Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Linden Realms: Rock Monsters, Fireballs, and Crystals - Oh My!

Not being one to want to miss out on a good adventure, I decided to try my hand at the new Linden Realms game.

For reasons unexplained, but likely an effort in crowd control, a player needs to start at one of the portal sims: LR Portal Park 1, LR Portal Park 2, LR Portal Park 3, or LR Portal Park 4. The first is generally crowded, while the others have at most a handful of avatars. Each has the same setup: the landing spot is in the center, surrounded by portals. Pick one and walk through it and you are transported to the "gathering circle" - the starting point of the game.

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At the portal

When I arrived at the portal the first time, using my usual Phoenix Viewer, I spent some time waiting for what I thought were sculpts to completely rez. Eventually it dawned on me that these were mesh objects that I wasn't - and would never - see correctly under Phoenix, so I switched to a mesh-enabled viewer.

Once at the starting point, the game automatically attaches a HUD (which then detaches when you leave the sim; alternatively, if you detach the HUD while still in the game, you are transported to your Home location). The HUD tracks your inventory of crystals and reminds you of your current quest.

Something else to keep in mind: although all the portals lead to the same game, they lead to different starting locations. In essence, there are a number of different but identical sets of sims containing the game. This is important because, on occasion, some glitch occurs: the HUD won't attach, or the HUD won't recognize that you've completed a quest. In that case, going back to a portal and trying another route into the game - to a different set of sims - often solves the problem.

The game is one of exploration and quests, reminding me of older adventure games. There's a brief backstory: Tyrah asks you to help her (?) with some tasks in order for her to leave the island. Tyrah's workshop is just off the gathering circle. Other locations are scattered about the island, with helpful signs pointing to them. The first few tasks involve finding locations on the island. Quite simple, until you discover the rock monsters roaming the place. If a monster catches you, you're "killed" - sent to a nearby "resurrection circle," whereupon you can continue your quest from that point. It's possible to outrun the monsters, though. Other things can kill you as well, from falling rocks inside a cave to flaming boulders to toxic water. This is no island for the faint of heart!

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A captive rock monster - don't be fooled by its cute expression!

Certain parts of the island are rich in crystals. Most are red, orange, and yellow, with green and blue as the rarer varieties. Passing over a crystal takes it into your HUD's inventory, which is convenient because you can still grab a crystal while running from a rock monster. Tyrah will ask you to gather certain numbers of crystals, then return to the workshop for more instructions.

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A map of the island, with areas of high crystal concentration marked

I found remarkably little lag, particularly given the number of people wandering about. Sim crossings were painless, often un-noticeable. The quests are fairly simple, though some strategizing over how to avoid problems comes in handy. There is the occasional glitch - the HUD not attaching seemed to be the most common one - but no show-stopping bugs I encountered.

The setup seems open-ended, so that the Lindens can add more quests as time goes on. I completed more than two dozen in perhaps two hours of playing time, so this is not a huge time commitment.

I'm not sure who the target audience for Linden Realms might be. I saw a fair number of new players - well, those with the surname "Resident," which is not necessarily all that new - but I also saw many people with more than a year of experience. Newcomers won't learn a lot of skills beyond being able to handle avatar movements, while old-timers might not be impressed by the straightforward goals of the game.

Still, it's a fun time. I like the idea of introducing some unpredictability into Second Life.

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