Choose My Adventure: Starting fresh in Project Gorgon

I’m really glad to be heading into Project Gorgon for the first CMA of the year. Not just because it’s a title which I have absolutely no experience with, although that helps. No, it’s also because Project Gorgon is another installment in the ongoing and non-absolute answer to the longest-running question in MMO history. Now that we have this neverending game with all of these moving pieces to play with, what are we actually here to do?

That sounds like a straightforward question, but I think it’s important to consider the reality that this has always existed and always been an issue. No matter how much you might enjoy an MMO, ultimately, you need a goal of some kind, and thus most of them have made a point of offering one. It’s important to note that “goal” is not a synonym here for “endpoint,” as most MMOs feature a goal of some sort but not a point when you are supposed to actually be entirely done forever.

Most of the time, the answer to the question of the game’s goals are either to defeat everyone (in which case games provide more balance and refinement to ways that you can defeat people and offer more nuanced systems for doing so) or to be continually facing greater challenges (in which case games provide more challenges and more goalposts to reach in steady increments). Both of these are perfectly good goals, and both of them work well as a way to motivate yourself onward.

Neither of these appear to be the end goal of Project Gorgon. For that matter, even the game itself doesn’t seem to be sure of exactly what its end goal is meant to be, beyond a vague header of offering new experiences. Not new challenges, exactly; just new things to try out.

This is, partly, a result of the game’s design history and partly just a result of the game having a pretty tiny budget and a need to make do with what it has. This is a little indie game in the truest sense of the word, but rather than trying to buy itself out of the little indie game slot, Project Gorgon is far happier to lean on the fact that it has weird cobbled-together resources to build a weird cobbled-together world. It’s like the backstories you came up with as a kid to justify why you had seven different styles of toys in the same play session for some reason.

Look, if you didn’t have an elaborate continuity explaining why Transformers, My Little Pony, He-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Barbie dolls were all coexisting in the same space, we’re just never going to understand one another. It’s not like it made less sense than the official fiction.

That sure is some gorgon project.

Part of it is also just a matter of design philosophy. The game seems to embrace the overarching notion that there’s no such thing as an idea that’s too silly to be seriously considered. This is a game that literally has a Death skill. It’s a skill that allows you to improve your character by dying a bunch. It is a game wherein you can elaborately level up your ability to brew the perfect beer. There’s a whole system about maintaining your body heat. I seem to remember that you could both get transformed into a cow and remain a cow forever.

Again, this is a little indie game. It’s never going to have a clean and collected endgame system, it’s never going to have a firm and refined combat system. What it can put forth as a claim to fame is having a whole lot of systems you’ve never seen before. Stuff like music-making bards almost seems normal in the light of how far out of its lane it will go.

Of course, this does come with certain drawbacks. For example, the game is not exactly a graphical darling, because… well, cobbled together from several assets from elsewhere tied together by weird presentation and ideas. It still needs an improved user interface. It has a whole lot of systems that do not make a huge amount of sense without doing some investigation.

But I admire its approach. It’s not trying to out-play games that are larger and have already done things, and it’s not trying to promise the most in-depth crafting system possible or the most elaborate PvP conflicts or whatever. It’s an example of how indie games are best served by trying to do one specific thing really well instead of trying to do everything; it’s just that the one thing it tries to do is cast a wide net.

None of that means that it’s actually fun to play. I don’t know if it’s fun to play. That’s the whole point of this feature, and I might find myself saying that it’s a lot of fun as a very different experience… or I might find myself feeling like it’s kind of an unenjoyable slog. Or something in the middle. Let’s find out!

Party in the everything.

The nature of the game, of course, means that there’s not the same sort of “what class to start with” anxiety. You start with a lot of skills, you can unlock lots of skills, you find out which is which partly just through experience. So I think the real question here can’t be just about which race I want to start with; that’s an option, sure, but it isn’t an option that makes nearly as much of an impact as whether or not I get turned into a cow forever.

Thus, we’re starting off with questions that are more philosophical in nature rather than starting character options. My character is going to start in the world and I’m going to have the option to try all sorts of different things. So, should I focus on having a few fairly refined choices, or should I take the opportunity to grab literally as many skills as I can in as wide a field as I possibly can?

I’d like to stress that this is not a question of which option is best at optimizing my character. That doesn’t matter. This is about what is most interesting to experience.

CMA: Should I take a wide or narrow approach to skills?

  • Take as many skills as you can. (37%, 76 Votes)
  • Maintain a narrow focus. (17%, 36 Votes)
  • Learn what you come across, but don't seek extras. (46%, 95 Votes)

Total Voters: 207

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On a related note, part of what makes Project Gorgon so unusual is that it has a different attitude toward making permanent and sometimes dangerous changes to your character. The TVTropes page on Unwinnable By Design, for example, has a whole rundown of the ways in which games can go from being merciful to nasty, and that’s relevant to this particular discussion. Most MMOs fall into the polite category in terms of making character changes, so before you make a permanent choice you have ample warning that you are making a decision that will have long-term ramifications.

Project Gorgon will still warn you, but it’s far more willing to let you make changes to your character that are significant and unchangeable. If most MMOs are run by reasonable GMs, Project Gorgon is a bit more Gygaxian in its attitude. It is willing to remind you that drinking unlabeled potions can turn you into a frog, and if you turn into a frog, your lesson is “you should not have drank that unlabeled potion, now you are a frog” rather than “you will be a frog for a minute or so.”

This is not a frog, for the record.

This gives me two options for how to approach the game. Option one is to be very careful accordingly. Option two is to treat this as an entitlement rather than a burden, and thus to drink every unlabeled potion, push every dangerous button, and taunt people who know the Spell of Bovinification by shouting, “What are you going to do, make me a cow?”

And, naturally, there is a middle path wherein I am willing to take risks but avoid taking stupid ones. You know what I mean. So which path should I embrace?

CMA: How adventurous should I be?

  • Press every dangerous-looking button. (47%, 97 Votes)
  • Do not push any dangerous-looking buttons. (3%, 6 Votes)
  • Adopt a reasonable stance toward dangerous-looking buttons. (50%, 103 Votes)

Total Voters: 206

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Polls, as always, are open until Friday at 6 p.m. EST. Feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com; tune in next week when I will see how many weird things happen in the opening area of the game. (Probably notably fewer than I may have been led to believe.)

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. It’s possible that the game has very few chances to turn you into a cow, but getting turned into a cow is a hell of a mental image.
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21 Comments on "Choose My Adventure: Starting fresh in Project Gorgon"

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Marco Antonio Clivio Benitez

To those of u who havent played the game yet… getting turned into a cow is the least of ur worries xD First of all, curses are permanent. They dont go away after time, so u need a specific thing (like a potion) to go back to being human… but it takes soooo much effort to get it (and u might need help from other players) that most people simply stay in their cow/pig/spider/whatever form during alpha test. But there are cooler curses like the curse of the werewolf, which actually allows u to switch between different forms under specific circunstances (just look at the sky and u will understand). Then there are extremely annoying curses, like the one I got… A certain boss killed me and I got a curse. Now, after a random amount of minutes (anywhere between 10 and 40 mins) a copy of the boss who killed me shows up next to me just so he can kill me again…and the bastard even makes fun of me by saying “No, it never ends…” At this point I leveled enough to defeat him all by myself but he can still deal some damage…which means I cant be afk for long or I might die. He even respawns next to me even if I am inside a city. If guards are too far, they wont realize he is there and he will just kill me so this curse should really be called “the anti-afk curse”.
One last thing that u should know is that u r supposed to read EVERYTHING, otherwise u wont even know what to do, where to go, or how to aquire a specific skill. Most things that are automated in other games must be done manually, like writing down stuff that will be useful for whatever goal u have. Just to give u an idea on how things work, the game starts in a small island and u r supposed to leave before the game really starts. Well, when the game just came out, people spent HOURS roaming the island trying to find a way out, dying lots of times and filling the beach with gravestones (they show up where a player died).
If u r not willing to read everything and pay attention to ur surroundings, u will feel lost in this game most of the time.

Btw, the elven race in this game is a little different in terms of social behaviour… they r extremely perverted, seriously.

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Kevin McCaughey

Just a bit to open for moe and I don’t understand why I would say that I thought I would be the opposite. No idea why. I just felt so totally lost in the game. I guess I am not good at setting goals for myself?

Estranged
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Kickstarter Donor
Estranged

Your curse example is awesome and why I’ll be playing,

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Kevin McCaughey

I tried with this game, but the graphics were too bad (worse than EQ1) and the HUGE amount of choice and freedom is actually overwhelming. I didn’t know what to do. The oddest thing is that I have the same problem in RL! Not working due to disability, but I have Amazon Prime, Netflix, Audiobooks galore, plus the internet and TV and Facebook and, oh god, Twitter (I had to stop that it was just a step too far). I just don’t know what to be doing with myself. And Gorgon reproduces this perfectly for me in a way that is really creepy in how it reflects my own sad life.

drivendawn
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drivendawn
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Kevin McCaughey

I’m playing the progression server. And what expansion is that jpg from? Hardly even looks like the same game I am playing. We are at OOT.

drivendawn
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drivendawn

I thought you meant 1999 to 2002 EQ graphics even so I don’t see how this:

Is better than this:
and this is before the graphics overhaul for that area in PG

drivendawn
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drivendawn

Don’t know how that happened but the pics are still there to compare.

drivendawn
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drivendawn

It is true that there are a lot of things put in the game, including very unique ones. However if you play for a while and ask the very friendly community questions you will see the method behind the madness. The death skill for instance does improve your character but it will also give AA’s in necromancy. There are a ton of skills but all are use full and interconnected in clever ways. There will also be a main story line you can play or not if you see fit (only a few of the quests are in game at this point) . There is also plenty of lore so if you read much of it many questions about the way things are in the game world are answered. I hope you have fun playing the game. :)

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Robert Mann

I know the first dangerous button likely to be found… and I detest giant heads/bobbleheads. Only reason I’d avoid the ‘every’ dangerous button part.

Solaris
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Solaris

PG is a great MMO.

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Bryan Correll

If you don’t push every potentially dangerous button I may lose all respect for you.

Xijit
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Kickstarter Donor
Xijit

I can tell you, with absolute certainty, you will never be able to keep a tight focus on your skills.

kieranbunny
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kieranbunny

This game is a blast!..it is FUUUn!..push ALL da buttons..if ya get turned into a cow…well dey got cow armor(yep dey do!) but most of all have fun…it’s a world they are building so like da everyday world…things are not always as clearcut as they seem!..Have Fun,Eliot! ==(:*D delfbunny will say hi if ya want! ==(:*D

Duey Bear
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Duey Bear

Dangerous buttons in PG is the bread and butter of the game.

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Leiloni

Wow “Learn what you come across” and “Adopt a resonable stance” are the current winners. Everyone around here is so boring!

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Hirku

Double agree. This sounds like a game that’s made for running wild, why hold back?

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Castagere Shaikura

Agree
This game screams go for it. Exploring is such a huge part of this game.