Laura Genender travels to OZ to give us an "At a Glance" look at this social MMO.
This weekend, I tried out the World of Oz. A fairly small game, Oz is a game about meeting new people and socializing with friends, as well as progressing through levels (a social game with a grind!) to purchase new accessories and clothing for your character.
The main activity in Oz is fishing. Well, it's the only activity, really. Players start with a training rod and two types of bait, and can buy better rods/more bait as they progress through the levels. Fishing itself is simple and gets boring after a while - players stand near the water, cast, wait about a minute, and then pull the fish in. Depending on your level, the "pulling" phase can vary from one to multiple clicks - my longest "pull" in the first five levels of the game was two clicks.
As you fish, you gain experience - fishing in "parties" and at "party spots" gives more experience toward leveling up. In addition, different fish are found at different locations - while party spots are the best spots for experience, there are other places that are better for earning gold. As you progress through the levels more spots and more fish types open up to you, as fishing gets progressively more difficult.
Fishing is the only way to level up in Oz, and contrary to my original expectations for a social game, levels do matter. Your clothing choices and other important purchases are limited based on your fishing skill; even if you can afford a hot new pair of jeans, you have to be at least level 16 to put them on. Players can't even purchase flowers (1 gold, an item that can be gifted to other players to let them know you think they are cute, funny, smart, etc) until level five!
To be honest, I think I would have enjoyed Oz more without the fishing. The attraction of the game is in the social aspects, not the watering holes. Walking down the streets and entering the shops, Oz looks like a ghost town - players have no reason to spend any time away from the fishing spots, and making that the only mode of socialization. Unfortunately though, most of the players I fished with (while very nice) were playing flash games, doing homework, or busy with something else on the side. I had very little conversation for the majority of my playtime.
The conversation I did have was refreshing. People were nice - though a more casual crowd than I usually hang out with - and were helpful with introducing me to the basic functions of the game, whether or not they were one of the volunteer helpers (ELFs). I didn't have a single encounter with an unhappy or rude person, amazing in today's MMO world.
Talking to several of my fellow players, they too were bored of doing nothing but fishing. One of my fishing buddies started up a Secret Santa event via the in-game forums, while another suggested that the game would be better with more mini-games, such as cooking.
Oz does have several unique social opportunities available to their players that cannot be found in your average MMO. For example, weddings in Oz do not have to take place between a male and a female - two males or two females can get hitched in this world. The in-game forums allow more communication between players and, with a forum just for user-created events; players can create their own non-fishing content.
And while it isn't developer created, Oz is also unique in this industry due to its player base - there are many, many more female players than there are male. When I originally created a female avatar I received very little special attention, but my next character - this time male - had several avid admirers. I even made a girlfriend!
The game is free to download and has no subscription, though players can buy currency from the game's official website. New clothing and fishing gear can be bought with either gold (earned through fishing) or cash (bought on the website). Cash can be converted into gold, but not vice versa.