E3 2011: END Games Meeting
While at E3 I had the chance to sit down with the guys from END games to talk about what they’re planning to accomplish in the game industry now that they’ve left NetDevil and formed their own company. I’ve known these guys for a while, I was a huge fan of Auto Assault, so it was a fun meeting. We chatted a bit about their first couple of releases and where they plan to go from here.
First off the drawing board was Vorp! I was pretty skeptical at first, because it’s being called a Facebook by most folks out there, and well, I can’t think of much I’d like to do less with my time than play games on Facebook. I hate having to constantly bug my friends so I can play my game. But Vorp! is different. Sure, you play it on Facebook, but it’s a full-fledged multiplayer online game. And it’s built on the Unity engine, so it could easily be ported over to just run in Chrome like a lot of social games are doing lately, or any other browser based solution. They also mentioned the possibility of taking it to tablets down the road as well.
The game plays as sort of a MOBA (Multi-player Online Battle Arena) meets old space shooter games like Star Control. Currently there are four different pilot/ship combinations. You have your standard all around ship that should be familiar to anyone: it fires lasers, drops mines, looks like a classic ship, etc. Then you have the fire-happy pilot, her ship is loaded with things like flamethrowers which can set the environment on fire, damaging other ships that bump into it. The fire stream from her thrusters also lingers behind her, kind of like the light trails from the bikes in Tron. Anyone flying through one will pick up a burning DoT. And to top it off, because she’s a little crazy like that, she has a suicide ability, to take all nearby ships with her. Next up we have the vampire-esque ship. It operates at a constant slow loss of life, and needs to keep draining it from other ship so he doesn’t die. And finally, the biggest twist, a melee ship. Yup, in a space combat game, we have the melee ship entry. The pilot is a huge hulking guy driving a space ship with a giant blade spinning around it and you just run around ramming people, chewing them up into space debris. As you level up you can upgrade his blade to the point that it will even start reflecting projectiles.
Another big problem I have with Facebook games is how limiting they are unless you spend some real cash. Trust me, I realize this is a business and the companies have to make some money. I’ve worked in the industry; I’ve been laid off by companies who weren’t making said money. But I’m far more likely to give you my cash if the game is fun. If you release prematurely or over limit it so I’m not having fun before we get to the point where you’re asking me for money, I’ll just go somewhere else. This game though allows you to earn Bang! (the currency used in the item shop which you can buy for real cash) by playing. You also earn a little trickle of it over time, kind of like the way too small of an allowance you used to get from your parents. But it adds up. You never really have to spend a dime if you don’t want to. But if you’re a little more impatient, by all means, you can.
They have a lot of features and additions in mind for the game, such as a campaign mode and persistent progression for the pilots. And naturally adding more pilots and maps down the road. But the thing I found most interesting while talking with END Games was the philosophy behind not only this game but everything they plan on doing down the road. Vorp! was released as kind of an example of how they plan to do things. Start with a really small, really fun concept. See what people like and don’t like about it, and go from there. Add the things people want to see, scratch the ideas that they don’t. Instead of spending four years working on a game that you hope people will like whenever you finally finish, involve those people the entire way. And not like companies do now, where they spend a lot of time talking at the community about what they’re doing with the game. Instead, talk to the community, let them play the early alpha game, see what they think. Build a small fun game like Vorp! that can easily evolve into something much larger.
By now you’ve all heard about or read the “no more MMOs” blog post. I think a lot of people took that the wrong way. I think what they were really trying to say isn’t that the MMO market is dead or dying, but rather, that everything is merging. Look at every other genre out there and you’ll spot all kinds of features that have been taken from the MMO genre. END Games isn’t against making MMOs, they’re just not going to do it the way everyone has in the past. Rather than spending four to five years behind closed doors working on a game that may or may not do well, they’ll release a fun small game, which if people like, could very possibly grow into something resembling an MMO. I could see the general idea of Vorp! as an MMO. Kind of like EVE but much more basic, just the fast, action packed space combat with maybe some territorial control thrown in on the PvP side of things, played in the classic overhead space combat game view. It’d be a blast and I’d play the heck out of it.