When I left off a few weeks ago, I'd just completed a whirlwind tour of DC Universe Online -- the PC and console versions -- and this week's issue couldn't be more different. We're talking polar opposites here, as Notorious Games' Xsyon sandbox is everything that DCUO is not (although the two titles do share half-baked chat functionality).
I'll be honest here: I tend to cut sandboxes an inordinate amount of slack because a) I love them, and b) they've been relegated to second-class citizen status on account of the casual MMORPG explosion. Join me after the cut as I attempt to maintain some semblance of objectivity while recounting a couple weeks' worth of Xsyon community and customer service adventures.
Combat is -- how can I put this diplomatically -- somewhat rough, and frankly it's a drop in the bucket in terms of the game's systems and content (the majority of which are crafting-based). That hasn't stopped PvP players from descending on the game (and the forums) in droves, though, and there's currently quite an interesting battle of wills going on in terms of whether Xsyon should continue its crafter focus or cater to the PKers.
As you might imagine, this makes for some interesting community discussion, though much of it happens outside the game. Inside the world of Xsyon itself, it's not uncommon to go whole play sessions without encountering another member of the community. The world is fairly vast, travel is fairly slow, and the smallish population means that would-be Grizzly Adams types have plenty of secluded land on which to build their hermit retreats. Global chat in Xsyon is also atypical of the genre. In a nutshell, there isn't any. There was, up until a point several weeks ago when the developers disabled it (much to the relief of soloists, roleplayers, and non-trolls everywhere). There is a strange sort of zone chat still in evidence, and it basically allows anything typed in /say to be read throughout the zone of the speaker as well as the two adjacent sectors (though Xsyon's world is seamless, there are quadrants, and they've been mapped).
Travel is a pretty time-intensive undertaking, and the few times I've attempted it have resulted in some sort of grisly death (usually by grizzly bear) followed by a quick return trip to our tribe totem. So this issue is truly a localized snapshot of Xsyon's community. Your experience may vary quite a bit.
For my first community question, I posed the following:
As it turns out, double- or right-clicking the knife in your pack does nothing; you've actually got to drag it from an inventory slot to one of the two hand icons underneath your paper doll. I suppose this is probably obvious to many who play, but due to the bewildering number of slots on the character window (and the lack of tool-tips), I figured it was quicker to ask. In the interests of the column, I planned on querying my neighbors several times over the course of several days as I've done in past games that feature far-reaching chat channels. With Xsyon, though, the same people kept answering, and it quickly became apparent that getting a huge population sample wasn't going to happen.
As it turns out, my tribe had settled in a region near several other amiable groups, and my experience likely would've been quite different if I'd run afoul of some of the game's ornerier sorts.
For my second question, I asked the following:
If this particular community is at all representative of the game as a whole, I'm happy to report that it's one of the friendliest I've encountered.
If this incident is any indication, Xsyon's customer support is the same sort of work-in-progress that typifies much of the game itself. I hesitate to blast Notorious Games here due to the size of its operation, but I'll also say that the response times need immediate improvement. Resolution is another matter, and I'm fully OK with the fact that my saw is likely irrecoverable. Timely communication from the support team shouldn't be optional, though, and I'm looking forward to revisiting this aspect of Xsyon in a future column.
For more on Notorious Games' post-apocalyptic sandbox, check out Massively's recently concluded Choose My Adventure: Xsyon miniseries.
[Update]: I'm happy to report that Notorious GM GuideRaguel contacted me via email on Thursday (approximately four days after sending the support email) and offered to reinstate my item upon my next login.
Aion to Zentia, the Community Detective case files are an essential part of any game-hopper's research library. Suggestions welcome, care of email@example.com.