Thursday, January 31, 2008

We've Got More Coming

Hey folks, it's the four year anniversary of Avert Your Eyes, and usually I use this opportunity to do a retrospective of the last year. I'm still planning on doing that, but at the moment it actually hurts to sit at my desk, so unless I miraculously start feeling better later on today, I'm going to have to put this off until next week. See you then.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

So The Battles Cost Nothing? Or Are There No Battles At All?

I meant to do this last week, but I was a little busy on the Thursday of last week, so here it is this week. Fuck, that's a week heavy sentence. Anyway, this week's game is another entry into the free-to-play FPS field: Battle Free.

Saying an FPS is battle-free comes off sounding a tad boring. Bad joke, I know. I just had to put that out there. On to business.

Battle Free has been catching an awful amount of flak over at Happy Penguin, and I'm really not sure why. OK, that's not entirely true: the guy who created it responds to several posts acknowledging that he created the game, then in a new post writes "Great game, cant wait to see the next release!" C'mon man, that's just adding fuel to the fire.

That aside, most of the hate thrown at the game is unjustified. So it's not open source. Neither are most of the games listed on the Tome. Go fucking play NetHack and get over yourself. Some people said it's not playable on Linux - not true - that's the platform I tested it on. It uses the Torque engine... so what?

Now onto the game itself. Well, there's not a whole lot there. Four maps, none of the particularly thrilling. Ditto for the weapons, they just don't feel right. Mix those two together and you've got a recipe for... well, I don't know what the hell that's a recipe for but it's definitely not for me.

The guy says he's mainly developing Battle Free to teach his son about game programming. Hey, that's cool, and I'm certainly not going to jump on the bandwagon of relentlessly bashing the guy simply for making a free game available to the public. On the other hand, in it's current state, the game doesn't have much to offer, and I can't really say I recommend it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Of Course The Name Doesn't Make Any Sense

Well, in the spirit of never doing what I said I was going to do, this week's post has absolutely nothing to do with Secret of the Solstice. Instead, I took a look at another free to play MMO called Dream Of Mirror Online, or DOMO for short.

After trying out so many different MMOs lately, DOMO is a nice change of pace. Sure, you grind your mobs, loot them, sell things, get better equipment, level up, etc... but DOMO has got more than a few things you don't see every day, and a whole lot of quirk to go along with them.

First: instead of restricting you to one class or job, DOMO lets you change jobs and level said jobs' skills in order to mix and match abilities for your character. Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds, but these things never are, are they? Since in essence this job system requires you to re-level your character, DOMO bucks another recent MMO trend and lowers the level cap to 50 (at least for now). That might sound low, but you don't level quite as fast as you might in recent MMOs boasting a level cap of 200 or so.

Item gathering and crafting, two elements virtually non-existent in the free-to-play MMO world, play a part in DOMO as well. There's a wide range of "everyday skills", as they're called, from fishing to logging to alchemy. Sure, most of them involve moving to a specific location (fishing area, logging area), opening a window, then sitting back as your character slowly gathers whatever it is your gathering, but it's still always nice to have more to do than run around killing mobs.

The thing is, there are people only want to do just that, run around killing mobs. And it's this that powers the economy of DOMO. If they don't want to spend hours gathering wood, they can run to a player shop (or stall, as DOMO calls them) and buy it instead. As players become aware of this as a money making tactic, I suspect it's effectiveness will drop, but luckily you can still make enough money in DOMO using the old MMO standby of selling everything you loot.

One last element of DOMO that seems so out of place in a free to play MMO is the plot, ie. it has one beyond a couple of paragraphs on the website. Quite frequently you'll actually encounter cutscenes while playing, and even embark on story-related quests. Sure the cutscenes themselves are basically a three dimensional version of the type of thing you might see in an SNES RPG, and the story missions aren't that different from your basic quests, but it still takes away from the monotony of your typical MMO.

As with Secret of the Solstice, if you're going to be turned off by DOMO, there's a large chance that it'll be due to the anime-inspired, extremely "cute" look of the game. You start off killing things that would make a toddler squeak in delight, and honestly the only not-so-cute enemies I've seen so far are some very nonthreatening zombies. If you can get past the look though, there's more depth to the gameplay side of DOMO than most of its free-to-play brethren.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What Measurment System Is "Freaking Heavy" A Part Of?

First things first: last week's no-post was due to it being sort of a holiday (at least it was close enough for me to figure a no-post was justified). Anyway, let's get back on track. This week I decided to take a look at Secret of the Solstice, a free-to-play MMORPG currently in the open beta phase.

The look of the game is basically top-down 2.5D, with 3D backgrounds and sprites for characters, enemies etc... The anime influenced art style is nice, nothing we've never seen before, but it's definitely got a charm factor. Actually, I've found myself admiring it's look more than some full 3D MMO's I've tried.

Like quite a few similar games, every starts out the same class type. After levelling to 16 (why 16?) there's a little quest to complete and then you can pick your "guild", which is your job/class/whatever you want to call it. The game seems to assume you've looked around the forums a bit, because the class names (squire, apprentice, neophyte, acolyte) aren't as descriptive as they could be.

Gameplay wise, it's your typical MMO (ie. it's going to be a real grindfest at later levels). It's nice to see that every once in a while, you'll run into an odd quest or two that tries to mix things up a little bit. For example, my level 16 neophyte just completed a quest that consisted of carrying a "freaking heavy letter" (yes, that's what it's called) across the city, only to find that another letter which was "also freaking heavy" needed to be returned to the starter of the quest. Sure, it was a little on the boring side, but the reward wasn't bad and it adds a nice quirk factor to the game.

It's likely that whether or not the game will appeal to you will depend mostly on whether or not you're into MMOs that aren't full 3D, as well as the general look of the game. Me? I'm going to keep playing some more, as there's something about it I like that I haven't yet been able to put my finger on. If I find out what that certain something is, I might tell you next week.