9 Dragons

A while back, Acclaim folded as a game company. The Acclaim name was bought by one of the guys from Activision, turned into Acclaim Games, and began pumping out MMORPG’s. Wikipedia’s article is somewhat lacking, but will give you a basic understanding of the situation.

I got an invite from one of my friends to try out one of their RPGs, 9 Dragons. It’s a game based on Kung-Fu. You travel the land, join a Kung-Fu clan, and beat things up. Seemed like a reasonable premise for a game.

More details inside.

Acclaim’s MMORPGs are the kind that are free to download, and free to play. The catch being that to generate money to cover bandwidth and development costs ads are injected into the game and you have ability to spend some of your real-world money to purchase things in game, such as extra abilities, exclusive outfits, and exclusive items.

The ads that you see are a nearly full-screen picture ad on each loading screen and a smallish one that will pop up in the center of the screen toward the top. It doesn’t obscure your view too much, but it certainly takes your focus for a second when it pops up. It’s worth noting that of the ads I saw, two of them were for the game I was playing, and the others were for Acclaim itself.

The download for the game is relatively small for a Massively Multiplayer game, weighing in at just under 800MB. After downloading and mucking through the obnoxious installer, I tried to start the game, only to find out that the desktop shortcut it installed would open up a new tab in Firefox. Doing a little digging, I was able to find out that the game inexplicably uses Internet Explorer to launch. Since I use Firefox as my primary browser, I had to follow these directions to make the shortcut on my desktop point to the actual game.

Once I was able to actually start the game, I ran through the fairly limited character creation process, created my character, and was told that the name ‘basscomm’ could not be used. The game apparently found a dirty word lurking in my handle. I’m not surprised, Uniracers invalidated my handle for the same reason. So, I chose a new name, ‘Food’, only to get the message that ‘This character has already been created’. Turns out that the message really meant that the name had been taken. I eventually settled on ‘Bland’, picked my starting area and started the game.

Immediately upon dropping into the game world, I had the option of doing a tutorial quest. This optional quest promised to show me the basics of the game, with a paltry reward at the end. I accepted and was spirited away to a field where someone behind me was needing some assistance.

It was here that I became acclimated to the controls. I’ve grown accustomed to the standard WASD controls or even the arrow keys to move around. In this game, you left-click on the ground where you want to move to, and hold the right mouse button and move the mouse to move the camera. Since you also use the left mouse button to talk to people and generally interact with the world, you need to make sure you click directly on the person that you wish to speak with otherwise you run right past them and have to fight with the camera to get back.

The tutorial quest is an escort quest, before you can do anything, you get to watch some instructions running through the basics of inventory management, enemy engagement, using skills, etc. I found it odd that instead of using in-game graphics, the person doing the motions in the tutorial was a small looping movie with a missing frame. I only knew that the frame was missing because he would turn into a large red block for a split second every time the video would loop.

After learning how to ready myself for battle, I started escorting my way up a hill and was attacked by three bandits. I was then introduced to the two modes you character can exist in, Peace Mode and Battle Mode. In Peace Mode you cannot attack anyone, and in Battle Mode you can. Why you would ever not want to be in Battle Mode is beyond me. The bandits appeared behind me, so I ended up wrestling with the camera while simultaneously trying to frantically click on the enemies that were surrounding me. It didn’t help that you can’t press ‘Tab’ on the keyboard to select an enemy, that button is to go in and out of Peace Mode. So what happened was that I was running around in circles, not attacking because I was not in Battle Mode.

I eventually managed to take down the assailants and it crashed to desktop. No worries, I thought, I’ll just log back in and finish off the quest. Turns out that my progress was not saved, so I had to start the quest over, and I got to watch the tutorial videos again. Then my game crashed again. I went through this process a couple of more times before I restarted my computer. I never could figure out what was wrong.

After restarting, the game was much more stable. I was able to finish the tutorial quest, gained a skill that allowed me to regain my health, and entered the game world proper. To the game’s credit it looks reasonably good. Until you start interacting with things. Throughout the village I started in there were these pots that kept spawning on the ground. A couple of whacks with my stick cracked them open so I could get the gold piece that lay inside, but the animation of the broken pieces was almost comically bad. Chunks would fly up and then land on the ground, but had no inertia. It looked like they landed on flypaper.

I puttered around for a while killing livestock while I explored the town, getting stuck as my guy couldn’t figure out how to walk around anything. You can’t jump, so if there’s a couple of pebbles in the way, they’re suddenly an impasse.

Around the village there are folks that sell skills, I bought one, and then learned that you have go to some training ground to train in the skills you’ve purchased. I never was able to find the training ground, and so was never able to use my awesome fist skill. I was, however, able to load it into my quickbar. Four times, in fact. I noticed at this point that my ‘regain health’ skill (meditation) was gone, and that I couldn’t figure out how to remove the worthless skills from my quickbar.

I eventually found a quest giver who gave my my first real quest, killing the foxes that were harassing his chickens. Sounds easy enough, the foxes just kind of stand around the town and aren’t aggressive in the slightest, even when I’m bludgeoning them with a quarterstaff. While killing foxes, one of them decided to walk away from me, directly up to and then through the wall of a house. Cunning.

I finished my quest, turned in my ‘fox skin’, sold my ‘fox hair’, and was offered another quest. I accepted, logged off, uninstalled the game, deleted the uninstaller, and burned down my computer.

I don’t really think there was ever any danger of me getting addicted to it, even it is free.