Monday, April 11, 2005

The Matrix Online has me

Been meaning to write about this game for a few weeks now. It retails for $50 but through a bizarre congruence of luck and multiple gift certificates I wound up picking it up for about ten dollars the day it came out! Figured it was worth at least a looksee. And if it wasn't up to snuff well I wouldn't be out of the full wad of cash, just like I scored Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords from a guy on eBay for twelve bucks (and it's not even worth THAT much, until LucasArts FINALLY releases a patch that will fix ALL the bugs that make this game darn unplayable... but that's a rant for another post). Right now I gotta rave about The Matrix Online:

This is now my "drug of choice" so far as videogames goes. Or at least computer games: I'm also HOOKED on MechAssault II for the Xbox (don't worry Ed I'm just waiting to get REALLY good then I'm coming after your butt on Xbox Live :-). I've been playing Star Wars Galaxies for a little over a year now and I still love that game, it's AWESOME and it's gotten even better as time has gone on (and promises to get better still in the near future with the combat system upgrade and revamp for Smuggler, my chosen profession) but I haven't been able to spend as much time in Galaxies lately as I have in The Matrix Online. Fer one thing, it's HARD to resist the chance to be involved in the ongoing saga of the Matrix... and for it to COUNT as official story canon!

You see, The Matrix Online picks up after the events of The Matrix Revolutions, when Neo sacrificed himself so that Agent Smith could be destroyed before Smith destroyed the Matrix and everyone in it. In doing so Neo negotiated and won a truce from the Machines that were trying to destroy the last free humans in Zion. From now on the Machines won't attack the people of Zion. Zion won't try to destroy the Machines. Anyone that wants out of the Matrix is now free to leave. No one "side" was destroyed in the war, because Neo realized that EVERYONE deserved a chance to live, be they flesh or metal. After a century and more of war, there was finally peace.

That's where The Matrix Online comes in: when people are trying to WRECK that peace.

And this time it's not the Wachowski Brothers calling the shots on where this story goes, but you and me.

And so far it's been a heckuva fun ride!

The day the retail version hit I installed the game and immediately set about creating my persona in the Matrix. As you can see from the pics above, he looks a LOT like me :-) I named him "Cyllinus" and for his backstory said that he was once a history student who realized that there was something wrong with the subject he studied, and came to discover the truth about the world that he had always thought was real. I then gave him something of a religious quest, saying that in pursuing aspects of the Matrix he is trying to discover the true nature of God. Hey this is the Matrix saga so anyone running around in it DEMANDS a deep philosophy driving him/her/it right?

Well, in the two weeks or so since Cyllinus took his first breath of digital life, the ongoing storyline of the Matrix has erupted into all-out war on the streets of the mega city. Neo is dead but Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne and other actors from the films are providing voices for their characters during in-game cinematics) is obsessed with the Machines returning Neo's corpse. Red-eyed fake Agents are starting to swarm out of nowhere and nobody knows WHERE they're coming from or WHO is sending them: the Machines claim innocence and the Merovingian's gang swears they ain't behind it either. Some are saying Morpheus is trying to destroy the truce by acting on his own. And now the mysterious fake Agents have been enigmatically "upgraded" into the considerably more dangerous "N30 Ag3nts" (the "Neo-Agents"?!)

What this is all lending itself to, is that in two weeks time The Matrix Online has become the first massively-multiplayer online role-playing game that has given rise to full-bore philosophical disagreements among players and even outright religious jihad inside the game. You can choose to side with either Zion, the Machines or the Merovingian and his fellow Exiles but even then NOBODY is trusting anybody else, not even within one's own side. I'm playing on the Method server and wound up founding and leading a new faction - the Priory of Zion - and just today WE were accused of not serving the best interests of Zion... that we were "traitors" even. I told our accuser that he is getting perilously close to sounding like many tyrants throughout history who have said that "if you aren't with us, you are with the enemy".

Does this sound like FUN, or what?!

And the neatest thing is, right now I and my character "Cyllinus" are forever official part of the Matrix story. If any future movies are made, they are going to have to acknowledge the events of the game and what the players have done, according to no less an authority than the Wachowski Brothers themselves. Meaning that if I make Cyllinus do something particularly outrageous in the game, he stands a shot at getting portrayed in any future movies (though that's kinda doubtful since there won't be any more movies we're told).

Even so, this is a bold and refreshingly new kind of storytelling: one that hasn't been attempted this way before. And even though I'm not a "power player" it's a way kewl thing to be part of it in some small way.

Hey, if anyone plays this or winds up playing it, look me up as "Cyllinus" on the Method server: the Priory of Zion is always welcome to the prospect of a new recruit :-)