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Social Gaming Worlds
Social gaming worlds are full of avatars who are less intent on
killing each other than having fun together. In these worlds,
people can communicate and form associations, often called guilds.
There is usually a virtual economy of objects and plenty to discover
on quests. We will look at a couple of social gaming worlds, including
Meridian 59, The
Realm, and the upcoming Cyberpark.
Meridian 59 is a warriors, monsters and sorcerers medieval role
playing game. Some people describe it as a MUD (a Multi User Dungeon)
with a 3D interface and role playing characters. Life in Meridian
59 starts out in the tavern shown in the preceding figure. Once
you find the locked door (with only a few clues from the bartender)
you can enter the larger environs of the city of TOS.
In Meridian 59, unlike purely social/creative avatar worlds, the
main activity is player combat. You start out by choosing among
skills (I recommend you select the "slash" skill immediately),
and while you are playing, you will decide your alignment: good,
neutral, or evil. Chat is supported so you can communicate with
other players. After players become strong competitors, able to
defeat most of the monsters in the game, they join or form guilds
(there are several dozen) which then engage in guild politics
including rivalries and blood-feuds.
Social interaction is important in Meridian 59, not only to be
able to join a guild, but for basic progress in the game. If you
are killed by another player or an ogre, your friends can pick
up your avatar's belongings and return them to you when you re-enter
re-incarnated. There is an entire economy of objects, from spells
to weapons, and plenty of NPC's (non-player character bots) to
sell or buy these things.
You can't build in Meridian 59 but many guilds have assigned areas.
New users should be careful about entering a guild area (doorways
will have markings or your guardian angel NPG might warn
you that she cannot protect you in there). Guilds have been known
to murder newbie users on sight. Newbies are advised to fight
often and kill a lot of giant rats and baby spiders. You need
to do this to build your strength and earn hit points. Mutant
ants or trolls are too powerful, so turn and run from them! Like
all Internet-based multi user games, Meridian 59 suffers from
net latency. This means that while you are swinging your
sword, the packets of data that communicate with the other player
may be waiting in a queue somewhere behind someone's email or
big file download. This can make for frustrating combat and your
character may meet its end at the hand of an extra network hop.
Key Web Spots for the game
Meridian 59, is available from the 3DO Company at: http://www.3d0.com.
The Meridian 59 homepage is at: http://meridian.3do.com/meridian/.
Meridian 59 comes on a CD-ROM that is sold in many computer stores
or can be ordered from 3DO or its retailers for about $40. The
software requires a Windows 95 PC and a dial-up connection to
the Internet. Meridian 59 has a 30 day free trial and then a monthly
charge of about $11 for unlimited play.
The great Meridian 59 bible can be found at: http://www.wolsi.com/~orbs/meridian/
and the registry of guilds is at: http://www.wolsi.com/~orbs/meridian/guilds.htm.
These pages contain resources and links to most Meridian 59 citizen
Another medieval fantasy RPG (role playing game) world beckons.
The Realm is an avatar gaming world that works in two and a half
dimensions much like WorldsAway (described in an earlier chapter
in this book). You enter The Realm as a warrior, thief, wizard
or footloose adventurer and earn skill levels based on your success
in the virtual economy, or in battling other players or monsters.
The preceding figure shows a fight between two players just ending,
with one having lost all his possessions (including his clothes!)
while an ogre lurks in the background. Other players are standing
around in their avatars waiting to pick up property left behind
by the loser or just chatting with each other.
There is a vibrant economy of objects, with bot street vendors
selling black trousers for exorbitant sums. As a Realm citizen
you have a private home with password protected door and strongbox
for your avatar stuff. You can opt not to fight with other players
and stick with monster matches. The more of these poor critters
you kill, the better your armor, spells and you can even take
dead monsters' spare change. But beware, if you bend down to pick
some poor defeated soul's pocket, you automatically turn on your
player to player fighting signal, so that his or her friends can
come after you with a vengence.
People of The Realm
You can go on quests in The Realm either alone or with a team
of friends to fight ogres, solve puzzles or find treasure. While
on the road, beware the colored Ratlings, who are really dangerous
dudes! If you like your group, you might consider forming a guild.
To find other Realmers and guilds, check out the large number
of individual users pages and guild pages linked at: http://www.realmserver.com/links.html.
How to get The Realm
The Realm is available in a limited time use demo version from
Sierra's Realm home page at: http://www.realmserver.com/.
The full CD-ROM version costs about $50.00 through stores or by
order through Sierra Online's home page at: http://www.sierra.com.
To run the Realm, you need a 486 PC with 8MB RAM, 16MB disk space,
SVGA, 2X CD-ROM drive, Windows 3.1, an Internet connection. A
sound card is optional.
Later in 1997, CyberPark, a new 3D role playing avatar gaming
world will be launched by WorldPlay Entertainment. CyberPark is
a cityscape with great articulated avatars, text chat, sponsored
gaming tournaments, social cafes and a virtual economy. Watch
for CyberPark at: http://www.inngames.com/.