Videogame (2001). Funcom. Designed by Gaute Godager, Ragnar Tørnquist. Platforms: Win.
Anarchy Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game which could be characterized as a form of shared Planetary Romance. It is set on the far future world of Rubi-Ka, where the morally suspect hypercorporation Omni-Tek is mining notum, a substance vital to the production of Nanotechnological devices. Players can choose to align themselves with Omni-Tek or the rebellious local Clans, or to remain neutral. Rubi-Ka is realized in considerable detail, with four different human subspecies and a varied and often beautiful geography. The original design drew heavily on concepts used in contemporary fantasy MMORPGs, notably the structured conflict between groups of players seen in such games as Dark Age of Camelot (2001 Mythic Entertainment, Win) designed by Mark Jacobs and the many years long worldwide story arc of Asheron's Call (1999 Turbine Entertainment, Win) designed by Toby Ragaini. Anarchy Online also introduced several innovations intended to resolve problems seen in earlier games, including a system to automatically generate missions such as capturing criminals or recovering artefacts, ensuring that players could always find a personal quest to complete. After some severe technical problems when it was first made available, Anarchy Online has become moderately popular. Several aspects of the original design have been changed since the launch; notably, the overarching story is no longer an important part of the game, making Rubi-Ka more of an eternal "planet of adventure".
There is much to explore in Anarchy Online, from red light districts to orbiting satellites. Combat between players is allowed, but only in specific areas. The game's design has not entirely overcome the cognitive dissonance that haunts many MMORPGs, however. Many necessary gameplay conventions are well rationalized, as when Nanotechnology is used to reconstruct dead characters from the point where they last recorded their memories, but it is still possible to find groups of players standing in line waiting for a particular enemy to be reborn, so that they can kill it and advance to the next stage of a scripted plot. The sf background is generally well constructed, with a quirky sense of humour. In the end, players go to Rubi-Ka for many reasons, to adopt the persona of a famous scientist or a deadly assassin, to join an organization of adventurers and hunt dangerous animals, to participate in the war of Omni-Tek against Clan, to perform amateur works of art, or simply to make friends and admire the scenery.
Related works: Several expansions have been published for the game: Anarchy Online: The Notum Wars (2001 Funcom, Win), which gives groups of players the ability to control their own territories; Anarchy Online: Shadowlands (2003 Funcom, Win), which adds a Parallel World version of Rubi-Ka inhabited by the remnants of the planet's previous inhabitants; Anarchy Online: Alien Invasion (2004 Funcom, Win), Anarchy Online: Lost Eden (2006 Funcom, Win) and Anarchy Online: Legacy of the Xan (2009 Funcom, Win). Major events in the world's story arc were delivered by the earlier expansions. Anarchy Online (2001) is an animated series, written and directed by Ragnar Tørnquist, which can be downloaded from the game's website. Prophet Without Honour (2001) is a novel that expands on the setting's history, also by Tørnquist; it too is freely available from the Anarchy Online website. [NT]
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