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What is Anarchy Online?
Anarchy Online Dictionary

Anarchy Online (AO) is a science fiction MMORPG released in June 2001 by Funcom. It is one of the few popular MMORPGs that makes use of a science fiction setting as opposed to the more common fantasy setting. The game is set in the years following June 29475, predominantly on the harsh desert world of Rubi-Ka (planet set in a fictional binary star system) and its extra-dimensional twin, the Shadowlands.

Contents

The story

The story of Anarchy Online revolves primarily around two factions, the hypercorporation Omni-Tek and the rebel worker caste, the Clans. These two factions are fighting for control of the distant desert planet Rubi-Ka. In addition to these two factions there is a third faction of Neutral observers, people who have decided to take no side in the conflict. This conflict has been waged on and off for centuries. In addition, there have been larger conflicts between Omni-Tek and other corporations over the control of Rubi-Ka.

Rubi-Ka, the seemingly useless desert planet, is of such tremendous importance because it is the only known source of notum in the universe. Omni-Tek, having been granted exclusive ownership rights to the planet, controlled notum for many years and benefitted tremendously when it was discovered that the mineral would revolutionize, and eventually become the key component of, nanotechnology. The discovery of notum's properties led the way to the development of technologies that seem very like magic, including programs that create things such as fire and ice, heal injury, shield people from harm, affect their physical bodies, and even achieve resurrection. Notum even makes its way into the very genetic makeup of some sub-breeds of humans.

Due to Omni-Tek's unfettered control of Rubi-Ka, the corporation was largely free to do as they wished with their colonists and the planet. For most of the early years, Omni-Tek did its best to treat its people well, even to the point of receiving commendations for its treatment of workers. However, over the centuries, Omni-Tek's policies began to degrade, until, finally, approximately 500 years after the planet was first settled, a significant number of poorly-treated colonists rebelled against Omni-Tek and began to secretly trade stolen notum to a rival corporation. This led to a series of wars between Omni-Tek and the colonists, and between Omni-Tek and its rival corporations.

Content

Anarchy Online originally intended to separate itself from its competitors by minimizing tedious elements such as camping, instead basing the gameplay on automatically generated "content on demand". In fact, Anarchy Online is known for the first to invent the instance-dungeon system, which has been copied by other MMOs. In the Shadowlands expansion pack, such elements were introduced on a massive scale and often taken to extremes. Subsequent patches and expansions have moderated some of the initial excesses.

Typical play activities include:

  • Dungeons — static indoor locations, often expansive, involving unique enemies to be defeated and items to be found. They typically require one or more teams to thoroughly conquer;
  • Terminal missions, which can generate instanced indoor zones, have a variety of objectives, and are available for both soloists and teams;
  • Static missions granted by known NPCs throughout the game world;
  • Camps of concentrated enemies in the wilderness;
  • "Dyna-bosses" and "pocket bosses" — nearly-isolated and greatly-enhanced enemies that can provide items available nowhere else;
  • Player vs player combat, primarily in the forms of 1-on-1 duels, guild-vs-guild mass combat at tower control sites, and faction-vs-faction mass combat in well-defined "Political conflict" areas.

Players can also participate in various non-combat activities, such as:

  • Crafting of items, such as weapons and armour;
  • Roleplaying;
  • Socializing at one of the game's many nightclubs. Some players have created their own radio station via webcast, which are used to announce special events such as parties and competitions.

Technology In The Game

For transport, the game features three types of vehicles, all which are one-seater:

  • Ground-based vehicles: small vehicles made for faster travelling across terrain. They are known as Kodiaks;
  • Air-based vehicles: known as Yalmahas, these are futuristic planes with a shape reminiscent of a stealth jet. The basic version is painted white, and players have a choice of a variety of colours and upgrades for their Yalmaha. There is also a high-powered version available called the Stiletto;
  • Water-based vehicles: made for travelling across water, they resemble hovercrafts.

Players are able to travel from some major cities through the use of teleportation devices. These teleportation devices are commonly known as "whompahs", due to the sound caused when in use.

Another system of travel through major cities is the Grid system, whereby the bodies of a player is converted into a large computer system which links several places around Rubi-Ka. Inside the grid, the player is represented by an upside-down, blue triangle. The Fixer profession also features their own grid system, known as the Fixer grid.

Players are able to improve their character through the use of implants, installed through the use of stationary medical bays.

Lastly, the game features "Insurance Terminals" where players can "save" their character. The terminal is able to capture a character at a particular moment of time, and upon the character's death, the terminal is able to recall and ressurect the character. The act of ressurection has a negative impact on the character, termed "ressurection shock", which results in temporarily lowered character statistics.

Character Creation

A player chooses one of four breeds and one of fourteen professions for his character upon creation, and one of the game's three factions shortly thereafter. There are no forbidden combinations; a character can be of any breed, any profession, and any faction. Breed and profession are permanent, but faction can change an indefinite number of times, subject to some restrictions and potential loss of progress. While a player can swap allegiances between Clan and Omni-Tek, they may not switch from either faction to Neutral.

Faction influences a player's costs and profits when using vendor terminals. It also determines a character's starting city and which territories they may enter without being attacked by guards or local players.

Breed primarily determines how expensive it is to raise the character's basic stats, how high each of those can ultimately become, and how efficient the character's skills are at increasing his health and program-running "nano energy" reserves.

Profession determines the improvement cost and ultimate maximum of the character's other skills. More importantly, profession also determines which nanoprograms the character can use. Although nanoprograms are analogous to spells in fantasy MMORPGs, all professions — not just a subset — make heavy use of them. They define a profession's play style more sharply than any other single game element.

Character development in Anarchy Online is skill-based. There are 85 improvable skills which are influenced by a combination of breed choice and profession, and the system used by the game makes character development flexible and complex.

As in many MMORPGs, characters in Anarchy Online gain experience points, and thus levels, through defeating enemies and completing missions. However, a character's level has little direct impact on their capabilities: while a character will be granted some incidental health and nano energy and occasionally the ability to use items or nanoprograms with specific level requirements, the main system of advancement is through Improvement Points.

Improvement Points are awarded to the player at each level, and can be spent at any time during the game to raise the skills of their choice. The efficiency of each skill is affected by a combination of breed and profession; however, no skill is denied outright to specific breeds or professions.

Professions

Adventurer

A generalist profession, the Adventurer combines a balance of weapons and nanotechnology with a deep understanding of nature, which enables them to morph into several animal forms. The Adventurer can serve as a front-line combatant and a secondary healer, with their healing ability rivalled only by Doctors.

Agent

The Agent is a ranged combatant who fights with a combination of stealth and disguise. They are able to assume eleven other professions for a set amount of time.

Bureaucrat

Bureaucrats use a combination of social skills and nano programs to calm and charm mobs, and increase or repair the experience gained by others teamed with them. They are also able to summon a "pet" which can deal a great amount of damage on their own. In a nod to the stereotypical image of bureacrats, the profession features formal suits, briefcases and Bureaucrat-only coffee machines.

Doctor

Doctors are the primary healers in the game. They use a range of nano technology to keep others alive, from heal-over-time nanos (which heals the target for a set amount of health points over a duration of time) to single and team heals. They are also able temporarily increase the health points of themselves and others.

Enforcer

Enforcers are designed as front-line combatants. They can use a range of nano technology to attract the attention of nearby monsters and protect themselves by using damage and absorption shields. Enforcers are also able to boost the health points of themselves and others.

Engineer

The Engineer is the second of the "pet" professions, and are able to create and maintain a robotic droid for combat. They also have an affinity with crafting items.

Fixer

The Fixer has an affinity with the technology available on Rubi-Ka. They are able to send themselves into the planet's grid system, and are able to use a form of armour which utilises energy from the grid system. Fixers can also heal themselves and others using heal-over-time nanos. They are able to use two variants of heal-over-time nanos: a short heal, lasting three minutes, 20 seconds, and a long heal, lasting between fifteen and thirty minutes.

Keeper

The Keeper is the first of two professions introduced in the Shadowlands expansion, and is similar to a paladin. Keepers have a range of nano technology which acts as auras. These auras can boost a range of skills, and can also heal both themselves and team members.

Martial Artist

A front-line combatant, the Martial Artist uses their body for damage. Their toolset includes nano technology to increase their chances of causing critical damage and their evasive speed. Martial Artists are also able to heal.

Meta-Physicist

Meta Physicists are the third "pet" profession in the game, and are able to summon a variety of demons to attack, heal and mesmerize mobs.

Nano Technician

The Nano Technician uses nano technology to cause damage. The nano technology ranges from the ability to mesmerize mobs, to single-target attacks and area of effect attacks.

Shade

The second profession introduced in the Shadowlands expansion, the Shade is the game's equivalent of a wraith. Shades are able to siphon health from their enemies when in Shadowlands.

Soldier

Soldiers are a ranged, front-line combatant. Much like Enforcers, Soldiers use nano technology to taunt nearby monsters, increase the health of themselves and others, as well as cast damage enhancing buffs and reflection shields.

Trader

Traders are intended as a support profession, and are able to use their toolset to temporarily increase the skills of themselves and others. They are also able to heal, mesmorize mobs and steal health, skills and armour from their target to themselves. Traders also have an affinity with crafting items.

Release

The release of Anarchy Online went poorly, with the game becoming known for the massive number of problems and bugs that nearly ruined it. Most of the major problems now fixed, Anarchy Online shows no trace of its problematic launch. Nevertheless, the game remained, for a time, best-known for its poor performance.

Expansions

The Notum Wars

Anarchy Online received its first major upgrade, labeled a "booster pack", by Funcom in late November 2002. This expansion introduced one of the major components of the game's PvP system, the towers. In this expansion, players and their organizations (AO's name for player guilds) became capable of building towers on specific land areas across Rubi-Ka, for the purposes of mining notum. These towers included a central controller and a vast array of defensive towers, which typically conferred bonuses to individual players or their organizations, or which conferred penalties on invading players. These towers would regularly become open to attack by players of the opposing factions, who, after successfully destroying the towers of their enemy, could claim the land as their own.

The Shadowlands

Perhaps the most well received of Anarchy Online's expansions, the Shadowlands presented a tremendous new world, collectively called the Shadowlands, which is the last remnant of the world Rubi-Ka was before it was wrenched apart by a dimension-breaking cataclysm in ages past. Enriched in notum, this diverse world is inhabited by vestiges of the ancient races that lived on Rubi-Ka, called the Redeemed and the Unredeemed, as well as a giant, world-reaching computer, named Ergo, who recognizes humans as descendants of the past and whose motives in propelling players through the Shadowlands are ambiguous at best.

Released in September of 2003, the Shadowlands expansion was very well received critically, though there were concerns that it had too strong a fantasy bent to mesh completely with the AO universe. In addition to the tremendous world the expansion added, it also introduced significant changes, improvements and additions to virtually every aspect of the game, including music, character development, items and interface.

Alien Invasion

Building on the storyline introduced in The Shadowlands, Alien Invasion was the next major expansion to the Anarchy Online game. This expansion introduced player-built cities, new social interactions, including clothing, and, most significantly, a new threat to the world of Rubi-Ka, in the form of an alien race that has suffered tremendous pain and death because of human interference in the Shadowlands. It was released in September, 2004.

Lost Eden

Lost Eden is the working title for the upcoming expansion pack, and is expected to be released in 2006. This expansion will focus on PvP elements and is expected to add a variety of new features, including player-controlled battlemechs, orbiting space stations that players can vie to control, and artillery fired from orbital cannons.

Other Notes

The background of the game is described in greater detail in the book Prophet Without Honor: Anarchy Online Book 1, by the Anarchy Online creator Ragnar Tørnquist. A detailed timeline of events, from the discovery of Rubi-Ka until 29479, is available at the official Rubi-Ka Timeline page.

The original game, without any of the expansions, is part of a special promotion in which new players can register an account and download the core game free of charge. Monthly fees for the original game has currently been waived until January 15, 2007. Players wishing to use the content available in any of the three expansions would need to purchase those expansion packs, after which monthly subscription fees would begin to be charged. It is possible to upgrade a free account to a paid one and at the same time purchase the first three expansions at a reduced package price.

Players using free accounts are subjected to a number of billboards featuring real-world advertisements. Paying customers are able to remove these advertisements, or choose fake advertisements dealing with game-related subjects.

The slang term for free account users is Froob, which stands for "fr(ee account n)oob". The term implies a free account players is a new player or newbie. The term can be used as a form of endearment, self-deprecation or as an insult.

the term froob is also used in a semi-inside joke, in the form of the fr00b t-shirt item. (the description explains how no one seems to understand the term)

Leets

A typical leet.
A typical leet.

A "Leet" is the name of a furry, cuddly creature resembling a Rodent in Anarchy Online. Living up to their name, leets speak in leet speak and have a strong following of players. The names of the various kinds of leets found in the game world plays on the term, with progressively stronger leets named Eleet, Leetas, Soleet, Phear Leet and Supa Leet, in addition to special unique leets named Joo, Ownz and brb. Their cuteness has in many ways made them a mascot for the game, with calls for plush leet dolls being common, stories such as the Leetville series being made, and a special set of leet pets being the pre-order gift for Alien Invasion.

Players are able to morph into a Leet through the use of an ironically-named nano program called "Pronouncement of Greatness".

Cultural References in Anarchy Online

  • At Rome Blue, you are asked to deliver a burger to Mr. Blake. Upon receiving it, he says: "Um hum, this is a tasty burger". Both the character's name and the line mentioned is a reference of Quentin Tarantino movies. Mr. Blake is similar to the known "I want to be Mr. Black" argument at Reservoir Dogs, and the sentence is said by Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) of Pulp Fiction while eating a Kahuna Burger. Also, there is a social command "/pulp" which causes your character to dance in a fashion very similar to John Travolta and Uma Thurman in the movie Pulp Fiction.
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android features in the game, and will quote lines from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. When asked about the meaning of life, Marvin will answer, "42."
  • Bartenders often offer to sell a bottle of Hit-The-Floor-Jack which the description that starts with "And you won't come back no more, no more, no more no more...."-- a reference to Jack Daniels and the song "Hit the Road, Jack."

See Wikipedia


Official Site - Anarchy Online in WikipediA - The Developers