The Free MMO Roundup : Shadowgate
The Free MMO Roundup : Shadowgate (or west west west stab *curse*)
Gamers today are faced with a thousand and one options for their online gaming enjoyment. Thankfully each genre, sub genre and type of player is presented with a dizzying array of options. These games provide amazing graphical experiences, challenging game play and countless hours of entertainment. What most of these games have lost though is individual impact.
But I have impact! Im the top rated <insert pirate, city manager, pet groomer> on the entire game! My <insert guild, clan, corporation> lubs me!
You may have impact now because you are able to dominate your small section of the game trouncing the competition and your name is up in a flashy hall of fame for today but if you close the game for a weekend you’re gone. You haven’t made anything lasting with your game play because the hall of fame will continue to tick along and all the work you did just sits idle for the competition to pick off. (I’m sure my marvelous city in Evony is now just a garden ornament for whoever moved into the area and my guild in Vindictus probably bounced me two days after I wasn’t active).
But why have we lost impact?
We lost impact when games became more about graphical achievement and less about the interaction of players within the environment. Few people remember that online games started without graphics and were focused on the environment, the story and the dynamics between characters. I speak of course about the humble MUD (multi user dungeon). For those who haven’t heard the history I strongly suggest the wiki entry here. MUDs for the most part abandon graphics for extensive descriptions played through a client or telnet. Instead of a mouse or game pad, you type your directions to your character in an environment with other players doing exactly the same thing. Think of it as playing a giant dungeons and dragons table top game with a group separated by countries, continents and time zones.
Weren’t you going to talk about a game?
Before I do that, full disclosure, I am one of the ‘immortals’ of this particular MUD. Think of an ‘immortal’ as the GM, the developer, and the community manager. We develop the code for the game constantly as it grows, and act as the game master to run plots manage players and generally make the game a lot more interactive. As an immortal I have a vested interest in getting more players to play, but at the same time I don’t get paid for my work, and the MUD itself is free with NO option to donate or pay money. This of course makes it unique among online games but keeps things fair and allows the use of creative commons licensing. The MUD is called Shadowgate (http://www.shadowgate.org/). The game follows the tried and tested formula of a role playing game and the character a player creates grows from level 1 on to greatness gathering skills, equipment, friends and enemies. The world is persistent and characters can have amazing impact on it in a thousand different ways. It also has no end point and due to the constant player and immortal interaction there is always some conflict or trouble to enjoy while you play. It is also a game that provides immersion as everything is role-played within the setting that has been created.
You make it sound like puppies and rainbows, what’s the catch?
There are catches, ones that have stymied more than one MUD. Players have become so accustomed to graphics and pretty effects that getting back into a mindset of being creative in written form can feel ‘off’. A lot of people don’t do creative writing so it feels rusty at first. It becomes second nature after awhile though and it is an amazing outlet for those who do love being super creative and show off their writing skills. The second catch is the learning curve. While most online games can be learned by scanning the user interface for ten seconds a MUD takes a lot longer. Shadowgate helps a lot by providing a tutorial area that teaches commands slowly and the community is always ready to assist with any questions that come up. Once you get into the game and get the commands down it flows a lot more and the creativity takes over from the basic syntax.
So drop by, read the web site and come create a character. Let the community know you’re new, why you’re there, and what you’re looking for in the game and see what you think. It’s a great addictive game that I’ve played for over a decade and I’ve always returned.