Moonlight Online is a new free-to-play 3D massively multiplayer online role-playing game for Facebook from Galaxy 2.0 developers I Got Games (IGG). The game is implemented as a Java application that runs on the Facebook canvas, and a standalone downloadable version is imminent. The game will only run on Windows-based computers at this time — a Flash-based version that will run on Mac OS X computers is expected in two months.
Moonlight Online casts players in the role of either a human, vampire or werewolf tasked with proving themselves as a hero and going on to fulfil the usual world-saving prophecy. Players have the choice of four different character classes, some of which are locked depending on which race is chosen, and are then thrown into the vast 3D world to complete quests, battle monsters and level up their character.
As with many other free-to-play 3D MMORPGs of this type, Moonlight Online takes heavy cues from Blizzard’s immensely popular World of Warcraft in its interface and aesthetics, even going so far as to use some of the exact same sound effects. It’s not quite as refined as Blizzard’s classic, however — the fact the game is constantly streaming graphical and audio data as the player explores means that there is a near-constant “Now Loading” icon right in the middle of the screen during play for the early part of a player’s session. While this icon is present, some textures do not render correctly, some sound effects don’t play and some graphics simply don’t appear at all. This wouldn’t affect the gameplay too much were it not for the fact that it occasionally renders enemies completely invisible until their model has loaded, making running through a hostile area a perilous prospect at times.
Technical issues aside, Moonlight Online is a competent if rather predictable MMO for the most part. Players receive quests from non-player characters with exclamation marks over their head, attack enemies using a series of skills on a hotbar at the bottom of the screen, and unlock new skills as they level up. There are a couple of interesting new mechanics, however. Firstly, the player is able to strengthen their weapon as they level up using collected soul energy, allowing them to keep hold of the same equipment for a lot longer rather than constantly swapping it out for better gear. Secondly, the game features the ability to perform parkour/freerunning moves by jumping at a wall and holding the right mouse button. This latter feature certainly looks impressive if the player pulls it off, but in the early stages of the game there is little necessity to actually make use of it, making it more of a novelty rather than a gameplay mechanic to be mastered. The fact that the parkour animation doesn’t always load in time for the character to perform the action doesn’t help, either.
Social features are handled entirely in-game using the game’s proprietary network. Friends are added by typing in their character’s name, and there does not appear to be any means to search Facebook friends for players. This decision was presumably made in order to allow better integration with the standalone downloadable version set to release next month, but it does call into question why the game is even on Facebook in the first place if the platform’s benefits are not going to be taken advantage of. This issue aside, the game features very strong social features to encourage cooperation, including an excellent “mentor and disciple” mechanic whereby a high-level player can “mentor” a lower-level one, with both receiving rewards as the “disciple” levels up.
The only real Facebook feature that Moonlight Online makes use of is Facebook Credits, which form the backbone of the game’s monetization. Credits are used to purchase the game’s hard currency Points, which may then be used to acquire premium items from the in-game mall. These items range from consumables to experience point boosters, mounts and pets which can be used in-game. Those wishing to create a guild may also waive the in-game currency fee by purchasing a Guild Permit in exchange for Points.
While it’s certainly impressive to see such a graphically-intensive game running on the Facebook canvas, it’s clear that the standalone version of the game will (hopefully, anyway) fix the technical problems outlined above. If the game data is downloaded and installed in advance rather than streamed on the fly as is happening here, the constant “Now Loading” message, the invisible enemies and the somewhat comedic non-animating parkour will be a thing of the past, and the game will be a lot more satisfying to play. As it stands, this Facebook version needs some serious revamping to be worth spending much time on, because the technical issues mar the experience to a significant degree. Not only that, but there’s really no need for it to be running on Facebook at all besides to prove it is possible. Were the game to take greater advantage of the platform’s social features, it might be worthwhile; as it stands, this game will only hit its stride once it is available in its standalone incarnation — and once Mac players can also get in on the action.
Due to Moonlight Online’s implementation on Facebook, it is listed twice in the user data figures on AppData. The game’s launcher app (listed as “Moonlight Online (PH) – Best 3D”) currently claims 110,000 monthly active users and 20,000 daily active users; meanwhile, the game application itself (listed simply as “Moonlight Online”) claims just 30,000 MAU and 3,000 DAU. Follow the game’s progress on Facebook with AppData, our traffic tracking application for social games and developers.
While it’s impressive to see a “full” MMO running on the Facebook canvas, the upcoming standalone version will fix most of the glaring issues Moonlight Online currently suffers.