As occasionally happens, our conversation continued after the previous strip, nourished by the rich loam of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. You can get pretty far out there and still remain canonical. I had a bit in there about the pungent natural oils a wookiee paw might secrete, but I removed it because it couldn’t be supported by the text. I can’t be titillated fully unless my erotic fantasy realms are internally consistent. I’ve had to disentangle myself from a Trandoshan 3-way (“hrokk’nos”) because there was something seriously wrong with their bandoleers.
Having spent the entire weekend up to my eyes in games which are Free To Play (in the same way a nightcrawler knotted on a fishhook is “free to bite”) I started to “get” it in a way I hadn’t before. I was juggling Spiral Knights and Dragon Nest, wondering which one I should play, when it occurred to me that these games were designed to create precisely this kind of indecision.
Guild Wars was able to exist on a similar axis because it eschewed the monthly charge, in an era where the Monthly Charge was an assumption. I can’t tell you how many times between games I installed the (freely available) client to visit old haunts. I synced up my new box with my Chrome account, and a few link appeared on my bookmark bar to games I hadn’t played in months. Being Free To Play games, one of which installed directly from the browser window, all it took was the mildest form of curiosity in a bored moment to kick off a two day jag.
“Looks Good For A Browser Game” is rapidly becoming a nonsense piece of terminology. Putting completely aside the advent of a strong Unreal Engine implementation, if you play Spiral Knights at max res with AA turned up, you won’t have much to complain about. Dragon Nest, too, understands what it’s up against: like a velociraptor, it must do battle with great creatures on its own terms, and it does this by being beautiful and fast. It’s not quite as turn-key as Spiral Knights, but it’s not onerous by any means, and the payment one receives from its frenetic speed more than balances the books.
Where both of these games excel is in their moment to moment play, which we may describe as “play” without the hedging we must do when describing an MMO. That was the strangest bit of the weekend. When called upon to describe these two games, I said that they were “like playing a videogame.” I didn’t entirely understand what I had said in fullness. If these are videogames, what does that say about the exemplars of the genre?