While hammered with meetings here at GDC, I've had the opportunity to meet some interesting people and, naturally, see some very interesting things. One of the things that I'm more than happy to sit here and talk to you about today is the upcoming MMO from developer, Reakktor, called Black Prophecy. I sat down with Gamigo (the game's German publisher) representative Dennis Hartmann to talk about the game and take a look at the content in action. An action sci-fi outer-space shooter, it might be very easy to look at the show and simply dismiss it as another incarnation following in EVE Online's footsteps. The interesting thing for me was that after seeing the game in action (having watched a demonstration), I would argue to the contrary, this is not EVE. Sure, it looks a bit like EVE, but I would say that it's more along the lines of Bigpoint's current browser game, Battlestar Galactica Online and the classic space flight games like Wing Commander or Tie Fighter.
All comparisons aside, let me dive into the thick of what Black Prophecy is. When we look at Black Prophecy, you're looking at a Space-Combat (which means in your ships), action oriented MMORPG. The game is rooted in a deep background story, cut scenes, voice over and everything that we've come to expect from games that put the story forward first. The entirety of the game, aside from when you're collecting missions and the like, takes place in your ship, in space. The action is heavy, intense and, can occassionally, be a little confusing as there's simply so much going on on the screen at once. That being said, the game looks good. The graphics and the visuals are lovely, run very smoothly, and are dynamic and not exactly the same as anything else that is out there.
The character creator is deep and offers a significant amount of variety, but ultimately stymied me a little bit as you're playing a game where your character isn't so much your avatar, but your ship takes the focus (since that's where you're spending the bulk of your time). The ship customization itself is where the heart of the game seems to be. You have eight skills in the game, each based around the performance of your ship, whether it be offense oriented, defense oriented and then there is the tactics skill which provides special moves that you can use, in combat, to affect your positioning and even perhaps lead your enemy ships to confusion. The example of tactics that I was introduced to was what works out to essentially be a barrel-roll that you can use to avoid incoming fire.
From the character creator and skill select, we moved to the space station, where the player accepts new missions or can purchase modules from the merchant. At launch, you're not going to be able to actually walk around the stations (limited only to basically these options), but a more interactive, hands-on experience is planned in the future. There are three types of quests available; solo, which you of course go at on your own, group (or party) where it's up to ten and then clan, which is content for 15+ players. You'll have to gather your own group for party missions and if you want to participate in clan missions, you'll have to organize and register your own clan. The game also offers three game types within these three types of quests that we're all familiar with; PvE, PvP and (the really hard to say outloud) PvEvP. Once your mission is accepted, you jump directly into your mission not forcing the player to travel great distances. It was described to me as a desire to provide the player with instant action, instant fun.
We touched on the ship herself, and you have different modules on the ship, the cockpit, the wings and four weapon slots. Light weapons occupy one slot, while heavy weapons occupy two. The way you outfit your ship affects your style of play and, of course, the power of your attacks and your speed.
The crafting within the game is done through looting. When you kill an enemy (and naturally loot them), you're given resources or materials that can be used to craft. You can seek out or purchase blueprints, which give you your recipes for crafting, and these can allow you to craft weapons, defenses, modify existing components and so on.
The Clan system is of note, as the game allows for Clans to own and occupy their own sector and to maintain and operate their own Clan station. With resources, stations can be expanded and grown and open the door to different equipment through the merchants. The Clan stations need to be defended as they can be taken by other clans.
The game is free-to-download, free-to-play, with an item shop and Dennis was enthusiastic to point out to me that the goal of the item shop was not to allow players with lots of money buy their way to superiority. The best weapons and the best defenses are not available in the item shop itself but can only be unlocked through completing content. In its time since E3, Black Prophecy has taken a lot of big steps. The controls are more simplified than some games in similar genres, the graphics are polished, and overall, the game looks and sounds good.
The North American Closed Beta launches later this month where they can get a feel for the game in the North American market, see what needs to be worked on and where they can go from there. In the meantime, take a look at what Black Prophecy has to offer and keep an eye on what's just around the corner.
Until next time!