Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How to Do a Modern MMO

Here's the funny thing about being wiped out with a stomach bug: you can play video games but you can't write. Or rather I can't write. Perhaps it's because I'm a fickle artist, but there are specific circumstances I need to really get the prose flowing. So, unable to write and unable to indulge myself in Tomb Raider because I had to share the space with the family, I decided to try out the MMO The Secret World.

And I am so very impressed.

I have I admit I'm a little nervous about the classless an level-less system it uses. I like the whole idea of just picking skills I want to use and not being forced to get stuff I don't really get into because its part of a given class. There is somehow nice about knowing that a given level should be ready for a given content but I'll get I to it.

What I really like is the way the rest if the game world works with our own.

For example on quest requires you to hack into a doctor s computer. The password is no where to be found but there are hints. The suggestion is to, if you get stuck, is to open a web browser and search or hints. The power of this hit me today.

I was stuck this weekend on a quest where I had been given a clue but no guidance to go from. I tried Googling the the name of the town in the game and surprise there I find the Kingsmouth Municipal Home page.  It even has some nice pictures of it's sleepy New England feel, people shopping, etc.  Many of the "gallery" pictures are clearly taken from the game engine so there is, after a little looking, little doubt that the website is for the fictional town.

This strikes me as really driving home the power of the Internet to weave a world where you as a player can play on multiple levels.  It's not just a matter of having read this text or that text in the game; it's a matter of actually using the resources you have for more than just looking up walk throughs.

But, sadly, this is also part of the problem.

First, it's very very easy to find a spoiler site while doing research.  I admit that I thought I was looking up something about the Illuminati as part of a quest research and instead I was reading a spoiler page.  This is annoying but avoidable.

Second, I think it makes the writers a little too clever.  I've run into this with my own brain teasers and puzzles for students.  I've wanted them to have challenges and to have to think outside the box but sometimes when others have looked at my puzzles the repsonse has been "They were supposed to think WHAT?"  I feel that happens very early in TSO with one of the research missions where I worked at something for a solid day, finally gave up and looked at a spoiler only to think "I was supposed to do WHAT?"

So... good bad, I will say this:  It's unlike any MMO I've ever played.

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