Manifold Mischief

Mission reviews, essays, and documents of record regarding The Matrix Online. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sugar Shack 64: The Year in Review

Sugar Shack 64: The Year in Review

Another year has come and gone! For many of us, 2008 was a colossal bummer from beginning to end. My life was marred by death in the family, financial trauma, new responsibilities, and my son preparing to leave us for college. Off the top of my head, I can hardly think of anything from 2008 I will ever savor or look back on with a smile, at least publicly. Amidst this seething chaos, the nightly forays into MegaCity were a blessed relief, where the worst that could happen was dying. For redpills 2008 was eventful: lots of new content and constructs, reforms, decommissions, and controversy. Here’s what I remember most vividly.

Data-Mine

The first major content of the year was Datamine, whose innovation evolved in stages: great wealth, fidgety security, tragic backstory, daunting boss fights, and paranoid plundering in a massive free-for-all free-fire zone. The latter was not as much fun as I expected it to be, and I had not expected it to be fun. I soon lost track of how many times FH pwned me; around the time I lost count, it stopped annoying me. I liked the variety of venue, the convenience of cash, and the cramped coziness of architecture and encounters.

Besides this, I savored the awesome new items, particularly the SSR glasses and the SSR gum. Along with this, I liked the seemingly inadvertent recycling of very old content, such as the Hyperjump Beta and the Mobius Code, since it opens the possibility for recycling more old items, such as blue frags or (please! how I hope!) translocation programs. Still, most people seemed to wail about this, and it has not been repeated. However, the great idea of creating a new construct persisted, as we soon saw.

Sati’s Playground

Unlike most of MxO, which displays such a somber, edgy style and tenor, Sati’s Playground seems more whimsical. It’s small and cozy, with toy boxes, rippling ninja scarves, and even a pink gi. I have yet to score a single one of the Playground items, but enjoyed the great times helping others farm and design strategies for overcoming the sleepwalker menace. Often I stood at the edges gazing out across the misty void, wondering what might lie in the island skyscrapers, cars, and trees. Once I thought I glimpsed a tree whose fruit consisted exclusively of FM-1500 pistols. Definitely fun.

Valkyrie Mishes

The great downtown venue got some serious love this past year, for instance with the Valkyrie mishes, deriving from a rich blonde bombshell who loiters near Pillsen North, tormenting the nearby wisps and horrors with her frosty demeanor. There are enticing hints of backstory (reminiscent in this respect of the great Pandora’s Box arc) and the history of Pace here; if they are true, then make sure you stay on Pace’s good side. The outfits and eye effects pleased, as did the items. Besides some good clothes, there were spectacular spectacles, some of which easily rival the epically hard to get SSR glasses. And on top of that, there were some great non-buffed items too, namely the lush, buttery gold-colored spurs and plumage. This is a great, worthy money sponge.

Story Developments

Others in my clan follow the story more closely than I do, and I accede to their judgment on this. Most interesting to me was gradual emergence over the year of a world larger than the one we have known for years. The overrides and the wireframe invaders all hint of a vaster world, with its own culture, motivation, and politics. And at the same time this larger world beckons to a future, I felt myself drawn to the past with the seeming return from the dead of Trinity or some semblance of who she was. It’s promising. I’ll wager on her making her way to the Westview apparition of Neo’s body at some point.

Promising too is the use of our great backbench of characters, ranging from new a mission for the Chessman to Rose and Hypatia wandering the streets, to expanded use of the neighborhood contacts in story-related missions. There are dozens of them, and many who it would be great to see in expanded use, like Mr. Po, Lotus, the Chef and the Jeweler: NPCs with distinct personality, style, and language. Along with features such as pills for gang leaders’ RSIs, this is a good example of leveraging the existing character base. Great to see.

New Approach

The new approach to organizing story, events, and critical missions excited enthusiasm and opprobrium late last year, along with significant high-end content and the toughest set of encounters since the wasteland corruptors. Not everyone who plays posts on DN1, and not everyone who posts on DN1 posts about this, but there’s been no shortage of heated discussion, with occasional insight. LESIG has been, as they say, “re-engineered” to a less central role in advancing the story. Since the less savvy, less mature set at MxO has always enjoyed frustrating what others create, the LESIG program was plagued with leaks (I remember reading on one site’s forum smug posts about how much fun it was to gin up controversy), and was for its leader(s) more hassle than it was worth. Thus the curve of ROI curled against it. Props to all the players who put their 50s on the backburner to start over with new, unknown characters to make a better world. But I digress. The new approach, in essence, lets us run the “critical missions” as often as we want, and adds stuff to farm. This I kind of like. On the other hand, the missions are currently only available to those of level 30 or higher, and the end-missions are definitely not soloable. That being said, during the recent Winter Holiday, I was able to grind through the 30s in less than a week, so this should not be regarded as so major an issue as some may think.

Greatest of All: Email

For me, the email system enhancement early in the year was the greatest, most influential, most satisfying change of 2008. We received a massive, glorious overhaul that allowed is to scroll through everything (I’d forgotten I had blue code frags!) and to append up to 12 items to a single email!! The great benefit of this is that it gives a definitive solution to the problem of inventory space, which has bedeviled players and devs since the days of beta. Now, with up to 300 emails, each with a maximum of 12 items, even shopaholics and clothes-horses like me have been satisfied. This must be the greatest thing to come out of 2008, by far!

This is not say there is no room for improving a good thing. At some point I would like to see this enhanced with the following:

- I’d like to be able to email stuff to myself on different servers. I’d be willing to pay for this as a service.
- I’d like to be able to set up email folders.
- I’d like to be able to email singletons to myself or other characters of mine.

Puzzling, Odd New Stuff

Updates included major additions of content, such as the two constructs, as well as dozens of relatively minor ones. Some of them were significant, whereas others seemed less so: the sheen on the floor at Peg’s Diner, typos in mission texts, and a new mission from the Chessman. Some were surprising: emotes for “confused”, “deafened”, and “pickupdesk” in Update 53, for example. The new emotes were certainly welcome, yet the selection was baffling. After all, over the past five years there have been several lists of desired moods, including couples-dancing and smoking. The recent ones must have come from some other source, since I do not remember anyone ever clamoring for the ability to emote deafenedness. It may be that these are left-overs from some years-old to-do list that is only now receiving attention. Similarly, can it really be that the dev team has time to worry about things like adding pants to women’s Gis? One can only speculate how devly priorities are established.

There was drama too, with religious slurs and community rip-offs, but they just don’t make the list, any more than vomiting dogs do.

So, in contrast to the unimaginable catastrophes which, irl, came in swarms like sizzling hornets, ingame there was a lot to enjoy and a lot to appreciate in 2008. My confidence in the talents of our devs and their commitment gives me hope for the future, for our future.

This review and many others may be found at manifoldmischief.blogspot.com, along with other writings relevant to MxO.