Last week my friend sent me this from freenyc.net:
Pizza, beer, and games, for free. It doesnít take much more to interest me.
So after work I headed over. And while there wasnít as much pizza and beer as I hoped, I got a chance to be a game tester/journalist for the evening.
Like all of you Iím sure, Iíve never heard of Muse games. Which makes sense, as their website isnít even up yet. They are a sister site to a travel site called sosauce.com. Being a new startup, they are just a few people, and their office is about the size of my apartment.
Yes they are yet another company that creates browser based games, but they are doing some interesting things that differentiate them from the rest. They arenít using the ubiquitous flash, but rather something called the Unity engine. It allows for some pretty slick 3D graphics that run in a browser window or as a Facebook app. The games are also equipped with online multiplayer.
By holding this event the Muse people were looking to get some outside feedback on their works in progress.
So the following are my impressions on what I played, where I pretend to be a journalist
The first game I checked out was the one furthest along in development. It was also my favorite game of the night. Going by the very unoriginal name ďExtreme Sledding,Ē this was a basic downhill slalom type racing game.
The menu screens featured some nice hand drawn art. They gave off a ski-lodge vibe, with a wooden texture background and falling snowflakes. Each course was rated like ski trails. There were green circles, blue squares, and black diamonds.
Crappy cell phone pics are back.
Using the arrow keys, you control a toboggan riding yeti on a snowy mountain. On the way down you go through slalom gates and have to avoid obstacles like trees, polar bears, and avalanches. You can throw snowballs with the spacebar, which are supposedly used to knock out the polar bears so you donít crash in to them. I moved too fast to hit any, though.
At the end of the race you are given a final score that is a composed of the time it took you to finish the course along with the number of gates you successfully passed through.
So basically, this game is like a 3D modern version on the old Windows 3.1 classic, Ski Free. The cel-shaded graphics give the game a unique look.
Multiplayer is what really makes this game. I played a few rounds against others at the event. It was pretty fun because it wasnít just a straight speed race, as you had to hit those gates as well. Also, in the final version, I was told that you will have the ability to hit your opponents with snowballs to slow them down.
Another intriguing feature they sought to implement in the final version is a ghost race feature. That way if you canít race against your friend in real-time, you can race their ghost when itís convenient for you. This is a more dynamic way to challenge your friends. It should appeal to people who play those games on facebook like jetpack, where you try to outdo your friendís high score.
With a few extra courses, and maybe some crazy jumps to hit, I could see this game becoming a good timewaster.
The next game I tried was called Elementia. This was more complicated and in-depth, and itís difficult to explain.
Itís a strategy game that takes place on grid. On opposing corners are you and your opponentís starting spots. Each person gets a turn, and in each turn they have 6 moves. These moves can be used to place orbs on the grid, use special powers, attack your opponents orbs, or heal your own orbs.
You are given a random mix of orbs and/or special powers to use. The first orb you place must be adjacent to your starting location, and each orb after that must maintain this connection to your ďbase.Ē
When one of your orbs is adjacent to one of your opponentís orbs, you can attack that orb. The more orbs in the chain leading up to your point of attack, the more damage your attack inflicts. Thus, this game demonstrates that in yet another situation, the more balls touching, the better.
Additionally, most of the orbs represent a different element. There is one type that is just a generic orb. Different elements have attack advantages over each other, such as water over fire. Water orbs can be used to heal surrounding orbs that have taken damage.
If you manage to destroy an opponentís orb that connected other orbs to the starting base, you can ďclaimĒ these detached orbs as your own.
The game is very early in development, as you can see in the picture. All of the graphics are placeholders, and the GUI is very rudimentary. But even still, I saw some potential to this game.
The full version will support up to 4 player competitive play, and a 2 player co-op mode where you both try to take down a CPU controlled base.
I donít play many strategy games, but this one seems like something I would try out. Itís definitely confusing at first, and Iím not sure if my description helped explain it at all. But once you get the hang of it, you start to see the potential as you try to strike the right balance between placing orbs, attacking, healing, or capturing your enemyís pieces with your limited turns.
The developers hoped this game, with its turned-based gameplay, would find a similar audience to that of the infamous Scrabulous Facebook game.
The final game I checked out wasnít really a game at all. Named Mesa3D, it was a virtual world thing in the vein of Second Life or Home. The Muse folks showed me a house you could walk around in and decorate. Not really exciting stuff, and the developers were well aware. The only real advantage over other virtual worlds is that this runs in the browser, rather than as a separate program. Muse wants to use this as a starting point to make something more compelling for their upcoming site.
An interesting example of what is possible with Mesa3D, was a virtual island they created for Sosauce.com. It is an accurate model of the real-world Ross Island in Antarctica. You can run around and see the sites of this remote island while reading up on facts found at various points of interest.
The island is pretty sparse, but there are flocks of penguins that you can watch swim and waddle around.
The island only starts to resemble a game when another person joins you. Then you can throw snow balls at each other. Itís a mildly entertaining diversion with some potential. If they added in some 3rd person shooter controls, this could turn into a fun snowball fight game.
Although Muse's website isn't live yet, you can still check out some of these games. Mesa3D and Extreme Sledding are on sosauce.com.
They are also supposed to be available on Facebook. Muse is also going to be holding these playtesting "parties" every Wednesday from here on out, so if you're in NYC and you want to go, let me know. read