So I'm talking to my friend Jordan who loves these MMOs. He was a house baron UO. He was a guild leader in EQ and killed gods, which he liked to describe to me in mythological terms. ("And then we smote him." "Smoked him?" "No, smote, the past tense of smite. I've been reading Bullfinch's Mythology and they can't walk by one another without trying for a smite.”) In Dark Age of Camelot he swiped castles from other realms, often setting the alarm and getting up at 4am to catch the other players napping -- "Dude, I'm a sleepless killing machine!" He can't get enough of these games, but even he was surprised when he found out I was reviewing Rubies of Eventide.
"Isn't that the game that we saw year after year at GenCon and would make jokes about?" Jordan said.
"Yeah, that's it. Every year we'd see it and laugh about how lame the graphics looked, and then after a couple of years we'd laugh about how it was "almost done" every GenCon, and then it'd be at next year's GenCon "almost done" again. I think they started working on it in 1927."
"So why you reviewing that piece of junk?"
"Because I saw some screenshots and they grabbed a new graphics engine, the Jupiter engine, which is the MMO engine offshoot of Monolith's Lithtech engine. Game looks pretty nice now."
"Weird. Never would of thought that game would look nice. So what's it like?"
"I don't know how to say this without sounding like a cliche, but it's a mixed bag."
"What, you can't get all writerly on me drop some metaphor bombs?" Jordan said. "'It's a mixed Bag of Holding, holding both stink and less stinky parts? Be free, man. Be a Writer.'"
"Hmmm…ok, it's like sweet and sour chicken," I said. "Parts are sweet. Parts are sour. Parts are like the green peppers you eat around and parts are the good parts like the chicken. For example, the artwork --"
"Does it suck moocow dong?" Jordan was stuck in his GenCon past.
"Cows don't have dongs. And no, it doesn't suck like that," I said. "The art (and game engine) in Rubies of Eventide at times are as good as most MMOs out there, with the exception of Star Wars Galaxies and Anarchy Online. But my character, an orc warrior, runs like he's afraid he's going to drop a load in his pants. The combat animations are kind of lame too. I feel like I'm watching some kind of weird animatronic Hall of Presidents robot when my orc fights. And you know why I don't like this?"
"Because you're a 'Game Critic'?" Jordan said. He twirled his little finger in the air, like he was holding an imaginary cup of tea. It meant that writing about games proved I was a bit poofy.
"No. It's because we play games like Rubies of Eventide so much that things like combat animations are more important in these games than in other games. We need visual interest in these games."
"Yeah, I know what you mean." Jordan said. "In Dark Age of Camelot I played a Minstrel until someone told me Minstrels wrote poetry in the middle ages and were probably gay. I did like his combat animations, though. He had one special attack where he whirled in a 360 before hitting the enemy with his sword. It was mildly awesome."
"Yeah, and these games need 10 times as much of that cool kind of stuff as they currently have. We play these games for hundreds of hours. They need to be fascinating to look at to hold our attention. The art direction in Rubies is decent, but the animations were instantly boring."
"Ok, but what about the gameplay?"
"We've got more of the sour here than the sweet. Rubies of Eventide makes the mistake that these games keep making. They expect us to find the process of advancing our characters so interesting that standing out in a field of grass whacking the same two or three mob types over and over again is entertaining."
"It was when we played EverQuest," Jordan said.
"But you got tired of it in EverQuest, didn't you?"
"Yeah, and then I started out in Dark Age and got tired of it even faster."
"So now when we play these games and we whack a skeleton for the first time -- and they all have skeletons, including Rubies of Eventide -- it doesn't feel like the first time. It feels like the thousandth time right off the bat."
"Yeah, and killing bats is boring too."
"Right! What? Bats? Yeah. In Rubies of Eventide the mobs mill around in selected spots like cage-retarded animals. They're very polite, going about their business until we feel like killing them. So we kill some to advance to level 2, and before long we need to kill dozens to make level 6, and eventually dozens turns into hundreds as we grind through the higher levels. It’s boring."