Friday, January 28, 2022

Reading The Signs In Chimeraland


In a comment on yesterday's post, Redbeard expressed some surprise at the depth of  my involvement, not to say infatuation, with Chimeraland. It surprises me, too, although perhaps not as much as the complete radio silence across the rest of the blogosphere and the Western mmo press concerning the game's very existence. Am I literally the only one playing it?

Well, maybe around here I am, although my relentless battering at the gates seems to have triggered a flicker of interest in at least a handful of readers. I'm very much looking forward to reading the first First Impressions post from someone who's actually gone so far as to install the game and try it out (And got further than Character Creation, naming no names...)

Chimeraland may not have gathered much traction here in the West but as far as I can gather it's very much a hit in other territories, specifically Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. I took the shot below of the server select screen yesterday at around seven in the evening. That's three in the morning over there, about the quietest time in any mmorpg.

Every server is flagged "Busy", the highest population marker available. The only exception is a new server that was just added and flagged "recommended" for new players. I tried to make a character there and it wouldn't let me. The server was too congested to allow more accounts to join.

Since the day I started, I have never seen my server at anything less than "Busy". There are houses everywhere, in all states of construction, from one slab dropped carelessly on the ground to massive castles.  Evidently a lot of people have been playing, even if they haven't all taken to home-ownership with equal enthusiasm.

Despite the evidence of occupation, I don't see crowds of people everywhere I go. Hardly surprising, given the local time, although it may have as much to do with the sheer size of the world. Chimeraland has four continents, all accessible immediately, making for a reported nine billion square feet of virtual land to explore and exploit.

The world around me isn't empty of other players as I travel, even so. Far from it. I see other people passing by on weird mounts. Trees fall around me as other players chop them down. At the one beast tribe outpost I know, there are always other questers, dropping by to pick up their dailies or buy things from the vendors.

I've seen plenty of big battles as players come together to bring down Noble or Grand beasts. As I mentioned in previous posts, I did try joining in a few times but it never went well for me. Now I just watch from a safe distance. 

Last night, though, I somehow found myself more personally involved in a communal enterprise. I was just along the riverbank from my house, looking for Green Rock to mine for Pale Jade, when I spotted a Totem. 

Lower-left, you can see a neglected, decaying home. It's made of wood and without repair moss has grown all over it. In the background is my house. It's made of stone and in pristine condition. I don't know how stone ages and I don't intend to test it on my own property.

There are various kinds of totems, two at least. If you activate them, waves of mobs appear, culminating in a mini-boss. There's xp and rewards to be had and they're quick, if not always easy. I'd been gathering for a while and I was in the mood for a fight so I set the thing off.

The first wave had barely started when another player came charging up and joined in. I have no clear idea how credit is allotted in Chimeraland but I've tagged on to plenty of big fights and no-one's sent me any angry whispers so I guess it's cool. Anyay, I was more than happy to have the help. 

Then something unexpected happened. A party invite popped up. I thought about it for a moment then shrugged and said "Why not?" Even though I don't do as much grouping as I used to, I'm never averse to a good PUG and I'm always more prone to accepting offers in a brand new mmorpg, if only so I can learn how the mechanics of grouping work, should I need to know later.

As with most things in Chimeraland, I still don't really understand it even after doing it. I accepted the first offer and another popped up to ask me if I also wanted to join Party Chat. I've never known a game that differentiated between speaking and non-speaking roles in a group context before. 

I accepted that as well, not that it made any difference. No-one ever spoke. Although, now I come to think about it as I write this, I never have a chat window open in the game. It's closed by default and I leave it that way. Maybe there was a constant stream of conversation going on the entire time. 

There certainly could have been because the party kept getting bigger and bigger. New players kept arriving and tagging in until there were five of us. Each time we reached the end of a set of three waves and downed the mini-boss, a big chest dropped. When I've done these totem events alone, that's when I stopped but it seems, as with most things in the game, my ignorance has been hiding things from me.

Each time, when I expected the fun to end and the party to disband, someone went to the totem again, clicked it and started another round. I didn't count them but there must have been half a dozen or more, each a little harder than the last. 

Finally, a really big mob appeared. I think he probably deserves to be called a Boss, not just a mini-boss. He took some time to whittle down and he had some impressive moves, not least the one where he flew about a hundred feet into the air and summoned a giant whirlwind. 

In the end we got him down and a more impressive, metallic chest appeared. We all looted that and suddenly I found myself all alone again. Everyone else had jumped on their various strange creatures and headed out in different directions. 

I struggled for a while, trying to find a way to leave the party, without success. After a couple of minutes there were just two of us and then there was just me. I went back to my gathering and mining, a little wiser in the ways of the world but not all that much. 

This is one of the stranger things about Chimeraland. I'm reasonably certain it's a well-populated, successful game at this early stage of its life and yet there's no evidence of the usual support structure I've come to expect. I'm used to even minor releases quickly generating wikis and guides and walkthroughs, especially when the official launch follows lengthy periods in Early Access or Open Beta.

Bless Unleashed, for example, was by no means a huge hit, when it launched last summer. Even so, there were plenty of resources available right from the start. I enjoyed learning the systems for myself because that's one of the biggest attractions for me of playing any new game, but I always knew that when I got stuck, as I inevitably did, I'd be able to go and look up the solution somewhere.

I think this excellent umbrella was a login reward but it could have been a drop in the totem trial. It's all a bit of a blur...

About the only semi-reliable source of information I've found for Chimeraland is the subReddit and that's as hit-or-miss as you'd imagine. Most Google searches I run for problems I can't figure out for myself bring up nothing but YouTube videos, very few of which are any help at all.

I wonder if this is at least in part the result of the cross-platform nature of the game? Are extensive wikis the province of PC players? Do mobile games also attract players willing to address themselves to documenting video games in obsessive detail or are they more likely to pull in players who just want to play?

For that matter, how many people are playing Chimeraland on PC as opposed to on a phone or a tablet?

Based on the original news release I read at MassivelyOP, which alerted me to the game's existence in the first place, I had been under the impression the January 6th launch was global. That certainly seems to be the case for the PC version but Kluwes mentioned in a comment that he hadn't been able to download the mobile version and it doesn't appear on Google Play for my Kindle Fire, either 

The headline of this article at GamingOnPhone clarifies matters: "Chimeraland is now live in selected regions", those regions being the ones I listed at the top of the post. The piece explains, if somewhat ungrammatically, "Since it is currently live only in these select regions so only the interested players residing in those regions only can play the game from their respective app stores" and then goes on to detail how players in other regions can get around the IP blocks.

Or you could just play it on PC. That works. Except PC players don't appear to be interested, which is both a pity and also quite odd. I guess this is exactly why games like this need to be on Steam.

Then again, Genshin Impact isn't and it seems to have done pretty well for itself. Remember when it appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, to huge interest and acclaim? Part of the narrative surrounding that unexpected success was that it might herald an era of free-to-play games that were actually content rich and polished rather than minimal effort cash grabs.

As well as flying me around, my Vultura has an astonishingly powerful fireball attack. I didn't get a shot of him in action but he did a huge amount of damage in the big fight.

Chimeraland looks very much to me like a fulfilment of that hopeful prediction. I'm sure it has plenty of flaws and it's entirely possible there's some whale-hunting or pay-to-win grind lurking in the end game, but as with Genshin Impact there certainly seems to be one heck of a lot of stuff to do before then and it all seems pretty well crafted and fun.

I'm definitely not in the business of promoting games. I just write about what I'm playing. If I sound enthusiastic about something it's because I'm enjoying myself, not because I have any agenda to make the game sound better than it really is.

I'm also painfully aware that I find a lot more pleasure in learning systems and mechanics in a new mmorpg than I'm ever likely to get from practicing and perfecting them. Most of my First Impressions and early gameplay posts are wildly over-optimistic about my prospects of playing the game long term. The truth is, I almost always wander off to play something else well before I even reach the level cap.

Even allowing for all of that, though, I think Chimeraland is something of a gem in the genre. I'm glad it's popular somewhere. Maybe if it rolls out that mobile launch around the world it'll even be popular here some day. And maybe then someone will start a wiki for it. I wish they would.

Maybe I'd even contribute, only I'd be the worst! As I'm coming to realise, almost everything I've written about the game so far is either factually inaccurate or a misunderstanding. I might have to do a whole post going back and correcting all the mis-assumptions and errors I've committed to print.

God forbid anyone googling for help should end up here!

5 comments:

  1. Unfortunately trying to play the game chokes my PC out to the point of bluescreens and such.
    I'm not entirely sure why!

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    1. That is weird. My PC is about 6-7 years old now, at least, and it was barely mid-range when I got it, but it plays Chimeraland very smoothly. I haven't touched the graphics settings since I started so it's not because of anything I've done. Hope you get it sorted, if you're still interested in playing.

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    2. It's very weird. Nothing about the game seems like it should be doing that, and games that seem quite a bit more demanding run smoothly. I'm planning a big PC overhaul in March, perhaps by then...?

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  2. Well, at least your posts picked my attention and now I am the proud single EU timezone player on my server... so I think, I've run across maybe 3? 4? non-NPC travelers, plus the chat is always filled with Chinese. Anyway, the fun is on walking the road, not reaching the destination. I enjoy bumbling around, trying to figure out stuff on my own without the pressure of knowing that "someone wrote The Guide To The Right Way To Play Chimeraland (and you're a fool to miss stuff and fail by trial and error)."

    Reddit is useless, YT videos are clickbait and my usual log in time it's around 6 AM in SEA so i'm pretty much on my own. Most monsters aren't aggressive, gathering is fun-ish, and someday I'll figure how to add a second or third floor to my house and will move it away from the land of bloody wolfspiders (those beasts are ugly as f***).

    And once the romance is over... it's over.

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    1. Heh! That's about it for me, too. I'm not the greatest sandbox fan because once you know how it all works you're left with actually spending time there using your knowledge to... what? That's always where I come unstuck.

      As sandboxes go, though, I'm finding a lot more hooks in Chimeraland than usual to hang my interest on. There are a lot of systems and most of them are reasonably coherent and comprehensible. The building and construction is some of the best-balanced I've seen between free-build crativity and snap-in-place. Gathering is as fun as it is in any game - if you ever enjoy that type of gameplay, which I do, you'll enjoy it here. And the core activity, what I suppose is the point of the game, if it has one, namely collecting and cross-breeding weird creatures, well, that has the potential to be fun in and of itself for at least as long as it takes to collect them all.

      Add in a very large, open world to explore and it's a pretty sweet deal... for free! I made myself a boat yesterday - well, a sailboard - and sailing that is a pure pleasure al its own.

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