SAN FRANCISCO--Ether Saga Onlineand Perfect World International are two of the many online games on display at GDC. The former is a game based loosely on the classic Buddhist tale Journey to the West, which was itself the tale of a monk's long and arduous trek in search of enlightenment. Said monk will appear in Ether Saga and you can accompany and protect him on his journey, as well as join forces to defeatthe plague of evil wraiths that threaten to tear the world apart.
Ether Saga, which was released earlier this month,has three playable races and six characterprofessions along the lines you might expect from a role-playing game (such as warrior, wizard, and rogue), but all characters also start their lives with a "pet" companion with a specific "attitude" (essentially, a combination of behavior and skillset) that complements its owner's abilities. For instance, a weakly wizard character most likely wants a pet with the "fierce" attitude that will step up and "tank" (block out incoming attacks from monsters). However, there's no limit to the number of pets you can earn, and since Ether Saga has a "monster dominance system" for its nine major monster classes (a rock-paper-scissors-like system where a specific class of monster will easily beat out another specific class of monster), you'll want to amass a stable of them to help you deal with a variety of foes.
The game has more than 200 monsters total, and you can already capture about 100 of them for use as pets, or use the game's "transmutation" ability to change yourself into a specific monster type for monster-countering purposes. Meanwhile, the game includes eight instanced areas so far, with a heavier emphasis on quests and storylines (the game has about 15,000 quests, consisting of 16 different quest types) than more-traditional online games from Asia. And just like with most traditional free-to-play games, Ether Saga will havea "cash-op" online store where you can pay real money out-of-pocket in exchange for in-game goods.
Perfect World seems to believe that microtransaction items should not be overpowering or grant unfair bonuses to big spenders. Instead, the cash-op store in both Ether Saga and Perfect World International will carry both apparel items that can be worn on top of armor as a separate layer, andonly enhance your characters' appearance (not their power) and "time-saving" items that will add convenience, such as cheap teleportation as an alternative to walking 15 minutes back to the nearest town. Another convenient feature is the "auto-route" system, which will not only intelligently maneuver your character around trees and other obstacles when you set your character to "auto-run" forward, but will also let you browse your quest diary for key locations, and click on a hyperlink that will immediately trigger your character to auto-route towards that location.
We then took a look at the current state of Perfect World International, the company's longest-running online game in Asia (and a new arrival to American shores in 200
However, International does have a considerable amount of player-versus-environment gameplay, including a handful of high-level "raid" instances which may require the game's full, maximum group size of six players to conquer. Fortunately, the game will also constantly parcel out alternatives to raiding, such as "spiritual cultivation" quest lines which become available to your character every 10 experience levels. Each quest line will be a fairly lengthy, in-depth set of quests that will end with your character gaining a crucial, profession-defining ability, and in the interests of building community, the game will let players of completely different experience levels join you in these quests and aid you directly.