The Needles

The Needles
Massively Malygris Online Games

Andy Chalk | 7 Apr 2009 21:00
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I resolved at the beginning of the year to finally try an MMOG. I've played online games before, but generally they fell into that uniquely fun category of entertainment in which people chase each other around with homicidal intent. Good times, but it's hard to get around the fact that there's not a lot of depth to it. An MMOG, on the other hand, promises more: Cooperative multiplayer interaction toward a number of diverse goals in a grand tale spanning a vast and exotic landscape. A living, breathing D&D campaign, really, where not only do you and your stalwart companions quest for justice and treasure but, much as would happen in a "real" D&D world, thousands of like-minded others are living out their own simultaneous, yet independent, lives of adventure.

So when I was passing through EB last week and saw a copy of Dungeon Runners for sale on the serious cheap (which included six months of full membership) I took it as nothing less than alms from Heaven. But what I saw as destiny, others were less certain about. Response to my choice of massively multiplayer cherry-popper was mixed: A pair of Escapist staff members expressed guarded praise for the game, while online friends who are typically less cautious about how they speak to me suggested that playing it would probably cause me brain damage, although they noted that my decision to buy the thing in the first place was evidence that said brain damage had already occurred. Undeterred, I installed, patched and played for a week.

I had envisioned nights of role playing and exploration, spelunking through dim caverns and great abandoned halls, sharing victory and trading stories with like-minded fellows who were interested in living the experience rather than just slaughtering endless hordes of AI thralls in a fast-paced quest for incremental improvements in equipment. I knew this wasn't the common experience but I was confident I could make it happen and if my character didn't advance as quickly as others, so what? I would approach a table of rough, yet noble, sorts and slam my tankard down. "Ho, good fellows!" I would say. "My ears have caught word of whispering caves no more than a half day's travel beyond the city walls. Seekest thou adventure, and perhaps the glint of gold, in those dark recesses?" Their grumbled interest would turn to hearty laughter as the ale flowed, and soon we would be tramping through torch-lit dankness, our eyes straining ahead to make sure we didn't step in any evil.

What I got instead was dickheads.

I think what surprised me most about Dungeon Runners, which is ostensibly a social game, was just how unsocial it actually is. Dungeons are instanced, which means that aside from common areas like towns, you're playing by yourself unless you manage to hook up with a group. That in itself was more of adventure than anything I actually did in the game. The vast majority of players I encountered simply didn't group in any meaningful way, so after two nights of fruitlessly trying to join with someone else I took the more proactive step of forming a group myself and leaving it open to anyone. Results came relatively quickly, as two players joined me for some low-level hack-and-slash through the game's tutorial levels.

But my friendly "hello" was ignored, as were two or three other attempts at small talk, until I began to worry that maybe I was somehow misunderstanding the way the chat function actually worked. I finally asked outright why neither of them would talk. One ignored me completely and continued to play while the other said - and this is a direct quote - "too busy pwning." Well, then. We pnwed for a few minutes longer until I decided I might as well just play by myself, at which point I left for greener pastures.

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