I’m a bit of a map geek, and in my youth I spent many hours playing Sim City, so it’s no surprise I was excited to play Monopoly City Streets. The game is a heavily-modified version of the classic board game, played out across the map of the world. You compete with players from all over the planet to buy streets, build properties, and amass as much cash as possible.
The first thing I noticed was that the map display uses Google Maps, but the site actually uses OpenStreetMap data for gameplay. Actually, the first thing I noticed was that their servers were being absolutely crushed by all the people rushing in the play the game, but I digress. OpenStreetMap is a really cool project to build mapping data using the same model as Wikipedia – interested volunteers add and verify data and everything is covered by a Creative Commons License.
Building a game with this data is so obvious in retrospect that I’m surprised I haven’t seen it done before (if you’ve seen any other games played across a real world map like this, let me know in the comments below). Now that they have their servers sorted out, it’s a relatively fun game, though more simplistic than I had hoped. It’s so simplistic, in fact, that I’m going to tell you two ways to make tons of cash quickly.
Tactic #1: Do the math
The basic way to make money is by buying streets, which generate rent every turn, and building properties on those streets, which also generate rent. For now, I’m going to ignore making money speculatively by buying desirable streets and selling them for a profit later.
Streets always generate 10% of their cost in rent, but the rent of each building is determined by the building cost, the cost of the street, and a static multiplier for each building. You can see a full list of list of building costs and rents here, but the main thing to look at is return on investment. The more expensive the building, the lower the multiplier – so there’s no reason to buy anything but the cheapest buildings.
If you buy the cheapest property, the Green House, for $50,000, and place it on a street that cost $100,000, you will earn a total of ($100,000 * 10%) + ($50,000 * 10%) = $15,000. If you build that same house on a million-dollar street, you’ll earn ($1,000,000 * 10%) + ($50,000 * 100%) = $150,000. In the first case you get about 10% return while in the latter case you get about 14%. What’s more, since houses on million-dollar streets return 100% each turn, and streets only return 10%, it makes sense to buy houses rather than streets.
Here’s a spreadsheet with more numbers to illustrate:
Now since other players can eliminate your rent by placing hazards on your streets, it makes sense to diversify a little bit and buy a few. But you should always buy million-dollar streets, and favor the smallest buildings.
This tactic breaks down once streets become a scarce resource, but since you’re playing on a world map that’s not likely to happen soon.
Tactic #2: Cheat
I’m not actually recommending anyone do this, but since some users had impossible first-day totals my guess is the cat’s already out of the bag. A video game is just like any other system, and clever (and/or unscrupulous) players can take advantage of the rules or step outside the rules to gain advantage. In this case we need to think about the other ways players get money – when you sign up, you get $3 million and each day you log in you get $1 million. Since players can bid on each others’ properties, there’s nothing to stop someone from creating many accounts, and making extravagant offers for properties owned by one hub account. This funnels money to one player much faster than collecting rent would.
Is this abuse? I didn’t actually see a written policy forbidding it (though I didn’t read all the fine print on the site). But my thought is yes, it’s abusive, because it confers such a large advantage that it will tend to make the game less fun for other players. The folks at EA need to decide if this is the case and think about taking steps to detect this behavior, prevent it, and mitigate existing bad behavior.
Even if this is fixed, though, the math in the game is too simple and doesn’t lead to much interesting gameplay. The buying-and-selling of desirable streets adds some flavor, but it’s largely a gold rush for players who logged in early. If you’re not first in to get Pennsylvania Avenue or the Champs Elysees, your best bet is to find random long streets away from the cities and fill them with boring houses. Which is sadly similar to the development patterns in the U.S. over the last 60 years.