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Action Adventure Worlds
One step beyond social gaming worlds come the action adventure
worlds. Combat, adventure and distant journeys are the main themes
here. We will visit two such worlds, Ultima
Online and diablo.
Ultima Online (UO) by Origin comes from a long lineage of role
playing games: the Ultima series. Like many other RPGs, UO is
medieval fantasy based and supports battles with other players,
perilous quests, and chat in a taverns. UO has a functioning virtual
ecology which drives monsters to search for food when it becomes
scarce. There is also an economic system which allows you to run
businesses such as taverns. You can buy a building, furnish it,
manufacture a large supply of food and then open for business..
UO is a large world, built on an overhead-view 3D operational
model kind of like the birds-eye view in Active Worlds (the techies
call this an isometric three-quarter view). You always see your
character and the others players and terrain immediately around
you. The figure at the beginning of this section shows a typical
UO scene, where our character (in the center) is surrounded by
hostile men with swords and winged creatures: not our day!
UO distinguishes itself in its skill system. You can study skills
from a teacher (a non player character bot or another real person
player). The longer you study and practice a skill, the better
your character will perform with that skill. There are skills
for attack, defense, spells, and artisan workmanship. The challenge
in UO is that there are so many skills one could master and that
skills not used begin to decrease. Mastering and maintaining UO's
skills will keep you on your toes.
Like other gaming worlds, UO allows and encourages the formation
of guilds. UO also allows pets on the premises! You can own almost
any animal, name it and train it. Training dogs is easy, having
a dragon as a pet is a much trickier endeavor.
Getting Ultima Online
Find Origin's Ultima Online at: http://www.owo.com.
Currently, Ultima Online is in beta test (as of the writing of
this chapter) and you may be able to sign up to receive a beta
tester's CD-ROM. By the time you receive this book, Ultima Online
may be a released product. This game needs a pretty hefty PC:
a Pentium 133 with Windows 95, 16 MB RAM and DirectX installed.
You must have at least a 14.4K BPS dial-up connection to the Internet
Like Ultima Online, described above, Diablo gives us another fantasy
overhead view 3D combat world. Diablo has a more diabolical heart
in its sixteen levels of dark dungeons, catacombs, and intriguing
plots spelled out in mystical books. Characters move fluidly and
die in gruesome realism.
Diablo can be run on a Windows 95/NT 4.0 machine with 16MB RAM
and DirectX installed. By the time you have this book, a Macintosh
version should be available. Check Blizzard Entertainment's home
page at: http://www.blizzard.com/
for information and a free demo download (warning: the demo version
is a whopping 50MB). Internet play is supported through Mpath's
Mplayer software available free from http://www.mpath.com
or Battle Net http://www.battle.net/.
Its time to move beyond medieval fantasy to the more hard core
world of simulation games. These games seek to emulate real world
situations, from flight simulators, to battle tanks, to Indy 500
races, to the creation of virtual cities. We will take a look
at a couple of examples in this section. We encourage you to check
out Gamecenter.com's extensive reviews of Sim games at: http://www.gamecenter.com/Reviews/sims.html.
War Birds is a World War II combat flight simulator. You can join
a squadron and engage in real time dogfights with other teams
from all over the Internet. You might tangle with a British 'Ace
in a Spitfire or duel with a squadron of Japanese A6M Zeros. You
can engage in historically accurate campaigns and use real flight
test data. Want to rewrite history, then re-enact the attack on
Pearl Harbor as though the U.S. pilots were actually in the air
that fateful morning!
War birds is a cockpit-view, six degrees of freedom flight simulator.
Find War Birds at iMagic Online's home page: http://www.icigames.com/.
It is currently in free public beta test, and can be downloaded.
You must have a Win95 Pentium PC (Macintosh version is being built)
with DirectX installed to use War Birds.
X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
Lucas Arts has provided Star Wars fans, young and old, with a
dream come true. With X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter (XWvTF) you can engage
in sorties and interplanetary dogfights with up to eight other
Internet users in their own ships. Battle can also be engaged
with non-human software operators of Empire or Rebel Alliance
ships. These bot ships are often every bit as tough as those with
human pilots. There are plenty of single player missions you can
go on to hone your skills before joining a squadron in the Imperial
fleet or the rag tag rebel guerrilla crews.
Order the CD-ROM (about $50) or download a one mission demo version
for Windows 95 Pentium PCs from LucasArts at: http://www.lucasarts.com/.