You know, playing UO again has brought up a lot of questions in my mind about the current systems that games use, and about graphics.
Much of the UO game-play is simple, yet complex. For example, you pick out what skill you want to work on and work on it. Sounds easy enough, but over time you find yourself picking out the oddest skills just to try out something new. It's fun, and soon you obsess.
A skill based system takes guts to put into your game, I think. Many gamers don't WANT that many choices, and that's fine. Many are fine with a limited, cookie cutter class system. I am a fan of it myself.
But sometimes it's fun to work out that inner chef that's just dying to get out. It feels good to farm a bit, to get a part-time job gathering eggs, just to turn around an hour later to go off and kill wolves.
All this is possible in a good skill based game. Granted, many of the skills require a lot of time to gain levels in, so if you are into high levels you are in for a long road. In many games that means a lot of grinding quests and mobs. Luckily, a game like Mabinogi provides other distractions that make it seem less like a typical free to play grindfest.
As you play, you gain experience in certain skills. You can learn anything from making a fire to melee combat. You have to earn AP points to spend on those skills, and as your character "ages" you have a harder time earning those AP. That's where games like this get the reputation of "forcing" players to spend real life money: from making the game much easier (depending) if you throw down pretty much the equivalent of a regular MMO subscription price.
I just had a conversation with a player that told me that the latest patch will make many of the items that you normally would pay for free. He told me that I would have had to buy these items normally if I had ever wanted to be truly powerful. I told him I would probably stick to fluff pets!
But the cash shop DOES offer some very nice items. Every new account gets a sample of some of the items from the cash shop, and I used them up quickly. Basically you get extra storage space, resurrection feathers, things that aren't needed to play at all, but very very handy. One item allowed me to rez next to my body instead of at the graveyard. A jiggly Anime woman would appear when I died and ask me for a rez. Who am I to say no?
One popular item allows you to become "reborn." Essentially it resets your character (and appearance if you pay more) so that you can earn AP points easier. Also, you can add a new face or hairstyle and, I think, can re-adjust some skill points. According to some players, this item is a MUST HAVE for the extra AP points you can get. Essentially they are saying that the time saved is a must-have, not the item.
I see no issues with the cash shop, and in fact I wish all games would allow the choice. Many "normal" MMO players don't seem to understand that none of the free to play games (at least the 30 or so I have played) ever offer the very best items only in the cash shop. Do some of them offer some very NICE items? Sure. But you still cannot get away from needing in game cash to buy all the good armor and weapons, and that cannot be bought in a cash shop.
I have maintained that no cash shop game will ever just sell the best items in the cash shop. Not only do I think that the developers are smarter than that, but the years of Asian market free-to-play games has proven this. They know how to keep people hooked, and it ain't by selling the best gear in the game.
After you get into Mabinogi, you start to realize that is actually the type of game that so many players beg for when they talk about "open sandbox games" or "total freedom." Not only do you have freedom in how much you think the game is worth to you, but you have the choice of never seeing combat, or of doing nothing but murdering animals all day.
All I did during my play today was work for a church, gathering different types of items in exchange for items and XP. Between the hiring windows, I would go gather other items, chat with players and get to know the game.
And that brings me to something you should do as soon as you log in: get rid of the spam bots.
In every F2P game they seem to have no issues whatsoever with bots running scripts selling in game items or gold. Nine times out of ten there is no GM presence, and customer service is a joke. In fact, I have become so used to this that it just doesn't surprise me. Mabinogi is no different, being that when you roll into town you are happy to see all the players and then quickly realize that you cannot read a word they are saying because of the constant gold-selling spam.
Do this: go to your options and then to the chat area. There will be a "blacklist" area that you can add names to. Right click on the offending bot and hit "copy name." Then, go back to the black list area and ctrl-v the name into the blank. Accept it and they are on your blacklist, meaning they will not show up in your chat box anymore.
But you will still see their chat bubbles.
Don't worry, hit ctrl-n and names and chat bubbles go away. Voila! No more gold spam.
The gold spam is so prevalent in these games and so hard to avoid that I seriously think that these games are receiving some kind of kick-back from the whole process. It's pathetic. But, at least you can ignore it.
The combat in Mabinogi is....unique. Without going into too many details (I am lazy above all) you basically have moves that you make and that can be countered by mobs. You can do the same to mobs. Essentially, I go up to a mob, decide what kind of attack I want to make and that attack gets ready. I click on the mob again and hopefully the attack lands.
Now, there is a lot to it. It's gets pretty complex but still runs fluidly and looks great. Sometimes, it seems like you can get killed by the weakest of monsters. But I like the fact that you need to think first before jumping into combat. Sometimes a mob can catch you off guard and take away half your health within one or two hits. It can be frustrating, even as you get better at it, and I've yet to master any of it. I would like to go into much more detail but frankly I don't quite understand how to counter some moves and how to read what the enemy is thinking.
The combat is fun, though, and very rewarding. Smashing that mob for a critical feels really good. But thank Dog they have pets in this game.
And pets are one of the best features of Mabinogi. You can buy them on the market or get them from other places. I believe you can even tame them with music now. Essentially, they can level up and learn new skills. Some will heal you, some will fight better than others, and many of them will pick up dropped loot for you. All of them have inventory space to pack stuff into.
Horses were recently added to the game and they are not only beautifully done but handy as all get out. They can fight with you, act as just a mount, or transport you and a friend in a speedy speedy fashion. Pack stuff into their bag space, or use them to heal you. I am amazed at some of the handy features these pets have, stuff I have always wanted like the ability to actually name your pet and your pets ability to help you fight. (And die.)
And get this: you can play as your pet. Even just the role-play potential of this astounds me! Imagine an entire guild of only animals, running around the landscape smashing evil! (Or good, of course.)
You can give them commands, and the cash shop is always adding new ones. Some of the animations look like a cartoon, fluid and bright. I can't stand Anime, but I always gave Anime props for it's details. And robots. Lot's of robots.
The actual world is beautiful, but a little limited and has some odd effects. The glow effect can be overwhelming sometimes, and the view distance is...strange. You will look off into the distance and will see shadowy forms of far away buildings with the trees showing through, like an image behind smoky glass.
But the animations are fluid and fun. The attacks feel powerful and the customization options are awesome. Once in a while a character looks so good that it makes me want to get to that higher level just to look that cool. Then I realize that their look is more than likely the result of hours and hours and hours of game-play.
The weather system looks good and feels good, but could be turned up a notch or 4. Rain actually falls down at you, like in Ryzom.
I'm struck by a few things now that I am more familiar with the game. Just some points that I want to make in closing.
1) This kind of quality is only going to become more common. This is for free, and updated regularly. This type of game is the future of MMO's.
2) I wonder how many adults steer clear of games like this mainly because of the graphics? So many of the features in this game are often touted as what a real MMO should have, and here it is, for free. I am not sure I see the difference between playing WoW or Vanguard and playing this. After all, some games look more realistic than others, but the game-play should be the most important thing right? I understand that some feel that a game like this is "for children," but think about what you are saying: "My pretend world is for adults, that pretend world is for children."
3) Cash Shops are the future. Not only is it smarter to allow people choices, but it is smart because some people just cannot resist that latest fluff pet or XP potion. Many players would probably spend way more than a typical sub price per month. These games make millions. I just had a conversation with a player that told me he spent 100 dollars one month.
4) Playing this game after playing UO for a few evenings is a cool way to see how far games have come and how far they need to go. Also, it amazes me that (like I said in my UO post) more MMO's don't use some of the awesome ideas from UO to build on. Just SOME of them would be nice, like a skill based system, or fun, non-combat skills like cooking or gathering. Many games have some of these, but Mabinogi has a ton of skills I have never seen in an MMO before.
5) Ok, I am not THAT old, but what the hell is "...." ? I just asked Leala's guild and they reaffirmed what I thought: it is supposed to be a response someone gives you when they are just blankly staring at you, or looking at you like you are a total dumbass. I know it's an Anime kid thing, by holy crap do you have to answer with "..." after EVERY QUESTION?
Beau: "Hey man, how are you today?"
Beau: "Well, at least you didn't make one of those stupid emote kitty faces huh?"
Seriously, go try out this game. Go download it, take away the chat and the chat bubbles and forget the fact that it is so cartoony. Enjoy the game-play. And yes, try some role-play. This game is GREAT for it, but I haven't found anyone yet. To be honest I am a little scared of talking in character at anyone, being that a good deal of the players I have met have been under 15!
Well, I did meet one 20 year old. When I told him I was 34, he said "Holy crap, dude."
Go log in, enjoy. Give it a chance.