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MMObility: Tynon forces players to come to grips with automatic gameplay


It's been over a year since I last looked at Tynon, a browser-based pseudo-MMO that has been magically transformed into a much larger and more MMOish MMO. What a difference a year makes! Many of the key gameplay elements remain, meaning that you can still play the entire game (at least I have been able to so far) by clicking one or two buttons, over and over. So much of the game is played for you that it made me wonder -- as it did the first time around -- what the point was. Then it made me wonder just how much the gameplay in Tynon is like many of the more "standard" MMOs I have played, meaning that so many of them are the same one or two button chunks of gameplay, only wrapped in a three-dimensional exterior that features hotbars.

I'm not making excuses for auto-play features, but I'm not making excuses for the mindless clicking that many MMOs feature, either. As with most things, the details matter the most. In Tynon, there are almost too many details to count.

Tynon screenshot
When I first played the game, it was more of an MMORTS combined with the one-click gameplay. As I write this, I have the game running in a browser on my second PC. I write a few words, reach over and click a button, write a few more words, and continue on. It's not that the game is uninteresting; it's just suffering from what a lot of games suffer from: optional AFK-capability. If I wanted to be more engaged in the game, I could be. I have applied to join at least a dozen guilds (to complete a mission step), but none has responded. When I take a few moments to examine what is going on in the game, there seem to be a heck of a lot of people, but no one is speaking. Occasionally there is some movement, but players are either speaking in private chats or simply AFK. After all, the game allows for such behavior.

If I compare the Tynon experience to that of other games, it reminds me of controversial instant-transportation options that came along years ago and were met with sneers and shouts from "hardcore" players. I remember having endless debates with other players about being able to avoid transportation like teleportation stones in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. To these old-school players, the existence of these options was an insult, even though they could easily avoid them and take longer roads.

The key to the whole thing, I discovered in later years, is that players cannot resist the easier options. Some of the most hardcore players, like raiders, cannot resist the instant travel options even though they disliked them. To these players, the convenience outweighed the other half of their brains, and instant travel was taken.

Tynon speaks to the half of our brain that tells us, "Just take the instant travel. Why not?" I've had to literally force myself to ignore this half of my conscience and to ignore Tynon's systems like "auto-grind" to take a look around the game. It's a beautiful, hand-painted game with some brilliant design. It's a shame that much of the art and landscape is passed by without much of a thought by many players, but I still find myself simply stopping, looking around, and marveling at the work that went into the game.

Tynon screenshot
You can level up the old-fashioned way, through quests and grinding manually. There's no choice during a fight, though, as you cannot control what happens during battle. I've never had much of an issue with a combat system that simply pits two heaps of items and stats against each other to see which comes out on top. In fact, the hands-free combat reminds me of a simple dice-roll in a tabletop game, and I'm fine with that as well. After combat, you can tweak stats or use gems to raise stats. There are so many little buttons that offer in-game, timed rewards that you'll keep the game going in a browser window all day just to see what you get. All of these rewards are geared toward making your character more powerful, forcing you onto a hamster wheel of epic proportions. No wonder no one is chatting; these players are too busy auto-AFKing. Wow, I just came up with a new, scary MMO term.

There is a strange purity in gameplay like the kind you'll find in Tynon. It's bold-faced and open. It allows players to play in a lot of different ways, but it knows that players will generally choose the quickest route possible. While many of us might have an issue with this sort of shortcut gameplay, I find it interesting. As I leveled and obtained new NPC groupmates, I arranged them into some basic formations and hoped for the best. Even when I failed in battle against mobs and players alike, I didn't feel any sort of sting. The game just wanted me to get up, dust myself off, and jump back into it.

"Heck, modern players do not read quest text anyway, so I wonder if we need a new sort of delivery method for story?"

Much of the Eastern browser market features this sort of "race-to-the-top" auto-gameplay. There's often a very linear, forgettable storyline that ties it all together, but again I think that the details will be skipped by most players because they can. Heck, modern players do not read quest text anyway, so I wonder if we need a new sort of delivery method for story? I love a good story, but the gameplay needs to be more involved with that story or the designers are just wrapping words around a few actions. There should be a strong connection, a reason for playing, else players will play only to keep playing. We become robots, punching a clock for shift after shift.

Tynon does not apologize for how it plays, but I am missing the original city-builder options that were in-game the first time I looked at it. At least the MMORTS-ish options broke up the grind and gave me something new to look at. The combat can be interesting to watch especially once you add more teammates to your formation, and clicking your way through the game until some bar or another fills up and lets you collect some new batch of digital goodies is a bit addicting, but I cannot figure out why. After all, I generally despise games that play like a mindless job. Yet, I keep clicking. And clicking.

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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