Back when I played and toured with a band, we would always finish up our East coast trips in New York. Sure, it's a big beautiful city but the true fun came when we visited Coney Island. We'd check out the rides and grab some fried foods, but the best part was visiting some friends of ours who ran and performed in the freak show. One particularly lovely lady was known as Insectavora, and she was covered in tattoos. She had a knack for eating bugs, too, and describing to the audience what they tasted like. (Feeding crickets oranges made them taste orangey.)
There are plenty of MMOs out there that would feel right at home in the Coney Island freakshow. These odd ducks are made by someone special, played by a special few and visited by me. I love them, but making a list of them was sort of hard. After all, these days we have MMOs that are populated with the weirdest looking critters you can imagine, and all of our tolerance levels for the odd and unusual have risen.
But click past the cut and let me show you some of my favorite oddball MMOs. Remember...I use that term lovingly.
Socks Inc. is not really an MMO in the truest sense of the word, but it does show how players can socialize and participate in a game in different ways. I started an account and tried out a few missions... basically by taking snapshots of my sock puppet and submitting them for approval. Once approved, I gained experience and moved on to other missions. I have to admit to feeling sort of right at home in such a "game" and dreamed about more and more elaborate sock puppets or costumes that I could make.
The reason I wanted to list Socks Inc. is because the developers also maintain a Twitter presence and talk to their community. While most players I know would snicker at the thought of such a "game", it's interesting to note how a social presence and interacting with your community can make almost anything possible. If you check out some of the elaborate costuming and sock decorations on the site, it's almost obvious that adults have to be involved. That means there are scores of full-grown people, like myself, sitting around their kitchen taking pictures of their socks for the game. I love that image. It makes me happy.
Everyone remembers that girl in class...she had horses on her t-shirts, her Trapper Keeper and inside her locker. She probably had long, brown hair and was pretty quiet. She really loved horses. Well, she grew up, learned to code and made this odd little game called Horse Isle. I jumped on this one as fast as I could, making an account and logging in to see what happens in an MMO dedicated to horsey love. Well, it really is a pretty cool little game. I mean, you do need to love horses to enjoy it, but for an independently made game it works out nicely.
I went through the tutorial island and found myself on some kind of "mainland," and the chat was being destroyed by horse chatter. I'm still not 100 percent sure, but I think the point of the game is to raise and trade horses. People were constantly chatting about their prize horses they had for sell, and none of it made sense to me. If one thing was obvious, though, it was that these players loved horses as well. At no point did I receive a horse of my own, and I felt kind of bummed about it. Do you have to buy a horse from other players? Is there a cash-shop that sells the horse eggs? (They do come from eggs, right?) I'll need to investigate more. Either way, this game is actually quite cozy and neat. I love the fact that it was even made.
OK, I want to say right now that I am in no way endorsing the use of illegal drugs or alcohol when I say that being super wasted would probably help you enjoy Puppet Guardian. Basically you make your character and interact with the world by rolling dice. So, to move you roll some dice and your character moves ahead on the map. You collect items and fight monsters, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what to do with those items. You can craft them into other items, but even the process scared me a little.
What I love about Puppet Guardian is the art style. It's flat but not cold, cartoony but not overly silly. Creating a game that looks like Puppet Guardian takes some guts. As the designer of such a world, you have to know that many gamers will look at it and scratch their head. Heck, I've played the game for a few hours and it's hard for me to describe. It fits perfectly into this list.
I've enjoyed Secondhand Lands off and on for a long time, but still fail to grasp the exact story behind it. You can play four different "races" and a few different classes, all of them common fairy tale characters. I enjoyed playing a wolf mostly, but next I really want to take a swipe at playing a sheep. The art design is rough but nice, and the system requirements are very low. I would like to see the game be taken a little more seriously and tweaked a bit more as well (comic sans font is never, ever good) but indie games are often in need of a lot more players to pay for such development.
Secondhand Lands has been going on for a long time, especially for an independent game. I'd like to see it grow and become something more expansive, but the community seems happy enough. It does feature a pretty rich character customization system, and is almost sandboxy in its execution. Even then, I am confused and a little creeped out. Isn't that the point of a freak show, though?
Do these games a favor and go try them out. Step off of the sidewalk and into the dark sideshow tent. For all you know, you might just find a great game. I've enjoyed what I have played so far, but I am mainly enjoying the fact that someone got up one day and said "You know what, I want to make a game for people who really love horses."
That's the glory of the freakshow...it's different, a little disturbing, and gutsy.
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!