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Transverse: Piranha Games Opens the Space Sandbox

Previews By William Murphy on September 18, 2014

Transverse: Piranha Games Opens the Space Sandbox

Imagine an MMO with no NPCs, no enemy NPCs either… the entire world is populated and driven by players and their interaction. There are no pre-made quests, and if a player doesn’t make it, it doesn’t exist. That’s the idea behind Piranha Games’ Transverse, a spacefaring sandbox MMORPG that looks to beat EVE Online at its own game. We caught up with PGI’s Creative Director and Co-Founder, Bryan Ekman to talk about Transverse, its design philosophy, and more.

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At its core, Transverse will be a science fiction MMO that’s entirely player powered. The comparison to EVE is natural, but there is a deep flight sim aspect to the game as well. Bryan told us that Transverse doesn’t look to be as in depth with physics as Elite or Star Citizen, due to the amount of processing power it would take to do that in an MMO where many players will be on screen at once, but that there certainly will be a learning curve to the flight controls.  At the same time, they’re designing the game to ease players into their role as a pilot.  You’ll likely go through a sort of virtual reality tutorial that teaches you the basics, and as you play the game and become more skilled, you’ll naturally be able to pilot more complex ships.

The story for Transverse is set in the year 2315, Humanity has just left our solar system due to advances in technology, and technology has developed to the point where people can transcend their mortal bodies by placing their consciousness, or a copy of their consciousness, into synthetic humans or even other machines. Some people hold onto their humanity as much as they can, while others become Transhuman and leave their bodies behind for the idea of a fully electronic existence. Yeah, it’s some heady stuff.

The reveal trailer in all its rendered glory.

Obviously, the core of Transverse not having NPCs (except maybe a few for the beginning experience) or enemies, means that you can expect the MMO to have a fairly heavy PVP base. There will be areas that are safer than others, but Bryan walked us through a bit of the “daily life” for Transverse. Heavily based on exploration and crafting, you’ll travel all over the universe using something PGI is calling “Dark Space” as a sort of maze of tunnels between different areas. Dark Space changes and undulates, and will be different through procedural generation each time you log in. The points of interest will be in the same place in the star map, but how you travel between them using Dark Space and what you find within will be different from player to player.

You being your time in the Fringe, and as you get into your ship, explore, mine, harvest materials, make things, and trade with others you’ll be able to peel back Dark Space a bit. You’ll find a blueprint for a jump drive, and then be able to jump farther out into the void. Players generate the missions you undertake, they build the stations that serve as hubs and places of rest, and they dictate the rules of life out on the Fringe.

Progression is going to be skill-based as opposed to level-based as well. The simplest way Bryan could put it was to compare it to Skyrim. If you do something, like mining or combat, you’ll get better at that activity. As you get better, you’ll unlock perks and skills in those lines of progression.  There are three main “sectors” of progression: Science, Industry, and Combat. But each of these has multiple skill sets within them.


Some of the packages for Transverse’s crowdfunding campaign.

Now, there will be PVE in the game… of a sort. The team is toying with the idea of Remnants, essentially mad ghosts left behind by someone when they die. They’re like husks, or synthetic zombies that become full autonomous and develop desires and needs of their own. It would even behoove you to track down your own Remnant to regain some of what you lost when you died.  And enemy players can and will take your Remnant hostage for money, resources, or just to taunt you with.  While Transverse will be mostly PVP and economy driven by nature, Bryan hopes they can use this sort of experience as a way to turn even PVE encounters into something driven by the players and their actions. 

Right now Piranha is seeking funding for Transverse through their siteonly. Their goal is to make this game entirely alongside the players and to get people into the game and working with the team as early as possible. That said, they’re well aware that crowdfunding isn’t as big of a guarantee as it used to be for game development. People are soured on the notion of backing something and then having it fail to deliver. To that end, if the Transverse crowdfunding fails, Bryan said they do have plans to then take Transverse into more closed development cycles and to obtain funding from investors for the project.  But that’s obviously not the way they want to make the game. The design is to have it driven and built with the players who want to make Transverse their home. Either way, we’ll be getting the game, but if the KS doesn’t meet its goal, the road to launch will be a lot more secretive.

Lastly, we asked Bryan about some of the Reddit controversy the guys at PGI have been facing. When Transverse was announced, Piranha’s employees created and began moderating the subreddit for their game. This, as some of our readers might know, is not what Reddit was made for. The idea is to let reddit users police themselves, and have a channel for free and open speech about any subject. Having PGI there, closing, deleting, and moderating posts as if the subreddit was their own private forum is a no-no.

The backlash has been enormous, but Bryan insists there was nothing intentionally shady going on. In his words, “We over-moderated, we were overzealous, and it was the wrong approach. The whole thing was our fault entirely, and it won’t happen again. We’ve already adjusted our policies and know we made a big mistake. We want players to build this universe, to create the rules, govern, and make organizations. We want their input on the tools, systems, and to help us design this sandbox.”

In the second half of 2015, Transverse’s first module will be released to the wild and its backers. The primary functions of ship flight, combat, customization, and progression will be there. And then the goal is to launch the full game to all players with exploration, conquering, trade, and all of that in the beginning of 2016. If you’re interested in backing Transverse, you can do so over at http://transversegame.com.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.