It's that time of year again when the days shorten and the evenings are covered in darkness. Curtains drawn and the lights on. It's weekend and the kids are finishing washing the dishes. Now the table is clear and we get out that famous old square boardgame: Monopoly by Parker Brothers. A sure guarantee for long hours of family entertainment.
At least, that's what it was when I grew up. Especially during the long winternights we spent hours of playing games (when there was no homework to do), so when Hasbro launched Monopoly City Streets, its online version of the game September 9, it was perfect timing. It's game on!
However, it turned out to be a little more complicated to get that old 'family entertainment' thing into the gameplay. This is what I'll cover in this article. For a basic howto of the game you can check out tons of websites, ranging from this blog to the respectable Mashable.
Monopoly City Streets - first release
The online game released by Hasbro was a massively multiplyer online game (mmo) in which the classic boardgame was set up on a worldwide scale using Google Maps technology. As a player you could buy every street in the world and earn rent, buy complete cities and turn into a real estate mogul.
The burdens of success
Monopoly City Streets was a big success from the start. Hasbro and their agency Tribal DDB must have been overtaken by surprise. They were handling pure gold, and that's where the danger is. Least of their worries would have been that the servers strained under the onrush of real estate brokers worldwide. Servers are pretty easily upscaled these days. No, the danger was in cheating.
It didn't take long for Hasbro to reset the game, which happened on September 17th. There have been a number of adjustments to the game, but those did not solve the cheating problem.
Hasbro has taken hardly any precaution to making the game cheat-proof. The terms and conditions do not specifically mention it is prohibited to creating multiple accounts and their is no email verification on creating an account. More specifically, they have said to allow up to five accounts per pc! The reason for doing so is that they want Monopoly to be a family game, the way it should be. Sadly, that is a little naive. Extremely sad, as cheaters are now ruining the game for tons of sincere monopoly-loving gamers like me. I know several pretty fanatic gamers who can stand a bit of trouble having given up on the game as it is almost impossible to beat the cheaters, but I will tell you how!
So as it is possible to have multiple accounts, what happens? Tons of frustrated teenagers sit down behinbd their computer and create dozens of accounts and start nagging people by making their streets worthless by destroying bonus buildings and building hazards like prisons, sewers and plants on your streets. One of my accounts was spammed severely by cheaters as well. Here's a little naming and shaming:
The bizarre part here is that my account is called bloggertje and that it got spammed by another account called bloggertje. So apparently, it is possible that an account name is registered more than once!
This particular account is now worthless, I don't get any rents on these streets, as it got spammed by bloggertje (and his doubles), janneke (and her doubles), WZ2 (and his doubles) and so on. I have reported the names to Monopoly, but although they promised to take action on the cheaters, no news so far. They are still active.
Fortunately, not everyone is hampered by these multiple accounts. I have three accounts myself (now four, as I started a new one to prove my theory, so still under the 5 per pc rule). I have noted they are regions in which the nasty little critters are more active. I had two accounts in my hometown, Ede, Gelderland, and both were severely attacked by these spammers. I have an account somewhere else, and that hardly got spammed, even if it did grow bigger in the shadows. So here's how to beat them!
How to beat the cheaters!
Before the cheaters can target you, you have to be noted. If you're a bit serious and have bought some good streets, there's a good chance that you'll turn up in the local top 10. If you're unlucky like me and tons of other players, you're in an active cheating region and you get attacked pretty bad as they see your name appear on the leaderboard. If you're very good, you'll end up in the National or Worldwide rankings, but that's probably far off.... Although, with my prime playing account I'm just under the national top 10 at 450M$ without cheating!
Which roads to buy
The trick to grow and avoid being noted is to stay below the radar, and here's how you do it. Many of us have the urge to start in our own hometowns, like I did. The Netherlands is crowded with early adapters. A lot of players and cheaters live here, so towns get crowded fast and good streets are hard to find.
Especially in the Netherlands, but probably in the US and UK there are tons of small and cheap streets in the towns, but you have to stay away from streets below 1 Million M$. Streets prices 1M$ and up give you a return of 100% on the investment for the cheap houses. A 50K$ house will bring a 50K$ rent. Cheaper streets will have lower returns.
Just after the reset, it exponentially grew on the other end as well, so a 50K$ house on a 6M$ street would give a rent of say 250K$, but that's off now, sadly as it made quite a few good bucks. One of the changes during the reset was the introduction of taxes, which means the more streets you have, the more taxation you'll get. First 5 streets are free, every other gets billed 3% in taxes, meaning if you have over 38 streets you will have no income.
The long and winding road
So the trick is to find the longest road possible and build as many houses as possible on say just 5 to 10 streets, without being noted! And that's what you see happening with the top Dutch players as well. On the leaderboard below, each of these top players has one or more long streets somewhere in Australia or Canada which are way less populated and have longer distances to cover than in the Netherlands.
NOTE: To find long roads the best chance you'll have is to find one in big, scarcely populated countries, such as Canada, Australia or in Africa. However, please note that quite often only the major roads, Highways and such are up for sale here. Lots of city streets are just not covered by the game in these areas.
And that's still possible! But you have to...
Stay below the radar
This will take some time, but scroll over the world map to lowly populated areas and look for a good street. As you start with only 3M$ (3 million monopoly dollars) you have to find a street prices just a little over 1M$ to get the best return and still have money to start building the street. There are still pretty good streets out there, just like the one below, which is priced 6M$. If you find one like this and it's still available, keep close tabs on it!
If you zoom out one level you will see 'for sale' signs popping up, scan them to see if any good street is available.
The best streets are the hidden ones. Long streets often are much longer than they appear. On the road below, somewhere near Durban, South Africa, you see the Outer Ring Rd, which seems to be uninhabited and not up for sale.
A lot of scrolling learns that it is bought by a player, but you don't see the overlay appear on the map and the street popping up in the property list as you hover over the edges of the street. So keep looking and scrolling!
Now, I've done some good business. I found a new street for 1.035 M$ and bought it. Back to the leaderboard you'll see it's empty! Only one other person has registered in this area! I've blanked out his name to protect his and my own privacy off course, but this is a spot to grow. No one will notice you growing on the local leaderboard and it will take some quiet growing to get up on the national leaderboard. Meanwhile, you have time to fortify your long and winding roads with plenty of parks, schools and stadiums to withstand a pretty severe hit later on in the game.
A long road is not only good for building, it is also good for staying below the radar. As I said, it will take some time to find out if it's built or not and harassment comes in a hit and run strategy. But there's even a more suitable road to avoid this, and that's what I call a strategic road.
I can blog this one since I sold it at a good profit a few days ago for 50M$. This road is split up into three segments. The top one appears on the radar, the bottom two stretches fall off the screen if you're in the closest zoom.
There's three ways in which you can find a street like this:
- Know such a street in your area
- Take hours or days of searching
- Dumb luck
The last one was the case for me when I bought this one. It was a good priced street, at 4M$ so I bought it. When I built the street one by one the pilons were replaced by houses, until there were no pilons left. Somehow, I could still built houses, but I did not see any markers left to build on! It took me several hours to find the third stretch! I had to take three different roads to get there! Now build your bonus buildings on that stretch of land and it will take time for the critters to find it. Hopefully they grow tired and move on to their next victim.
PS. The world didn't change over the past decade or so. To be honest. When we were playing the board game as kids, we were cheating as well. Who didn't slip 50K notes under te table?
Labels: google, hasbro, mmorpg, monopoly, online gaming, strategy