WARNING: This preview features strong language and adult situations. It is not intended for minors. Parental discretion is advised.
WARNING: This preview features strong language and adult situations. It is not intended for minors. Parental discretion is advised. (This is not a typo; we're not kidding.)
The world of independent (indy) gaming is a big, crazy thing. Some indy games, such as Alien Hominid, have made the breakthrough to mainstream titles. Indy mods have become massive successes, and although it is always difficult to operate outside the mainstream, the future of indy gaming is bright. The reason is that, as with indy music and indy film, there are all kinds of interests out there, just waiting to be addressed. To (loosely) paraphrase my favorite hardcore hip-hop revolutionary, Immortal Technique: There's a market out there for everything, for pet psychologists, nipple rings, and twisted shit-fetish videos! And that's sort of what Sociolotron is: a role-playing focused MMORPG that appeals to that segment of MMORPG fans whose interests probably correspond with at least two of the three niche markets the Immortal Tech so prophetically outlined. The future is dark. And twisted. The world has fallen into disarray after the massive infiltration of terrorist cells armed with bioweaponry managed to contaminate the Earth's crust with some kind of infectious thing that ruined all of the oil in the world except a bit up by good old England. The British navy defended the oil for awhile, but eventually that too was ruined or blown up, and the whole world fell into a renewed dark age, relying on coal, wood, and water power, yet blessed with medical and technological know-how. A succession of kings vie for conrol of England as a whole, although the area of Sociolotron is limited to London, which has become a chaotic haven of thug gangs, cultists, and religious zealots. London is a hothouse of dirty, dirty action in classic text-and-graphics roleplaying style.
The thing that will get most folks to play Sociolotron is the fact that the game is explicitly designed to be absolutely debaucherous. A review of the newbie guides and gameplay descriptions quickly reveals that this is a standard MMORPG (although not the gorgeous 3D variety) in the tradition of Ultima Online or any good MUD or MOO. The graphics are primitive by today's standards, but they provide a good amount of visualization. The sprites on-screen change according to what weapons or armor are equipped, and there are many postures to assume when chatting, or, ahem, whatever. The skills range from the normal (blacksmith, sword, etc.) to the strange (prostitution, succubus). Sociolotron focuses on skill development, property acquisition, and social roleplaying to motivate the gameplay, and what it lacks in the graphics and polish department is made up for in the What the fuck?!? department.
You begin Sociolotron as with any other game. To manage the age-verification, and, surely, to finance the development of the game, you can become a beta tester for $3 US, and then download the client. A quick install and update and the game is going. Make a character (it's been recommended to choose prospecting skill first, although there are a few strategies available online), and then you're off. You'll be deposited in the Greenwich Marketplace and will find yourself - with a newbie? tag - fairly protected from the rest of the world. This doesn't mean things aren't strange. The game plays like an old-school RPG. A text chat window takes up the bottom portion of the display. There are standard inventory and skill/action menus off to the side. The graphic portion of the game is displayed in a window that cannot be zoomed, scrolled, or rotated. The graphics are sprite-based and movement is handled in the typical click-to-go-here manner. Double-clicking on items or characters brings up a textual description that varies depending on the specific characteristics of that character or object. Right away the player will notice scantilly clad chicks and dudes with provocative nicknames. Wander into the bar and it often feels like a surreal singles chatroom.
Just sitting and watching people go by can be fascinating as slaves and masters stroll down paths. In the public workshops characters fabricate goods in the typical way, as well as engaging in activities like harvesting used sperm from their various orifices for the fabrication of potions and items. Yeah, that's right -- harvesting used sperm. Just wait, it gets freakier. It turns out that the world of Sociolotron is very welcoming. With the newbie tag firmly in place, I found plenty of help in getting to know game mechanics and received loads of free supplies. The first character who helped me was an eight month pregnant female. In the text box, auto-inserted messages kept telling me about how her nipples were leaking milk as if they would burst. She took me to her husband's shop and made me French trousers. Then she gave me the all-important chastity belt and told me to never take it off or else I'd be raped. She typed, The first night I played I was raped three times! Lol. I kept my chastity belt locked. Apparently doing things like raping other players is against the law (not the rules) and is punishable by prison time.
According to other convos with Sociolotron players, prison is full of rape opportunities and people really into rape fantasies can get along well there. I resolved to stay well away from prison, as I tend to play a fairly good guy. The pregnant woman told me she already had one daughter, who was off at Oxford. Two characters who have unprotected sex in Sociolotron can spawn offspring. The child is playable to a certain extent by either character and inherits skills and attributes from each. When not being played, the child goes to college to await their real life beginning. If one of the parent characters dies, the user can inhabit the child character, although that then makes the child character off-limits for the other parent to play. That is one way Sociolotron handles death, which can come in many forms. Hostile NPCs are the most obvious threat at the outset. You must battle these folks anytime you move away from civilized centers for the most part, and sometimes even there. But PVP action can also lead to death. The other way to handle death is to go to hell. Hell is a lot like Sociolotron life, except there's a demon bracket one can move up by fighting in an arena, and eventually a character can hope to assume the role of Satan or one of the lesser demons. However, to make it to any of these dizzying heights, one would have to level up, and that, apparently, means bulking.
The government puts out bulk orders for everything from hammers to extra large dildos, and characters can collect raw materials, process those raw materials into useable resources, and then fabricate different items. This provides the basis for the economy of Sociolotron (although there is also a real estate market). Bulking is the quickest way to gain levels as a newbie, but it is also incredibly boring. Most of your time is spent dodging NPCs (because fighting them takes too much energy and time) and collecting raw materials until you can't carry anything else. The whole process takes a long time because movement and battle is pretty slow, and it gets incredibly tedious. This is the proverbial grind of Sociolotron. Having had plenty of that, and buffed on donations of the amazingly friendly denizens of Sociolotron, I decided to spend a bunch of money. My character's description said he was a bit small in the chest and buttocks. So I bought physical upgrades from a vending machine that said they would give me bigger breasts (couldn't find anything explicitly male) and a bigger butt. And just to top things off I bought the extra-veiny penis enhancement thinking that would be pretty fucking tuff.
Of course I discovered I needed to find a doctor, which I did find in a character dressed and acting like Wonder Woman who happened to be a doctor and a slave. I asked her if she thought the bigger breasts thing would make me some freakish transsexual, which sounded like more fun than bulking. She wasn't sure. It turned out it didn't work. So instead, Wonder Woman offered to prostitute herself to me as a sex slave. And, of course, I took her up on that offer. The actual sex in Sociolo (that's what the cool kids call it) is mostly textual, although there is a surprisingly large array of positions and movements you can provoke in the sprite avatars. All kinds of things can be simulated, depending on the environment and what's going on. And it's pretty apparent that a lot of gamers are playing their fantasies, but a whole lot also just accept the sexual and violent content of Sociolotron the way that folks just accept the content of any other game. Curious about the role of sex, I sought out a member of the Cult of the Succubi. In Sociolotron there are two major cultural factions, the Cult and the Inquisition. The Inquisition is like the religious right except they make human sacrifices to create their magic. And the Cult is just the opposite; they are dark and amoral and use sperm and sexual depravity to create their magic.
The role of sex and sexual encounters in Sociolotron's actual game mechanic creates some weird kind of barrier that makes sexual encounters in a way less creepy and in a way not at all tittilating. One might be able to convince oneself that some kind of real connection existed in many online sex chat sites, but often in Sociolotron, sex is a way to lose moral points and gain experience points. And it can't just be done with a click of the button, so it's not uncommon to find a situation where two characters are having sex for the numbers. Maybe I'm just an old romantic, but when I'm cornholing a blue-skinned demon hooker with a spiked dildo, I want to feel the love. Sociolotron offers a lot of depth, and I've only scratched the surface here. Part new-age sci-fi fantasy, part twisted sex cartoon, it's no problem to spend the first half-dozen hours wandering around gawking at the weirdness. If one is lucky enough to find a willing guide, there is some entertainment to be found here. But the grind of skill development is so significant that the game will not appeal to a lot of non-hardcore MMORPG players, or anyone too fond of modern graphics and control. On the other hand, the independent spirit of Sociolotron is great to see. The players and developers dialogue, and the game reacts to player input. The world relies on players in a significant way to keep it going, from government to trade, and many Sociolo players seem very dedicated to the game. Sociolotron is obviously not a game for kids, and it's not a game for folks looking for anything like the Everquest / WOW / Asheron's Call experience. It is one of those outposts of indy gaming that exists so far outside the mainstream it must be seen as something significantly different. It most likely won't change your life (although many Sociolo players are pretty diehard), but it is a shocking way to kill a weekend, and if you're looking for cheap thrills or twisted sex fantasy, focused social role-playing or deep world structures and systems, it's all there for the taking.