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Fun and games

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Okay, okay, haven't posted anything in a while. What can I say, I've been lazy. Sure, there've been plenty of things to write about, but I just never seem to get around to them, and then they're gone. Ah, well. Coupled with that is the daily minutiae of life. If it's not one thing, it's another. You know how that goes. Still, I didn't create this with the intention of crying "woe is me" if I can help it, so that's all I have to say about that.

No, my point today is to make mention of my latest fledgling interest. So left me preface by saying I'm not in any way what one would call a "hard-core gamer." My PC isn't souped up with water-cooling systems, blinking lights and x-core processors. I don't speak 733t and I tend to play single-player games in god mode because, dammit, I'm playing to win, not get fragged. (Yes, god mode. A game to me is just that: a game. If I wanted to die, I'd go on a shooting rampage in real life instead. But I don't, so I don't.) The games I favor tend more towards simulation (ahem) and point-and-click adventures. My favorite FPS is Quake II, well over ten years old. I have never played a MMORPG.

But with Google's recent announce of their new chat avatar system, it finally, for some reason, convinced me to give Second Life a try. And after signing up, downloading and installing the client software and logging in, there I was: active in a real multi-user virtual world. Then I spent three hours customizing my avatar. Whee!

And that's where the fun stopped. I can't bad-mouth Second Life per se (although I found the lag to be utterly annoying), but it was obviously this wasn't for me. Just walking around a virtual world, while perversely fascinating, was also perversely boring. Either there's nothing to do, or there's too much to do, because there was so much activity going on I wasn't sure what was what and I found myself avoiding everything lest I come across as a noob. And after walking around for a couple hours, clicking on random objects, the wow factor wore off. Plus the lag was so bad it started to seem pointless.

On a whim I did a search to see what else was there, and I found, um, There. There, as far as I can tell, is pretty much the same idea as Second Life. And I liked it much better despite its awkward name. It's graphics rendering is much smoother and there's no lag. But, for me, it falls into the same trap: it's just a big world with nothing to do. Hell, I've already got one of those available (i.e., First Life) and there's always plenty to do!

(I feel compelled to point out I have nothing against virtual worlds like Second Life and There. One of my favorite games is still The Sims. I just found they're not quite for me. So don't flame me for calling you a virtual loser if this kind of thing is your bag, baby.)

Suddenly interested in MMORPGs but not having the funds for something like World of Warcraft (okay, okay, I know you get a free trial period, but, dammit, what if I liked it?!), I started looking around at some of the freebies. EVE Online was first, mainly because I'd heard of it, but the website was clearly aimed at existing players, and I couldn't make heads or tails of it. So I did a search to see what else I could find, and next on the list was Anarchy Online, which has a "Play for Free!" link right at the top of the page. (While I've never been a huge fan of the fantasy genre, I'm not totally against it. Still, I prefer sci-fi, though the grand majority of MMORPGs seem to be fantasy-based.) So I created an account, downloaded the client software (all 1.5GB of it!), installed and...

Well, that's it. I haven't played it yet. I haven't even started it up. Remember those minutiae I mentioned? They keep me from regularly spending long hours doing something like playing a game. When I do have time like that, it's usually for something like RCT3. But there's another reason, besides the massive time commitment, I haven't started playing: I've found someone else.

While doing the search that found me Anarchy Online, I also followed a link to this single-player, browser-based MMORPG-esque game called AdventureQuest. It's a fantasy, anime-inspired, turn-based role-playing game that runs entirely in Flash within the browser, so there's no lag. The avatar construction is somewhat limited in choices, but looks good. Because the graphics are vector-based, images are clean and appealing, if somewhat cartoonish. While the game starts a little slow (my initial thought was, This is stupid) repeated play increased my interest, as did bumping up a level or two. Great fun, and, being based in a browser, I can get started quickly and play for fifteen minutes.

And then, lo and behold, I found out the authors of AdventureQuest had another game: MechQuest. Another awkward name, but, in my opinion, far superior. There's more animation, more sound, the artistry is awesome (some of the backgrounds in AdventureQuest seem, well, unfinished) and the game while a gamma release (that's one past beta, natch) seems much more complete. Plus, its sci-fi (albeit with some fantasy thrown in) which is the clincher for me. I love this game.

So will I play Anarchy Online? Probably. Will it be a time-killer for me? Probably not. But when I can get onto MechQuest (or AdventureQuest, as I still play it as well) for brief periods and still accomplish something, that's where my online gaming focus will be.