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The Beginning of a New MMO Genre - An E3 Preview of End of Nations

Posted Thu, Jun 17, 2010 by B. de la Durantaye

When a game can turn a dislike into a giddy excitement, you know it has done something right. Petroglyph and Trion Worlds’ End of Nations has done just that to me.

You see, I suck at RTS games. Really badly. I remember distinctly one particular LAN party I had attended in which the other party-goers wanted to play StarCraft. Not one to go against the grain, I agreed. I had played the game occasionally before, but I had never been so brutally and swiftly exterminated as on that night. It was humiliating. And it happened repeatedly. There is no fun in that for me. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t enjoy games that I suck at. And I don’t have a desire to get better at them.

So, RTS fan, I am not. I was, however, willing to put aside my prejudice to take a look at End of Nations at E3 this year.

End of Worlds RTS picture
You want big guns?
We met with Chris Lena, Senior MMO Producer at Trion Worlds for the game. Chris walked us through a bit of the game and explained what was going on. The introduction was fairly simple. On screen was the war room. There, data from the entire game was displayed. Friends lists, events, guild headlines, maps, arsenals. Should you collect entire battalion sets of a certain type, you can cash in on bonuses, much like you would by collecting an armor set in an RPG.

We then took a look at our headquarters. Every player will have their own persistent safehouse where they can display their trophies and awards, or just spend some time to regroup. As you get higher level, you can get bigger and better properties, allowing you to build bigger and better structures.

Ok, that’s all fine. But what about the gameplay? PvP is, of course, available, complete with a meta game of two warring factions vying for control; a classic scenario with which current and future warmongers will enjoy. And even though there will be fun to be had with that aspect of the game, it was not something we focused on at the demonstration.

So what was it? What made my attitude toward the game go from “meh,” to “cool”? It was those first three letters Chris mentioned when he was telling us the genre of the game: “M M O.”

End of Worlds RTS picture
Smells like...victory!
As the world’s first real MMORTS it soon become clear that this genre makes as much sense as jam on a peanut butter sandwich. The controls of the game are  very much MMO. Hotkeys and a streamlined interface make it very easy to figure out. Certain abilities heal; certain abilities do damage, and others just plain kick ass.

As we progressed through the mission, the MMORPG similarities become more and more obvious. The mission progressed much like a dungeon would in an MMORPG. But instead of having a single character avatar of your own joined by a few of your friends, you control an army. And your friends control their armies. You can team up to work your way through the mission and take out the boss at the end.  Strategy and puzzle solving are elements are as much a part of the gameplay as brute force and combat. New commander abilities as you gain experience are the finishing touches to make this game a true harmonic marriage of MMO style gameplay in an RTS.

Petroglyph has spent time in the details with this game. Many RTS games have a fairly limited scope of camera range. End of Nations allows a fully rotatable camera in 360 degrees. It also allows for tilt and zoom. The zoom is particularly impressive as that’s what shows off the detail in the models. Zoom in close to see men manning the guns of a tank, or the etchings in the plated armor of heavy guns. The textures are crisp and again, the detail is commendable.

So I probably still won’t be much use in large RTS player versus player battles. But given that the MMO aspect of this game is very real and very evident; the detail is well thought out, offering an engaging level of immersion; and that the progression is rewarding and motivating, I’m much more likely to be playing it come launch than I would be with any other single player or multiplayer-versus-battles-only RTS game. Perhaps the most exciting aspect is that it’s quite possible Petroglyph and Trion Worlds are going to open the doors to a fresh new genre for all of us gamers to enjoy for years to come.

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