Realm of the Mad God

Wild Shadow Studios
Suggested By:

Realm of the Mad God takes the compulsion loop of a conventional MMO and boils it down to its essential nutrient broth, eschewing all the frippery and getting down to what such games are all about: Kill, loot, level-up, kill some more.

With NES-level pixellated graphics, frenetic top-down shooter play with WASD movement, and permadeath, it feels like a game from another era, yet informed by the tropes and techniques we've come to expected in dikuMUD-likes; games from another era are not, obviously, browser-games and massively multiplayer. It's a game that might have been developed in 1985, if we had an Internet in 1985.

The choice of permadeath is an interesting one, since the conventional wisdom among the MMO-chattering classes is that permadeath is a bad idea. If you spend months levelling up only to die, it's a rage-quit moment. In RotMG, though, death feels more as it does in a Rogue-like; oh well, restart. Unless very good or very cautious, you're unlikely to live for more than a few hours, and there's a level 20 cap, which you'll hit in a few evenings of play, most likely; the character-investment is not as dire, in other words. And in any event, some things persist with death. For one thing, at start, you can play only a Wizard; but once you hit level 5 as a Wizard, you unlock the Priest class; and once you reach level 5 as a Priest, you unlock the Archer; and so on. Unlocking the final class (Sorceror) requires you to level both an Assassin and a Necromancer to 20; thus, there's a sense of grind-progress despite your many deaths.

Another unusual (but clever) choice is realm-reset; when all "realm bosses" are killed, the Mad God Oryx summons all characters in the realm to his lair, and if he is defeated, the realm is reset -- with a new, algorithmically generated map. Needless to say, this final boss battle is pretty darn epic.

This produces a sense that the game is not as static as a typical MMO, with players consuming content and getting bored waiting for the next expansion release; the game is refreshed from time to time.

The business model is FTP (free to play), with real money required to do such things as increase the number of inventory slots in your vault, have a second character slot, or purchase dyes, pets or other hard-currency items that are nice but not essential to play. If you don't mind this, however, it's a extremely nice time-waster, and the minimal approach is a refreshing change from the pomposity of games like World of Warcraft.

Realm of the Mad God is a 2012 IGF Nominee in the Technical Excellence category.


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Not that it isn't a fun

Not that it isn't a fun little game to play, but it's fun that's been done alot before. And not that that's bad. I just wonder how the programmer gets the enthusiasm to put so much effort into repeating the past?

Are there any specific games

Are there any specific games you're referring to? I felt Realm of the Mad God was pretty unique, even though it obviously cribs a lot from Diablo, 8-Bit RPGs, and even FPS (circle-strafing is pretty useful). But I never found it derivative.

Hey, glad to see that my

Hey, glad to see that my suggestion was taken up! The game has come a long way since I discovered it over a year ago - regional servers, vaults, several new classes, and a lot more equipment are among the many new features. Oh, and you can play it on Steam now, among other places.

But the major accomplishment of the game to my mind is still its reintroduction of permadeath as a core game mechanic to an online RPG. Though the veil is semi-permeable (unlocking classes and vaults being the two big standouts) and it most definitely is not the first to do so, I'm hopeful that it will encourage today's designers to reconsider its current anathema status in RPGs.

As for its predecessors...well, there are quite a few. When I originally suggested it, I was thinking of Flash top-down shooters (such as the Boxhead series) as well as roguelikes and the Diku-derived MMORPGs, both of which it obviously derives from, though it hasn't reached their complexity (yet). I also mentioned "Transformice" when I suggested it, which ... well, I'll just quote myself: "[ROTMG's] frenetic pace and team-up-or-don't ethos reminds me strongly of "Transformice"."

I also want to give a shout-out to user iggyst00ge, who wrote a great reply to me some months ago. S/He goes into a lot more depth than I did, especially about the then-final battle with the mad god Oryx, and talks about many of the newer features. As far as I can tell it's all still relevant:

But I completely agree with Greg's conclusion: "extremely nice time-waster" sums it up perfectly. And to respond to Callan's question, I believe, from what I've read on Gamasutra and other places, that the developers put the game together on something of a lark and were surprised by how much fun it was, and from there decided to go ahead and publish it (delaying some other projects they had in the hopper) to see where they could take it.

I guess I'll assume they are

I guess I'll assume they are just really good coders and such a game isn't that much of a struggle for them to put together.