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WorldAlpha Column: Checking Out WorldAlpha

By Lisa Jonte on September 11, 2013

I admit, I dragged my feet a bit with this game. It just looked so complicated, so involving and requiring of attention that I was afraid it would eat my life. Turns out I was wrong, but in a good way.

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World Alpha is an MMORTS. It’s a collaborative, free to play, real-world style browser game, with more layers of involvement and detail than you can shake a cursor at.

Players work together (and individually) to build the world and influence its overall society, through four major strata of world building:  

Economy: Start by getting a basic job and buying and selling consumables. Move on to starting and maintaining an in-game business, perhaps becoming an industry mogul.

Military: Joining the army and working your way up through the ranks. Commanding troops and moving mountains.

Politics: Vote, run for office, create new political parties, propose laws and even a constitution, and basically become a power player on the political stage. Perfect for the game-oriented political wonk.

Media: Don’t like the news? Make your own. Buy a media outlet and craft your own message to the people.

After more than two years of development, (and at least one sadly lackluster funding campaign at IndieGoGo) WA was launched this summer and not only took off,  it already seems to have inspired a dedicated (nigh fanatical) player base.

The interface is aesthetically pleasing, and astoundingly easy to navigate for such an extremely detailed and involved game world. While World Alpha does require a long-term commitment (you know, if you actually want to achieve anything), it doesn’t require a huge commitment of time.  You can check in when you please and schedule tasks and move on, or you can spend the day with the browser open, carefully shepherding your character to the pinnacle of popular influence and personal capacity. Moreover, you can take it with you and advance on the go, as the game is device friendly.

Alpha Coins are the main currency, and can be earned through working jobs and selling goods. They can also be bought from the cash shop.  Earth Bucks are the cash shop currency, you can win them in the lotto, earn them in quests or, of course, buy them with real world money in the cash shop.  It’s a strange thing, buying fake world money to advance your fake world career with real world money you earned with your real world job. That’s just so meta I can barely wrap my head around it.

The good thing is, there’s no hurry to achieve greatness, or for that matter, mediocrity. The game doesn’t rush you into anything, so you can take your time and get your feet wet. Personally, I advise making full use of the starter stuff they give you, rather than just blowing money at the outset. You’ll get a better feel for the game and the direction you’d like to go, and besides, free stuff!

Once your earnest endeavors have banked you some bucks (or rather, Alpha Coins) you can think of starting a business, or maybe even moving out of your starter shack. Because really, who ever heard of a world-influencing CEO living in a shack?

WA provides a chat server that you can choose to connect to or not. You can make/invite friends, give and receive gifts to those friends, as well as transfer money (probably also to those same friends, the slackers.)  If you refer a fellow player to WorldAlpha you can get a bonus of 25% of all their future Earthbucks gained from pack purchases.

The one thing that struck me as odd though, is that not all of the quest rewards seem economically commensurate to the required task. For example: buying/owning a newspaper (a media outlet, not just an issue of the Daily Bugle) only gets you 100 Alpha Coins. But in an economy where a basic sandwich can cost 35 Alpha Coins or more, that means becoming a media mogul (however minor) is worth slightly less than three grilled cheese.

While investigating the game, I was able to ask World Alpha’s creator, Mike Koehler, a couple of questions about the recent release:

LJ - Have there been unexpected hiccups?

MK - For the most part things have gone fairly smoothly.  There are a few more bugs being found than I would have hoped for, but the community has been great at reporting them, and we are fixing them up, and continuing on.

LJ - How about unexpected joys?

MK - Honestly, it has been some of the articles written in the media section of the game.  Initially there was a citizen creating these hilarious cartoons about players in the game.  They were a riot.  It is nice to see the dedication of the players in writing excellent articles about the game, the dynamics, politics and such.

An intricate and involved world that players can influence, with an equally involved community and game creator, and it’s all free to play? What’s not to love? Go sign up and give World Alpha a shot. Get a job, conquer some industry or win the hearts and minds of society, then come back and tell us what you think. We’ll keep the comment section warm for you.

*Not to be confused with the Cube World alpha test.

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