Tooned Out

Suburban mommy talks about kicking her online gaming habit.

Location: Redmond, Washington, United States

Just another face in line at the grocery store...

Friday, July 08, 2005

How I Became a Toon, Part II or... So What's the Big Deal Anyway?

Toontown is a simple game on the face of it. Buy gags (weapons), kill cogs (robot enemies), finish tasks, (quests.) It's designed so very young children can run their own toon around without too much trouble. To be successful in the game requires much more, however. There are a variety of gags that work together in the turn based battle scenes, with varying degrees of success. The wrong choice at the wrong time can send your team back to the playground (you don't die in Toontown, your toon becomes sad and has to go back to the playground until it's happy again.) There are tasks that involve getting items from certain types of cogs that can be very tricky. Many tasks, even in the early stages, require teamwork and can be very difficult, especially if you are part of a randomly formed team.

The end stages of the game are challenging. There is an immense amount of repetitious, time consuming play involved in finishing a character. Toons don't have levels so their status is determined by their hit points, or laff, and the strength of their weapons (gag level.) The only way to get the maximum laff is to defeat the 2 current bosses (2 more are planned for later release) over 75 times each. Before you even get to the bosses you must defeat their respective factories (fortresses) many times to acquire items and enough points to earn a promotion. Before the bosses were released, the game developers estimated that it took about 200 - 400 hours to complete a character. That has more than tripled now.

It's pretty obvious that the boss areas, or Headquarters as they are called, were added to keep adults and teens involved in the game. All you get for defeating them over and over and over again are laff - status - and some single use items. The stars of Toontown are those with the current maximum laff, but you can't get maximum laff just from defeating bosses. You must also catch fish, currently 70 species worth, to get the last 7 points. Add another couple hundred hours to the total.

But wait, there's more! You must earn jellybeans, the Toontown currency, to pay for your gags. You also need to earn those beans to buy the latest fashions from the catalog, decorate your house, and get a "doodle," a toon's best friend. As you can see, there's plenty to do in Toontown. Like any other MMORPG, it's a rich, ever changing landscape, full of possibilities. Also, like other MMORPG's, it is a society unto itself, complete with status symbols and social cliques.