wnd's weblog


29 Jan 2008 13:01:18 misc

I recently came acros PlaneShift, a free online role-playing game that also runs in Linux. These are my first impressions of it.

I spend virtually all my time in front of computers. Most of the time I’m either at work, coding, or home, coding. Periodically I waste my time playing games. When I get bored, I usually go through some Atom and RSS feeds such as Slashdot and The Daily WTF. Sometimes I browse Wikipedia, and sometimes I end up following the weirdest links.

About a month ago I ended up reading Comparison of massively multiplayer online role-playing games at Wikipedia. I had heard of PlaneShift before but never tried it. I decided to give it a try.

PlaneShift is a free MMORPG. The source is free as in speech and released under GPL while the content isn’t. The content is free as in lunch, but the licence protects the artists by not allowing to use their work elsewhere, and the project by preventing artists to leave the project, denying usage of their contribution. I will not get into details of the world, there’s plenty to read about it on the official website. Instead, I’ll tell about my experiences with the game. Please note that I have not played any commercial MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft!

First of all, PlaneShift is about role-playing. Character creation is quite in-depth, which not only determines character’s initial skills and attributes, but also helps to think about your character’s background and personality. While the game does have plenty of quests to complete, emphasis is still on role-playing and not butchering monsters. When you enter Yliakum, you’re likely to find players chatting using their character’s personality.

PlaneShift doesn’t have character classes such as ranger or mage. Instead, characters will have to learn necessary skills, be it handling sword, making swords, or casting spells. To improve their skills, characters first need to gain progression points. Completing quests, slaying monsters, and using your skills is rewarded with experience points which turn into progression points when your experience points reach 100%. Furthermore, you need someone to teach you the theoretical part of a skill. Most skills require practical experience in addition to theoretical knowledge.

Then comes the other side of PlaneShift. PlaneShift is buggy and different from many computer role-playing games. Talking with NPCs is done with free text input, so sometimes completing a quest (or getting a quest) can depend on right choice of words. Sometimes saying wrong words or giving out a quest item at the wrong moment can prevent you from completing (and sometimes from discarding) a quest. Players get to use magic by gathering so called glyphs and using them to research spells. The game has no ready-made list of available spells, so people will just have to experiment with combinations of glyphs. Loading textures sometimes fails, and you’ll see some of the world covered with zebra stripes or colourful checkerboard. Sometimes you cannot deal any damage to monsters and/or the monsters cannot hurt you. It also seems to be a trend that the server either crashes or is restarted at least twice a day.

There are many opinnions in the Internet about PlaneShift and its developers, and not all of them are positive. Not everyone agrees with developers’ way to deal with bug reports or quest walk-throughs. There are people who think PlaneShift sucks because its graphical models are not as pretty as in other games and because the world is much smaller than what years and years of development would make you expect. Those who like PlaneShift, seem to be quite enthusiastic about it – and I can see why, even though I’m not much of a role-player myself. However I think I’m getting there, eventually.