gamescom 2012: The Missing Ink Preview
At an event as large as gamescom, there’s always going to be one appointment on your daily schedule that you’re just not as prepared for as you would like. As you race across the packed halls to make that meeting, guilt starts tugging away at your focus and tries to tease you into blowing it off in favour of just catching five minutes. But then sense slaps you across the inside of your face and reminds you that the game is the developer’s to sell to you, and that sometimes, you’re going to get the most out of something you know nothing about.
The Missing Ink was just that appointment for me at gamescom. Both Josh and Ryan had seen the game at Rezzed in Brighton a few months back and both of them were quick to comment that this independently developed MMORPG was well worth the time of day. I don’t want to spoil the rest of this post for you, but they both completely undersold it.
Advertised as an MMORPG and introduced to me running on an iPad, it’s not immediately obvious to see how this title managed to charm me quite so much as it did. Kerry-Fraser Robinson, CEO of RedBedlam began talking me through the game’s features and outlining its core design, when the red alert sirens began sounding in the back of my head and prompt me to interrupt:
“Sorry Kerry, you said the game’s available on PC, Mac and browsers, with this iPad version to see release in a month or two, and with Android to follow at the end of the year – are all of these different platforms in sync with each other?”
That was to be Kerry’s next point.
The Missing Ink is a beautifully stylised, traditionally themed but entirely unconventional, massively multiplayer online role playing game. It’s free, it’s fun, and by the time you’ve completed your first quest with Sir Wafflepants, you’ll be as drawn in as I was. Most importantly though is the incredible realisation of RedBedlam’s experience with online technology that allows you to lose all track of time enjoying the game on your home PC until you’re late for work, lets you carry on playing the game from your mobile device on the bus ride in, and won’t stop you from picking up where you left off from your browser at work between your boss’ patrols.
Impressive as that is though, the game could certainly stand up and be counted all on its own merits without this ever needing to be a factor. If you were to subtract Missing Ink’s visuals from the center of the display, you might think that you were just looking at any other MMO. The top right corner has your local map, the bottom left features your chat box and the abilities pane holds steady ground at the central base of the screen. Put those visuals back in though and what you actually have is a colorful 3D world of cutout 2D characters, hopping through a fantasy setting that never takes itself seriously. Characters and their text based dialogue are as captivating as their artwork, quests whilst traditional in design never feel dull and even though the combat isn’t fully animated, it doesn’t feel any less exciting than any of its other multi-billion dollar counterparts.
You start out in the Ministry of Defending Stories, a hub that connects you to the many lands of Missing Ink, themed with it’s own monsters and histories that weave throughout this crazy world that refuses to be tied in with any one setting. The Beta version of the game currently playable only includes a medieval world, but work is in progress on both science fiction and pirate settings for future releases. Your on screen avatar can have its appearance changed at any moment, to match any one of the thousands of NPC’s in the game, removing the issues all other MMO’s face when your look is defined by the armor you wear. Better still, RedBedlam are working in partnership with companies that will allow the licensing of many real world brands (movies, TV shows, sporting teams, clothing companies) that will only increase the diversity of the games visuals even further.
Not being content at delivering a reimagined take on the MMORPG genre, The Missing Ink also features its own construction mode, gifting each player their own island to build anything they like, utilising a base of freely offered shapes, walls and items and then opening up even further by allowing players to bring the items they’ve discovered and acquired whilst questing, back onto the island to be placed in your own virtual sandbox. If like me you have the artistic expression of a severely blind swan, fear not as once you’ve constructed something that you’re not entirely happy with, you can take all of the satisfaction in hurling huge boulders into its midsts to see it destroyed.
The presentation draws to a close and I’ve got my head in hands. I’m incredibly tired at this point but I’ve just been shown one of the best realisations of an incredibly good idea that few dare to develop, and I’m really having difficulties processing it all. RedBedlam have created the new bane of my productive life and I want to hate Kerry for it but I just can’t. His determination to create something that’s both fun and unique has brought to life a gaming experience that threatens to destroy us all, but the smile on his face in seeing just how blown away I am by a game I hadn’t heard of thirty minutes ago is infectious.
The Missing Ink is due to for final release later this year on Android and Apple devices, but is in open Beta right now on PC, Mac and browsers. Head on over to http://www.missing-ink.com/register to sign up and start playing, today.