Thursday, February 28, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week Three: Planeshift

In honor of this being the third week of the roundup, we're taking a turn towards the third dimension. This week's game, Planeshift, is fully 3D, and open source to boot.

I first looked at Planeshift quite a while back, and while I was impressed with the ambition of the project, there just wasn't enough actual game there to keep me interested. It's been long enough since I promised myself I'd take another look, so that's just what I did. Let me say: Planeshift has come a long way from the stuttering crash-fest it was when I first encountered it.

After loading up Planeshift and going through the obligatory character creation stage, I was greeted with a lengthy tutorial. Some of Planeshift's gameplay elements differ from a lot of it's genre brethren, so the tutorial was quite welcome. While I worked through the tutorial, one of the first things I noticed was that Planeshift was running at quite a respectable framerate, something it didn't do in the past.

Now, Stendhal got a lot of heat from me last week for the way it handled NPCs, yes? Yes. Planeshift uses a similar method, but it's implemented in a far superior fashion. Like Stendhal, you talk to NPCs by, well, actually talking to them. Unlike Stendhal, this happens in a seperate chat tab, and it's entirely private. This turns out to be a good thing, because you're going to be talking with them a lot, and you're not always going to be saying nice things.

Quests are obtained easily enough by telling an NPC "give me a quest." Anything besides this simple exchange turns into a frustrating exercise in trial and error. Early after leaving the tutorial area, I encountered a quest in which a woman wanted me to deliver a drink to a nearby NPC named Aleena. I was told that there was some coin in it for me if I returned and told her how the Aleena liked the drink. I tried every variation of "Aleena liked the drink" I could think of, and was invariably met with "I'm just a bartender, I don't understand what you're saying."

Looking past that, the game is enjoyable. Combat is of the typical MMO "click and wait" variety, so if that's not your cup of tea, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. There is a large variety of other tings to do, some implemented, some yet-to-be-implemented, but this is definitely more than a simple grindfest.

Your milage may vary, but overall I'd like to say kudos to the Planeshift team on how far the game has come. I'll be keeping up with it with far more regularity than I have in the past.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week Two: Stendhal

Continuing onward with the theme established last week, this week's game is another open source 2D MMO that draws inspiration from the console RPGs of yesteryear. I present to you: Stendhal.

I'll say it right off the bat: I can't get into this one at all. Everything about it just plain feels awkward. You talk to NPCs by, well, actually talking. For example, you type "Hi" and they say a bunch in return. Do you want me to continue talking? Yes?


This can get annoying pretty fast can't it? Yes?


I'm sorry, but something about that just feels wrong. It's just as monotonous as clicking a button labeled "more", but now you have to type three letters to achieve the same effect. And that's not all: most of Stendhal has this feeling. Is it a novel approach? Sure, but it also leads to less-than-fun gameplay.

Instead of the tried and true MMO combat, i.e. you click on the enemy then watch the combat play out until one of you dies, Stendhal makes you right click, then select "attack". Can't that just be the default? I mean, what else am I going to do? Pet them? Offer them food? Invite them for a night out on the town filled with drinking and dancing? No. I'm going to attack them. That's why they're there.

So now you've finally downed an enemy. How do you pick up any loot it might have dropped? Well it's certainly not done by simply clicking on the corpse. No, instead you have to right click on the corpse and select "look". Again, what else was I going to do?

Everything about Stendhal feels like this: drawn out for no particular reason. Hell that may appeal to you, and if you think it might, it's only a 16mb download for the client without sound. Give it a try. Me, I'll stay far, far away. Yes?


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week One: The Mana World

It's literally been years since I've done a roundup of any kind, and a lot has happened in said years. As you might have guessed from the title, the next handful of weeks are going to focus on free (mostly as in beer, but some, such as today's, are also free as in speech) games of the massively multiplayer variety, all of which are available for our favorite operating system. The round-up kicks off with The Mana World.

If you've ever found yourself thinking "I sure wish there was a free to play MMORPG that looked like the SNES RPGs of years past" (and honestly, who hasn't), then boy have I got a game for you. If you don't believe me, take a look at a screenshot or two, I'll wait. See? By the way, that's about as populated as the gameworld has been every time I've logged in.

So, yeah, The Mana World looks nice, if you're into the whole old-school look (which I am). The problem is, there isn't yet a whole lot there under the surface. No character classes (are though there are plenty of customizable stats), no real skill system, and fairly uninteresting combat mean you're probably going to tire of this one easily, unless you're a sucker for grindfests.

The Mana World does have one feature I love: a casino. That's right. Sick of grinding mob after mob for loot to sell? Trade in some of your hard earned gold for casino coins and try your luck. It's not much, but it's a feature I love and one that gives me hope that The Mana World will eventually turn into something great. Seriously, I love me some minigames, so much so that I'll grind for days if I find out there are more minigames available at higher levels.

I'll definitely keep an eye on this one. Even though there isn't a lot to do now, it's got promise. Plus, hey, it's open source. You can't go wrong there. Kudos to The Mana World team, keep it up.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Level 5

So last week marked the fourth full year of Avert Your Eyes. Honestly, it doesn't seem to me like I've been doing this for that long. Usually when this time of the year rolls around, I do a sort of recap post, touching on various posts from the previous year, but this year I'm going to do something a little different. Instead of looking back, I'm looking forward.

First person shooters. We've had enough of them. Sauerbraten rules (hell, Cube still rules), so does Warsow, so does OpenArena. Nexuiz, you still suck. My point is this: there are plenty of good open source FPS games out there. If you're starting a game project this year, please, do something else.

The same goes for roguelikes (hey, I guess I am looking back). Not only are there more than enough roguelikes, there are more than enough roguelikes for several civilizations spanning several planets. We also don't need any more ports of old DOS games (DOSBox exists for a reason), barely functional MMOs, solitaire games, or ASCII versions of tic-tac-toe (yes, multiple versions exist).

Here's a thought: why not try something new? Can't think of something totally new, why not mash two ideas together and see what you get? How about a sort of mix between Risk and Final Fantasy Tactics? What about Civilization type game where you can also control single characters in an RPG fashion? Crazy ideas? Maybe, but they've also never been done before (and if they have I'd love to know so I can track them down and play them).

My point is that it took me about a minute of thinking to come up with the above two ideas. Would they be tough to implement? Sure, but they'd also probably attract quite a few people interested in working on such a unique project. They'd also probably be more rewarding when they became playable, at least more so than generic FPS #24003.

At this point, you're probably asking: well, if you're going to bitch so much, why don't you just do it yourself?

Hell, I might.