Massively on the Go: Orna spices things up with step tracking and guilds update

    
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Recently here on Massively on the Go, we talked about some of the good and some of the, uh, “less good” features in location-based MMOs. Orna: The GPS RPG came up more than a few times, not just in the good, but the less good area. No one’s perfect, but as I noted in the article, Orna’s PR caught me brainstorming on social media and dropped me a hint at something greater to come. And now we can finally talk about it: It’s a step tracker.

Before y’all tear into me, I specifically mentioned in the “good” article how step trackers help with offline play, reducing screen-time while promoting exercise/socialization even with non-gamers. It’s partially why I think a few of you showed interest in WalkScape, a non-GPS game. Walkscape will do its own thing, but Orna’s devs let me get a little time in their beta, and despite being sick, I was able to see some promise in the new features, as they just launched July 5th.

Traveler’s Guild

The video above breaks it all down, but the short version is that the new update adds “guilds” to the game, which are like optional skill trees in some games (think cooking or treasure hunting). The current ones are basically quest creation, hard mode, and walking, and of them, only the latter two are coming soon. Let’s go over the walking guild first – that’s what’s known as the Traveler’s Guild.

Essentially, building the Traveler’s Guild Hall gives you a mini-POGO experience: You can get “aspects” (eggs) that become monsters after you walk them a certain number of steps, and then you can battles them, which gives some incubator/Battle League PvP vibes. Walking is also the way to level up, gaining random item spawns, a new guild currency to purchase “aspects” and enter into the Trials (think POGO arenas), and more aspects.

The difference, though, is this isn’t a paid gambling feature. You don’t buy any passes to increase rewards. In fact, I feel it’s more true to POGO’s original Battle League in that you basically have to walk to gain access to it, which prior to COVID actually helped ensure that Battling worked as exercise motivation. It may keep out players who don’t want to exercise/spoof steps, but it does help build the stated goals of the game, which is quite respectable these days.

7/9 Update: Since launch, I’ve noticed you can buy aspects to “hatch” various monsters now. I’m still getting a grip on on the system, and we’ll address how big a factor this is in a future article.

However, from what I’ve seen so far in the beta, don’t expect to get a ton out of playing multiple walking games. I noticed that, similar to Pikmin Bloom, steps aren’t tracked as well if you’re holding your phone and playing another game, such as Pokemon GO. This also makes me a bit worried that players with mobility issues may also get left out, but I’ve asked PR if/how this issue may be approached going forward. I’ve been told it’s easier with Apple, but the has to “wait until Google’s new Health solution” before tackling accessibility for Android users, which means it is something the team wants to work on – still more than I can say for certain other companies.

As for actual gameplay thus far, it’s a bit tough to gauge, as the test account I use has some limitations and the new patch is, well, very new, and I hadn’t expected certain beta-bugs to allow for the devs to release on time while quashing most of them. The aspects you “hatch” are based on your codex. If you’ve battled a monster before, you can “hatch it.” However, perhaps partly due to my level, partly due to my incomplete test codex, my aspects are far too weak to complete the guild trials. In fact, it’s so incomplete that I can’t open a “hatched” aspect until I find something that matches that aspect’s typing/classification.

On the one hand, it means I still can’t properly utilize my aspects for battle, so I was kind of hamstrung on the test server. On the other hand, it made me do more of the base game, and that’s on a test realm, which I’ve largely given up on these days. That’s a pretty good sign that the feature’s got me motivated, but also that the new gameplay feeds into the old, though gold, orns, and the ability to “buy” more main-game stuff via the guild currency helps.

Launch has gone well enough. Again, I’m not getting steps for Job quests at the same rate I get them for the Traveler’s Guild (I just hit 10k steps for today, yet I’m at 593/2,192 steps for a Job), but it’s also more work since I generally get steps in while actively playing POGO. Luckily I do have other exercise games, so I’m doing some more walking/leg work there to help with that, but again, the pedometer so far makes overlap with other exercise games you actively play a bit tricky.

The other guilds

For those curious about the quest creation guild, I was told by PR that it’s coming “much further down the line” and is currently a “placeholder.” That being said, the very basic quest creation mode lets you choose either a fishing or kill task and the number of targets, add in addition kill/fishing tasks for up to three total, and then pay to “make” the quest available. Doing so costs you a chunk of gold, but you get bonuses if people complete the quest – maybe because it’s beta, but I’m just not seeing any results.

The very basic premise is interesting, but again, all of this could change as it’s only a placeholder in Orna, but in Aethricyou’ll be able to do this. The biggest difference, I am told, is that you’re specifically sending NPCs to other players’ towns to give the quests you make. That makes a lot more sense for that game, but I’m still curious as to what the final form will be like whenever it (hopefully) makes its way to Orna.

Similarly, the Circle of Anguish guild, which lets you increase the game’s PvE content difficulty, or “Anguish Levels,” in exchange for XP, orns, gold, tower shards… basically all loot. The “problem” is that you only gain levels and guild currency, Proofs of Anguish, by doing level-appropriate content. No farming level 1 goblins for tokens here. The fastest way I’ve found to level up the guild is by doing Boss-mode Dungeon runs. I’m sitting at level Guild Level 3 now on the live server but am still at Anguish Level 2 due to low drop rate of currency required to increase my Anguish. But I can visit my Circle of Anguish (think Guild building) to lower my Anguish or increase it up to the highest Anguish level I’ve unlocked for free, allowing me to increase my Anguish now when mobs are easy and then lower it once I get to my next tier and everything increases in difficulty again.

As I said, most of my experience in this article is based on the test realm with a test character, so my experience is a bit limited, but those limitations also motivated me to try out things I normally wouldn’t on a live server. For me, I tend to struggle when I reach a new tier of content, but towards the end of one (like with my live-server character) it feels like I just tear through most stuff. The Circle of Anguish on the live server is making those last levels go by a bit faster, not only because of the XP bonus but also because it’s motivating me to play more while offering a more appropriate difficulty level, which is a feature that is eerily absent in a lot of games, much less ones in this genre. Suffice it to say, I am thrilled the features are now live, as I always hate sinking time into beta servers that won’t carry-over my gameplay progress.

Assuming we get no major surprises in the coming days/weeks, the guilds update is looking like it’ll be giving Orna a shot in the arm in terms of both new free content and of playstyle options, as none of it seems to be required content to participate in. It may not be immediately profitable, but compared to many other games and companies in the genre, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross is an admitted Pokemon geek and expert ARG-watcher. Nobody knows Niantic and Nintendo like he does! His Massively on the Go column covers Pokemon Go as well as other mobile MMOs and augmented reality titles!
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