Ton Hammer recently spent some time in the trenches with End of Nations
the ambitious near-future MMORTS project from Petroglyph Entertainment
and Trion Worlds. With us were Senior Producer Chris Lena (EverQuest
), Petroglyph President
Mike Legg (Command
series, Star Wars: Empire at War
, and Executive Producer Gary Wagner (Supreme Commander
During the demo, we created our characters and warmed up with some low
level PvE play in Magadan (the demo area shown at E3 2010), continued
with Oman (a level 50 PvE area), and ended the session with some 5v5
PvP on the never before seen Ground Assault map. End of Nations
is still pre-beta, so this was an thrilling chance to be among the
first to get our cordite-smelling hands on End of Nations
and share the experience with our readers.
Sweet looking Artillery!
, player commanders
belong to one of three distinct archetypes: Artillery, Tank Commander,
and Assault. These archetypes affect not only the type of units
available to a commander, but also his or her abilities (which progress
and develop much like abilities in a typical RPG game). Though the
three roles are nuanced and highly customizable, in general the three
roles have something of a rock, paper, scissors relationship: tank
beats assault, assault beats artillery, and artillery beats tank.
Artillery, as you might expect, deals damage from longer range than any
other commander type and has a number of abilities that multiply the
damage dealt, but artillery units are understandably slow and fragile
when exposed to fire.
Assault units typically move quickly and fire while moving, but are
fairly vulnerable to enemy fire. Gary noted that another game changing
assault ability, the ability to go stealth, is still under discussion.
Assault also seemed to have more group support abilities, especially
Tank units are the most balanced class, able to take withering fire and
respond in kind, but their ability sets aren’t quite as
punishing as the other classes. For example, whereas one of a assault
commander’s “superweapons” is a high
altitude bombing run that decimates a huge chunk of the screen, the
tank commander’s comparative superweapon is an A-10
Warthog’s column shaped hydra rocket assault. Both can be
equally devastating if deployed correctly, but the abilities of the
Assault and Artillery classes seemed to compensate for the difficulty
of deploying the units effectively by allowing a slightly larger margin
of error on the abilities.
Nevertheless, the tank commander was still the easiest archetype for a
newbie like me, so tank was my role of choice. I chose an pre-fab
avatar and a name, and just like that I was finished with character
the War Room!
Time for war!
Upon logging in, we found ourselves in the “War
Room,” which functioned both as an information conduit and
gateway to the action. In essence the War Room is a lobby, but one with
a slick cover-flow style interface.
While much of the screen was placeholder assets, Chris explained how
the screen’s real estate would be used. Players
will be able to access statistics and leaderboards, watch games in
progress, review current events, and jump into the World Map (where PvP
and PvE encounters are displayed, along with a look at how the war
against the Orwellian Order of Nations is progressing).
Along the top of the screen, we would be able to see Facebook-style
updates on what our friends were doing in-game, and stretched along the
bottom was a news channel-like ticker reporting critical events
happening in real-time around the End of Nations
Back at HQ...
One of the tried-and-true methods to making the RTS genre accessible to
a wider market is to move the base building and unit selection
component of the game out of real-time combat. Otherwise, the tasks of
building an army, defending your base, and accomplishing your combat
objectives can feel pretty daunting.
solution was to
give you a base in instanced locations you purchase (these varied in
scenic beauty from desert wastelands to tropical paradises) and let you
rotate and place structures within your base, from airstrips to
R&D labs to gunnery ranges. Each structure contributes to your
combat readiness - for example, an air strip might govern the size and
frequency of the air assaults you can call in. The Armory is the core
of every HQ, and this is where you can put together the sets of units
you take into battle and customize their primary and secondary colors.
We couldn’t interact with the headquarters buildings in the
demo build we played, but we did learn about one aspect of HQs that we
hadn’t heard before. R&D buildings will research new
abilities and upgrades using a real-time basis, much like research or
blueprinting works in EVE Online
For basic training, we pulled up the World Map and joined a battle
raging in Magadan on the eastern coastline of Russia. If
you’ve been following End of Nations
so far, you know that Magadan was the first area demoed for the game,
and it was fun to check out in person what we’ve seen on the
screens at E3
and the March reveal
The user interface mixes RTS and MMORPG elements. With a chatbox
hovering above, players have an RPGish set of hotbars
sporting your hotkey-mapped abilities on the left and units (and their
health) listed in boxes on the right-hand hotbar.
Also like an RTS, players can create sub-groups - Crtl+1, Crtl+2, and
so on. But why is such granular control necessary when you only are
working with a dozen or so units? We soon found out that different
units move at different speeds. For example, every Commander class has
an Uplink unit that has very limited (if any) offensive capability and
moves very slowly. Despite that, this unit is hard to live without in
PvP because it prevents your opponent from calling down a superweapon
assault within a certain radius. A wise commander keeps slower, heavy
hitting units together while using faster units.
In Magadan, we also explored a bit of EoN’s mission system.
Mission starters were scattered around the port area, and one of the
first missions required me to tag an Order of Nations blockade on a
nearby bridge for an airassault. Having done so, new orders were
radioed to me directly. Not requiring players to backtrack to complete
mission objectives should be MMO 101 by now, and it’s nice to
see that this (among a host of niceties) made the cross-genre