MadPea’s UNIA has been two years in development, which is an incredibly long period by Second Life standards. So long has it been, that given all the setbacks, Queen Pea Kiana Writer herself wondered if UNIA might ever see the light of day, as the game about a living nightmare started to look as if it wanted to be a living nightmare.
But all good things come to those who persevere, and despite fate once again stepping in to force a final week’s delay on the original planned launch when as one of the key members of the MadPea team was taken in to hospital (they are fine now), the gates to UNIA are now officially OPEN!
I’ve had the privilege of witnessing some of the development of the game over the last two years, including touring some of the locations, but I don’t want to get into too many specifics on things in terms of gameplay; you can find a prologue in the MadPea blog, and the UNIA website provides you with all you need to know about how to play, and which also gives its own introduction to the game – you’ll be directed to UNIA website when you first arrive at the game’s starting point.
However, in summary, you are the principal character caught in an unfolding story played across multiple locations spread over the two UNIA regions. The story starts on the edge of the strange little town of Molimo, where your car unexpectedly decided to ruin what was otherwise a good day by wrapping itself around a roadside billboard. Things get worse when, as you attempt to find some assistance, someone kidnaps you, plunging you into a nightmare world through which you must travel if you are to survive and understand what is going on…
Gameplay is a mixture of point-and-click interaction with objects and NPCs, and first-person (Mouselook) combat, making for quite a mix. Your progress is monitored by your HUD, as is your health, and items and weapons you obtain along they way are also recorded and held ready for use within it. HUDs are available to buy at the start point, and will cost L$400, L$750 or L$1,000, depending on the extra weapon lock pick and shields you opt to purchase with your HUD. All three options come with at least one UNIA uniform made by Damien Fate. Keep in mind as well, that the HUD not only enables gameplay, but also prevents you from cheating. Take it off while in the UNIA regions for example, and you die; attempt to teleport or fly, and you die.
The combat element of the game comes when fending off the less-than-friendly monsters you’ll encounter at various points along the way. Surviving such attacks is a mixture of ensuring you are properly armed, be it with a rake or other implement / weapon you obtain along the way, or by being suitably fleet of foot and doing a runner. Should you have the misfortune of dying, you can be restored by walking into the light – but it does come at a cost.
There is much to be found and collected as you progress through the game – and gathering items, surviving attacks, etc., all accumulate points (recorded by your HUD) which can later be traded for prizes (totals are also logged on the UNIA leader board on the website). As such, the various locations in which you find yourself require careful exploration – the items you may need will not reveal themselves to you until you are physically close to them, and some may animate your avatar – so don’t be surprised if this happens.
Be warned – exploring in this way also means you are vulnerable to attack from the aforementioned nasties, so always be on your guard! And remember, even the most innocuous object you find lying around and can pick up might have a use at some point…
The scenes and locations with the game are many, and extend from ground level to high in the sky. Some are multiplayer environments, such as the farm, others are single-player areas where you have to work things out for yourself. All are beautifully crafted, and present a rich mix of locations, some seemingly quite ordinary, some a little more enigmatic or unusual, and others of a decidedly nightmarish tone. Teleporting between them is automatically triggered by a range of events – walking through a door, finding an escape route, encountering someone / something, etc.
As well as featuring the work of the incredibly talented MadPea team, the dream / nightmare scenes experienced throughout UNIA have been created by some of SL’s foremost artists: Rebeca Bashly, Caer Balogh, Zachh Barkley, Jaimy Hancroft, Fuschia Nightfire, Bryn Oh, Wildcat Snowpaw, Lindsey Warwick, Abramelin Wolfe, BlueSean Yiyuan and Silex Zapedzki.
Total playing time for UNIA is estimated to be around 10-12 hours. However, this doesn’t have to be tackled all in one go; your progress is saved automatically, allowing you to proceed at your own pace and across any number of visits. Given UNIA is designed to be immersive, do make sure you have local sounds enabled when playing, a considerable amount of time has gone into creating a very effective soundscape for UNIA.
With the MadPea team keen to keep aspects of UNIA a secret to be discovered by those playing it the walk-throughs I had didn’t cover every location, nor did they cover the entire storyline. However, what I did see was more than enough to convince me that UNIA promises to be something very special. not only does it offer an immersive, engaging game environment, it also showcases some of the very best aspects of Second Life, both in terms of the technical aspects of the game and in the extraordinary talents that have been involved in it.
So, the only question now is – are you ready to enter the nightmare? Because UNIA is something you are not going to want to miss.
My thanks to Kiana Writer, Kess Folkesson (Kess Crystal) and RAG Randt, for allowing me behind the scenes a number of times to witness UNIA’s development, the most recent being Saturday, April 18th, along with Bryn Oh and Ziki Questi.