During PAX Prime a week or so ago, I had the opportunity to check out Taitale Studios’ upcoming MMORTS, Novus Aeterno. It’s not what you think. Novus Aeterno is the real deal, embodying both the massive multiplayer online experience with the real-time strategy genre. It is the perfect blending of the two that ultimately creates something entirely new on the scene. There's a reason we gave Novus Aeterno our Most Innovative award for the show.
Before delving into what we learned, I want to start with a bit of history. Taitale Studios founder Nick Nieuwoudt is a dynamo developer. Starting the studio five years ago at the tender age of 16, Nieuwoudt simultaneously began development of Novus Aeterno. He had come up with the idea after finishing Starcraft and also having spent time playing many of the most popular MMOs. What he found lacking, however, was a game that took his two great gaming passions and combined them into one awesome game. Enter Novus Aeterno.
Five years later, the game is finally ready to debut on the world stage and compete against the big boys, well, sort of. It’s hard to pigeonhole Novus Aeterno since it really isn’t exactly “just” and MMO. Similarly, it is not “just” an RTS. It is the best of both put together to truly bring the persistent massive online experience to real time strategy and vice versa.
“A lot of developers claim to be ‘MMORTS’”, Nick said, “but they aren’t really. We are.”
How massive is NA? Try a gargantuan single-server galaxy that features ten thousand galaxies. Each galaxy can support up to thirty thousand players all vying for control. If that doesn’t spell massive in a big way, nothing does.
The game is so big, in fact, that it almost defies description. There is simply that much to it. Let’s take a look at some of the most compelling aspects of NA.
Novus Aeterno is all about empire building. Players start with a basic planet and populate it with residents, defense, armies, refueling stations and more. First, however, players will have to construct a shipyard to, well, build ships. You see, Novus Aeterno doesn’t come with preset units. Players design and build their own ships utilizing components constructed or found throughout the galaxy. How those components are placed on the ship is completely up to the player bringing a truly unique look and feel to every player’s arsenal.
Ships move according to size as well. The bigger they are, the slower they move but the bigger the punch they throw. Different ships, depending on how a player builds them, will have directional armor, weapons with varied ranges and more.
Ships also have crews (DUH!). But it’s more than just token lip service to the idea that people need to be on hand to pilot ships. As a player moves throughout the game capturing more planets, etc., ship crews will level up, bringing a very persistent MMO-like feel to NA. Officers have skill trees and abilities that players can manipulate according to their play style. Even more exciting is the fact that these officers can be moved from ship to ship so if a player knows, for instance, that he will be going up against another player’s light arsenal, he might place his most experienced crew in a heavy gunner to enhance his chances at winning.
Once secure with a first set of planets, players may want to expand their influence and territory. Taking their ships out of their own planet’s orbit, players can choose to take on other players or can look for uninhabited planets to conquer though Nick told us that those would be few and far between. Still, they can be found and taken.
Players can also interact with various NPCs. As with any MMO, players can interact with and gain influence with various factions. Depending on a chosen play style, NPCs can be attacked to far notoriety or they can be ‘charmed’ to work in conjunction with the player.
The team is also committed to keeping things as balanced as possible. To do so, players can take part in up to four different aspects to the game: Diplomacy, Information, Military and/or Economy or DIME. Nick said players can try to be proficient in all but that, for the most part, doing so renders one a “master of none”. The system is tailor made for alliances and guilds forming with specialists in each aspect.
Of concern to some, however, is the fact that any planet can be attacked at any time regardless of whether a player is actively online or not. The dev team has put several safeguards in place to prevent a catastrophic loss of everything:
- Attacking players are far from home, consequently far from a shipyard and repair facilities. All planets have a percentage of population exclusively set aside for defense. After a player has been inactive for thirty minutes or more, the AI takes over and a planet will be defended. An attacking player will be able to repair damage taken very slowly while a defender will be able to be fixed and back in the battle very rapidly.
- A player’s first two planets have something called a “fortress shield” around them so that they can never be captured. Losses to structures, population, ships, etc. can be taken but the planets themselves cannot.
- Interestingly, while ships can be damaged, they are not lost for good. When a player logs in again, all ships and resources are retained. Worlds and/or planets, however, will have to be retaken.
- New players spawn in the outer spirals of the galactic map so that they are not pitted against more experienced ‘buffed’ players. Generally, they will face off against others of the same level to keep the playing field more even.
I can’t even begin to tell you how huge this game is. Novus Aeterno was our choice of Most Innovative Game at PAX Prime for good reason: If the team behind Novus Aeterno can pull it off, it’s certainly going to be one of the most genre-busting (or genre-expanding) games ever to come down the pike. The list of features goes on and on. It’s simply too big for explanation and is doubtless one of those games that must be experienced to truly get an idea of its scope and breadth.
Want to know more about Novus Aeterno? Head to the official site to sign up for beta testing and learn more about this amazing game.