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Thursday, July 14, 2005

A New Journey?

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The way things have been going lately, it looks like I'm going to be playing EQII for a long while. But that doesn't mean I don't keep my eyes on upcoming MMORPG's.

If you had asked me to guess three months ago which MMO I would be playing after Everquest II, I probably would have said Vanguard. Meanwhile, Hero's Journey was so far off my radar it didn't even make my
three post long round-up of upcoming MMO's.

Well, here I am now, dreading that my friends will be sucked into the Vanguard hype machine and seriously considering Hero's Journey as my next game. But let me first step back in time a bit. Why did I never consider Hero's Journey a contender? Simple, I just doubted the creators of a text based MUD, no matter how popular, would have the wherewithal and experience to make an MMORPG that can stand up to the fierce graphical competition. But, everything I've seen since then has made me reconsider my opinion.

Hero's Journey is a fantasy MMO with an emphasis on instanced zones, character creation and event-filled, crafted quests. The
company behind it is responsible for the very popular MUD's Gemstone IV and DragonRealms.

Pros: It won
Best of E3 at MMORPG.Com. While I don't put a lot of credence in awards like this, they do state that the "graphics were on par" with the heavy hitters and that it has "hands down the best character creation ever put into an MMORPG." I am a big fan of character creation because it really unlocks the creativity of players and gives them the ability to feel unique and connected to their character.

It was also
Editor's Choice at Gamerinfo.net. They have a preview up which marvels at the character creation and touches on some of the points I am about to get to.

CorpNews called it a "sleeper hit." WarCry says this game will "turn the world upside down" with "good, compelling, interactive storytelling." Well, you get the idea. Early opinions are quite positive.

But see for yourself. Check out
this video which shows a good amount of gameplay (thanks to Slaxer from the Aggro Forums for posting the link).

Can you guess my favorite part of the video? Sure, the graphics look great. Yes, the quest is very cinematic and event-filled. I like that. The combo attacks sure sound neat. But the moment that hooked me for good: When the player draws an actual line on the screen to cast an AoE spell. Wow, that really got me.

It appears you can do this for more than just AoE spells. In
this Q&A is this quote: "As one example, we demonstrated how a Wall of Burninate could be cast by drawing a line on the ground exactly where you want that wall to be. Equally important, creatures react to what is going on: the Ukar would not blindly run through that wall anymore than you would. But you can take advantage of this in many ways: divide and conquer, deny escape, route the enemy, etc." That just sounds like a ton of tactical fun to me.

If you read more of the interviews with the devs (you can find more from the Hero's Journey home page) you will find they really seem to have fun ideas. I like the way they keep bringing things back to the concept of the Hero. I'm sure their experience with MUD's will really pay off in creating the lore of the game and designing interesting quests. They are focusing on using their team of GM's to provide interactive, tailored fun.

Cons: What made PlayNet's MUD's so successful is the building of community and social connections. While I understand towns and some zones will not be instanced it appears that most of the game will be. I wonder if this will be detrimental to building a sense of community. I also feel it may make the world feel "shallow." This recent write-up of Imperator on Nerfbat gives a better explanation of what I am trying to get across. Imperator is another game that will apparently rely a lot on instances.

In the video, there was a part of the quest where the player decided to bring down an avalanche to defeat the monsters rather than fighting them. That might be cool the first time you play it, but what about when there is a walkthrough on the forums? Chances are someone in your group will have read the "correct" thing to do in a quest. I'm not saying it's not a cool break from fighting, I'm just saying don't count on it having a huge effect on gameplay.

I wonder what the end-game will be like or even if there will be one. Put another way: So much of this game appears reliant on crafted content - so what happens when you run out of it?

These are minor nitpicks. As always, I will keep my expectations low and my ears open for negative news but I must say I am excited about Hero's Journey. It would be nice to see a company with a limited production budget really come through with a great game.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be wary of Simutronics.

While they may have some initial goodness with HJ, they don't have the management chops, or remotely the customer service skills to deal with a MMORPG. The two text muds you referenced once flourished with that great community, but have been ridden into the ground with bad priorities and lack of strong leadership.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Aggro Me said...

It's definitely possible that they are biting off more than they can chew with Hero's Journey, which is why I initially dismissed it as a viable game. Now I am more willing to give them a chance.

As for Gemstone IV and DragonRealms I have to plead ignorance. I will say I have second hand accounts from EQII players who really enjoyed Gemstone.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Twodragons said...

I was a Gemstone II player back when they had Hot Summer Nights and watched Silvermane's Tavern get built. Moved to DragonRealms for a while, enjoyed that even more.

There were many live events, and the GM-Players had direct interaction with players.

And while it was I think, $2.50 an hour, I actually pulled down a $260 bill one month.

Got to love these new low monthly fee's. :)

6:11 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Imperator is canceled, BTW.

1:09 AM  

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