Avatar Adventurers Online Thoughts

Avatar Adventurers Online is a first attempt on Xbox Live Indie Games at creating Multiplayer Online RPG.  It isn’t what anyone would call “massive” with a 32 player limit, but it is interesting to see what can be done within that limit (set by Microsoft).

This article isn’t a review of the game.  Having played it for several hours now I’d have to rate it a Pass because on the whole it is not fun.  In a review I cannot give a game points because the developer in me likes the idea of a game.  I can do that in a news post however!

To give a quick overview you play as your Xbox Live Avatar in a 3D world that will become familiar to anyone who has ever played World of Warcraft, EverQuest, or dare I suggest Merdian 59.  M59, as we called it in the forums, is an apt comparison as the graphics feel like they came from 1996.  Each zone in Avatar Adventurers Online is really a giant flat plain with mountains marking zone boundaries.   The game has a deep interface that is poorly presented in a text menu system and combat is a slow and painful process even when wining. 

As I played, I remembered why I stopped playing online role-playing games.  The quests were the simple “kill a number of creatures” type, or “collect a number of items” and turn them in for experience and reward.  Moments of action were separated by long boring stretches of running.  The NPC (non-player character) dialog was uninteresting as were the weapons available.

For all these faults though, there was something cool knowing an Indie developer was working to create an Xbox Online RPG.  I’ve long been out of PC gaming and truth be told, I would love to turn on the Xbox and play a persistent world RPG with friends.  I have a few thoughts, or things I’d like to see, in future versions of Avatar Adventurers Online or in another Indie Online RPG:

  • Ditch Avatars / Let me create characters
    I want to play as a mage, then load up another character as a fighter.  Microsoft’s Avatar rules are too strict and wouldn’t allow the player to see the armor worn.
  • Revamp the interface
    Dragon Age is really the go to reference here; a radial menu works really well for deep menus on the Xbox
  • Voice Chat
    Make it easy to voice chat in a region, party or guild (yea, I guess guilds is a feature request on it’s own)
  • Pick up the pace
    To keep the boredom down, take a page from Diablo and Torchlight and crank up the combat.  One of my favorite MMO’s was Asheron’s Call because of the combat pace.
  • Loot, loot, loot
    Let’s be honest, these games are all about loot.  Give tons of loot, and maybe a room where I can show off my loot.
  • Smaller, more interesting regions
    Instead of trying to be big at the start, have just a few regions that are well designed.  You can add more later

In thinking about Avatar Adventurers Online, I can’t help but be reminded that Microsoft has limited Indie games too much for this to be feasible.  Without an internet server, there cannot truly be a persistent world.  There are no subscription models or paid downloadable content allowed for XBLIG to support the ongoing development required to grow the world. 

So it’s probably not feasible, but I still like the idea.

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