Thursday, April 19, 2007

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Onder's Game - City of Lost Angels

Cola4

Onder Skall reviews some of the Grid's most intriguing games

There are a number of dark roleplay environments in SL, but City of Lost Angels (CoLA) is the queen of them all. The CoLA Combat System, a marriage of LSL and SQL, has created an efficiently run mini-MMO that packs the sim to capacity all day and night.

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Now they’re planning a move to an island of their own (purchased as of the 10th according to the website) and things will only get more insane from here.

Let’s take a closer look at what these creepy cats are up to.

Name: City of Lost Angels
Genre:
RPG
Creator(s):
Suzanna Soyinka
Estimated Number of Players: Hundreds
Gameplay
: Scheme, sneak, and then strike at your enemies
Top Qualities: Advanced combat system, free to play, hardcore players.
Current Shortcomings: Always crowded to the limit, learning curve with respect to story line
Where to Play/Buy: City of Lost Angels

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Upon arriving at the City of Lost Angels you’ll be in a train station area and a copy of the Apocalyptic Times News reads: “CITY OF ANGELS SURVIVES”.

In what appears to be an ironic joke, the City of Lost Angels has survived the Apocalypse, the streets thrive, but in a dark and different way.

Vampires, demons, lycans, angels, nekos, supernatural beings all walk the streets of this new world unchecked and unopposed, their dark and twisted perversions being practiced without pity, those of us that are yet still human do what we can to survive.

These strange new factions within the city vie for power with each other, violence is the new law of the streets and only the strong may survive to take power in this strange new world.

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There’s a pretty elaborate backstory to CoLA , but to sum up: you are playing in a world that saw the Apocalypse but forgot to die. Most of humanity is wiped out, undead, mutated or cursed. As a role-player you get a nice spread of species to choose from, so no matter what mood you’re in, we have you covered.

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Seeing angels hang out with nekos on street corners is one thing, but it all gets more interesting when a few demons get into an argument with vampires over which one of them gets to feast on the human up the alley and then some lycans jump them both just for fun. Oh, and let’s not forget the guy with the supernatural powers that dives into the mix for the hell of it.

As far as the combat system goes, this is the most advanced one I’ve found in Second Life so far. You choose both race and class, each coming with associated abilities that compliment each other in dozens of variations. Weaponry interacts with the stamina and damage system as well. There’s armor, damage-over-time, healing, and buffs. Team play is a big tactical asset.

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The CoLA player HUD in action

Despite the sophistication of the combat system, most accounts of battle seem to involve intense dialog over how the players see a situation playing out rather than who can click the fastest. Battles are planned ahead of time, the situation is carefully orchestrated, and the results are a combination of what the numbers say and what “makes sense”. The game's message boards are filled with character backstories and a constant barrage of questions and new ideas.

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Wandering around the urban landscape of the build I just couldn’t get over the avatars here. They were, with almost no exceptions, some of the most finely crafted things in Second Life. The bling was subtle, the fangs were retractable, and the flexi was under control. Even the weaponry was carefully selected for aesthetic beauty, with severe but graceful looking claws and blunt side arms that spoke louder than words. These were some impressive works of art walking around.

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The forced sense of conflict here was pretty interesting considering these people get along, but their characters often don’t. These factions are set up to really want each other dead, but of course open combat wipes out all sides. As a result a great deal of social jousting is afoot, and deals with the devil are made every night.

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Make sure to turn on your audio stream while you’re here. They have their own radio station featuring a really nice goth mix that doesn’t sound like dance music in a trash compactor. There’s something about a good soundtrack that makes a world of difference. By now most gamers have played a few games that have radio stations in them, and it always becomes one of those things you just can’t live without. It makes a sim seem much more tangible than it would have otherwise.

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One thing I found here though, more than any other sim that I’ve been to, is how quickly people tend to flock together. Everywhere I went there were groups of three to five people interacting, with rarely any one person wandering around by themselves for very long. The essential part of role-playing, of course, is spending time with people, but rarely have I seen such a large number of people understand that so completely.

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Suzanna Soyinka (courtesy SL Games)

As I had mentioned before, CoLA is the queen of dark RPs because so many have been inspired by it. Toxia is largely made up of people who started in CoLA and just wanted to try something on their own. CoLA’s creator, Suzanna Soyinka, has met up with Midian’s creators a number of times to offer advice and guidance on running the game. At least a half dozen more builds across the grid owe some form of inspiration to CoLA, and to its creator.

Suzannasoyinka_008
(Courtesy SL Games)

I spoke with Suzanna Soyinka briefly, but Linden Lab surprised her by creating her new island sim a lot quicker than expected. She was eager to finish the new build so that the throngs of players waiting in line at her borders could come through. Rarely have I met someone more passionate about dark fantasy roleplay and more dedicated to bringing a vision to life.

Going back over the sims that I’ve visited and the sim owners that I’ve met, I’m discovering that a pattern exists here with sim owners: if they aren’t full of passion, they never last. Intelligence is never enough, nor is business management skill. While Suzanna is brilliant (she programmed most of the combat system herself), City of Lost Angels would be nothing without her zeal and belief in this beautiful vision of darkness.

Now, with the big move to a new island sim only a few weeks away, expect CoLA to explode. It’s already bursting at the seams with players, but now that they’ll be able to fit into the sim together, the real story is only beginning.

Onder Skall writes about SL games on his own blog, and continues to cover them for New World Notes.  To tell him about a Second Life game, IM him in-world, or e-mail ruagamer at gmail dot com.

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Suzanna Soyinka

What a nice article. I just wanted to make a small addition myself by saying that while I designed the concept of the game that is in CCS and have alot of hands on in the development process, the system as it is would not be possible without the help of my development partner Jora Welesa. The LSL side of the system and the concept I can work with, the SQL database magic on the back end is all Jora and without it CCS wouldn't be half of what it is.

Speyeder Farina

Wow. Well as one of the Supernatural beings referred to thanks for covering our home :) (I'm also in the fourth picture, the brown bodied Drider). Jora And Suz put so much work into the CCS that it often not only surprises the people who use it but surpasses anything we think possible with SL.

I hope you come back when we get out island launched, things are going to be quite fun I have a feeling.

Crimson

This is a fantastic eloquently written article that perfectly captures the essence of CoLA. Your prognosis will doubtlessly become reality as everyone already knows, I only hope the explosion comprises mainly of aspiring and/or quality role players. (Thanks for using the pic of me with my talons =P).

Paul Raven

Great article; well written, good detail. I've foxed one of the images for a reference post on my own blog; it is fully credited and linked back to this article. Let me know if you want me to take it down.

Hamlet Au

Cool with me if it's cool with Onder.

Relee Baysklef

I'm going to have to check that out myself, it looks fantastic. But then, everyplace in SL looks fantastic when it's standing still. ^.^;;

Rei Darragh

Love the artical.... hey whos that sexy chick in the gas mask? >.> <.<

Pekenita Baxton

I am a CCS RPG Player (COLA Combat System) but I don't go often to COLA sims.. because there are ((last time we checked)) more than 300 sims with the system installed.

Many languages, many different ways to play.. an addictive game that made me increase my SL addiction.. Now I can't leave CCS sims... always expecting to uplevel... lol xD

I don't care if ppl think CCS is good or not.. all I know is I LOVE IT!!

Thanks Suzz!! :***

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