E3 2009
The MMOGs of E3

Team Humidor | 19 Jun 2009 22:30
E3 2009 - RSS 2.0

Heroes of Telara:

Heroes of Telara, the first title from upstart studio Trion World Networks, is barely more than a twinkle in a designers eye at the moment, but what little the developer did show off was pretty impressive. Unlike Global Agenda or APB, it takes place in a traditional fantasy setting - our guided tour through the game world followed a lone warrior as he walked between a walled city and an open-world environment filled with nasty bandits. Sure, it was the WoW equivalent of walking from Stormwind to Goldshire - not much of a change in scenerey - but the art and animations were quite striking.

The representative from Trion had a lot to say about new server technology that the company had developed and will be implementing in three new titles (including Telara). According to Trion, their platform distributes server processing power dynamically rather than geographically - if an in-game event causes a mass of players to congregate in one area, the back-end technology will scale to accommodate them. In theory, that means less lag and drop-outs in highly trafficked areas, but without a Telara beta in sight, there's no way to judge the veracity of this claim.

When it came to specifics about Telara's gameplay, Trion had a bit less to say. But the one glimpse of innovation we got was intriguing: In Telara, each class has a number of subclasses that a player can "equip" through a kind of card system, granting them unique buffs and a few new abilities. Even better, some elite enemies actually drop cards that grant players a couple of their own abilities. The demo we watched showed our intrepid warrior taking down a kind of necromancer and gaining the ability to summon some skeletons of his own. Here's hoping the rest of the gameplay features some equally unique ideas.

- Jordan Deam

Jumpgate Evolution:

Thanks to my older brother, the first genre of videogame that I really dove into was the flight simulator. I started with Chuck Yeager's Air Combat and quickly broke free from the bonds of gravity in TIE Fighter and Descent. And then ... nothing. Maybe the genre got sucked into a black hole, or maybe people simply got sick of having to hook up a joystick and a throttle to be able to play a game the way the designers intended.

Colorado-based developers NetDevil are aiming to change that with Jumpgate Evolution. One look at their demo setup at E3 would have made my adolescent self green with envy: Three widescreen monitors, a mouse and keyboard and, best of all, a joystick and throttle for the flight-sim stalwarts who want an experience as close to flying a real space fighter as we're likely to ever get. In fact, the monitor setup was so overwhelming that I actually felt sick to my stomach at a couple points.

Over the course of a half hour, I flew around in one of Jumpgate's two PvP zones, called "The Descent." As the name might suggest, it takes place in an enclose (but still zero-G) environment that felt pretty close to its namesake. Simply navigating the occasionally tight corridors was a thrill - I could feel my flight-sim chops slowly returning with each jarring crash into the wall.

The NetDevil designer who walked me through the demo was quick to explain the recent delay of the title, which was originally scheduled for release this month. In his words, the game is feature complete, but the team is still working on balance (a moving target in any MMOG) and making the PvE quest system a bit more engaging. In the build I played, quests were relatively predictable affairs - you went to a mission hub, spoke with the portrait of an NPC and off you went. The team wasn't satisfied with that presentation, so they're taking some extra time to make sure the game's PvE content keeps players on their toes.

A little extra polish goes a long way when it comes to MMOG releases; the extra months of development will no doubt benefit the game immensely. And if you're a hardcore space-sim fan worried about the delay, just remember: What else have you got to wait for?

- Jordan Deam

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