26 September 2011

Linux and the MMO - A Couple First Impressions

While I've written earlier about briefly trying out some MMORPG's, I've never really gotten into them. Partly this has been because there are few cool games that would run on my system, partly 'cause I guess they don't really seem like my kind of games in the end, what with quests often being somewhat repetitive and me not really being that interested in the whole social gaming thing.

Recently, though, I decided to try out a couple more, just for the heck of it. This is part of my search for interesting games that are a) free, b) run natively in GNU/Linux, and C) actually run without problems on my notebook (for example, I recently wrote about the FPS game Cube 2: Sauerbraten). I really haven't delved deeply into either of these games, having basically just played a few tutorial quests, so they really are just first impressions.

First of all, we've got Ryzom. This game made headlines last year when they released their source code, along with graphics assets, as open source. The game maps, quests etc. weren't included, however, so the official servers are still the only ones you can really use. And it's still a pay-to-pay game, I'm afraid, with monthly subscription fees. However, they've now got a fairly extensive 'free trial', with no time limits, but with a cap on skill levels (kinda like WoW is these days, I guess).

The installation's pretty hefty, over 6 gigs. But I was rather surprised to see the game start pretty much 'out-of-the-box', without problems. Well, that's how it seemed, until I got inside the game, and discovered it to be rather laggy. I can't say whether this is due to high ping (which appeared to jump about in the 200-1000 range each time I've tried the game), or whether my machine is a factor (although I believe it should meet the requirements). The game's been more or less playable for now, but it is still annoying.

The world of the game can probably be best described as fantasy, but it attempts to be somewhat more original than the majority of western RPG titles, in terms of scenery, species etc. The interface and game mechanics appear to be fairly conventional MMORPG fare, though, at least from the perspective of a noob like me.

The second game is a rather less known title called Eternal Lands. This game has been around since 2003, and is free to play. There is a store for items, additional races etc., but these are nothing vital to the game. In comparison to the heavy Ryzom, the full installation of this game is a mere 232 mb. Which does of course show in the amount of graphical detail. But it, as well, ran 'out-of-the-box', and more smoothly than Ryzom.

One of the first words that springs to mind when describing this game is 'quaint'. Not sure if this is good or bad, really. As I indicated, the graphics are by no means state of the art, but that's not necessarily very important to me in a game. The interface isn't perhaps quite as modern and intuitive as Ryzom's. It is very mouse oriented, and kinda puts me in mind of old point & click adventures. You walk by clicking on the ground (or a destination on the map, which is quite handy, actually), and even need to cycle through walk/use/look modes (which I find rather less handy).

The gameplay itself places a lot of emphasis on harvesting and manufacturing, but there's some combat as well. One feature I don't like is the necessity to eat regularly. (You won't die of hunger, but a negative food gauge will have negative effects on some aspects of the game. This all seems like needless complication to me.) The style is much more conventional fantasy than Ryzom's, and I haven't yet run into any particularly interesting story hooks.

So, to sum up, points in favour of Ryzom are its more original setting, and its relatively modern looks and interface. However, I still have concerns about its performance, and I cannot yet say how restrictive the level limits of free accounts really are. Eternal Lands, on the other hand, is free, fairly light, and doesn't require a state of the art machine to run. My main concern with it is whether it holds enough interest in the long run. I don't really expect to be playing a lot of either game, although you can never know what the future brings, of course...

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