Second Life isn’t a game – or at least, that seems to be the 2011/12 mantra. Well, it may not be – but it is a platform wherein games can comfortably exist, as I’m all too fond of pointing out.
And a new game is set to be added to the list of attractions in SL: Dranopia: The Quest.
Many will probably be familiar with the Dranopia range of breedable dragons, which come in a range of forms to reflect the elements and more, and which have a unique back story into which owners are encouraged to immerse themselves. The dragons are the brainchild of Timmi Allen, Leni Galli and Ciaran Maktoum and can be found at Sculptie Wonder.
Dranopia: The Quest adds a new dimension to the Dranopia “legend”, presenting a sim-wide airborne quest which can be enjoyed by anyone, whether they own a Dranopia dragon or not. And I have to say, it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s located on Virtual Services, located immediately adjacent to the “Sculptie” sims.
Like the dragons themselves, the game has a back story: deep in a lonely gorge lie gems of different colours – the souls of ancestral dragons, lost after a catastrophe, and now threatened by marauding groms – spherical creatures with broad mouths and spine-covered ski. These roam through the deep landscape, devouring the gems, feeding off the energy of the souls within. It is down to you, riding upon the back of a dragon, to save the souls, by flying around the sim and gathering points for each gem you touch, while avoiding the groms and other obstacles.
While the theme may sound familiar in the wake of Linden Realms, the game is actually very cleverly executed and requires not a little concentration.
To play, you need the game HUD – available from the “how to play” section of the arrivals area, located high-up towards the middle of the sim. You will also need a dragon. If you have a Dranopia dragon of your own, you can use that – there is a rezzing area available. Otherwise you can choose one of the dragons standing close to the start area, or if none are available “hatch” a fresh one from the rezzing egg…
Each dragon has its own characteristics and all fly a little differently to one another. Those unfamiliar with flying a dragon are advised to take the Air dragon for its agility. Once you have chosen / rezzed your dragon, it is a case of grabbing hold and taking to the air – use the WASD or arrow keys for direction, and PAGE UP/PAGE DOWN (E/C) for climbing / descending. Just make sure that you pass through the “starting gate” (clearly marked START GAME) to commence the game.
Once through the gate, the sky is yours. You have four minutes per session to collect as many points as you can by locating gems and flying through them (the value of the gems varies according to their colour – so make sure you read the guidelines!); after that, any gems you fly through will not be counted in your session score. Points gained are recorded on the HUD and, if you have sound on, you will also hear a chime.
Your HUD will also keep track of the time remaining in your current session of the game; when you’re out of time, you can either end the game (land and dismount – your dragon will de-rez, or return to the start area and land), or you can fly back through the start gate and commence a new session. But don’t keep flying the same dragon too long – they do get tired.
In addition to the screen HUD, you have a hovertext HUD reporting on your dragon’s performance – speed, power, etc. Use this to watch your performance – you may find that slower speeds are more advisable that fast speeds – and don’t forget that dragons can fly backwards (negative numbers) and can hover!
Take care, however – the floating island, the trees and other flora are all solid – hit them, and you’re liable to affect your dragon’s airborne balance and lose some flying control as a result. Most importantly of all where obstacles are concerned, watch out for the gem-hunting groms themselves. Several of these weave their way around and through the sim, hunting gems and trying to stop you; touch one, and you’ll lose all the points you’ve accumulated in your current session, and will have to start again.
Points and Prizes
Points obtained by players are recorded and saved on a scoreboard, and there will be periodic cut-off dates, after which the top three scorers will received prize vouchers of up to L$20,000 which can be redeemed at either the Dranopia or Timmi Allen shops. A further 7 runners-up will each receive a Dranopia starter kit valued at L$1850. The first cut-off date for prizes has been set for the 9th February. All winners and runners-up will be notified by Leni Galli.
Dranopia may not have the expansive feel of something like Linden Realms (which benefits from 12 regions per “island”) – but keeping things confined to the one sim and adding the three-dimensional element of flight makes it fun to play – especially when racing against others to grab your points.
The flying pose is a little alarming – you’re essentially clinging-on to the little dragon’s eyebrows rather than occupying a saddle or anything, which makes me feel a little sorry for the little fellows – especially when faced with avatars of a larger size!
Gameplay-wise, a lot of the sim is mesh, and so lag shouldn’t be a major issue – indeed, I was playing alongside members of the team and a couple of others and had deferred rendering active, shadows on and the snapshot floater open and still managed to fly with little exposure to lag. I did get a little too low at one point and clip a couple of trees – and did find I lost a degree of flight control, as I’d been warned.
The game HUD is not too obtrusive and uses the top left of your screen as the default attach point, although you can obviously move it elsewhere. There are some nice touches to the game as well – the different flight characteristics with each of the dragons and the fact that they can get tired of hauling you around the sky. The groms aren’t too hard to avoid – but snagging a gem may not always be as easy as it sounds, especially when trying to manoeuvre between rocks and plants…
Overall, this is a fun little quest to play – and a very clever means of promoting a product. Kudos to the team on both counts for coming up with the idea. With the new creativity tools arising from Linden Realms in the offing, I do wonder as to how the game might yet develop – one can well imagine the groms becoming somewhat more aggressive if one gets too close!
But even without the AI and other bells and whistles offered by LR, I enjoyed my time being able to preview Dranopia, it was fun to play, whether hunting for points or simply flying around the sim and having a little fun. Doubtless, I’ll be back to see how it develops, or simply to have more fun flitting around the sky on a dragon!