February 13, 2014 6:43 AM | Lena LeRay
Iubes are intelligent cubes. They aren't quite capable of managing everything on their own, though; they need a bit of direction in terms of what to build and where. Once that's been established, however, they go about making it happen. Depending on variables such as proximity to resources, they'll work on building things in whatever order and at whatever speed they feel is best. That's what makes Iubes what it is: not quite a god game and not quite an RTS, but something with elements of both that is all about the meta.
No session of Iubes takes more than an hour, though having the ability to speed up the simulation means that it can take less. During that "hour", the player must help their tribe of iubes prosper while preventing the enemy iubes from doing so. To achieve that goal, the player directs the iubes to build new homes, vegetable plots, resource-producing buildings, defensive outposts, and barracks for offensive warriors, among other things. It doesn't take long at all to get the hang of the controls, since moving the camera, ordering buildings to be built, and changing the game speed are literally the only things the player can do.
In a typical RTS, players must have the resources to build something up front and "purchase" it, but that's not the case in iubes. Food is the only resource that the player can ever stock up on. Other resources are gathered for building from the surrounding area as needed, which means that smart placement is crucial to efficient building. A player can tell their iubes to start building a warrior barracks halfway across the map from a pit where stone is quarried, but that means the iubes must waste time transporting all that stone. And if there are two other projects waiting to be finished, the iubes may very well decide to prioritize those other projects before starting on the warrior housing.
Learning how the iubes prioritize things is really the key to getting good at the game. Players can't control their iubes directly; the iubes are instead under the control of the AI, which tells them when to prioritize food and reproduction vs. warmongering or upgrade buildings. Every building the player orders built will be built, but it's up to the iubes to decide how fast and in what order. Since the buildings won't necessarily be built in the order the player wishes, a player who gets too far ahead of what's going on can find him or herself faced with a pile of half-finished buildings that are doing no good for anyone. Observing what the iubes are doing is important and that makes the ability to speed up and slow down time useful.
Multiplayer is also done indirectly in Iubes, though the game is designed to allow players to challenge each other. Iubes's servers maintain records of successful strategies for each of the 100,000 maps. When a player goes online, they're actually playing against the record of another player's successful strategy. What kind of lean, mean, iubey machine did they create? That's the enemy. Even though the game has only been out for a week, the developer likes to boast that almost 6 million iubes were killed during the beta testing, which means there's already a database of human-made strategies available to play against. At time of this writing, the number of dead iubes is over 9 million.
Oh, and before I forget, dead iubes have their part to play in the game, as well. The game keeps track of how many iubes have died on both sides, and if either side has a cemetery built when the "hour" runs out and night falls, the souls of their dead iubes will rise from the grave and go to wreak vengeance on the enemy. It's basically a last-ditch burst against the enemy based on how much damage they've done. If the enemy didn't burn the cemetery.
Iubes is a pretty unique game. It's a cross between an RTS and a god game, using enough AI to make micromanagement impossible and unnecessary. Learning the underlying systems of the game involves learning how the iubes make their choices through observation and learning how to pace oneself, rather than memorizing unit types, costs, and upgrade trees. Unsure if Iubes is for you? It's free to download and try against the computer for Windows. When you're ready, the ability to play online vs. other players will cost $20 USD to unlock, though at the moment you can get it for the release price of $15 USD.