by derelict players and by the end of the game had a rate of income far in excess of anyone else. So there was an underdog who was rising fast and would have won had the victory conditions allowed for a longer game.
Dropping the HTTP has a double-use, it allows you to reference something relative within your own site without quoting the root URL. So in principal it's useful (I do actually use it) but in practice it's a pain when you're referring offsite. I get caught out too…
I wish I could say something more about the fun of the underdog, or at least "the contender", but I just don't have enough evidence to quoth from. More multiplayer practice needed. But I don't think with any of Iron Helmet's games…
Yeah, I get that. And some CMS are able to handle it sensibly! But when did any subdomain created by a sensible person ever begin with "www."?
The main problem is that I use Chrome and a lot of the time that leaves out the protocol when you C&P (it shouldn't, but sometimes does). Still, that's not as bad as the garbage forwarding URL you get if you have the audacity to right-click copy-URL from a Google search results page. Nope, says Google, first you must go to the page.
Dear oh dear, I do have some serious first world problems here don't I.
The other games I think of when I think of this sort of multiplayer environment are those made by Cryptic Comet. I've never played any of them but /that/ Solium Infernum writeup springs to mind.
Also, I suppose: my presence on almost every multiplayer FPS leaderboard ever. ;)
The garbage URL you get from C&Ping a URL on a Google SERP is Google's tracking URL.
Also, in terms of SEO it's better to include the http://www., as Google can see the URL "arcadiamrhythms.com" and "www.arcadianrhythms" as being duplicate content, thus splitting link equity.
Related: I think I enjoy reading about Iron Helmet games more than I would playing them.
Rather: "arcadianrhythms.com" and "www.arcadianrhythms.com" – I R bad at typen.
I agree with that – it was more that if you enter a link into an article and exclude the http:\\ then WordPress will interpret
which is patently ridiculous.
Sounds like you feel the same way about Iron Helmet games as I now do about EVE Online!
Oh, I feel the same about EVE. I love hearing about giant corporations being brought to their knees by one man's duplicity, but my experience of playing it involved circling a rock and being lost.
In fact, I've actually discovered that I quite often prefer reading about games than playing them.
[…] "Jupiter's Folly: An Experiential Review" by Shaun C. Green, Arcadian Rhythms, November 1. So who would have guessed that Jupiter's Folly is similar to Neptune's Pride? Itâ€™s a prerequisite that almost inevitably leads to up to half of the players in any given match dropping out a few days in, with luckily-positioned opponents able to gobble up their territory and quickly establish themselves as a dominant force. […]