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Tycho / on Fri, May 30 2003 at 3:00 am

Whatever The Strip Name Is

I’m typing this on Thursday morning, because I’m going to that Europe thing.  I mention these things because

  • I want people to know where to look for portions of my corpse in case I don’t come back.
  • Not only that, but posting early opens me up to the possibility of anachronism.  If an alien race activates its orbital Agony Engine and humanity knows only suffering, me talking about the new Myst game won’t bear the proper gravity.
  • It’s a chance I’ll have to take.

    I was always a little hazy about what happened between developers 2015, now producing Men of Valor, and Infinity Ward, which is now producing Call Of Duty - but here is the condensed version.  The game Medal of Honor:  Allied Assault, which most people agreed was pretty good even with the sniper level, was developed by 2015 - and after the fact, something happened there that caused fully twenty-two people to leave and start their own company called Infinity Ward.  God only knows what, maybe it was on Fatbabies.  All I know is, when you look at what was shown for their respective titles at E3, it quickly becomes apparent that something is missing from one title that the other one has.  It would be easy to dismiss Call of Duty as another World War II first-person shooter, and the description is certainly accurate - but when you see their floor demo and watch the Stalingrad video they had sequestered away, you see the work of people who made the finest entry in that genre, and then thought, Yeah.  We can do better.

    Moving on.

    Uru:  Ages Beyond Myst was not really intended to have a strictly single-player portion, as I recall.  I believe it had been their intention to produce a surreal multiplayer space with cooperative puzzles from the get-go.  Someone, somewhere changed their mind on the issue and now the retail purchase will include ten “ages” or levels full of puzzles and large mushrooms.  I think that was probably a good move.  I spent almost an hour with this game all told, I love it to death, and it also makes me sort of sad.  Let’s take those one at a time. 

    So, you do get those ten Ages in the box.  Subscribers to Uru Lives - what they call their online component - will not only have the ability to play any of those single player levels with friends, but also receive a new age they can download every month.  Since we’re talking about multiple players now, there is of course a fairly robust capacity to create avatars.  From a “Personal Age,” a sort of private home for your character, you have access to all the books you have found, as well as other things you’ve discovered - Treasure Pages, found elsewhere in the game, allow you to customize your Personal Age with ponds, geological phenomena, whatever.  You can share your access to new ages by holding a book open towards another character, and then following them through it.   

    The multiplayer extends beyond just doing the puzzles - you do, after all, need to meet those people somewhere.  Either by typing or using the built-in voice chat, you can communicate with other humans in one of a few explicitly multiplayer areas, some public, some private.  There is a library in the gigantic main public age that contains recently unearthed linking books, you’d go there to obtain the new content.  There’s a story that underpins all this stuff that you can investigate if you want to, I’m just telling you about the game.  These areas can change as you play, as time passes, and by virtue of player activity - new areas will be revealed, even in social ages you might not have expected them to.

    The game itself would be a good purchase for anyone who liked Myst - every age I’ve seen, including ones I wasn’t supposed to see, gives one the impression that they are traversing some meticulous sculpture.  But the hordes of casual or non-gamers that made earlier Myst games so successful, those are the same people that were supposed to make The Sims Online a sure-fire proposition.  They never materialized, as far as I know.  And the hard-core gamers, the true players that prop up companies like Sony Online Entertainment with their monthly charges, I don’t know that they want to subscribe to a puzzle game.  Believe me, I wish none of that were true.  Hopefully I’m wrong, and there is this huge contingent of people slavering for a surreal multiplayer puzzle experience.  As a gamer, I do have a certain amount of what you might call “Activist Money” to invest in games from small publishers or untried concepts.  I just wonder what the response from the larger community might be.   

    (CW)TB out.

    now i’ve got to rock for three


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