Dear Estiah: Estiah Browser MMO Thingy

By Kieron Gillen on February 2nd, 2010 at 7:44 pm.

WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
One Mr Bock writes, a little sad there’s no external discussion of Estiah other than a thread on the Penny Arcade. I feel the same about the Neptune’s Pride Beta, so decided to have a quick nose and… yeah, it immediately has a couple of mechanics that look quite interesting. It’s a limited-actions-per-day thing, but there’s a neat Guild Wars-esque twist in terms of how combat operates. Worth a look, if you fancy that kind of thing. And a few thoughts about both this, and this kind of thing below…

Firstly, the Guild Wars influence. You’re able to select a number – increasing with level – of weapon/spell abilities called Charms. Or something. Point being, you can select about 18 or so. After it goes through them all, you lose the combat. Some are melee. Some are magic. Some are melee-defence. Some are magic-defence. So, depending on who you’re facing, you mix-up the selection. In an arena, finding myself fighting some ‘orrible thing, I realised that the melee-armour was pointless, so threw them all away and concentrated on the right damage and… guy goes down. So while the combats play out automatically ala MyBrute, there’s actual mechanical thought. It’s only a smattering to start with, but to actually figure something out – hell, anything out – within the first few minutes of a MMO. Which is a terrible statement about the genre, of course, but something to be applauded. Throw in flashes of humor, Kingdom of Loathing-style and some Princess-Maker influences, and it’s the sort of thing I can certainly see myself checking in once a day, have a little prod, and get back to work. Much like I am with Neptune’s Pride, but without having a fight with Quinns and PC Gamer’s Graham.

I digress.

But the other thought generally… well, I was talking some browser-developers today (Littleloud, who I’m writing a game-script for. The Curfew. More anon, I suspect, but there’s a thread where people speculate about it if you want to chat). You may know Littleloud from their previous BAFTA-award winning Bow Street Runner, which The Curfew is a kinda-sequel to. As in, it re-uses its tech. It’s basically an FMV-adventure game with production-values which match whatever John reviews. It’s also browser game.

What I was talking about was that you can tell that the Browser is getting interested, because it’s getting a backlash. I’ve spotted an increase in comment-threads of people dismissing Browser games as “not real games”. That’s always a sign that something is important, because it’s annoying reactionary and/or judgmental elements who feel threatened. As this grows, they gaming they like is being taken away. And, of course, that’s not always wrong.

I suppose this is my way of actually opening the floor. What actually is our readership’s take on Browser games? We seem to have a mental divide between in the indie-flash games (which everyone likes, bar people who dismiss them for being pretentious) and the more commercial actual games (which are more commonly seen as corporate-evilness). Compare and contrast Captain Forever (A game I suspect is dismissed too often because it’s in a browser and not downloadable) and VVVVVV (Which is downloadable, but seems to be dismissed all too often because it resembles a style of play which are often seen in a browser). And do look at Bow Street Runner, because it’s basically a whole new model for funding professional games (i.e. By commissioning bodies – in this case, Channel 4). LOTS OF STUFF HERE. IT IS VERY EXCITING.

Thoughts, gentlefolk. I’m looking for angles.

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35 Comments »

  1. Heliocentric says:

    I come to rps for all of my browser and match 3 gaming needs.

    But really, i can’t really get into a game which expects me to play it daily anymore than i can watch soaps on television.

    I want games to engage my mindtime because the game is engaging, not because of impositions in the format.

    • JuJuCam says:

      This. I enjoyed Neptune’s Pride up to the point that I realised I had made some early game decisions that put me behind the leading player’s juggernaught 8-ball. I didn’t really feel like checking in once a day to see the galaxy slowly turn purple.

      And I was in 2nd place. I was actually the leading contender for the title. I was also the only other player that hadn’t been taken over by AI, which is probably telling in and of itself. If I’m going to get wiped out conclusively I’d at least like it to be resolved within a few play sessions. Stretching it out over a month or two is… well just plain cruel. I can’t imagine a long PBEM game of Solium Infernum!

      On the other hand I check into Kongregate pretty regularly for a quick game fix when I’m not in the mood for a heavy play session.

      And I’m firmly in the “Games is games” camp. I like variety and have tried many many many more games than I have played through.

  2. kalidanthepalidan says:

    I heard a mention of Guild Wars. That makes me smile.

    But on topic, I’m not a huge fan of browser based games but I have played my fair share. Kingdom of Loathing for one. Some “here is your planet now go and conquer other planets” type of game as well. More recently, my wife has convinced me to start playing Farmville, which isn’t really so much game as something to click on and check up on twice a week. Though sending her Farmville gifts makes her happy. Happy wives are always good. :)

    But Estiah’s combat system sounds interesting. Might have to give it a go. The problem with browser games is that there seems to be about 100 kagillion of them and I have no idea which are any decent (apart from the ones you fine fellows point out). The ones you find out about through web banners are often the worst as they have to be money traps as they spend so much on their advertising. Then the decent ones never get any attention, or since they aren’t money traps, can’t advertise. Just my thoughts.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    Used to be obsessed with now dead tdzk. A space trading and combat browser mud.

    However, when things like ports growing when traded with and death always being possible (you could dock into a port for safety, but that could be overpowered) and player owned and invested planets could be customised and would require imported goods without factories on the planet which would take up “space” on the planet raising costs of further construction.

    It was a total obsession, only broken by becoming the leader of a 80 player faction, ruling a huge chunk of space with and iron fist and then realising that nothing else was really possible in the games mechanics. Even all of the games diplomatics became a one way street, we needed no one and had something to offer but no means of tariff, so we just let people sponge off us. Eh.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Oh, wow, TDZK! I remember that game. Got involved in a faction for a bit – not an 80-man thing, closer to maybe 10 or so people – ended up conquering a planet, briefly. Good times.

      (Didn’t realized it died. Pity!)

  4. Wulf says:

    First of all, browser games aren’t all bad. Legend of the Green Dragon was a thing of pure hilarity back when I used to play it, and I even ran my own version for a while. Being a bit of a coder, I customised the heck out of it, and created my own modules, some of which confounded other coders with how I could maul PHP to do the twisted things (three cheers for hooks!) I wanted it to do.

    So I’m not adverse to playing something in a browser, something that I can only play once a day, even, as Legend of the Green Dragon could be checked in on only once a day. The question is how fun it is, how entertaining that daily check in will be. If the activities are good for a laugh, and the encounters are too, then it can be compelling. I remember how amusing I found some combinations of the things that happened in my Legend of the Green Dragon. For example, I could skin the corpses of undead corporate lawyers. Oddly satisfying!

    Besides, you had me at ‘Guild Wars’.

  5. tekDragon says:

    Ah… you had me at guildwars.

    Also, Kingdom of Loathing deserves an RPS look. You might not be into the turns/day style but the writing will make you grin like an imbecile.

    “You summon a Cone of Ex-Girlfriends, dealing 110 [cold element] damage to your opponent.”

    Fantastic.

  6. Tei says:

    OGame has teach things about myself normally people learn on wartimes. I joined this Estiah thing because seems cute, ooops… I remenber now that I have a registrarion on a similar site that I have not visited in a year.. uh..

  7. bookwormat says:

    I find it interesting that even consoles like the iphone must be able to run web applications, even through the web is an open software platform. By definition, the console owner needs to close out any software platform except for his own..

  8. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    KoL needs like a retrospective at this point even though it’s still going. I played that like 8 years ago.

  9. Wolfz says:

    so… i was reading this “review” and was thinking, that is all written real good, no shpelling mystakes, or engrish, Every Sentence Starts With Capital Letter and Such. but im not here to talk about that, what really surprised me is, that WTF IS PRINCES-MAKER?!?!?!? and where did you lrn to write? in gorilla cage with two apes who look like your cousins?

    no seriously, WoW? Im surprised you didnt mention it, c’mon everybody loves those pesky goblins and gnomes! But not you, i guess, you are one of those who plays as BE and cc ratchet at 69?

    finally, im off to play neptunes pride BETA! woooohooo, how awesome is that? and VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV for REVENGE! but bow street runner really needs to leave this universe IMMED1Atly1

    I digress.

  10. LegendaryTeeth says:

    My only problem with browser and browser-esque games is the lack of right-click. That nearly put me off Machinarium (which was delightful otherwise).

    My mouse has four buttons and a clicky wheel. The less of them I can use, the less happy I am :(

  11. Arathain says:

    I like, you know, games. I don’t care what the format is, I care if they’re any good. There are many really good browser games (with more appearing all the time). They’re almost always free. I like free!

    I shall try this. It sounds interesting.

    I should also like to take this opportunity to refer to the current RPS game of Neptune’s Pride. Cyan, if you’re reading, revenge is coming. I’m going to be cackling evily for the next day or two. Prepare your response, if you dare.

  12. bookwormat says:

    What actually is our readership’s take on Browser games?

    – I like good games and bad games I like not so much.

    - anywhere

    - Slow pacing as in Netptun’s Pride works very well for me.

  13. Crono says:

    Here’s a replay (animated log) of a high level PVE fight in Estiah.
    There’s four players grouping to take down some sort of big boss. One is tanking while the other 3 are nuking the boss, and the add that will blow them up if it remains alive too long.

    http://www.estiah.com/character/combat/replay/id/16614061/owner/28702

  14. malkav11 says:

    I really enjoyed Kingdom of Loathing, and there’s been a few others I’ve dabbled in. The problem is, I can’t be relied upon to play games on a predictable, regular basis. And the other sort of browser game, the Flash games and whatnot…it’s fine and neat that they can be played in a browser but by the same token they could be played easily enough on a desktop and I’d just as soon do that. Also, most of them seem rather slight.

  15. Mr Chug says:

    I played a bit of Estiah a few months back- it’s a blast at the earlier and later levels (where classes fork wildly and there’s far more thought involved in the big group fights) but the middle game killed it for me. Too little progress for too much time, and eventually I lacked the drive to even log in and click attack a few times.

  16. SomeGuy says:

    hey if you make an acount add me as a mentor character is “SomeGuy” .

  17. arqueturus says:

    I’m playing Neptunes Pride at the minute although the AI has snookered my chance of real victory. I’ve got a truce going with another player in a similarily weak postition and we’re going to try and take down as many opponents together. Coming from Eve, Neptunes Pride’s slow pace seems natuaral enough to me.

    I like that it’s browser based because I can check in on it in multiple locations, which is handy.

  18. apa says:

    I played Estiah for a while but after level 20something I got bored. To me, there’s not enough game to play in most browser MMOs: there’s only the grind. It’s only making the character better to win quests or fights, in order to make the character better again.

    I don’t play normal MMOs either, tried the WOW trial but got bored with that too. I guess I’m not the target audience.

  19. Skulkraken says:

    Ah, the now-ubiquitous browser game. Sooner or later someone’s going to end up making a browser game about playing a browser game.

    Lately, I’ve been playing Vast Universe, designing and building my own space fleets to wage war with. I’ve managed to assemble a decently-sized federation of players…though the current lack of suitable (or intelligent) opponents is really starting to crimp my battle plans.

    …I really should go and actually finish my first ascension in Kingdom of Loathing.

  20. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    This is like utopia (and similar), right? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia_(online_game)

    No, thanks. I did play utopia and another one of those for some time, but it requires tooo much of a time investment for not enough reward (fun). I’d rather play an MMO. They, at least, tend to let me decide my own pace a little more.

  21. Redd says:

    Wow, Captain Forever <3

    But, more on topic, I played a game called Punk-o-matic 2 last night. It's a flash based music making/rhythm game that happens to reach most people through their browser. My first thoughts after playing it enough to realise it was good was "I wonder if there are any REAL games like this?" (not sure if Rock Band or whatever is similar as I've not played it, so forgive me if it is). The point being, my reaction was to appreciate the idea but immediately dismiss the format.

    *shrug*

  22. wererogue says:

    “As this grows, they gaming they like is being taken away”

    This simple typo broke my brain for about 3 tries through the sentence. “they *are* gaming… they like… no… oh! *the* gaming they like!” :V

    I’m really enjoying Echo Bazaar (http://echobazaar.failbettergames.com/) at the moment – it’s a lot neverwhere-y, a little mythos-y.

    I like browser games a lot, because there are lots, and they’re easy to discover and play. Other than that, they’re the same as regular games (although I, too, would love a right-click.)

    • malkav11 says:

      Well, I was thoroughly intrigued by Echo Bazaar until I discovered that it apparently requires a Twitter account. I don’t have one, don’t want one, and have no intention of signing up for one just to play a browser game. (I say apparently because no mention of Twitter is made but trying to start moves one to a Twitter login.)

    • Alexis Kennedy says:

      Oh, ta wererogue.

      malkav – it’s like a law of nature, every thread where we pop up someone says this about Twitter. :) So I generally come along and mention out that a sizeable number (20%?) of our players register a Twitter account solely to play the game, and never touch it for any other purpose.

      (Alexis, Echo Bazaar / Failbetter Games)

    • malkav11 says:

      I’m sure. I’m not going to be one of them, however. Can’t stand Twitter, don’t ever want to even touch it. Is there some reason you can’t have your own account system, or, I dunno, use Facebook (which I reluctantly signed up for a while back and never use) or Google accounts or something?

    • Alexis Kennedy says:

      >s there some reason you can’t have your own account system

      yup – (i) I’d rather not build yet another auth system (ii) Twitter is our (low-key, polite, 100% voluntary) viral channel for recruitment. (There is some Twitter-based functionality as well – we’ve got an ARGish element which lives there – but only a minority of players do anything with that.)

      > or, I dunno, use Facebook

      That’s very much on the cards – we want to expand on to Facebook as soon as I get a chance to get my head down for a week or two’s solid dev work.

  23. LionsPhil says:

    The browser is an unnecessary and crippling layer of needless abstraction in the way of gaming.

    It adds nothing at a great cost of efficiency, user interface, and control and flexibility. (Good luck playing online games on your netbook out of wifi range. While not DRM, you have much of the same problems.) I’m no fan of Steam et. al. (you may have noticed) but, hell, they’re a lesser evil than this idiocy.

    • Megamaj says:

      It has one huge advantage: you don’t need to download or install or even run anything except for your browser, which is always available and which you’re almost always allowed to use.

  24. Cooper says:

    Flash games for the office break win.

    I hardly touch them outside of office hours, but sites such as JayisGames and others fix me up for the odd five minutes here and there.

  25. vader says:

    What qualifies as a browser game? Should we make a difference between games that are actually played inside the browser and those that use the browser and a website as a frontend for menus, statstracking, social stuff etc and then just launch an addon/external application when it’s time to play.

    I can see the latter option being a lot more lucrative since you can pretty much code the latest greatest DX99 omg-my-eyes-just-exploaded-from-the-graphics game that way. Take “The Hunter” for example. It’s a pretty nice looking game and you need a browser to access the questing, the outfitting, the social bits and so on. Does that qualify it as a browser game?

    Overall I’d say I’m fine with small instant downloaded games that I can waste an hour on in my browser. Any bigger then that and I don’t see the point of it being a browser game. Quake Live being an exception because that’s one game I thought worked wonderfully as a browser game. I really wouldn’t like it if AAA single-player titles started requiring a browser and the constant internet connection that comes with it.

  26. Collic says:

    Browser games aren’t bad, they’re just different from what we’re used to in the main. There are lots of great little flash games out there (for example), and I’m always thankful when rps points them out.

    I think it’s a natural match for casual gaming, and that has its place on every platform. It won’t dilute or alter pc gaming as we know it as far as I’m concerned, so I’ve no idea why someone would be threatened by their emergence.

    The other big plus as I see it is we get to play great little platformers and other throw away fun things that I don’t see getting the same kind of exposure any other way. It has to be good for the industry as a whole when people can cut their teeth making this stuff.

    I quite like the fact we’re getting to see lots of old school genres resisted through our browsers; it gives me warm nostalgic feelings. More importantly I doubt id go to the effort of playing many of those if i had to do much more than click a link.

    Things like quake live are also a really interesting direction. It proves a lot of old games are potentially ripe for resurrection via the browser. I don’t think it’ll change our big budget pc gaming one bit, it just means we have more things to tinker with, and newcomers can make something simple and clever and actually get people to play it a lot easier.

  27. Gothnak says:

    My sister pointed me to Bow Street Runners last year… It’s a very well acted game for a change.. I enjoyed it a lot.