EDIT: The use of the word "terror" in my title was obviously a little tongue-in-cheek, and refers to the overall feeling of disconcert one can feel when making long adventures through the game world as well as the lack of hand-holding and safety found in most traditional MMOs.
Someone said "sandbox" and "launch" in the same sentence over at MMORPG.com, and I was in. I had seen glimmers of info about Xsyon before, but I am so jaded about MMO launches these days that I hardly cared. After I watched Mortal Online flounder and pretty much die, I subscribed back to LoTRO and made the best of it.
Enter, Xsyon. I spawned the first time on an Island. No clue what was going on, at all. Like many, I assumed I would be able to pop into the game, and just get started "playing". I was wrong. I walked around for about an hour, not seeing a single soul, then logged off.
I came back after the last wipe, and after I had taken the time to read more about the game, watch some vids, talk to people on the forums, and join a tribe (Hail, NoX!). The problem on my first visit was me, not the game. I had preconceived ideas about how the game should play, and they were utterly wrong. Turns out that Notorious’ vision was better than mine.
Since I still had very little understanding of the game, I only had one real goal this time around, which was to hike my way to my new tribe's outpost. Simple enough, right? Wrong. It was an adventure.
Besides getting a very profound feel for the absolutely HUGE scale of the game map, I ran across a mule Deer that decidedly thrashed me as I tried to figure out how to fight back. I no longer thought I was awesome after that little encounter. Next, I came across some other players, and this is where the first real spark of incredible potential hit me. I didn't know if I had encountered friend or foe. I had no idea what their intentions were at all, what the rules were on their land, or how they were aligned. Would they help me? Would they pretend to be nice for a few minutes, then gut me like a pig and feed my meat to their starving children?
I have played many other MMO's including PvP based one, and some sandboxes, but the combination of truly feeling desperate, hopeless and lost along with the fear of death made this game really, really exciting, especially because it is very much in context to the setting and lore of the world. I had nothing. Nowhere safe to go, no help, no NPC guards, nothing. I did ask a couple questions in Global chat, but few were of any real help since they were mostly clueless as well. (I look forward to global chat going away since it takes away from the feeling of helplessness, even if only a little).
I vaguely knew from looking around online that there was a grid system, and even had a map with the grid numbers on them so I could try to navigate. The outpost was near the mist, so ultimately I pushed all the way up to the mist, then traveled in the direction I knew my target grid would be.
In general chat I heard another nearby player cry out in anger for getting killed while running through someone's homestead. The murderer only responded with "This is the price for running through my land". Hearing this I decided to duck down into a nearby river partially fogged by the mist, hoping the killer would not see me and force me into early "retirement". After a few minutes I passed through the area unscathed and ended up blindly running into the NoX outpost.
From there I started playing around with basic scavenging, foraging, crafting and started to get a glimmer of the tools available for survival and community building. One of my tribesman was there and greeted me with a friendly welcome and some conversation. For the first time in about two hours, I felt some sort of vague safety. It dawned on me that many such adventures lie ahead in this game, and that this was probably the closest way I will ever experience anything like the "wild wild West" which faced early Americans as they pushed into the wilderness looking for a rich new life.
We will all get to contribute to and witness the evolution of a new virtual society in Xsyon. This isn't just a game, but a simulator too. It's a social experiment and so far Notorious has done a great job of giving us the tools to create our own adventure, and not force us into any style of play. I for one cannot wait to see what emerges here because it will surely be even more interesting and diverse than we now know. NOW is the truly interesting part though, because those of us who are here at launch are laying the foundation for where this society will go.
Sure, this is an indy game, and it has glitches and shortcomings, but I have also seen how games like EVE have evolved and grown. This is thanks to devs who stuck to their overall vision of adventure while listening to their community when it mattered, and a very strong and slowly growing core community of players. Over time, we will be able to look back and tell new players how hard things used to be. We will have tales of having to RUN across the whole map, before mounts were around, and even horror stories of losing gear to server bugs will be laughed at. We just need to hang in there now and support Notorious and their amazing vision. There is nothing else coming down the MMO dev line like this one, especially a game that does not have to answer to a board of corporate suits who are more interested in making millions, than making a game made by adventurers for adventurers.
I truly look forward to being a part of this with all of you, even the bad guys, who will make life worth living by trying to take it away.
(I plan to cross post this over at MMORPG.com as well)