Free for All: What a Memoria MMO might look like

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Free for All: What a Memoria MMO might look like
Memoria screenshot
There are a few styles of gaming that we just don't see much of anymore, and point-and-click adventure games has been one of those. The good news is that compared to other older styles like text-based or email-gaming, point-and-click adventuring is making a comeback. Thanks to the mobile market and its resurrected titles like Broken Sword and amazing newer games like The Walking Dead, adventure-lovers have much to do. Personally, I find adventure gaming to be a thrilling experience because they generally allow a player to use her brain more than her reflexes, and the experiences are usually quite beautiful too.

Memoria is Daedalic Entertainment's latest adventure game set in The Dark Eye universe. It's often described as "the German Dungeons and Dragons." I'm not sure that the description gives either IP full credit, but The Dark Eye is one interesting universe.

As usual, though, my mind wondered how the game could be worked into a multiplayer version. A massively multiplayer version. I've asked the same question of other games before, so let's look at how Memoria might make a killer MMO!

Memoria screenshot
Let me explain how the game works graphically; how it works is not much different from several MMOs you probably know well. The graphics are "flat" or two-dimensional, and they make the player feel as if she is moving in and out of different paintings. This does not mean that the backgrounds have no depth to them; on the contrary, these environments are generally minimally animated and remain flat. It's a classic, timeless sort of design that works the same now as it did years and years ago, which isn't true of so many other styles of game.

Glitch was a fantastic example of a game that worked completely and openly like an MMO while hosting a world that was completely flat. It would be safe to say that Tiny Speck, the developer of Glitch, intentionally used the flatness to its advantage, even working it to appear more like an animated comic book or cartoon. We knew the world wasn't three-dimensional, but we didn't care. If only more players had appreciated it!

Dragon Eternity and Legacy of the Dragons both use a similar flat artstyle, even going so far as to create "scenes" that players move through, scenes that are literally surrounded by a frame as though they are a giant piece of artwork. Players can zoom in and out of the art, and combat is pitched in a side-by-side battle, almost like two pieces of art out for each other's destruction.

There are so many other "flat" MMOs, titles like Mirimagia, Grepolis, The West, Artix Entertainment's massive selection, Castle Empire, Dragons of Atlantis, countless MMORTS games, Club Penguin ...I haven't even began to hit the Ds! Even when we leave out all of the incredible text-based MMOs and games that feature text and some flat artwork (like crosses between MUDs and two-dimensional games), we wind up with a very robust list of MMOs that use very basic, but often very beautiful, graphics.

Needless to say, this is not a genre of twitch-based action. Sure, there are very exciting moments in a game like Memoria, but much of the gameplay is based on character development, driving the story forward through a series of choices and puzzles. The puzzles are often very challenging but never impossible, and Memoria does puzzles amazingly well. I am reminded of many puzzle-based MMOs, like Puzzle Pirates, and how they use puzzling or minigames as a valid part of the MMO experience. Free Realms utilizes minigames to help players level up particular jobs, and even hardcore games like Age of Wushu feature puzzles and minigames that represent working as a chef, for example.

Many players could interact even during a puzzle in order to help each other solve it. In my fantasy Memoria MMO, players would walk around the scene together, unlocking different clues and discussing the possible solution. I imagine that each puzzle might need to be instanced in order to prevent griefers who live for spoiling a game, but these instanced puzzles could be considered a sort of raid or group content. Myst Online Uru Live provides a fantastic example of multiplayer puzzle quests; players can invite others into a puzzle that they can literally walk around in. I've had players give me clues while joining me in a puzzle, helping me to solve riddles and challenges that were seemingly insurmountable.

So far, we have looked at graphics and multiplayer options, but I can also imagine how much fun it would be to have housing, mounts, or even a cash shop that provides cash to the development of the game. Glitch is another great example of animated, flat characters that could own and decorate their own homes. In our imagined game of Memoria Online, players could own homes that could be decorated like a virtual Colorforms set by placing different set pieces around the home. They could meet in the home to plan out a night's activities or hook up with friends inside a more public tavern, one featuring Memoria's haunting hand-drawn art and music.

Mounts might be more fluff than anything, but in order to see how they might affect the player, we can look at War of Dragons again. If you are "on" a mount in that game, it simply shortens the time it takes before you can switch to the next "scene." The time limit represents, in a brilliantly simple way, your character's movement over the landscape. In Memoria Online, players could own fantastic-looking, animated mounts that help them move from area to area.

The mounts or housing items -- or even weapons and potions -- could be sold in a cash shop just as in countless MMOs. I can even picture puzzle clues being sold individually or in packs of five. When a player gets stuck in a puzzle or needs a clue, using one of these items would unlock the secret or next step. Although Memoria the single-player game is a fixed price, the free-to-play MMO could offer a wide range of items that would make the player characters look cool while offering a few time-savers.

I don't know about you, but I would love to see a Memoria MMO. Why? Because playing with other people is amazing. We already have Drakensang Online, a browser-based dungeon-crawler that is set in the same IP, so perhaps we will see something more coming from Memoria, a game that has garnered so much praise in the press?

Try the game. Even as an MMO fan, you will likely fall in love with its atmosphere, music, and story. I know I did, and I'm only a few hours in. Now imagine playing that game with a few friends... or hundreds of friends. I can only wish!

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!
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