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Beau Hindman's MMO Thoughts

My name is Beau Hindman: a freelance writer, developer, artist, drummer and gamer from Austin, Texas. I've been gaming since '99 and writing about them since 2006! This is my blog about ducks. I mean MMORPGs.

Author: beauhindman

Another week in the life of an MMO explorer

Posted by beauhindman Sunday November 23 2014 at 11:00PM
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OK, so another week or so has passed us by and, as usual, I spent much of that week working. Working. Working. I have answered so many emails, in-game-messages and PMs about game mechanics, concerns and other MMO-related things that my eyes are blurring. Luckily I can take a break in as many virtual worlds as I have time for. And I do. I spend a ton of time crossing through many different worlds.

Here’s where I (mostly) went and what I felt when I went there.

Star Stable is a horsey MMO. Yes, an MMO that is all about horsies. If you like horsies, you’ll probably like this MMO. As a matter of fact, I consider the horsies in this “kid’s” MMO to be some of the best I have ever played with. You have to take care of them and customize them. If you stop caring for them you are not only a real jerk but the mount will stop performing as well. Turns and jumps won’t work as well, basically. And you’ll still be a jerk.

The MMO is based on a single-player game and you’ll often feel like you are playing in a single-player game while playing Star Stable. That’s not a bad thing, really, because from the beginning you will understand that the point of the game is to play through a very linear storyline. There are side quests and activities like racing or socializing, but the central story is so fun and the characters are so goofy that it’s easy to see how a player burns through all of the content quickly.


I just did a quest that had me find Big Bonnie (who was not particularly large) so I could drag her back to the clock tower that she broke. Well, I found her in a farmer’s silo where she had been living for years (yes, inside a silo) and was surprised to see that her non-stop diet of potatoes and isolation had made her very… interesting. Still, her story was a sad bit of information and I finally snuck her back to the village so she could make up for her past mistakes. Her plan was to hide in a sack so I could take her to her house. She ran into the house and came out…. in a mask of someone else. I love Big Bonnie.

Firefall is one of those MMOs that just sucks me in as soon as I log in. Granted, shooters tend to do this, games like PlanetSide 2 or Defiance, and a lot of that must be due to their instant-on action options. Firefall offers the same open-world, “pop-up” adventure you’ll find in those other two but it keeps everything really, really fresh. For one thing, the developers are working with characters that use jetpacks a lot. That means the game is very vertical. This height gives the game a great chance to open up like I haven’t really seen in an MMO before.

Recently the developers patched the game to include an invasion of the Melded, the in-game usual baddies. Basically there are three towers surrounding a larger tower. Players have to activate each of the smaller towers to lower the shield on the middle tower. Once the shield is lowered, players run in and try to destroy the source of the Melder’s power. Or something like that.

Fighting in Firefall is fun just how it is, but when you add a simple goal -- defend those three towers so you can destroy the one in the middle -- it becomes addictive. I could have easily killed an entire evening with the tower scenario, but my arms really started to hurt after a while. Shooters get me every time!


The great thing is that all of this content is open to anyone. Sure, newer players could be knocked out or might not perform as well as “older” players, but within the time I played that tower (and beat the enemy, by the way) I found several new friends and joined a group of players in a guild (army.) On top of all of this, Firefall is an amazing looking game.

Galaxy on Fire: Alliances is a neat mobile game with amazing, smooth graphics and interesting -- if not a bit unoriginal -- gameplay. The game offers a fantastic tutorial that suddenly becomes a hassle when it drops all of the helpful arrows and directions… and at a point when you actually need them!

Luckily for me I remembered a game with a similar set of mechanics and was able to get through the slower portion of the tutorial, but then the game goes on to ask you to join a group of players (an alliance) in order to progress in the tutorial. I put in several applications with many alliances but all of them had 7 or fewer players. Needless to say, I gave up my search and just kept playing. The game is so well made and it flows so nicely on my 8-inch Galaxy tab that I found myself opening it just to play with the pretty pixels. A battle report that is normally a bland wall of text in other MMORTS’ becomes literally an animated battle in Galaxy on Fire: Alliances. Sure, after you see the animated battle for the fourth time you skip the next one, but it’s a nifty twist.

What Galaxy on Fire: Alliances needs is more players. It might be the server I am on (if that’s even a thing) but the lack of a “world” chat and the empty spaces make for a lonely experience. Still, it’s very well made and lovely to play.

Second Life is still a great game -- er, world -- to play in. If you think the long-running experience is nothing but sex dolls and furries, then you were never exposed to the rest of Second Life. I tend to skip right over those sex-seekers (no one denies they exist, but the tools to avoid them are very easy to use) and go for the good stuff: the art galleries, the poetry readings, the amazing builds, the live music sessions and, yes, the parties. I haven’t really been to a party in Second Life in a long time, but one of my freelance employers was hosting a party and asked us all to go.

I have to say that going to a party in Second Life brought back many late-night memories. My account goes all the way back to 2004, and for many years I would hang out with virtual friends while building stuff or while seeing how bad we could make our avatars look! I look back on those 3 AM sessions and smile; the world of Second Life is still a blast to meet and discuss in.

Of course, this was a party I attended so we ended up attaching old items to our avatars (I found an intertube to go with my bear outfit) and listening to each other on voice chat. Second Life has changed in many ways over the years but at its core it is the same. It’s still just a cool experience that is often tainted in the media by stories of virtual sex. If you’re into that stuff, go for it, but I wish sites would cover the art and creative part of Second Life just as much.

The hightlight of my night in Second Life was hearing one of the players almost choke because she was laughing so hard. The almost choking part was bad, but she was laughing so hard that I couldn’t stop either! Perhaps the party best explains why Second Life is still ongoing and seemingly popular. Socializing, laughing with friends, getting into heated political discussions, building and exploring together; Second Life does all of these wonderfully.

OK. On to another week.