Sunday, June 3, 2012

You're A Card And No Mistake! : The Missing Ink

MMO development costs are a bit of a hot button issue right now, what with the 38Studios train wreck, SWTOR layoffs, Dominus shutdown and all. It's the voiceovers, isn't it? Can't make an MMO without voiceovers. Or the story. Just GOT to have a story. Then there's the art assets, they must cost millions. And the animations, don't get me started on the animations.

Actors, artists, animators, writers - they all want paying! Then someone has to ride herd on the lot of 'em and that means management and you know how much managers are worth... And that's before you even get to the folks who actually code the thing. No wonder everyone's coming cap-in-hand to us, the players, to put our hands in our pockets and get the projects kickstarted.

Someone's mower's got a wonky wheel

If only you could make an MMO with cardboard cut-outs. Think how much money you'd save. Couldn't happen, could it? That's got to be about as likely as your in-game character looking back out the screen at you and matching your movements like a Marx Brothers routine.

Your Author, Gentle Reader
Well, there's a theory that goes "if it can be done it will be done" and now someone did. Yesterday I signed up for The Missing Ink alpha and that's my character over there >>>

Not only is he a cardboard cut-out, he hasn't even been cut out very well! You can still see quite a lot of his white background where someone's just gone round him really lazily with a pair of those blunt child-friendly scissors. They probably don't allow them anything sharp where these developers are.

Where is that, by the way. It's Brighton? Ohhhh! Now I get it!

For those not in the know, over the last couple of decades Brighton's made a fair run at becoming Britain's San Francisco. Without the sunshine, obviously. Or the scenery. If something sounds too off the wall to be happening, chances are it's happening in Brighton.

Build or Bash? The eternal quandary

These wacky guys and their hipster cool, hey? This is going to be Glitch all over again I bet. Except it isn't. Not hardly. (I should clarify at this point that I can't stick Glitch. I tried it and it made my skin crawl). The Missing Ink is not Glitch.

So what is it? Let's hear it from the horse's mouth: "The Missing Ink, when fully launched will 'probably' be the world's first MMORPG with a fully integrated sandbox 3D virtual world for every player". I like that "probably". It indicates the kind of groundedness this project is going to need. And then some.

Don't hit me, I'm a dentist!
So, I'm winding up to slam this crazy cardboard cut-out hipster nonsense, right? That's where all this going. Nope. Not even close. I loved it. It's a demented take on the traditional MMO done with wit and style. I only meant to take a quick a look but I ended up playing for a couple of hours and getting to level 4, which took a satisfyingly long time.

The Missing Ink is another alpha  that feels like a beta to me. It's an open alpha so you can register and play in a couple of minutes. It will play in a browser but the window is pretty small. There's the option of a downloadable client as well and if you take the few minutes it takes to get that and install it you can play The Missing Ink full-screen. Do that. It looks wonderful.

Anytown, MMO

Your character is a flat, two-dimensional cut-out but he (she? it?) lives in a fully-realised 3D world. That was a surprise and a charming one. The hills roll, the sea shimmers, the paths wind. It's an MMO landscape you'll recognize, with scattered villages peopled by knights, blacksmiths and peasants. Flat ones. Some of them have books floating over their heads. Guess what they are.

Kill or Cure? Kill and Cure!
Quests, check. Combat, check. Drops, check. They should have gotten Prince to do the music 'cos it feels like it's 1999, but I'm glad they didn't because, well, those costs... and whoever did the music did a great job, as did whoever put all the bird sounds in.

It's one of those MMOs where I felt drawn in immediately. I have a good deal more to say on it but I want to dig in a bit deeper first. I didn't find the plot yet (apparently there is one) and I don't understand how to use the sandbox tools. I'll get back to you but in the meantime go take a look. There's something in this one, I'm sure of it.


  1. This is an absolute gem of a find. Thank you for posting about it! It was very easy to hop right in and play. The weapons have abilities built into them which makes for very easy playstyle swapping. I equipped a wand with three spells on it and only have found a charm with two heals on it and it was an instant playstyle change from the sword I had. I will be testing and watching to see how this unfolds. It definitely held my attention.

  2. Glad to see someone else enjoying it! Very early days for this one but they've laid a solid foundation and it could end up being something very interesting, I think.


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