Saturday, March 27, 2010

There and There Again; The World Strikes Back!

New oratory today, folks! However, in addition, I will try to reduce rampant resurgences of blatantly boring banality by practicing perfect punctuation and accepting an alliterative air. Or not.

I am here to converse about a game. A free to play game, in fact, the type of which I have mentioned before. A familiar, famous, frequently-mentioned free to play game, one which brings to mind many marvelous mishaps. This game is known as Allods Online. I will attempt to describe to you the wonders of my first few levels there for you. See if you can spot my point before I've said it. It'll be like a game!
Yes, I do all my own stunts. If (stunts == screenshots).
Wellp, proto or otherwise, I logged on to a brave new world with such people in it. Not over-densely populated, but a good number, so competition - as well as companions - were always within reach. I was excited, too - this was a game that took things as we knew it and shook them up a little, improving here, sidestepping there, all with a very detailed and amazing art scheme that would assuredly last a long time. A community was slowly building up around it, with jokes about awful drop rates and overpowered classes already emerging. It was enthralling, to be a part of something so new and so large. But enough about the large-scale stuff.

It began with a densely packed tutorial with firm, regimented boundaries, designed to give a thorough knowledge of game mechanics in their entirety to the player. It was successful, too - by the time I walked out of the bounded area, I understood what I needed to know to begin in the first zone. Following a number of grindy quests involving either killing mobs, getting drops, or using items, was another camp, filled with quests that involved... well, killing getting and using. Some drops were atrocious, some places overfarmed, some zones overfilled. Creatures like the Damned Soul one shotted me without a trace. In such, I was astonished to find I loved it. Why? Because it was Vanilla WoW.

I could do a recap paragraph, but really, just go read that again if you have to. It's EXACTLY THE SAME. Now, I understand that the story is more focused in this, yes, and it has a more Cryptic-style in medias res tutorial, sure, and the levels are different and it's free to play and... fine fine fine. It's not 'exactly' the same. But to me, the player, it feels the same. Like, to the note. Levels are gained insubordinatly slowly, compared to today's WoW, and the death penalty is not devastating yet is much harsher than I'm used to. Really, it was just fun feeling like the world was tougher (read: not more difficult, just tougher) than I'm used to.

Unfortunately, I cannot draw concept art for an already released game, so this is liberally hijacked from developers. :(
I'd heartily suggest anyone that played vanilla WoW and is still playing a modern MMO to go check it out. Or, those that want too feel what vanilla was like if they missed it. If anything, it reminds you of exactly why they made the changes they did - opening up content, speeding levels and death, adding a report spammer function - but the community is different, too, and it's worth checking out. People react differently to a harsher world, with a very different mindset than what has cropped up in the 'pandering to casuals' world of today. (You can stop reading now if you don't want a sweeping game design-esque solution.)

I think what this gets at for developers is that the new-game experience, eyes wide and unblinking, is not unachievable twice. While many people say that your first MMO, first shooter, first game will be the only one ever to pull you in with that fascination, I felt it slowly gripping me again. Not firmly, just an ever-so-slight tug to enter a new world, forge a new trail, leave a path of brilliance behind me. MMOs made today do not NEED to cater to new players to impart that first-game feel. It can be done. It just requires a successful IP, a brilliant developer, superior art and level and gameplay design, and a fanbase eager to explore a brave new world.

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