Monday, 2 May 2011

Trying Imperian

Since I've spent a little time in the past two days doing some MUD-related work, I felt like trying one out. I decided to give Imperian a go. If I recall correctly, the first choice was from a long list of races. Some had odd names, and I had no idea what the difference was, but making a choice you have to live with for the life of your gameplay is an unimportant one.. so I effectively randomly picked one.

This dumped me in a isolated and staged environment, mostly comprised of filler rooms separating NPCs, each of whom offers a functional service. The filler rooms are not even described. This environment is portrayed as a past version of the city I would enter the real game within. It is certainly better than past newbie experiences I have seen, like "newbie schools" and shared locations where confusing goings-on and killing fields of menial animals exist.

Many of the commands are coloured and hyperlinked, which makes it almost like a click and read experience. This is quite nice, but would be even better if it were done more consistently. The occasional command is simply not linked, and other cases where commands could be linked are not taken advantage of.

The map is nicely coloured, and is clearly matched the the tasks command, making working out where to go to "complete" the introductory area a breeze. However, the overlaying map window seems to serve no purpose. It just features linked rooms, one of which is highlighted as the current location. It is a shame, because with better integration it wouldn't be useless and could be even more useful than the text map displayed below.

Having completed the introductory area, the player is then confined to a large and confusing list of guilds which they have to select.

The description for each of these guilds, is mostly meaningless to me. Another important commitment to a gameplay defining choice which is made into a confusing and arbitrary experience.

Having randomly selected a guild, I am next confined to selection of a council.

The first thing I see when I attempt to read about a council, is a long and meaningless list of names and positions. This means nothing to me and makes me wonder why I am being forced to jump through this hoop. I choose this council, for lack of any idea what else to do.

At this point, I press backspace and.. the browser goes back a page and I no longer have a readily usable game window anymore. I lost interest somewhere along the way anyway, due to all the choices I had to make, and which sapped away my investment in the character.

The padded artificial feeling of the introductory area made it a hollow experience. No rooms were there, or detail added to them, except to provide a list of checks in boxes in things which the player needed to be lead by the nose through. Is it possible to do better? Yes, of course, but it would be much harder and much more work.

Reading selected information and making choices deemed necessary, where the two are not necessary linked, were the points of this experience. It wasn't to understand anything, or to choose things which were interesting to me. I wonder if I could make a game where the player didn't need to make any choices, in order to get into the real game world from a staged introductory area, with understanding of concepts, environment and ability. More story driven, where choices are implicit from chosen actions.

I like the idea of an introductory area. I definitely find it better to keep the player away from the confusion on the game, and the weird announcements and player abilities. The last game I logged into, I saw announcements about "laser tag" games and in another players teleporting in and out willy nilly with messages relating to "orbing" or something.

The web-based client is okay, but the backspace problem is too much for me. It's not the first time that I've had this happen when using a client like this. Really, the game should give me a link that I can drag onto my bookmarks toolbar and when pressed takes me straight back into the game where I left off.


  1. It's interesting the way they've done the guild and city choice as part of the intro like that.

    One of the main reasons to have guilds as organisations rather than an arbitrary class choice during creation is so that the character can go out and join the guild as part of play. This also gives the player the opportunity to learn more about the choice before they make it, and also allows for fun RP or character development.

    I don't know if Achaea does it that way, but Avalon (which was the biggest influence on Achaea) doesn't make you choose as part of the intro like this.

    This may be one of those examples of how a design has evolved without necessarily a full understanding of why the original choices were made.

  2. I tend to look at the reason for choices like these, as a cost of the amount of work required to make a polished game. With the last 10% of the work being 90% of the work seen as a recursive problem, people just work on that which interests them and make a simple approximation of the rest.

    For me, joining a guild in game is only slightly better than joining in the login sequence. Ideally guilds would be solely a political or story device and players abilities would be able to be dynamically acquired.

    I came out of this, believing that I should offer the players only one race - something that is most likely to be controversial. And that the initial set of abilities should be generated by simply offering the player a set of questions.