Monday, September 3, 2018

East Goes West

If playing Bless last month had any impact on me at all, it was to make me feel nostalgic for other Eastern MMOs I've tried. Over the years I've played quite a few. Most of them I've enjoyed but none of them have I stuck with for more than a couple of months at most.

Let's see how many I can remember off the top of my head...

The first must have been Silk Road Online. Mrs Bhagpuss and I tried the beta and I remember being quite excited that we were seeing something we'd never seen before - an MMORPG made by and for people from a culture significantly different from our own. I wasn't all that struck with it but Mrs Bhagpuss liked it enough to mention it fondly for a few years afterwards, whenever the topic of imported MMOs came up.

I think Ferentus was the first game where I saw player-placed street vendors.

Then there was Ferentus, a beta for a long-forgotten MMO (also known in some territories as Xiones or Herrcot) that never went Live. Ferentus was the opposite of Silk Road in that it was almost indistinguishable from a Western MMO of the time. We both really liked it even though it was very rough and unpolished. Almost unbelievably, it still has an active Reddit ,where ex-players still hope for some kind of emulator, one day.

Runes of Magic, on which Wilhelm occasionally reports, was the first successful Eastern attempt to play the West at its own game. It was also one of the first generic WoW clones and the standard bearer for the Free to Play payment model. Once again, Mrs Bhagpuss and I beta-tested it and found it lacking, although a decade later I find I can remember it in surprising detail.

After that, the flood gates opened and playing imported MMOs became just something I did rather than something worthy of comment. Back then, I used to be in the habit of playing a number of MMOs super-casually, usually for an hour or so at the very end of the evening, right before going to bed.

That was in the days before I had a Tablet. These days I lie in bed watching American sitcoms or searching for ever more obscure bands on YouTube. I'm not convinced that's progress.

I did take some screenshots of NeoSteam but I have no idea what happened to them. I think I saw this thing once, though.

NeoSteam filled the late-night MMO slot for quite a while. I really liked that game. I was a seven foot tall tiger with a giant hammer - what's not to like? Neo-Steam was around for a good few years and had quite a following at one time. There were a lot of levels and zones but I never saw much more than the first few of either. I'd play it now if it was still running.

I also liked Argo, which arrived a few years later. That one came and went and came back and then vanished. Surprising how often that happens. Argo didn't have much to recommend it but it did have that indefinable vibe that made it feel like a place. Hard to describe but I always know it when I feel it.

Before that, there was the one whose name I always get muddled up with another, Western, title. Earth Eternal? No, it's no good, I'll have to google it...

And this is why we fact-check!  No, it wasn't Earth Eternal. Earth Eternal was the all-animal MMO originally produced by an American indie called Sparkplay Media. Mrs Bhagpuss and I betaed that one too and although we both liked it we found it a tad slow and repetitive.

After Earth Eternal failed in the West (twice) it had a run in Japan, where it was known as Ikimonogatari. According to wikipedia, no version ever made it further than Open Beta bit it still picked up a strong following.
I also have no screenshots of my time in Earth Eternal. Nor did I ever play a frog.

As if to prove that nothing on the internet ever goes away, I am astounded and delighted to discover that there is an Earth Eternal emulator! Now known as The Anubian War, it's even had an expansion, Valkal's Shadow, and the game is still up and running. I'm downloading it as I type!

Getting back to the topic at hand, the Eastern MMO I was thinking of was Eden Eternal. A natural mistake, even more so when you consider that in EE I played a mouse. A large mouse, I'll grant you, but a mouse all the same.

Eden Eternal was probably the first Eastern anime-influenced MMO I tried. It's bright and bouncy and not at all serious, which should please Wolfy and Jeromai. It was also, I think, the first time I came across the wonderful auto-quest feature, something I wish all MMOs would adopt.

Eden Eternal is still up and running. It even has a Back to School event on right now, which tells you something about the demographic that plays there. I don't think I'm going to download it again but it's an Aeria game and I have their launcher on my desktop...more on which later.


Blurry when stretched. Then again, aren't we all?
Then came Zentia, probably the best Eastern MMORPG I ever played. Mrs Bhagpuss and I downloaded the beta one Saturday on a whim and neither of us played anything else all weekend. The game had a unique style - cheerful, whimsical, lighthearted - that was exemplified by the giant dragon mount that players could hop on as it passed by, like boarding a bus. You could even do trivia quizzes in the central square of the main town.

The whole gameworld had an upbeat, happy atmosphere that was mood-elevating just to be around but it was also a very solid MMORPG, with traditional questing and combat that felt solid and satisfying. It's a game that deserves to be revived but sadly no-one seems to have bothered.

I think most of those games pre-date this blog, although I did write about Argo back in 2012. I also played, and briefly wrote about the oddly (and inaccurately, given how little time I spent there) named Loong, one of many games tipped by Kaozz of ECTmmo. She finds and plays even more obscure MMOS than I do, although currently she's with the crowd in WoW.

Almost the definition of Generic Eastern Import, Loong appears still to be available from Gamigo under the name of Loong Dragonblood

Since Inventory Full arrived, most of the Eastern imports have been relatively big news. In no particular order (least of all chronological) there's been Blade and Soul, Black Desert Online, Revelation Online, Aion, Riders of somewhere-or-other, that one about Dragons that SOE licensed and of course Final Fantasy XIV, which is a whole different story.

Bless Online is the latest and it's... okay. I wouldn't put it much more strongly than that. As I said at the beginning of the post, Bless's main impact on me has been to remind me of other imported and translated MMOs I like more. Two in particular: Dragon Nest and Twin Saga.

Not that Bless is anything like either of those. It's just that I remembered, while playing Bless and reading about how badly translated it was supposed to be, that there's a particular style of translated quest text that I love. Twin Saga is dripping with it and so is Dragon Nest.

It appears we've crossed out last bridge in Dragomon Hunter.
It's as though they'd found a really articulate, bi-lingual seven-year old, with a vivid imagination, and given them a completely free hand to translate the original quests - without worrying too much about whether the finished version made much (or any) sense. It's almost like naive art.

I tried to find my old installation of Twin Saga yesterday but after booting up several Hard Drives without success I gave up and re-installed it via Steam. As it was downloading I thought to google "Twin Saga", which I probably should have done at the start.

Turns out it's also published by Aeria Games, for whom, as I mentioned above, I have a generic launcher on my desktop. They also published Dragomon Hunter, another quirky import I liked a lot, which has sadly closed. The launcher itself is also dead. You have to download and update directly from the website now - or use Steam.

Following that discovery I was able to find the original installation buried in the Aeria Games folder on my C Drive so now I have the blasted thing twice! I linked my Aeria account to Steam and now I'm up and running with my old character, who turns out to be level 50! Proof that I really did like Twin Saga when I last played.

Best name prefix ever!
Dragon Nest is more problematic. It has a convoluted history of versions and territories. Last time I tried to play I couldn't get it to run. I'm running short of drive space right now so I don't think I'll download it again just yet but I guess I shouldn't wait too long. Grab 'em while they're still alive seems to be the motto for some of the less-celebrated imports.

Anyway, that wasn't the post I sat down to write. I was going to muse over returning to MMOs and how it can vary from impossible to ecstatic. That'll have to wait for another day. This has run far too long and there's double XP in Norrath that won't last forever!

2 comments:

  1. Argh. Why is the "Sign out" button closer to the text area than "Publish"? Damn you, blogger. Anyway, trying to redo this post:

    I'd say I'm not a fan of Korean MMOs, although my first one was Ragnarok Online and I liked it a lot, although it was a technical mess, had 2d sprite characters in a 3d world and was grindy as hell. But the community was cool.

    But all the others I tried, Flyff, ROSE, Black Desert Online - nope. Runes of Magic was especially bad and I only played because friends and my girlfriend played. I was in one beta ages ago that looked kinda ok, might have been Tantra Online - but I might as well mix it up now...

    I'm a bit sad I didn't try Aion when it was new, whereas ArcheAge didn't interest me a bit.

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    1. Oh look! There are two I forgot, right there in your comment! In fact, I have a feeling Flyff might have been the first Korean MMO I ever played, even before Silk Road. And I played and posted quite a bit about ArcheAge. I wonder how many more there are that I've forgotten? I should update my list of all the MMOs I ever played - it was around a hundred last time I did it - must be over 150 by now.

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