Posts Tagged ‘Allods Online’

Muzak To My Ears

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I’m guessing that the majority of MMO players don’t pay much attention to in-game music. You either ignore it, mute it, or have other sounds playing in the background. But sound design can be immensely important to the overall media experience. Imagine the movie Conan the Barbarian with cheesy 1980’s synthesized tunes instead of Basil Poledouris’ majestic score. In my opinion, the music made that movie the cinematic icon that it is.

Music within a game should invoke a certain tone or feeling that coincides with the overall theme of a particular area. If an MMO contains a race of people that are known to be war-like, militaristic and ruthless, the sound design for that area should be complimentary – with heavy drum beats and a steady, marching rhythm. Or at the very least, a piece of music that suggests a sense of foreboding or dread.

So what were the developers of Allods Online thinking when they used this [.mp3 file] as the looping background music for the capital city of their EVIL empire?

Go ahead, listen to the entire thing. I dare you.

Allods, like many MMOs of similar ilk, has two waring factions: the ‘good guys’ of the League, and the ‘bad guys’ that make up the Empire. The races of the League include humans, elves (with fairy wings, no less) and teddy-bear looking creatures called Gibberlings. Although not up to the standards of video game composers like Jeremy Soule, this area of the game contains light, airy music that is appropriate – if not a bit forgettable – with oboes, strings and flutes.

Conversely, the races of the Empire consists of humans, an undead variant called the Arisen, and Orcs. Their capital city, Nezebgrad, belies the developer’s Russian roots: Stalin-esque statues are everywhere, and the overall art design suggests a steampunk Moscow. While I applaud the developer’s attempt to break from the standard fantasy genre, their efforts are completely ruined by their bizarrely chosen background music.

According to the website, Astrum Nival spent over 4 years and $12 million dollars creating Allods Online. For a free-to-play MMO, it does have above-average production values. Which makes this choice of sound design that much more inexplicable. Maybe the lead sound designer was the CEO’s brother-in-law?

Ain’t Misbehavin’

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

The other day I was playing Allods Online. I had a quest to kill a mob that required a group. Not wanting to wait in what could have been a very long respawn conga line, I formed a raid to facilitate the process.

The terrain of the area had a small but steep hill where players could stand on top and hit the mob with ranged attacks. Since the mob could not path to them, it would automatically reset. Players quickly recognized this exploit and used it to grief others. Soon the situation devolved into a profanity-laced 3-ring circus, with the griefers taunting the raid members, the raid members yelling epithets at the griefers, and the mob yo-yo-ing between the two. All of this in an effort to get credit for completing an incredibly ill-conceived quest.

Oh, did I mention that I was level 5 and this took place in the beginner area?

But this post isn’t about the game’s questionable design choices. Goodness knows I could rant about that for paragraphs. This is about the behavior of the players.

I felt as if I was wrangling a bunch of 6th graders on a playground as I tried to cajole and placate everyone involved. Based upon the amount of verbal abuse and general lack of emotional maturity exhibited, I wondered afterward if perhaps I was dealing with kids. And it got me to thinking about why bad behavior is so prevalent online.

Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade attempted to explain this phenomenon with his Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Although the online disinhibition effect does account for much of it, I think there is also a generational component.

We have all kinds of social constraints in place to facilitate co-existence. We learn at an early age the consequences of stealing someone’s lunch money or lying about our homework. But our rules of etiquette haven’t caught up to our technology, which has resulted in a technological generation gap. Parents may be concerned about their children being exposed to objectionable material online, but they fail to realize that controlling their child’s own objectionable behavior is equally important. I doubt that many parents have the time or inclination to closely monitor how their children interact with others online. Many probably aren’t even aware of the significance of establishing some form of online etiquette.

It’s unlikely that a child will be traumatized by seeing a pixelated ass cheek. Bullying and name-calling is far more damaging, especially when it’s done anonymously. Until we create consequences for bad online behavior, or remove anonymity completely (which I am in favor of doing), 12 year-olds will be typing “gaywad” and “STFU” without any recognition or concern for the harm they’re causing.