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Community-extended interface in AO

June 5, 2011 2 comments

There are a few MMO games that expose an API (application programming interface) to allow for various add-ons to be built to the game client; the most recent to announce such an interface is Rift.  In a way Anarchy Online also have a way to include add-ons, but in a different manner and probably unintentional originally.

Not too far after the initial release of the game Funcom released something that was and has been fairly unique among MMOs – an external chat client to the in-game chat. Using a Java applet one would use it to chat with people in-game (or others using the same chat client), without the need to log in into the game.

That was a quite neat feature and it did not take long until other players had figured out how the chat interface worked and started to write their own chat clients. And after that came the idea to introduce “bots”, external software that logged in as a user and throught he chat interface provided various types of services to players – i.e. ask a question and get an answer back. One of the early bots of this kind was Helpbot. Helpbot is the name of the character that one sends tells to, which is run by a pice of software outside of the game.

This mechanic has been extended with many new features over the years; nowadays the bot software is modular, so they run with a common core functionality which can be extended by adding additional modules to it. Information about variout bot software can be found at AODevs wiki, which also have pages for some specific instances of bots on Atlantean and Rimor. Many organisations (a.k.a. guilds in some other MMOs) seem to have a bot of their own to provide various added functionality to its members. A partial list of modules available from one of the bots is shown below (that is maybe half of the whole list).

With many added features to the in-game functionality through the chat interface this is a different approach to the APIs exposed by some other MMOs, with different advantages and disadvantages:

  • This mechanic only extends things that can be operated through the chat interface; it has to work within the confines of the existing interface if things are shown in the game (but some modules open up external web pages). The API approach can be a bit more flexible here, depending on what the game developers choose to expose.
  • There is no requirement that each and every player install something extra – this is an advantage compared to add-ons that are installed locally; it is really nothing to mess around with for the user to install, update or remove.
  • The performance and utilization of these features may affect game chat servers and be more dependent on outside running software than the local computer. That is a trade-off to not have to install anything locally.
  • Setting up a bot requires more effort to set up, but on the other hand this is an effort that only a few people are doing.
It is nice to see that Funcom did allow this to grow; same as for other games that allow extensions they allow for the community to add what they consider useful.
As far as I understand the same chat servers also are used for Age of Conan and I believe at least one of the bot software is also build to be used with that game. Will this also extend to The Secret World?

Categories: Anarchy Online

Old school hooked

June 5, 2011 4 comments

Lately I have almost exclusively played only one MMO – Anarchy Online. The only other game that have received a bit of time i Star Trek Online and my Klingon captain. But the other games; Rift, City of Heroes, Black Prophecy etc have not had any gameplay.
I have had a number of incidents that perhaps would not happen in the more modern MMOs:

  • debuffed myself so I could not use any skills on my hotbar, because my nano target was aimed at me rather than the enemy
  • temporaily lost most of the XP for a level when dying
  • picked and recieved missions really out of my league – initially
  • chased across an entire zone by one or more mobs – sometimes with a successful escape, sometimes not
  • tried to run past enemies much too high level for me that were next to a mission location

but I have also:

  • enjoyed some really witty NPC and mission dialogue
  • have had help and buffs from really nice and friendly fellow players
  • seen some really fun outfits
  • explored some neat scenary and good music for setting the mood
  • travelled and explored across big land areas
  • played some fun and enjoyable missions
  • played some fun professions

Many of the things on the first list are in some way negatives, but have also done something more positive. I have learned to be more aware of where I have the two targets (fight target and nano target). The zone chases have been kind of a rush when I successfully escaped and also memorable when I did not escape – I learned a few things from the experience and saw some more views I would not have seen otherwise 😉

Enjoying the scenery of The Brawl and its Lovecraft-inspired inhabitants, while being chased by a group of Weavers of Decay (I died in the end)

The XP loss can be annoying, but is not permanent – everything is pooled and added back as extra XP when going at it again. So while one has to start from an earlier stage the leveling speed is increased though, which is kind of a nice pat on the back compared to an XP debt which slows you down after death. Since you can at most lose what you earned during the current level and the levels are fairly quick, there is not necessarily a big deal.

Since the experience is not so smooth and streamlined like some more modern games, the leveling experience can vary quite a bit. I was on a mission to hunt Shy Eremites (no shy old men in desolate places, but rather sandworm type creatures) and were placing thumpers on the ground (very Dune-inspired) to attract them. Initially fighting one of these eremites were a bit daunting – it took a couple of bites of me and I was pretty much done. And I had a mission to track down and kill 5 of these – and my nearest resurrection spot was not close.

My Meta-Physicist pets - Donald the damage dealer, Harry the healer and Marvin the mezzer

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Categories: Anarchy Online