Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ach! Zombies!

The tension was unbearable. It hung over the fire station like a thick London fog, blurring the senses until distinguishing reality from nightmare was near impossible. Of course, reality had become a nightmare, so there was little distinction to be had. Aazh paced nervously back and forth. His crewmates sat playing cards, sweating lightly in the stale, putrid air, pretending that nothing was out of the ordinary. But Aazh couldn't wait any longer for help that may or may not arrive. Claustrophobia was setting in.

His crewmates didn't understand. They held to hope like a drowning man clings to a scrap of driftwood. But there was no power, little food, and no radio contact. The living dead wandered the streets, tearing ravenously on any unfortunates who passed their way, and making occasional half-hearted attempts to break down the barricades. Aazh felt like he was going to explode. The time had come. Grabbing his trusty axe and a pair of wire-cutters, Aazh slipped out through a side door, carefully pushing it fully closed as he left. No reason to bring misery to those poor fools inside. They would find their own form of misery soon enough.

The streets were eerily deserted. A few dead bodies were scattered about, but no sign of life; or un-life for that matter. Sticking to the eaves and shadows, Aazh made his way down the street. Most of the buildings seemed to be heavily fortified, and if there were any survivors inside, they were likely crazy enough to attack him if he tried to make an opening in the barricades. Outside of the nearby rail station he saw one of them. The slack-jawed look. The red eyes. The awkward gait. And the cavernous mouth that seemed big enough to swallow him whole. Letting out a subdued growl, Aazh hefted his axe and swung viciously at this once-human monstrosity. But the overload of adrenaline pumping through his body and his frayed nerves got the better of him. His swings were wild, and off the mark. Trembling with fury, fatigue and suppressed fear, Aazh fled. The creature pursued, but it had trouble navigating the debris-clogged streets, and Aazh soon found himself alone again.

He continued his wanderings, skirting wide around any undead he saw, and finally stumbling into a junkyard. The rows of rusty automobiles were surprisingly comforting, but could easily hold danger as well. Aazh quickly looked through the small shack at the front of the lot, and found a Louisville slugger that had seen better days, but could still be used to good effect. Clutching it to his chest, he headed west. If he could just get to the edge of town...

The tension was simply unbearable.


So the above story was written to sum up my first day of playing Urban Dead, a neat little web-based zombie MMO. That's right, zombies! Basically, take Dawn of the Living Dead (or whichever movie it was where they were stuck in the mall) and make it into an MMO!

It's all text-based, and pretty simple to play, but since there are no NPCs (players take the role of both humans and zombies, and their characters can potentially change sides several times as they get infected and cured), the interactions with the other players are what really makes the game. The game is turn-based, with each character getting a certain number of action points that they can use per day. The survivors try to scrounge up weapons, medkits and other goods while barricading themselves against the zombie hordes, while the zombies... well... act like zombies; tearing down the barricades, eating brains and generally causing havoc!

A very interesting though simple concept. It's not an overly in-depth game (I don't see myself still playing it two years from now), but its setting and setup allow for the players' imaginations to take hold and run from there (and it really does feel like you're in a zombie movie at times). There have been sieges at malls involving hundreds of players on both sides, groups formed to achieve certain goals, radios tuned to broadcast important information about zombie activity and all sorts of other interesting interactions that seem to only arise from these sort of open-ended, sandbox-type games.

So I recommend checking it out. It's free and an amusing diversion that won't ever take up hours of your day.

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