2 April 2008

Knowing my interest in computer games, or more precisely my interest in descriptions of them (!) my friend Graham (via boingboing) pointed me to this great text. In it Metafilter user Aeschenkarnos gives the low down on Outside (AKA the real world), as if it were a massively multiplayer game:

…how does Outside actually rate? The physics system is note-perfect (often at the expense of playability), the graphics are beyond comparison, the rendering of objects is absolutely beautiful at any distance, and the player's ability to interact with objects is really limited only by other players' tolerance. The real fundamental problem with the game is that there is nothing to do.

In terms of game play the game sets few, if any, goals: the major one is merely "survive". What goals a player sets, are often astonishingly tedious to actually achieve, and power-ups and gear upgrades, let alone extra weapons, are few and far between. Some players choose accumulation of money, one of the many point systems in the game, as a goal, but distribution of this is often randomized and it can be hard to tell what activities will lead to gaining points in advance, and what the risks will be.

Other players choose to focus on accumulation of personal abilities, the variety of which greatly exceeds the capacity of any individual to accumulate; again, the game requires players to engage in years of grinding to achieve any notable standard with a skill or ability. Players are issued abilities and characteristics largely at random, and it is entirely possible for a player to be nerfed beyond any reasonable expectation of being able to play the game, or to be buffed to the point where anything he or she does is markedly easier. Unfortunately over time, player abilities tend to degrade, unless significant effort is made to keep skills up. This reviewer cannot emphasise this enough: Outside requires a huge time investment to build up player abilities, exceeding any other massively multiplayer game on the market by some three orders of magnitude.

You can read the rest of the text, which is very smart and funny. Can't help thinking of my own book The Broken World at this point, since it  takes the form of a walkthrough for an imaginary computer game, and which will be published in July. More of that before too long.

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