I played a fair bit of Dawntide in its various incarnations. It was one of the buggiest attempts at an MMO that I've ever come across, although the bugs often didn't get in the way too much because most days the extreme lag made the whole thing unplayable anyway. Even when it did run, for the longest time there was next to nothing to do but walk around looking at the scenery. At the pace of a tortoise. A tortoise with a broken leg. Later, when there were things to do - fighting, crafting, trading, complicated, innovative stuff like that - the implementations were some of the slowest and most cumbersome I have ever seen.
|You can pack that in. You've had all the cheese you're getting.|
And yet it had something. I must have put in several dozen hours on and off over a couple of years. I'd play, get frustrated, leave it for a while and then catch sight of the icon on my desktop and wonder... Then back I'd go for another few sessions until the pointless futility drove me to question my judgment and my sanity all over again. Eventually the funding ran out, or the developers' patience, or both and development on Dawntide stalled then ended. Finally it closed down thereby saving me from myself.
Until now. Always keen to demonstrate that I learn nothing from experience, I went straight from HarbingerZero's link to the Project: Gorgon website. In what seemed like less than a minute I was in the game. Barriers to entry? Never heard of 'em. Didn't need to register, give my name, email, nothing.
|I can breathe! I can breathe!!|
Like all too many MMOs, indie and mainstream alike, it starts in a cave. And your character's a blank slate with no memory of a former life. Could it possibly be worth carrying on after an opening like that?
Well, yes it could. For a start the controls are easy, intuitive and they work. That puts it about five ranks up on Dawntide already. And there's lots to do right from the start. NPCs to talk to, skeletons to fight, puzzles to solve, chests to open, mushrooms to pick. (Bit of a Thing in P:G, mushrooms are, or so it turns out. But let's not get ahead of ourselves).
The sandbox approach is plain from the get-go. The cave is a tutorial of sorts, so there are plenty of hints, suggestions and advice, but it's very clear that what you do and how or when you do it is down to you, matey. You can use all the weapons, learn all the skills, be whoever or whatever you want to be. Just don't come crying to us if you hurt yourself, or turn yourself into a cow. Forever.
|Tame Ten Rats|
I was ready to risk a cowing if only I could get out of that cave. I'd been in there for a couple of hours, found some very unsavory used clothing that was nonetheless an improvement on the soiled underwear I'd started out in, found some cheese and used it to learn to tame rats. I had one of the oversized variety following me about like a dog, which would have looked odd enough even if I hadn't chosen to be a Rakshasa, which is basically a cat standing on its hind legs.
The rat and the cat, we had some adventures but when the cat saw the glowy blue portal to the outdoor world and the rat couldn't follow she dropped him like *that*. Cheese to spare and rats come cheap and easy. Soon find another. So out I stepped from the dark (if occasionally psychedelically-illuminated by weird crystal formations and borderline radioactive fungi) tunnels into blinding sunlight.
|Market Day's Tuesday|
Maybe it's just me but if I was trying to entice people to come play my sandbox MMO and I was able to make landscapes as entrancing and visually appealing as this, even in my pre-alpha days, I think I'd start people off right there. Not in a cave!
The very first view as I emerged, blinking, from the portal was stunning. The walled, medieval village is one of the best I've seen in a game as far as spurious authenticity goes. I've been in that village several times, in France, in Spain, in Portugal. I think there's one like it about 30 miles West of where I'm sitting typing this. Maybe someone's using photo-reference. Whatever, it convinced me I was "somewhere" and that's most of the battle won right there.
|Are we in The Cotswolds?|
From then on it's mostly been wandering about. The explorable area is relatively small, I think, although it's hard to be sure. Foot travel is on the slower end of the spectrum and by the time I'd run far enough in one direction to come up against an invisible barrier in the hills surrounding town I wasn't inclined to go check every other cardinal point for breaches.
So far, in three or four hours altogether, I've learned to meditate, which here is a prerequisite for the martial arts, I've met a man willing to teach me Fire Magic if I can come up with fifty gold, I've bought a potato seedling, planted and watered it and harvested a potato (go me!), I've wantonly slaughtered two pigs and a chicken and I've been killed by a bear coming out of a farmer's house even as the farmer's wife was warning me not to go inside because there was a bear in there...
|Just because my back's turned doesn't mean I don't see you eying up my potato, rat.|
So Project: Gorgon really isn't like Dawntide at all. There's no lag, plenty to do and most of it works. The light changes, the shadows lengthen, the birds sing and when you raise a skill fireworks go off and a bell chimes. For a pre-Alpha it looks in pretty good shape.
Before I logged out this time I did what they hadn't made me do to begin with - I registered an account. You can do it right there from inside the game. I did it because it ensures my character will still be around next time. And there will be a next time, because in one very important way Project: Gorgon is like Dawntide: it has potential.