Friday, November 12, 2021

I'll Get Off This Blasted Allod If It's The Last Thing I Ever Do...

Y'know, I think I might make a good subject for hypnosis. I'm certainly suggestible enough. All I had to do was spot a passing reference to Allods Online in a blog post about something else entirely and next thing you know I've patched the thing up and logged in.

I can't even remember whose blog it was. Oh, wait, yes I can! It was Gnomecore, writing about finishing the Shadowbringers expansion in Final Fantasy XIV. He happened to mention that in Allods " could walk through the older leveling dungeons with a generic group of NPCs filling the missing roles... You barely needed to sneeze in enemy’s direction, and trash packs and bosses died in mere seconds"

Gnomecore didn't like that much but I thought it sounded great.  

MassivelyOP has a discussion thread up about whether mmorpgs should be "hard", based on something Damian Schubert said on Twitter, reported by MOP as "...Vanguard was set up as the anti-WoW/EverQuest II, the hardcore solution to “soft MMOs for wimps,” complete with brutally punishing corpse recovery as in the Old Days."

I think the ethereal drain's blocked again

I contributed an irritable correction to that partial and mainly inaccurate description of why Vanguard failed but I don't disagree with his premise, which if I understand it correctly, seems to be that to be truly "massive", mmorpgs need to be easy or at least highly accessible.

It depends, of course. On what? On everything. That's the mmorpg dev's dilemma. The genre predicates on accessibility. Massively multiple implies everyone. If you let 'em all in, though, they don't necessarily want the same things and, people being people, they'll clique up and lobby to have it their way.

The trick, it seems to me, is to remember that as an mmorpg developer your business is running the mall, not the concessions inside it. The company is the landlord, management's the operator and each design team owns a franchise.

And all those franchises have their own clientele, who need to be given appropriate, individual service. Sure, you'd like the other customers to feel curious as they walk past. You'd like them to step through the open doors, wander around, try things out. There are potential synergies you don't want to ignore.

Where did you get that hat?

What you don't want is for the only access to the ice-cream parlor to be directly through the jewellery store, which is what happens when you put raid mechanics into social content. Not an exact analogy. Know your audience is what I'm saying.

Then there's mood to consider. As a player I don't always feel like playing the same way. Some days I want to chill out with something easy or repetitive or both. Other days I feel energized, ready for a challenge. Sometimes I want to relax, sometimes I want a rush. It can change from morning to evening.

I could modify my experience by playing different games but that's the last thing the developer wants. The developer wants me to keep playing their games and if they're an mmorpg developer chances are they only have the one so they'd like me to keep playing that. Unless I'm a minor in China, of course, in which case they just want me to go away before someone sees me.

Making every activity in the game feel the same is asking for people to go outside the ecosystem, which is why the really big, truly massively multiple mmorpgs try to be everything to everyone.Which also has its problems.

Ever get the feeling someone's got their eye on you?

The irony, as Wilhelm often points out, is that overreach often leads to failure. Not many developers have both the talent and the resources to roll out good content in many styles consistently and reliably. To do that you need to be Blizzard or Square Enix and as we've seen of late even Blizzard couldn't keep it up forever.

I had plenty of time to think about all that this morning as I tried to get back on the Allods horse. Patching up wasn't a problem. I still have the game installed and my password still works. I just have to hope they never send me any emails that need a reply because the email address I used, which is also my username, expired years ago. 

The Allods client is charmingly small compared to modern-day bloat. If I'd had to reinstall it would only have been a 12GB download. As it was, I just needed a 2GB patch. The news ticker on the launcher talks about a "new platform", arriving on December 4th but for now the old one works just fine.

I'm not sure when I last played Allods. Oh, wait... I have a blog... looks like the last time I patched was almost exactly six years ago. I do remember that for a while I was playing it on a tablet, where it works surprisingly well.

I think he's part Pointer.

That was six months earlier, in March 2015, when the game added a new race. I believe I made the account I'm now playing then, too, because when I logged in the only character waiting for me was a Priden, the first race added to the game that doesn't automatically fall into the clutches of either the Alliance or the Empire.

I would hesitate to recommend starting as a Priden. There's nothing much wrong with the race itself, "A hearty race that seemingly prefers to run around naked on four legs like an uncivilized tribe of half-beasts", according to the official website. The problem isn't who so much as where

Priden begin on their own island or, I guess, their own allod. They have a very detailed, some would say over-detailed origin and backstory, all of which plays out in a lengthy racial questline. In common with everything in Allods there's a lot of reading to get through before you kill anything.

As well as the seemingly numberless elders and trainers and wise ones, all of whom can't use ten worlds where a hundred will do, there are delegations from both the main factions, the aforementioned Empire and Alliance. As you will have guessed, assuming you've ever played any other mmorpg, at some point your character is going to have to make a choice between the two and throw in with whichever looks like the least horrible.

Even the pet pays respect.

I thought that would happen at level ten. It did not. Then I thought it would surely happen at level fifteen. I was guessing. I couldn't be sure because at level thirteen I ran out of quests. That's why I stopped last time. And the time before that.

I was enjoying myself a lot until then. Allods, as I have said every time I've written about it, is a very good theme park mmorpg. In my opinion it's the best of the WoW clones that popped up like mushrooms in the late noughties and early 2010s. It's like World of Warcraft if it had been made by crazy Russians, which is pretty much the elevator pitch.

The elvator pitch for my Priden experience the last couple of times I played would be "Imagine WoW with no quests at all and the only zone is Mulgore". I did try grinding mobs to get to fourteen to see if a new questline opened up but it was so slow I just couldn't do it. And I like grinding mobs for xp.

After ten minutes in game this morning I was about ready to give up again. I still couldn't find a single NPC who wanted anything done and the spiders I killed gave no xp at all. As I was set to leave the game for another five years, I thought to check my bags to see if I'd missed anything. 

This might be the game where I finally play an elf...

There were no quest starters lurking in the corners but I did find a consumable that said it would boost my xp by 30k. It looked like it meant it would give me a boost per kill until until I'd made that much, which wasn't great but might at least do something to help. 

I must have misread the instructions because I clicked on it and BOOM! Instant level 14!

Yeah, level fourteen. It's no big deal, is it? Doesn't even end in a five or a zero. But it changed everything because at fourteen there it is! The next racial quest! And from there they just keep coming.

I spent the next two hours very happily questing away, vaguely trying to follow the increasingly baroque storyline and struggling to keep up with the never-ending torrent of upgrades. Every quest gave me something new and at one point I got more than a dozen boxes all at once, every one of which had an upgrade to a different item.

Probably should have saved those for later but based on my history with Allods "later" could be a long time coming. I've had this account six years and I've played one character and my total played time is eight hours and eight minutes. There are mmorpgs where I've played longer than that on launch day.

Advertisement for an expansion I'm never going to see.

When I logged out I was level seventeen. There was a heady moment around level sixteen when I thought I'd come to the end of the racial storyline and maybe I was going to get to choose a team but it was just the end of a chapter not the whole tale.

I finally went and looked it up. Priden don't get to leave the island until around level twenty-five. At this rate thta's going to be some time in 2025. 

Or maybe it'll be this weekend. Just so long as the quests keep coming. Allods is fun. Always was. I might keep playing. I would like to see some of those dungeons, with that team of NPCs that mows down everything without me having to lift a paw. I've never been in a dungeon in Allods since beta and that didn't go well as I remember.

No promises but I might be back. At least long enough to get off the damn island.


  1. Oh! It's kinda funny that you complain about too much text, cause English localization actually misses a lot of flavor text, sometimes whole paragraphs got omitted.

    1. That's very interesting. It's quite possibly the most verbose mmorpg I've played and it still doesn't have all the original text. I guess Russian novels are famously long...


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