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MMObility: A deeper look at Fleck and its adorable zombies


Fleck is a very interesting title that has quietly been doing some great things in the location-based MMO space. A location-based MMO is essentially an MMO that utilizes the real world via Google maps or real-life landmarks as a background for an MMO. Imagine that you are at your favorite eatery and you take out your phone and are instantly shown a world built on top of the world you're in now; that's location-based gaming. Fleck works like many other location-based MMOs but doesn't link itself to the real world as much as some of the others. Instead, it allows players to build and explore freely all while attempting to avoid (or defeat) zombies of varying strengths. Yes, zombies!

There are some really cool features in Fleck, one of the them being real weather updates like rain, snow, or fog that changes according to the player's location. If a player wants to, she can build a house literally on the spot where she lives in real life or anywhere else in the world -- on top of a Google map.

There's much more to the game, and this week I want to share a recent video I made and look into just how unique this game is.

Fleck screenshot of Carhenge
The graphics are one of the features that set Fleck apart from other games. There's something so perfectly rounded and nicely animated about avatars. During our livestream interview, I asked about more customization options and was informed by the devs that the avatars and other items are animated with more detail than you might normally see from a Flash animation, so creating more customization is proving to be a bit more difficult. Expect more customization early next year.

Even without the ability to outfit your avatar with a hip new pair of glasses or the latest striped shirt, a player has so much to customize in the form of housing and public spaces that Fleck is more like Second Life than another social game. In fact, Fleck is a mix of quite a few titles. This quote from Seppo Helava, Co-Founder and Game Designer for Fleck, sums it up perfectly:
With Fleck, which is an MMO that takes place on a map of the real world, we wanted to make something that was inherently genuinely social, and something where strategy and skill and player choice actually make a significant difference. Fleck's sort of a combination of something like FarmVille, where you're planting and harvesting stuff, with a focus on player expression, and Diablo, where you're playing together with other people, collecting loot, and leveling up your character.
As soon as many of my readers read the word FarmVille, they'll undoubtedly turn up their noses. But no worries; obviously millions upon millions of gamers enjoy the Zynga title... who is to say that their experience is invalid? Still, it's important to note that Fleck borrows only a bit from the infamous title that made "Facebook gaming" an actual descriptor. Fleck has energy, yes, and players do build up experience by simply clicking and harvesting crops, but that's not all it has. Even the parts it borrows are used sparingly or at least in a way that does not drain a player's real-life energy or pocketbook just to keep up. Fleck provides the players with tons of opportunities to build and explore for a long, long time. I hate to say this, but I've yet to spend a dime in it, a situation I will remedy soon simply because that would be fair compensation for the hours of fun I've had.

Where the game gets really interesting, outside of the intense player-made areas, is in exploration and zombie-killing. Exploration is pretty self-explanatory: Players can walk around a map the size of the entire United States and can even check out real-life landmarks that have been treated with the Fleck stylebrush. The Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore are both great examples to find. Players can ask each other for an invite to an interesting area or simply type, say, "Statue of Liberty" in the search bar to instantly be transported to the landmark. I like to type in random street addresses or little-known areas and see where I am taken. Enterting "666 Devil's Lane," for example, took me to an empty spot on the map that was only a few feet from a cemetery.

There are neat meta-games to play while in Fleck, games like hide-and-seek and scavenger hunts. There's something very interesting about flying away to New York City and interacting with a real-life landmark to operate a scavenger hunt clue. Along the way, pictures provided by Flickr members pop up. Clicking these tiny portraits will bring up real-life pics of the area uploaded by locals or visitors. It's almost magical to see the two worlds -- the real and the pixelated -- mix together.

Zombies are probably the largest driving force in the game, right behind creating living areas. Zombie eggs or plants pop up as players tend to gardens or excavate around the land. These pods grow up slowly, releasing powerful (or not so powerful) creatures to destroy. To fight, a player simply has to get within a certain distance of the zombie and an auto-attack fires off the weapon the player has equipped. Careful, though... that zombie can get too close and inflict you with a nasty bite. Some of the higher level zombies not only are huge but can destroy players relatively easily. Luckily, citizens can decorate the area with turrets or other zombie-destroying items that are gained in-game or in the cash shop. It's a very surreal mix to have flesh-eating zombies stomping alongside cute flowers and adorable avatars, but it really works. Visiting a high-level zombie fight is chaotic and sometimes a bit scary. Players can ask for help with a local zombie pod simply by clicking on the pod, which causes a call for aid to appear in chat. Helpful players click on the link and, BOOM, dead zombies. Hopefully.

I'm not quite sure why Fleck works so well, but it does. You can check it out for yourself in the embedded video. The game is updated every single Thursday, so by the time you read this, a brand-new update will have been released. It's available on the iPad and in the browser, but no Android support... yet.

As for me, I found a nice, cozy location about an hour from my real-life house and settled in, building a nice place that is also defended by a few turrets. I also play around in my instanced "back yard," but I've found it's more fun to build in the open so anyone can visit. The cash shop is pretty cheap, and it's easy to use in-game coin to buy goods as well. Still, if you decide to throw down a few dollars, you do get a lot of bang for your buck. Many cash-shop items are powerful or will last forever.

When I asked Seppo what newbies should do when first entering the game, he said:
One of the first things you can do is jump around to some real-world landmarks. Elections were this week, so you could jump over to the White House and see how things are going. Or try some weirder locations. You could, for instance, try to find Carhenge, in Fleck. (Really!) Once you're familiar with the basics, though, see if anyone is hunting zombies. You can just ask in chat, and if anyone wants to form a hunting party, they'll usually broadcast their location in-game, and you can join them by simply clicking the link in chat!
Sounds like good advice.

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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