A New Beginning for End of Nations at E3 2011

Petroglyph took a mulligan with much of the original design of the near-future MMORTS End of Nations, and the result is worthy of the game’s original hype.
At last year’s E3, End of Nations got a bit of a guarded reception. While most loved the MMORTS world domination premise, few who played the demo felt at home with the game’s busy interface.

Petroglyph went back to the drawing board, and arrived at E3 2011 with a much cleaner product that’s both true to their vision and just as innovative. Ten Ton Hammer spoke with Lead Designer Chris Rubyor.

end of nations

Stepping Up the RTS factor

The most obvious change was the new user interface. Gone was the screen eating button fest of last year’s E3, and in its place? A traditional, tried and true RTS UI. In the left corner was a radar map that elegantly tripled in size with a keypress.. Spread over the bottom center of the screen is a clickable, groupable units roster and structures monitor (EoN now allows the placement of forward turrets, repair stations, and the like).  Skills , superweapons, and structures were placed on the sidebar. The number of skills and weapons was much more manageable – 4 total at level 15 -  and aside from a few small menu and status buttons, that’s pretty much it for the newly streamlined UI.

The persistent base players could visit between matches is a thing of the past, and in it’s place we find the Armory, a place to customize unit looks and loadouts. Petroglyph is in the process of adding a robust itemization scheme, right down to mod-able joints and armor for infantry units. Players can orchestrate a factional color scheme, or choose from a number of pre-made patterns (like an American flag or camoflage) or “skins” for their unit.

end of nations

Perspective also received some much needed attention. EoN now allows players to take the “satellite view” – zooming out to a commander’s maptable perspective. Zoom in far enough and you’ll find a new horizontal perspective – good for determining line of sight and elevation differences.

The class structure Petroglyph explained at last year’s E3 – assault, artillery, etc. -  is no more. Instead, EoN’s as-of-yet unnamed classes will take a slightly more combined arms tack in terms of what units each player is allocated. My class seemed to be heavier in air units, but also had enough armor and infantry to capture portions of the map and hold my own on the ground.

Which brings me to my favorite change in End of Nations – air and infantry units.  Helicopters and VTOL aircraft now allow players to ignore terrain and bring the hurt to their enemies in a hurry, though aircraft can’t be used to capture and are more than a little vulnerable to turrets and other air defenses.

On the infantry side, we’re talking mechs. Mechs! Not only do we get a game with mechs at long last, but infantry has a number of strengths all its own, according to Chris: “Infantry can go over terrain other units can’t. Our game is very capture point centric, and infantry captures faster than other units.”

end of nations

Infantry is near to Chris’s heart. When I asked what one of his favorite units in the the game was, he responded by showing me a hulking infantry unit strapped with a massive minigun. “This is the Guardian. When I was designing this one, I was inspired by Jesse Ventura from Predator.  He carries this massive minigun, so he’s on the slow side, but when he deploys, he can lay down a ton of fire on the battlefield – he can mow through armor like there’s no tomorrow. Plus, he goes into a defensive state, so he’s very difficult to kill.”

War Never Changes

Yet many popular aspects of the game remain unchanged.  It’s still red vs. blue, though without some of the nationalistic schmaltz. Accordingly, the names have changed: it’s now Shadow Revolution vs. Liberation Front, and you can probably guess their autocratic vs. democratic leanings.

Other familiar features include drop-in gameplay, a world domination territory control format (separate from the co-op campaign, and lasting ), observer mode, and superweapons such as tactical nukes made the cut, though players will have a lot fewer skills and weapons to worry about. At level 15, I only had 2 skills and 2 superweapons to worry about, and that was plenty.

end of nations

Petroglyph has also upped the personality level. Chris let me in on a cutscene for the Great Sandy Desert campaign in Western Australia. From the fully voiced flyover vid I learned that the uranium deposits of this region transformed it into a flashpoint for global conflict, and what’s more, if we can believe the Internet, there’s plenty of real world truth to these claims.

Also, Chris bade me put on the headphones for an early audition of the game audio. Vehicle noise and explosions sounded spot on, but what RTS would be complete without rancorous audio clips when each unit is selected? End of Nations already has this covered.

Deep Hammer

I japed that “Deep Hammer” was my name around the shop, but not for the reason you’d expect (I read poetry), but the joke didn’t seem to carry. Diving into the hotspot of the same name in Western Australia, I asked Chris how matchmaking would be done in the live game. “Battles will be separated by tier,” he responded, “but contributions of every player will affect the overall outcome. It would be very difficult to pit higher level guys with heavily modded units and access to more technology against lower level guys and expect everyone to have fun.”

This particular map type was 2v2, but Chris noted that PvP map types can range in scope (and size) from 1v1 to 26v26. Each player could field 16 units at level 15, but Chris warned that this number is in flux: “The idea is that the player would start off with fewer and then, as they progress as a commander, they would unlock more slots.”

end of nations

end of nations

end of nations

My first PvP match was a win. After bull rushing the enemies control center, an elongated white dome building that looked like a SETI project to find aliens in the earth’s crust, I nearly wiped. As it turns out, following the blue guidance arrows to knocking out the enemies resource nodes, turrets, and factories around the periphery is a healthy way to build towards attacking the big enchilada. Dodging the big red circle that indicated an inbound nuclear strike, I unleashed a superweapon missile strike on the control center, and soon victory was ours. It was a good way to end a demo.

Countdown to the End (of Nations)

Don’t believe everything you read in magazines, an August release date seems unlikely. Chris wasn’t keen to talk timelines right now: “We’ve got a great partner in Trion, they told us to make a great game and not worry about pushing it out the door.”

Thanks to Chris Rubyor and the Petroglyph team for their time, and we look forward to hearing more about End of Nations in the months ahead.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our End of Nations Game Page.

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