Heart and Seoul
My Korean Fantasy Life

John Funk | 26 Aug 2008 13:42
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Though my account already had a character made for me, my first instinct was to create a new one - and here, I hit my very first stumbling block. Why would there be a "race" tab if the only option was Human? (As it turns out, there are Elves and Giants too - but the storyline on the North American servers hasn't advanced that far yet.) There were no different classes to choose from; instead I was given the option to set my character's age from 10 years old to 17, the broad spectrum of manga characters' youth, naturally. Where were the grizzled veterans and graying wizards? What made a 10-year-old better at picking up a sword than a 17-year-old, or vice versa? This wasn't Dungeons and Dragons - it was Pokémon. Even such a simple task as entering my character's name felt daunting, if only because I had no idea what was expected of me, or what the players considered "proper."

In the end, I gave up. After all, they'd generously given me an account with a character ready to go already on it - it'd be rude not to accept. So, as LALAa the 17-year-old human female entered the world of Mabinogi, I braced myself for whatever the game had in store for me.

Three hours later, I logged off feeling slightly like Gilligan and the Skipper - completely and irrevocably lost. I'd picked up the game's point-and-click interface fairly quickly (so I thought), but my confusion ran deeper than that. It wasn't even what I was being asked to do - the standard "go kill 10 (enemies)" or "bring me five (items)" are old hat to any MMOG player - as much as how I was being asked to do it.

While running aimlessly around the starting area, an owl suddenly flew by and dropped off a quest to bring five berries to a local NPC. I was baffled; what had I done to earn this quest? As far as I could tell, nothing, but a quest is a quest. The best way to gather berries in the world of Mabinogi, it turns out, is to attack bushes and trees over and over until they drop them - of course, they can also drop branches instead, I mercilessly clicked the local foliage in search of berries, unsure if I was doing this properly. What made me get a branch instead of a berry - was it random? Should I be focusing on bushes instead of trees? Upon gathering the berries and locating the NPC, I was informed that I'd taken too long to complete the quest, and it had expired. Naturally, I hadn't realized that the task was time-sensitive.

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It felt like I was still in the tutorial phase, only they weren't explaining anything to me. Another quest asked me to harvest wheat to make flour. Upon locating the wheat fields, the game informed me that I couldn't cut wheat without a sickle, so I had to trek back to the blacksmith, buy the necessary implement and then return to the wheat. Apparently my character wasn't cut out for the work: It seemed for every four attempts at harvesting only one would succeed. Explanations for my failed attempts ranged from "my hands slipped" to "I couldn't harvest any wheat." Were these important? Was I failing for different reasons, or was it just the game trying to spice things up? Upon gathering the wheat needed, I returned to the mill to turn it into flour ... and failed, necessitating a return to the fields to start the whole process over again.

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