Agar.io has players take control of a minuscule amoeba, and drops them into a grid-backed screen populated by colored dots and other amoeba players. The concept of the game is quite simple: eat or be eaten. The colored dots that spread across your instance can be eaten by simply passing over them; their mass is added to your mass, causing you to grow bigger. These dots do respawn across the board given enough time. Continued growth opens up a new source of food and growth: other players. If you are able to engulf another player who has less mass than you, they will be absorbed by your amoeba, often times significantly increasing your size.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it is, and it isn’t. Control of movement is simple: your amoeba moves towards your mouse cursor any time it is within Agar.io’s window. There are a few more strategic wrinkles to talk about as well. First, let’s discuss speed. The smaller you are, the faster your speed. Gaining mass allows you to eat larger players, but it also slows you down. This interesting balancing act as a fine layer of strategy an control to the game. It is often worthless to chase a smaller amoeba, as they will certainly outrun you barring other complications or actions taken by you (such as splitting, explained below).
There is a way around this, however. Pressing the space bar will split your amoeba into relatively close duplicates (most of the time this is in half, but it is dependent on your mass and how many splits you have done/recombined). This split allows you to “fling” a decent portion of yourself towards your mouse cursor, and is used often by bigger amoebas in order to get a speed boost, as well as for outmaneuvering other players. A skilled player can, for instance, use a split to block off an escape route. There are other considerations as well; if you know you are about to be caught by a larger player, you can split yourself in order to gain some ground, and you might even sacrifice half of yourself to your pursuer, which could slow them down (since they took on more mass) and allow you to escape. Split sections will eventually recombine into 1 large amoeba given enough time (usually 1-3 minutes, depending on how many splits).
Players also have the option of ejecting small pieces of mass from themselves by pressing “W”. This will shoot the smallest available portion (about the same mass as starting players) towards your cursor. There are a few reason you might do this. If you are being pursued, you could shoot some mass at pursuer, slowing them down. By the same token, you could shoot mass at a cell you are chasing, forcing it to slow down and you to speed up as you transfer that mass. This is a decent strategy, as when/if you eat the player, you get the mass that you spent back when you consume them.
The board populates not only with edible colored dots, but also with large green prickly orbs. These orbs serve 2 purposes. Amoebas that are smaller than these orbs can hide within them, becoming completely obfuscated from other players on the field (although, this will sometimes distort the prickly orb depending on the size of the player). These orbs serve another even more important function; they allow the largest player to be attacked. By shooting a green prickly orb with enough mass, it will cause it to explode in the opposite direction of the incoming shots. Any amoeba that is larger than the prickly orb whose center touches the prickly orb (whether by accident or by having it shot by them) is automatically split, as well as converting a portion of its mass into the smallest sized pieces possible. This allows the largest player in the instance to still have a certain amount of danger present.
All in all, this makes for a very interesting game. There is a surprising amount of depth given the limited controls. Experienced and canny players will use their entire toolkit to their advantage, escaping certain death by creative splitting or maneuvering. There is managing of location as well, bordering on the type of methods a pro fighting game player would term as “zoning”. Situational awareness is also key. There is a large amount of risk management, and players will often become faced with the tough choice between splitting down to gain speed and eat more dots (as a split amoeba covers a like amount of space, but moves quite faster, increasing the rate at which you eat dots), or staying as 1 solid mass, sacrificing speed for added safety and defense. There are even some bait and switch tactics: if you are split, and manage to entice a player who is slightly larger than you split halves, you might jockey for position with them until you are about to recombine, and then surprise them with a larger you for a quick gain in mass (and probable cursing on their end).
The most wonderful thing about Agar.io is it’s presentation. The game is free to play, and plays in pretty much any browser. Its light on rules, making it approachable, but has some strategic depth to keep players engaged. There is also an interesting community within the game as well. You will see players who actively avoid growing, doing their best to survive long term without ever eating anything. On the other end of the spectrum, you may encounter amoebas who play in a “group” type setting, with multiple small amoebas fetching matter and then blasting it into one larger amoeba, who then protects his small friend. This sort of symbiosis is interesting in that it occurs without much in the way of communication: the game features no chat whatsoever, and all communication is accomplished via player names, which are capped at 15 characters.
One word of caution on this one, though. As a free game on the internet, there is very little filtering or moderation that happens in the game. Although players cannot actively communicate to each other, they do have 15 characters in their name to do what they will with, and this will sometimes result in names that are offensive. There is a relatively small portion of the community that engages in this behavior, but nonetheless you should be aware, and prepare to have some semi-thick skin when it comes to names.
All in all, I am impressed bordering stunned at how cool Agar.io actually is. Its a interesting phenomena on the internet, and has a surprisingly thriving player base entertaining themselves and each other at all hours of the day and night. Many interesting things are happening within the game, using it as a platform to accomplish a number of things for outside entities (as shown by a reddit search for agar.io). Its an excellent game for when you have 5-15 minutes between activities, or 5 hours to blow all at once. Its ease of accessibility also makes it great for use by those on a budget, or for team building activities at work.
So, what are you still doing here? Quit reading these ramblings, and go play Agar.io for yourself! Have any tips or cool experiences to share? Comment below! We’d love to hear about them. Oh, and one more thing… if you see dustimusprime.c in your instance, know that one of us will be eaten 🙂
Hopefully coming to Steam soon via Greenlight campaign.