Posts Tagged 'online games'

They should call it Neptune’s Time Sink

If you have the misfortune to follow me on one of the social media outlets I frequent you may have been wondering why I’ve been so quiet of late. I can almost imagine you sitting there at your computer scratching your head, pondering why I haven’t replied to your poke, @reply or email. Possibly you haven’t noticed my absence. No matter, because I’ve been very unproductively engaged in a spot of inter-galactic warfare courtesy of Neptune’s Pride, a free online 4X strategy game (whatever that means) which one blogger called “the most dangerous game ever made”

He’s not far wrong. I’ve dabbled in online games before, you might remember my foray into Urban Dead, but generally I resist these kind of games as I’ve always found them exciting at first but ultimately unrewarding and unable to satisfy my goldfish like attention span. Neptune’s Pride is different because it’s continuous and very, very ponderous. Sending a fleet of spaceships to another planet takes hours, even days and it happens in real time so there’s a limited amount you can do at any one time, then you have to wait for things to very slowly happen.

The real intrigue and interest in the game comes through the chat and messaging systems where you can talk to the other players, and use to plot and scheme against each other. I like to think I’m normally a nice person (doesn’t everybody though?) but whilst playing Neptune’s Pride I had an uncontrollable urge to stab the only other player who was decent to me in the back as soon as I was able. And it felt great. The simplicity of the graphics coupled with some gorgeous avatar illustrations all add to the incredibly immersive experience.

(Artwork copyright of Iron Helmet, I only put it here because they are so lovely)

I’ve only completed two games so far and I’ve decided to stop, for a while at least. It’s the kind of game that gets into your head, I feel a compulsive need to check back on it every couple of hours, just in case the purple player has broken our truce. It consumes far too much of my mental energy and gives my girlfriend way too much ammunition for taking the piss out of me.

Oh hang about, I see the developers of Neptune’s Pride, Iron Helmet, have got another online strategy game you can play called Blight of the Immortals. Maybe I’ll just start one little game to see what it’s all about…

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Battling the Undead on the World Wide Web

arrgghhh zombie!

I’ve been doing some research this week on online games for a possible project at work and whilst trawling through the confusing pile of acronyms that this throws up, I came across Urban Dead, an HTML text based wonderfully low-fi MMO (massively multiplayer online) game.

The premise is that “you play the survivor or victim of a zombie outbreak in a quarantined city centre, alongside tens of thousands of others”. Intrigued I investigated further.

Whilst the game is overseen by a number of dedicated admins, it’s mostly shaped by the players, all 1,162,854 of them, and as the game is based on descriptive text rather than flashy graphics the scope and depth as much about the collective imaginations of the players, as it is about a planned and contained game engine. The interaction with people within the arena of a role playing game appeals to me, I really want to see how people react to what is essentially a chat room set in a George A Romero film.

Further delving revealed a whole wealth of information written by participants on subjects ranging from best tips on game play, a lexicon of zombie communication (Grh. – Sometimes used as a casual greeting between zombies) (http://wiki.urbandead.com/index.php/Zombie_Lexicon), through to a complete history of the town where the game is played pre-zombification. It seems that a lot of people really get into the part of post-apocalyptic survivors/zombies.

My favourite piece so far is this WordPress journal written by a games developer from the perspective of his character. The level of involvement the players have with their characters seems to be the secret of the game’s success, as well as adaptability to the actions the players take. Urban Dead has just celebrated it’s 4 year anniversary.

Urban Dead is free to join in and play so that’s exactly what I did. When first you sign up you’re confronted with a number of choices about what type of character you’d like to become, ranging from a well armed soldier, through to nerdy scientist. I opted for the “realistic” approach, selecting a Consumer character, with no particular special skills apart from shop-lifting. Selecting the name Argus Mcphee, I was dropped into the forbidding city of Malton.

urbandead screenshot

Despite rather enjoying fantasy action/horror as a genre (well who doesn’t love a good zombie movie?), I was ill prepared for my first foray into the world of MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing games).

After using my ‘Action Points’ to wander around the neighbourhood a bit, I found myself in an isolated part of town and unable to get inside ran out of AP and my character promptly fell asleep. This is a cardinal sin, leaving yourself stranded outside leaves you easy prey for zombies, and so it proved when I logged back in to check on my character a few hours later, he’d been torn to pieces by a pack of flesh-hungry ghouls.

Bugger – I hadn’t even survived a whole weekend.

I really got drawn into the world of Urban Dead and, albeit briefly, I really cared for the fate of young Argus Mcphee, and despite the fact it was a text based game I got quite involved, seeing in my mind’s eye the ruined buildings and rubble strewn streets of a fictional city.

Apparently my newly zombified character can be returned to human status by a scientist with the correct injection, so I’m going to log in and shamble off in search of one. Now how do zombies go again… ah yes… “Grrrrrhhhhhhhhhh!”

UPDATE: changed post header but still check out Timo Grubing’s zombie-a-day blog.