This follows the veins of the discussion on the Zombies!!! board game, that Bear, Loki, Grue, Megan and I played the other month (for which Loki holds a 3-for-3 winning streak) and browser games that I briefly mentioned before on the zoic.com. Out of chance, I was refered to a browser game that I can almost guarantee was partly inspired by Zombies!!!.
In the game you start in a quarantined 10 x 10 suburb (each with 10 x 10 blocks) section of the city of Malton. You are a survivor from the city, a scientist from a lab somehow linked to the viral outbreak that caused the zombism or a military evacuation personel dropped in to round up survivors for extraction. Or, you are already a zombie with an appetite for those oh-so delectable human brains.
What I’ve griped for in a zombie game is one theme in every zombie movie: Every friend is also a potential enemy. Either through becoming one with the zombie hoard or finally snapping and going psycho, other humans are often, in the movies, the biggest threat to those still living. This game has all of that. Whenever a human character dies, he becomes a zombie. Not only that, but there are no restrictions for killing other humans as a human (other than the victims friends banding together to lynch you).
This is just a lame browser MMORPG like the rest, where you grind your way to the next exp level, but it has some very commendable aspects. First, the pace is slow. Slow like a chess match where you move once a day. You get an Action Point every half hour, for a maximum of 50 Action Points after 25 hours. That’s 50 clicks, which goes by fast. The main reason for this is so not too much happens before you log in the next day, or half a day (like your character being killed as soon as you log off). It also allows for alot of strategy, planning and discussion in between players in the mean time. For that reason most people play 2 or 3 characters (which is allowed as long as they don’t interact). Not only are there human classes, like Fireman (with his trusty Fire Axe!), Cop, Military, Consumer and NecroTech Scientist, but zombie skills, like improved combat through “Vigor Mortis” and the ability to smell which human is hurt more, have their own skill tree.
Also, there is a good balance between humans and zombies. Zombies aren’t that hard to kill, but they can also just keep on getting back up (note: no MMORPG has perma-death). This, at first, seemed counter-intuitive but, since there are no NPC zombies, the sense of there being too many zombies to take out with available resources comes through this. Zombies can be reverted back to human (again, this is a MMORPG, no one is going to play if their characters are always getting permanently fuct), but it takes alot of out of game chatting and searching, a fair amount of effort. I think that’s alot more fair than other MMORPGs where you just lose your stuff and some exp.
And, non-combat classes can gain exp fairly easily through other tasks (healing, tagging buildings with spray paint, extracting zombie DNA and more). That’s refreshing.
The game is generally a round of gathering resources, going out, getting exp and then finding a safe place to recharge your turns, perhaps helping secure the building by barricading the doors, with desks and such, from the zombies outside. The problem is, if zombies know where you are, then you will eventually lose your safe house to them, as they overpower with sheer resilience. Humans are constantly on the run, as they should be.
Take the example of the Sandlerville suburb. Southeast you’ll see the Dowdney Mall, an excellent place to stock up on resources. When my crew started, that’s where we decided to huddle up, along with the masses of other players. This lasted through the weekend but zombies eventually broke in and players are still trying to recover from that one. Now we’re all separated in different safe houses, trying to hook back up, bring our fallen comrades back to the land of the living and take the mall back. There’s an armoury two suburbs south and things look even more grim down there, or so say the reports.
So that’s it, a glimpse into a fairly decent browser game. The problem is, it’s too decent. It’s been getting swamped with traffic and the servers are suffering as a result. Until that’s cleared up, I don’t suggest trying the game out, or at least don’t try to play during the evening (the daytime isn’t too bad). The game was receiving near-daily gameplay updates up until the traffic problems, which means a hiatus until the server can be upgraded and such. This gives me ideas for my own planned project and some reality checks about browser games in general.