Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Gamer's Diary - 2009-05-02

Yesterday I installed and played three free games I'd heard about through blogs and forums.

Progress Quest is, quite literally, a joke. It's an RPG that plays itself, a satire on the grind one finds in every game in the genre. No player input is required or accepted once it starts running. It kills enemies automatically, picks up loot drops automatically, sells loot automatically when encumbered, and upgrades equipment automatically.

Progress Quest distills an RPG down to what its author sees as the essentials - the grind - and then automates that. It says, "RPGs are so mindless and stupid, and offer so little actual choice, that a robot could play them and win. Here's one that does."

The Linear RPG is a similar kind of satire, though this one gives the player some choice. The player can move left, move right, or stand still. One's health goes down as one moves left or right (from automatically resolved random enemy encounters), and experience points go up. Death at zero health points subtracts some XP and resets health to match, while reaching the end of a segment restores health (an "inn" or "save point"). Each segment further to the right has more damaging enemies.

So here the author sees the essence of RPGs as the cycle of fighting, resting, and grinding levels by going back and fighting weaker enemies. It takes about ten minutes, it's mildly amusing, and there's an associated text story that scrolls up and down as one moves right and left along the path.

FreeRealms wouldn't install or run in either of Crossover Games or VMware with Windows XP, so I had to put it on my Windows XP partition. It ran fine there.

This game is Sony Online Entertainment's first try at bringing a Korean-style micro-transaction-based MMORPG to a Western audience. The player plays for free, but pays for conveniences and for gameplay-neutral customizations (such as costumes).

I spent a few minutes with it, and will probably return at some point. It was easy enough to play, and seems squarely aimed at the casual player who may only want to solo and play a couple of hours a week. It also seems almost aggressively family-friendly, as if it were a Disney MMO for kids. I'll have to see later if I can find a dark side in it.

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