Monday, October 24, 2016

Making Games Is Hard, Yo! : AQ3D, 9Lives

AdventureQuest 3D went into Open Beta while we were away. I popped in for just a few minutes last night to take a look. I found it quite different to how I'd left it.

My character was still there (no wipe) but she was back at the very beginning of the game. There was a new "tutorial", hosted by Zorbak, a sarcastic little...something, who self-identifies as "evil". He might be a rabbit. It's hard to tell.

He also claims to be AQ3D's "mascot". One thing that's immediately apparent in this new version that's been opened to the public is that this is going to be a much more self-consciously arch, even camp, MMO than I was expecting from my limited experiences in closed beta.

There's a post-modern, meta vibe hanging over the whole thing that I swear wasn't there before. NPCs openly discuss being in a game, often. A grandfather and his granddaughter raised a cheer when they saw me coming and then lost hope when they saw I was "very low level" and this while they were cowering in fear of their lives from a bunch of skeleton invaders.

At the same time there's a whole, traditional MMORPG plot going on, with the whole world being invaded by Dark Forces and you being the Last Hope. It's all a bit of a puzzle.

There are also a slew of new cut-scenes that work rather well. Quests offer a lot of dialog but no actual choice, which leads one NPC to wonder whether you can actually read or whether you might just be clicking, blindly, trying to get to the end. As I said, very, very meta...

Coming to the gameplay,  at first I thought the danger rating of the mobs had been toned down several notches; then I realized I was still Level 3 in a Level 1 area and I still had all my old Closed Beta gear. No wonder everything was dropping in a few hits.

I got as far as the first (only?) town, Battleon, where I camped for the night. Overall I thought the very early stages gave a much better impression than in Closed Beta. We will see if that continues.

One thing you can't help but notice and admire about AQ3D is the immense enthusiasm and energy of its developers. They all seem to love what they're doing and feel very proud of it. There was a choice of ten or so servers at log in although only two were open. They are clearly planning for success.

Sadly, the same can't be said of another game I've had my eye on, Ninelives. It appeared to be trundling ahead steadily if unspectacularly, adding new content and polishing up old, although things had gone rather quiet over the summer. Then I checked the website last night and found this:

After careful consideration, we SmokymonkeyS have decided to temporarily suspend the operation and development of Ninelives.
The main reasons are because since the game couldn't gain enough support from players, we don't have enough funds to continue operating and developing the game and we couldn't maintain the motivation to continue the development
 That's a terrible shame. Ninelives was shaping up to be a minor work of art. It's hard to understand why someone would put so much work into creating something so rich and strange only to abandon it out of ennui.

For now the server is still up. SmokeymonkeyS promise that they'll "... keep operating the game server of Ninelives as long as possible". If anyone reading this had vaguely meant to check it out one day but hadn't gotten around to it yet, well, now would be the time.

My feeling is that, as a poster on the forum suggests, the game could be packaged for offline play and either given away or sold for a nominal fee. I'd certainly pay $10 for an offline version as it stands right now. Or they could open source it, but obviously that's more problematical.

One in, one out. The dance goes on.

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