The sun begins rising over the lands of Sacred Grove, and with it, I awaken to the sound of marching feet. Again, I find myself asleep within the Greenwood Camp, home of the Chugawugs, ever-vigilant and the current fascination of my cat, Countess Daisy. Burnetta, the head chef of the camp, offers me a mushy meal, which I graciously accept and eat with only slight repulsion--at least it's better than Robgoblin cooking!
I set off with Countess Daisy resting for a while longer snuggled up in my backpack, heading northward through the Greenwood Forest and into the Wilds. In the distance, I see deer bounding through the lush foliage, mountain goats perched upon their dais of rock, squirrels leaping as they are startled at the slightest movement, a lost sheep wanders... oooo, look, a careless Robgoblin left another pile of junk laying over by that tree! I wonder what it has! So... sparkly!
Eventually, with many shiny distractions along the way, I find myself at the beach in Seaside. This coastal town is a popular tourist attraction, which is evidenced by the cruise liner out there in the distance, and the hot air balloons traversing the sky. Relaxing at the beach seems like a wonderful thing to do today, detaching myself from the reality of the busy life that surrounds me and enjoying the freedom of my choices.
That's the beauty of Free Realms.
Now, as we approach the one month anniversary of the launch of Free Realms, it's a wonderful thing to still look at the game in a new light, discover new things every day and have the ability to play as you want to play. You can experience the world in little bits at a time, or spend hour after hour exploring every nook and cranny of Sacred Grove's expansive lands. The appeal of being able to enjoy a game the way you intend to, and not have that shaped by another human being, is what brings so many to Free Realms.
Take a quick step back in time to launch day, April 28th. Many in the beta community were concerned about the state of the game, the multitude of bugs that still had existed just two days prior, the rocky advancement through many of the jobs, and whether or not their F5 key was going to break from refreshing SOE's Free Realms web site. Some whispered and some screamed that Free Realms would be released as an unfinished product, that there was no way for everything to have been addressed in such a short amount of time.
Most of us die-hard Free Realmers (or Freepers, whichever you prefer!) stayed up far later than was sensible, just waiting to be able to rush into the game, claim our names, and see what happened in the almost two days that we were kept apart from Sacred Grove. We found that our voices had been heard; most of the bugs were fixed, jobs all had a coherent quest line to them, Adventurers finally had a method of leveling, and respawning items, such as collections and rich veins of ore, actually respawned!
While the past month has not been perfect, the talented development team at SOE has worked very hard, and countless hours, to make our gaming experience as enjoyable as possible. Free Realms has proven to be a stellar performer in the MMO genre. It has attracted people of all ages and from different backgrounds with its flexibility in game play. Within a mere 17 days, there were already 1 million unique registered users!
Free Realms is designed with tweens in mind, but it has appealed to those younger and older as well. As a parent of three young children, I see how much they enjoy playing, and look forward to having more time to play with them in game over summer break. It is a great way to spend time with your kids and satisfy the gamer-self in you, too!
The community in-game, on the forums, and even over in our ZAM Free Realms IRC chat, has been helpful and open to everyone. It's refreshing to see so many people jumping in to answer a question, contributing their knowledge to the best of their abilities, or simply meeting up at a scheduled or impromptu party (with boom boxes, of course!). I hope to see this trend of comradery continue as Free Realms ages more.
If you haven't checked out what Free Realms has to offer you yet, there is no better time then the present.
As for me? I think Countess Daisy and I will enjoy the view on the beach just a little... bit... longer.