I Have Played Clicker Heroes For 106 Hours And Counting

I’ve been playing Clicker Heroes [official site]. In fact, I’m writing this on a train after two days away from home and technically I’m playing Clicker Heroes even now. It’s an idle game initially released last year and which, since its arrival on Steam in May, has been sat firmly in the top ten of the most played Steam games.

Idle games, if you’re not aware, are those where you play them in part by leaving them running even when not actively engaging with them. Whenever the game is running, a number – money, damage output, candies, one measure of progress or a dozen – continues to increase. In short: I left my PC on while I went away, and so I continued to progress.

In Clicker Heroes, you’re a squad of adventurers fighting a steady stream of monsters. The monsters – spiders, crabs, green jellies, living plants and trees – can’t attack you and, despite the game’s name, clicking only has a marginal extra effect on your damage output after you’ve unlocked your second adventurer. Instead, your damage output per second is dealt automatically by your roster of heroes, each of whom can be levelled and unlocked using the gold spilled by the monsters you steadily defeat.

Once you’ve levelled your heroes past a certain point and raised enough gold, you can purchase passive buffs – which in the early-game, mainly just increase DPS – or active buffs such as one that causes you to automatically click ten times a second for thirty seconds.

It’s worth noting that all of this is well presented. Enemies emit a satisfying slap when clicked upon, and splat or burst or wilt with a crunchy, unique sound effect. Coins burst from defeated monsters and tinkle delightfully when collected. When the money you’re earning for each kill has increased by orders of magnitude, such that you can level a hero 60 times in a row, it feels something like winning.

But play it for five minutes or “play it” for two days and the basic loop will remain the same: you watch or click as you kill the monsters, you collect their gold or wait for it to happen automatically, and then you spend that to level your team or unlock new heroes which allows you to kill those same monsters faster, or to advance to a new stage where the monsters are harder, slower to kill, and drop proportionally more gold.

It is, to some extent, Diablo’s metagame with the participative act of exploration and combat removed. It is, to some extent, totally soulless; a numbing skinner box designed to provide the illusion of accomplishment in exchange for the minimum amount of effort. It is, to some extent, on my mind during this train journey; how many tinkling coins will I have banked over two days of passively duffing up snails?

Clicker Heroes is an easy game to condemn, but I wondered if there wasn’t more to it than I was seeing. That caused me to visit the game’s subreddit, where a group of experienced and new players post to discuss different builds and build orders. While progress within the game is inevitable, there is a second, more active game to be found in trying to make that progress as efficient as possible – whether to spend gold on levelling a hero or to wait, save your money, and recruit a new one instead. Which heroes to bother levelling at all. There are also new parts of the game to unlock, as eventually your linear progression hits a ceiling and you can ascend, starting from scratch but with a new ‘gilded’ hero that outputs higher amounts of damage from the first level.

Almost anything can be redeemed if you do it with other people, and viewed favourably, Clicker Heroes might be described as Accountancy With Friends. This 24/7 livestream of the game doesn’t make for thrilling viewing, but that doesn’t stop people watching and discussing their own progress. The stream, from expert player Jayeeyee, is now on its 305th day.

What I think is harder to redeem is the game’s business model. It’s fuelled by microtransactions that allow you to purchase gems which can then be spent in the acquisition of gilded heroes and other progress-boosting abilities. In a game that’s about progress, those microtransactions can’t help but be pay-to-win. If the pursuit of efficiency with a group of other dedicated players is what adds a little life to the pointless act of increasing a number, then playing for free is recast as an act of willful inefficiency and achieving maximum efficiency is recast as a glum victory of ‘Yay, I paid the least!’.

I can understand why someone would become engrossed in Clicker Heroes, even if I (hope I) won’t allow myself the same. I can understand why someone might spend hours maximising a numbers game, even if it’s far too dry for me. I cannot understand why you’d spend money to shortcut the only system Clicker Heroes has – unless the game’s dopamine drip has bypassed your common sense.

Clicker Heroes is out on Steam now. Probably you should find something else to do – though, I confess, I came home, took the screenshot below, then left it running overnight again.

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71 Comments

Top comments

  1. maniacturtle says:

    @ Chaoslord AJ if you are afking you will probably get better results by putting the gilds into either "beach princess brittany" or into "the masked samurai" (I have 170 gilded on him) as these you are able to get to quickly and do the damage well I`m averaging about 750 Hero Souls (HS) per minute and getting to around level 1200-1250 for about 35000HS every 40 minutes.

    @ Graham Smith
    To The Author: You failed to note in you post that there are hidden clickables (the little orange bird) which gives you free rubies so that you dont need to spend cash to "purchase" gilded heroes. There is also the bee (which is for the most part useless once you have the relics for idle bonuses. I`ve spent no money and have 170 gilded heroes.

    My Stats
    170 Gilded (masked samurai);
    Ancients
    Argaiv Lv500 (always good); Libertas 300(idle gold); Mammon 400(always good); Mimzee 300(always good) ; Morgulis 100k(so you dont spend all your HS); Siyalatas 500(idle dps); Solomon 100 ( Souls..... :3 )
    Maxed (useful Always)
    Atman=25 (+25%primal) ; Bubos=25 (-50% boss life) ; Dogcog=25 (-50%cost hero lv up) ; Dora=50 (+1k% Chests) ; Fortuna=40 (+10% chance 10Xgold) ; Khrysos=10 (+1.000e8 start gold.. or 100,000,000) ; Kumawakamaru=5 (-5 mob kills to next level) ; Revolc=15 (+15%chance double rubies)
  1. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    These clicker games are simply the Skinner compulsive loop distilled to its bare essence. Perhaps not something to be condemned, but definitely something to sneer disapprovingly at. It’s so very cheap, for lack of a better word. Human brains have discovered their own cheat codes and used the knowledge to invent brain pornography. Empty satisfaction, nothing else. It’s a bit sad, in a way.

    • Klydefrog says:

      Interesting, I agree with you completely but I find it fascinating rather than sad. I think it’s amazing that we can distil a formula down to this level and still make it compelling, it’s an interesting comment on one of the big reasons we play games.

      • gunny1993 says:

        I dono who this “we” is you’re talking about, but I didn’t sign up to it.

        Totally anecdotal but both of my friends that play it are the ones that watch the same archetype anime over and over again, watch the same generic action movies and read Dan Brown books so it is pretty interesting that if you take the window dressing off repetitive, anti-innovative shite bucket underneath still functions.

        It’s like removing the ink from a painting and realizing it still works.

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          Not disagreeing with your main point, but… I’m pretty sure paintings are painted with, well, paint.

          • gunny1993 says:

            lol was being a little bit facetious, what I meant was what I thought people loved about bad movies and Dan Brown was the glitzy glam and stuff up front and that if you removed all that stuff just to leave the skeletal mechanics underneath it would be revealed as what it is.

            Like if you removed all the paint from a painting it would just be a blank piece of paper and no one could possibly like that … apparently with this game people would just stare at the blank paper.

          • jrodman says:

            To that, I reply:
            link to moma.org

        • forkboy84 says:

          Well, I’ve got well over 100 hours on Clicker Heroes now, and I don’t particularly enjoy Dan Brown (actually rather enjoy Philip K Dick but these days mostly read non-fiction historical things), and while popcorn action films have their place I enjoy a wide variety of cinema. Much like I enjoy a wide range of video games, but sometimes I like the simple satisfaction of numbers going up. Perhaps it’s a residual effect of a Championship/Football Manager addiction I had for nearly 15 years and only got over in the last couple of years.

      • Thankmar says:

        I´m with klydefrog, it´s a fascinating look into the more reptilian parts of the brain. I know that the game is about almost nothing, I know what it does to me, but still I like levelling my heroes and make strategies to optimize my progress while I brush my teeth or so.

    • TimRobbins says:

      Another side of devil’s advocate here: I wish I had a clicker heroes when I was a kid instead of mario. By stripping games (rpgs really) down to their barest form, you expose the math. You can learn so much by writing scripts for a clicker game, not to mention have fun doing it while receiving immediate positive feedback. It builds on your skills in a way that my high school Python class never did. Cool, I figured out how to automate clicking, but hmm… I wonder if I could tell it exactly where to click to get the bonus popups. Neat, it worked, what if I could add timed skill usage… And not only scripting, but this kind of game gives you access to all the inner workings. You can break down the math for optimal level/upgrade progression efficiency, and implement that into your code.

      Say what you will about this kind of thing purely as a game (you wouldn’t be wrong), but I plan to use it as a learning tool in my house.

      • gunny1993 says:

        That’s a pretty damn good idea, it also works on two levels because they’ll be so damn bored of it after a few minutes that they’ll be begging to find ways to not play it.

      • Beefenstein says:

        Syphilis provokes us to come up with solutions so I guess that little spiral bacteria crawling up our spines to devastate our brain matter are friends too.

      • Premium User Badge

        Carra says:

        Yeah, after playing a few hours I got the idea of writing a script that finds the fish and clicks on it. Mmm, AutoIt works nicely for that :)

    • GHudston says:

      Brain pornography is such a perfect way to describe these games.

    • Lionmaruu says:

      I agree with you. thats just another skin for games like cookie clicker.

    • ssh83 says:

      Exactly. People are quick to hate on MMO for the grindy, cheap, carrot-on-stick mechanism… or hate on Farmville for being nothing more than that… yet they flock like moth to flame to this thing. hahaha

  2. Borodin says:

    I understood that your game progressed in your absence even if your PC wasn’t running the app.The Steam store page says “Your heroes will farm monsters and automatically collect the gold while you’re gone, even when the game is closed

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      Oh no. That means… That means it will never stop.

      • frymaster says:

        yeah, the only reason to leave it on overnight is if you have that Ancient that increases your damage the more clicks you’ve made without a 10-second pause, and your mouse happens to support autoclicking macros…

        • iainl says:

          Progress while you’re not running the app doesn’t involve Treasure Chests, either, and by the later game those could well be where nearly all your money comes from. Quite apart from it being left in farm mode, rather than progress mode.

          Most optimum strategies involving ascending every hour or so, too.

          • Parthon says:

            It does actually. It gives you extra gold based on chance of chest times the extra gold the chest gives you. The people on the reddit have done the calculations. :D

          • jrodman says:

            I believe in the ancient days at one point maybe treasure chests were not included. Something was missed anyway.

            These days it’s believed that offline is pretty much identical to leaving the program running with no interaction.

          • jrodman says:

            Err, well, aside from the fact that offline will never change the “zone” or level you’re on, even if it would online.

        • Gap Gen says:

          You could imagine that making players leave a game on would be a sneaky way to fiddle the Steam “Most Played” stats, although also super bad for the environment.

          • maniacturtle says:

            its a nice feeling to wake up in the middle of the night, turn on the screen and see a bird.. click it.. 2 rubies woot.. back to sleep..

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      This is gaming distilled to its purest form. A game you don’t even have to play to play. What a timesaver!

  3. jrodman says:

    Clicker Heroes is kind of on the border of idle games. You can’t make any real progress without reinvesting the money into your heroes every few seconds or minutes or whatever. Some people play it while doing other computer things, clicking on it when they are bored.

    I wrote some software to play it for me.

  4. wraithgr says:

    I played cookie clicker for about 5 minutes by clicking on things. Then I mapped automatic clicking to a button and held it down. Then I mapped it to spacebar and put a book on it. Then I stopped playing, earning the maximum score in my own game of not wasting my limited leisure time.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I liked Candy Box and A Dark Room, so I’m not completely opposed to idle games. However, I liked those two because there is actual progress in them, and they have an ending. I don’t understand the appeal of this open-ended variant at all.

    • jrodman says:

      I think the appeal is to the maker if they get indefinite page hits creating a steady stream of advertising income.

      I do see the appeal of long progress games, especially if they involve some planning/theorizing, followed by hands off time passing, but without an eventual goal you’re just exercising compulsions or playing some endurance test with yourself. Both those things click for some people, I think.

      • Hunchback says:

        I see what you did there!

        • jrodman says:

          I don’t. Can you explain?

          • Premium User Badge

            Bluerps says:

            I think they mean that you said “those things click for some people”, when talking about games that are played by clicking on things (and waiting).

            Also, I think you are probably right, the appeal of these games comes mostly from compulsion.

            Now that I think about it, I kind of play a proto-idle game myself. It’s an ancient browser game about maintaining ant farms which only includes minimal interaction (feeding the ants, mostly). I started to play it years ago because some friends played it, and they convinced me to join them. Nowadays I have no idea why I still play it – habit, I guess (which is another motivation to play an idle game, just not for starting to play one initially).

    • DeVadder says:

      Great, you mentioned A Dark Room, thanks a lot, i wont be able to really concentrate on anything on my pc again for a few days, having to manage my little colony…

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      A Dark Room is an actual game, with challenging bits.

      With the newer crop of “casual” games, particularly clickers and Farmville-esque mobile games, you cannot fail. You can only progress more slowly. At worst, you can lose a minigame within it. I’m sure that’s part of the appeal, but it’s just another aspect of their utter life-wasting pointlessness.

  6. podkayne says:

    “A Dark Room” is art as far as I’m concerned, though. There’s shocking amounts of atmosphere, there’s a point, there’s exploration, you uncover information even if the game doesn’t -need- you to, and as mentioned by Bluerps you can FINISH playing it.

  7. Wowbagger says:

    I’m with Marsh on this one; Enjoyment of this is tantamount to mental illness of some sort.

  8. iainl says:

    Deeply curious as to why someone would play this through Steam, which only lets you run one game at a time per account, instead of a web browser…

    • reosarevok says:

      For what it’s worth, you *can* play multiple Steam games at the same time, as long as you do it on the same computer.

    • Danda says:

      I actually left open Clicker Heroes and Plants vs Zombies (the Zen Garden) at the same time many times to gather coins while I was doing something else.

      Oh, grinding, it feels so good. When you are fed up with this, you can also try Puzzle Quest, 10,000,000 or any other grindfests. They demand a bit more attention than a clicker, but whatevs..

      • jrodman says:

        I played Progress Quest for about a year.
        I was a top-100 leader on my server.

  9. xyzzy frobozz says:

    Clicker Heroes.

    What happens when gaming collapses into the Singularity.

  10. Myrdinn says:

    I set up a corporate holding for my employment agency which hired someone to play clicker heroes for me.

  11. kalirion says:

    This looks familiar …. Ah yes, that Monster game from Steam’s Summer Sale. I think that one was enough for me for a lifetime.

    • Beefenstein says:

      So much about that was terrible that I can confidently say it was overall terrible.

  12. Zaxwerks says:

    Clicker Heroes calls on the worst obsessive compulsive side to your personality (you know that bit that just has to collect all the collectable items in a game even when there isn’t even a rewards for doing it).

    I got totally and utterly addicted to it for about a week before I realized I was wasting my life on something that was a pointless timesink of garrulously vacuous proportions… and luckily I managed to go cold turkey and not look back.

    It is a total waste of time… not like PROPER gaming which is SO not a total waste of time regardless of what partners who poke their head round the door and roll their eyes at the bizarre noises emanating from you gaming batcave of geekiness might think.

    • Premium User Badge

      Damien Stark says:

      For me it was Cookie Clicker, and I think it’s fascinating because it really does reveal something for you.

      That compulsion is always there for the majority of players, it’s why “RPG progression elements” got added to practically every genre over the past decade or so. I think it’s helpful to remove basically all “game” from that progression structure and see just how powerful the hook still is.

      Then as you go forth to play something like COD multiplayer or Borderlands, where progression mechanics have been inserted into a gametype that previously never had them, you can ask yourself clearly “Am I actually enjoying myself? Or am I just hooked on leveling up and getting achievements and better gear?”

      Sure, you could have asked yourself that from the beginning, but I think most people who haven’t played Cookie Clicker or Clicker Heroes or Adventure Capitalist would tend to underestimate just how powerful those mechanics are…

      • pepperfez says:

        Cookie Clicker definitely had the best narrative of any idle/numbers-go-up game I’ve encountered.

  13. Chaoslord AJ says:

    The game creeps very slow for me at the moment – I just began putting all Gilds on Phthalo and even when actively playing there’s almost no progression.
    I’ll wait for a few weeks then reap the money again… or wait for an update to the relic mechanic.
    Having been a fan since Progress Quest (pure idle game) I appreciate the streamlined approach which others call soulless. In fact Diablo 3’s bubblegum-hell-slot-machine feels more soulless to me than those finely callibrated models of quintogazillion dps vs money invested.
    As Adventure Capitalist also hits a dead end for some weeks or so at least I’ll move to Tap Tap Infinity (which also has cloud save (android/steam), Tap Titans (has tournaments with other lifeless people) and Galaxy Clicker not be confused with Galactic Clicker (this one can be finished within days).
    Hope it’s just a phase though it’s taking up so much time and battery…

    • maniacturtle says:

      @ Chaoslord AJ if you are afking you will probably get better results by putting the gilds into either “beach princess brittany” or into “the masked samurai” (I have 170 gilded on him) as these you are able to get to quickly and do the damage well I`m averaging about 750 Hero Souls (HS) per minute and getting to around level 1200-1250 for about 35000HS every 40 minutes.

      @ Graham Smith
      To The Author: You failed to note in you post that there are hidden clickables (the little orange bird) which gives you free rubies so that you dont need to spend cash to “purchase” gilded heroes. There is also the bee (which is for the most part useless once you have the relics for idle bonuses. I`ve spent no money and have 170 gilded heroes.

      My Stats
      170 Gilded (masked samurai);
      Ancients
      Argaiv Lv500 (always good); Libertas 300(idle gold); Mammon 400(always good); Mimzee 300(always good) ; Morgulis 100k(so you dont spend all your HS); Siyalatas 500(idle dps); Solomon 100 ( Souls….. :3 )
      Maxed (useful Always)
      Atman=25 (+25%primal) ; Bubos=25 (-50% boss life) ; Dogcog=25 (-50%cost hero lv up) ; Dora=50 (+1k% Chests) ; Fortuna=40 (+10% chance 10Xgold) ; Khrysos=10 (+1.000e8 start gold.. or 100,000,000) ; Kumawakamaru=5 (-5 mob kills to next level) ; Revolc=15 (+15%chance double rubies)

  14. King in Winter says:

    I remember this; I looked at the flash version when Steam Summer Sale’s monster game quoted it as inspiration.

    But the only idle game I’ve ever really played is Progress Quest, years ago. And that game was conceived as a parody of MMOs, with all the unncecessary stuff like death “abstracted” away. Basically it meant once you had installed it, the game is wholly a spectator game – in fact there is no way for you to get involved. The game’s saves had a tendency to corrupt, at least in those days, so after a few months when that happened to me, I never went back to it. But when clicked games came later, recalling PQ, I couldn’t help but feel all they do is parody playing real games. That’s what Clicked Heroes felt when I checked it: “Ha ha look I’m pretending to play a game.”

    • jrodman says:

      As far as I know they’re all flash versions, just some of them are the flash build that we call “adobe air”.

  15. aliksy says:

    I can see how it might feel fun for a while, but also how I would feel pretty filthy afterwards.

    • caff says:

      You feel pretty dirty while playing it. Even during the first 5 minutes. Then you realise you’ve spent 30 minutes on it. Then you forget to uninstall it. Then you open it again and realise that it’s been levelling up without you. So you play again for 30 minutes before getting bored. Then you don’t un-install it, out of curiosity.

      THEN YOU FEEL REALLLLLLLLY DIRTY.

  16. Danda says:

    One good reason to leave the game open in the background is that once in a while rubies pop out, and if you get enough of them, you can get some extra perks, like permanent double damage and obtaining the benefits of an ascension without having to go back to the first level.

  17. jacobvandy says:

    AdVenture Capitalist is another incremental game that’s become rather popular on Steam (it’s in the top 25), except that one involves no active clicking whatsoever, just a lot of timers counting down and money pouring in at intervals. Well, I guess technically you could do everything yourself, but that would require explicitly avoiding hiring the “managers” that run your businesses for you…. They’re usually the first upgrades you purchase and without them you would be operating grossly inefficiently, since it’s not long before wait times are replaced with constant streams (meaning the intervals are very close to 0 seconds). The best I can describe it is as Cookie Clicker, but without the cookie to click on.

  18. caff says:

    But is it numberwang?

  19. rexx.sabotage says:

    I have 343 hours over 69 days and zero ascensions

    I can’t stop, won’t stop.

  20. cromagnumpi says:

    Hah. 450 odd hours now. Every champ up to dread knight gilded. Not a penny spent
    It’s a fun waste of time

    • forkboy84 says:

      Quite agree. I haven’t felt the need to put any money into the game, it’s totally playable without it because the game just spits rubies at you on a regular basis. The spot between Level 175 and 200 or so is a bit of a drag while you wait to accumulate enough gold to get your first Dread Knight but it’s not ruinous to the overall fun.

      I mean I installed an autoclicker program to my PC so I could just get more clicking done. And I’m not ashamed of that. OK, I am a little bit but it’s nice waking up in the morning, checking the PC & seeing all those clicks have paid off.

    • jrodman says:

      Must … resist.. efficiency.. critique.

  21. Jason Moyer says:

    2015 Game Of The Year easily.

  22. alms says:

    I really couldn’t get into Clicker Heroes because there’s too much mind calculating DPS up to the point I dropped it.

    I played a fair amount of AdVenture Capitalist though, which I suppose must share the same basic problem as Clicker Heroes and with all of these idle games based on a F2P model: I’ve hit a spot where it’s basically impossible to make any meaningful progress on a day to day basis in any of the two games (Moon and Earth) without buying gold.

    Capitalist is at its best when each restart feels like being shot up in the sky on a rocket, blasting easily past targets that seemed so far away before. I don’t think paying for gold would feel the same way, it’s not something I’ve earned by putting whatever amount of effort in figuring out the game.

    • jrodman says:

      FWIW, you certainly can progress in Adventure Capitalist without paying, but the progress does get slow. Of course, the whole experience is one of feeling the progression over time, so in a way paying for improvements just weakens the experience.

      Of course, if that experience doesn’t appeal then I heartily recommend that you skip the game entirely.

  23. brotherthree says:

    Everyone, boo this man!

  24. jfml says:

    I guess this is always-online? If so, it sounds like the perfect thing to hack a bitcoin (or whatever coin it is today) miner into, since people have to leave it running all the time ^__^

  25. Cyrus Magnus says:

    Just wanted to say to anyone interested in the game, that the author here basically wrote a review of levels 1 to 9 out of a 100 level game. Imagine playing World of Warcraft, finishing up the starting zone, and then writing a review without even hitting level 10. You would have no idea about talents, specializations, dungeons, raids, pvp or well, pretty much anything in the game other than some rather minor questing and mob killing.

    Based on that, no one would play World of Warcraft! Well, Clicker Heroes is like that. Levels 1 to 9 are buying heroes and getting your dps high enough to get to area 100, where you kill and obtain your first Hero Soul, or HS. It is at this point you can “Ascend” which is the most important mechanic in Clicker Heroes as you then receive said Hero Soul. HS’s give you a passive 10% dps boost, but much more importantly can be used to buy an Ancient, which affects the game in numerous, fascinating, FUN, ways.

    It is the discussion and thought that goes into which Ancients you want to get, at what point, and how many hero souls you want to hold onto for the passive buff, as well as which heroes to put your gilds on (as you can move gilds from one hero to another!), that fuels the interest in this “idle” game. Whether you go with a purely passive dps build, or a very interactive click build (as there are ancients that affect both sides of gameplay) or a more hybrid build, the thinking and figuring out is the most fun part of this game.

    That it wasn’t mentioned at all in this review is, well, as I said, like reviewing WoW from levels 1-9. You might have seen what the game looked like, cast a couple of spells, and leveled a couple of times, but you didn’t really play the part of the game that hooks people for years of their lives.

    Thanks for reading!

  26. TommyP says:

    So i got 678 hours in clicker heroes and i can tell you that when your heroes comes to lvl 4100 thay will stop getting the x4 bonuses. so when you get to about lvl 2000 you should de-gild all heroes exept dread knight and all those under him.

    • TommyP says:

      i simply lvl all my heroes to lvl 200 and then i only upgrade dread knigt and the guys under