Preview builds are a tricky thing: when the finished product might very well end up a 15-20 hour long game, how well can you pass judgment when you get to spend 20, maybe 30 minutes with an unfinished and unpolished version ... if you're lucky! That statement holds doubly true when the game in question is an MMORPG, because a mere half an hour is barely scratching the surface of a scratch on the surface! Even so, there's no harm in trying, right?
At PAX '08, I spoke with Hermann Peterscheck, the Producer of NetDevil's upcoming MMO space shooter Jumpgate Evolution. Hermann showed me around some of the more advanced locales in the game before turning me loose in the demo build as a level 1 - sorry, "Rank" 1 - pilot with the Solrain faction.
It's certainly Jumpgate retains many of the trappings of modern-day RPGs: experience points and levels, enemies dropping randomly-generated loot, and so on. From what Hermann had to say, it also looks like NetDevil intends to incorporate a fairly robust player-driven crafting system and economy into the final game. As far as the gameplay is concerned, though, Jumpgate is a twitch-based space shooter that owes far more to games like X-Wing and Freespace than, well, World of Warcraft.
Surprisingly, the two mesh rather well. For instance, collecting loot is as simple as getting within (a fairly large) range of the debris and simply right-clicking it - which meant that I could quickly return to the action and get back to dogfighting like a veritable ace.
Jumpgate's environments are already gorgeous even in this very-much-under-construction-build, and I have to give a particular nod to the watery look of the eponymous "Jumpgates." There's no question that the demo build was still a work in progress and there were a few clunky moments that I hope will get ironed out over development (only being able to accept one 'mission' at a time was slightly frustrating). For the purposes of the demo, I was limited to the dinky little starter shuttlecraft and not any of the larger fighters (let alone cargo haulers or anything like that), nor could I test out weaponry beyond what was available for sale in the beginner Solrain station.
The full game will be much, much bigger (in more ways than one) than what I got to see in my tiny little glimpse - that's a given, really. Nevertheless, my short time with Jumpgate Evolution had me excited for the game's potential. It's been entirely too long since we've had a proper space shooter at all, let alone a MMO with tons more planned than the demo could have ever hoped to show.
Sure, I'm no Wedge Antilles, but I had a blast with Jumpgate at PAX '08, and it's a title I'll be sure to keep an eye on for the future.