After the presentation was over at the recent Trion Worlds event in San Francisco, those on hand got a chance to see two of the company’s MMOs in action on the show floor. First up was Petroglyph’s End of Nations. Given the presentation’s bold claims for the MMORTS, I was eager to see the tanks and gunships under the control of a live person. If the statements made by the trailer really hold up in practice, Petroglyph is getting set to make a lot of gamers’ dreams come true. After the demo even this grizzled RTS dissident’s demeanor had gone from doubtful to enthusiastic.
I caught up with Senior Producer Todd Morris and Producer Jeff Jirsa as they ran through of the game’s larger public maps, did a few missions, and in general explained the different areas of the game to me. I wanted to get my own hands on the commander controls, but none of us in attendance were allowed to do so this time. As I sulked, Todd promised there would be ample time to play EoN at E3 later in the summer and plenty of time to try it out when it moves into beta closer to its 2011 release date.
The guys began the demo by showing End of Nations’ CNN-like world map interface. In fact, that’s exactly how the guys described it. There is a big revolving holographic globe in the middle of the screen showing the game map and its current hot-zones. It points out where you are, where your friends are, where the action is taking place and all other need-to-know info. Along the bottom is a running ticker of all important events happening in the world. Todd was excited to tell me about how the ticker will display the name of your clan or yourself whenever you accomplish something newsworthy like bringing down one of the Order’s Panzer Hulk tanks.
Another cool feature of the interface is the ability to watch replays of specific player matches from months in the past. While the game has a persistent and evolving world, it also has a match system in place and the replay system allows you and your clanmates to go far back in history to plan strategies, see where you might have gone wrong, or even jump in and watch currently running matches if you so choose.
Additionally players will be able to simply click on a friend or clanmate and “deploy” to where they are to join them in the heat of battle. It really is clear from the simplicity of doing this that Petroglyph wants to completely do away with any and all waiting that might typically be associated with the RTS genre.
Next up on the list of features Jeff and Todd were able to show was the Headquarters system. The HQ is a lot like player housing with an RTS flare. The main difference between one’s HQ in EoN and say their house in EQ2 is that the HQ serves several vastly important purposes for the player aside from just being a place to call home. Your HQ is completely upgradeable throughout the game and customizable in terms of looks as well. Different buildings that the player will obtain through advancing through the game’s ranks allow them to do things like manufacture different kinds of ammo, upgrade their units, or even research all new units to add to their army. Jeff took us inside the Armory for his commander, where a player can upgrade each of their respective units to be more powerful in battle and alter his load-out strategically to make sure he always has the appropriate units when roving about the war-torn countryside. On top of more functional customization, it’s here that a player can also customize the look of his army with different decals and paint colors which can be collected and applied by playing the game and trading with other players.
I asked Jeff what class he was playing, and he professed his love of the Tank Commander. There were also Artillery and Strike classes in place, but the Tanks Commander is what I got to see in action that night. Oddly enough he specializes in Tank units: heavy duty, high defense machines of death and destruction. They don’t move fast, but they can take a beating and dish one out as well. Though you specialize in one area, this doesn’t mean you’ll be limited in what units you can deploy. Everyone can collect every unit in the game, and to have more than one you actually have to collect more than one. In practice, it’s not altogether unlike collecting Pokémon. Todd mentioned that there are sets of each type of unit where if you collect enough of the set you can obtain bonuses from having them and spread said bonuses to your group as well.