The unprecedented expansion of the internet has brought with it a similar size in growth of the MMORPG. As broadband reaches almost every home in the country, the internet has the ability to deliver this gaming genre to the thousands of people which it requires to flourish. For those of you not in the know, that unwieldy collection of capital letters which represents said genre stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, is a type of game which literally thousands of players can play online, together, and at the same time.
Popularized by giant titles like World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, the MMORPG is normally typified by large fantasy-feel overworlds, complete with subterranean dungeons filled with loot. NPC’s -that’s Non-Playable Characters for those of you still playing catch-up- provide makeshift teams of players with quests to explore these dungeons to find the loot, or to locate specific items within them in exchange for new weapons, armour or levelling-up experience.
While most of these games are serious in tone, representing the struggles of player-controlled heroes against grim war-torn backdrops, Luminary: Rize of the GoonZu is more light hearted and visually colourful. Firstly, everything in the game is drawn in the Anime style, from your own customizable character to the world they inhabit. It all has a Studio Ghibli feel to it, complete with lush green valleys and towering temples inhabited by all manner of mythical beasts inspired by Japanese lore. In comparison to the more commonly seen Medieval inspired High Fantasy RPG’s with their brown colour palette wastelands, Luminary appears like a refreshing change; something to counter the whole Japanese games aping Western output argument. It’s as much a swansong of Japanese popular and classical culture as it is a celebration of the MMORPG genre. The game itself sets itself a little way apart from the standard MMORPG template. While it does contain all the usual trappings, such as Player Vs Player and Siege Combat, it also has a player-run market economy, where each participant can mine or hunt for their own resources before selling them for in-game currency. There’s also the ability to create your own resources such as weapons or armour by combining base parts together. However, the defining feature of Luminary, present in the subtitle of the game itself, is GoonZu. Luminary describes this as the political aspect of the gameplay, where players themselves can run for GoonZu, elected to mediate social aspects of the world such as its economy or server events. It’s a largely untouched feature of the social aspects of gaming, allowing players open up to each other in ways that govern more than just simple transactions such as item-selling or swapping. Running for GoonZu could have wide-ranging social effects on the entire game world, giving players a real sense of power and achievement in Luminary. So, if you’re tired of real-world politics with its endless cabinet reshuffles and inevitable re-elections, perhaps Luminary: Rise of the GoonZu might give you a more graspable outlook on democracy.