E3 2010: Will a Browser-Based Battlestar Galactica MMOG Work?

E3 2010: Will a Browser-Based Battlestar Galactica MMOG Work?


Big Point is trying to leverage the BSG fanbase into a free-to-play space combat MMOG.

Big Point is the biggest MMOG creator that you've probably never heard of. They make and publish games in their own development studio, including Puzzle Pirates, but they also make games for other companies such as MTV Europe and USA Networks. If you've ever played a game at SyFy.com, then you've played a Big Point game.

When General Electric and NBC bought out Big Point several years ago, it offered its backlog of content to the German browser MMOG company to see if there was any property that it might want to exploit a game. Many of the devs at Big Point were big fans of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica and immediately jumped on the chance to make a game with that IP. After it was announced at GDC, many were skeptical that a browser-based MMOG would do the rich BSG universe any justice. P.R. man Erik Reynolds urged his client to show what they had built so far to alleviate any qualms of low quality graphics or kiddie-centric gameplay.

The Big Point booth at E3 wasn't huge or flashy, but it had a purpose. The trailer for the BSG game was running on TVs in the background but I was shown the game at a PC station. Reynolds was quick to point out important information. The MMOG is loosely set during Season 2 of the show, when the tensions between the Cylons and the Colonials were at their peak. The show creators cooperated with development; Ron Moore himself approved the trailer before it went live. You can choose to play as either a human in the Colonial Fleet or a Cylon. It's not clear if you play as a "skinjob", but you do inhabit a Cylon Raider chasing after Vipers piloted by the likes of Starbuck and Apollo. The Raider looks a lot like Scar.

The tech demo that I was shown was a very early alpha. A lot of the UI art was placeholders, but it still looked on par with today's MMOGs. The space graphics and the ships were all rendered beautifully; it was easy to forget that the game was running in Google's Chrome browser. Reynolds assured me that BSG Online will run in IE, Firefox or any other browser after downloading and installing the Unity plugin. Chrome just has the advantage of running the game out of the box, so to speak.

It's free to play; you don't have to pay a cent to log on. All of the items that you can buy are largely cosmetic, but you can purchase weapons and ship upgrades. "You will never be able to buy your way to eliteness," Reynolds made sure to state. "[Big Point] knows how to balance this type of gameplay because they've been doing it for so long."

BSG Online is focused on space combat. The demo showed a Cylon Raider raiding a Colonial system and engaging the enemy Vipers with auto-attack cannons and missiles fired on a cooldown. Flight controls were handled with WASD but you can set up auto-follows and guidance systems. You can bring up a paper doll of your ship and equip different weapons or shields. The game looked and felt a lot like EVE Online.

There were not a lot of details given and I was left with a lot of questions. How will this game channel the paranoia of Cylon infiltrators that was a big theme in the early seasons of the show? Will the space combat be enough to effectively utilize the license? Reynolds mentioned that acquiring resources will be very important. Mining and group resource gathering were promised, plopping down a harvester ship on an asteroid and defending it from attack was the example given. You will be able to group in guilds (Squadrons? Flotillas?) to take down bigger targets such as enemy convoys. There will be portions of that your avatar will be able to walk around on ships or planets but Reynolds was not ready to talk about that experience yet. Will you be able to equip your avatar with different items to further customize your character? I don't know, but I don't think that the developers don't know either. Yet.

When I asked whether BSG Online will fall under the same curse as Star Trek Online did (good MMOG mechanics but didn't "feel" like Star Trek), it did seem like they have the heart of the series in mind. "I think that the feeling that we're really touching on is that sense of constantly being hunted or constantly hunting, which is what made Season 2[of BSG] freaking phenomenal," Reynolds said. "It's not going to be a disconnect like 'Hey, I'm shooting and I'm a Cylon.' That's not very fun."

Big Point is aiming for Battlestar Galactica Online to be released by the end of the year. It will only be available at SyFy.com for the first 30 days, so it will be a trial by fire for the game as it runs through the gauntlet of the hardcore fanbase for the Battlestar Galactica series. Let's hope that it comes out with its guns frakking blazing.

Good hunting.



Wow, for a browser based MMOG it sure looks pretty.

And I agree, when I first say those screen shots I could have sworn it was Eve, which is certainly not a bad thing if it is F2P

I'm not an MMO fan, but I do love me some BSG, and no subscription fees sound good to me. I'm hoping it turns out great and can't wait to try it out.

EDIT: 3000th post! I shall celebrate!

If it lacks a decent simulation of zero-G physics, I'm not even going to touch it.

The main reason why the BSG space combat scenes are my favourites are the pretty realistic (not perfect, but still) useage of zero-G physics, being able to turn on the spot and all that. So much better than just making aerial dogfights in space, that's just a waste of using space as a battlefield.

Greg Tito:
(good MMOG mechanics but didn't "feel" like Star Trek)

While it counts for some parts (as Star Trek is, for quite a big part, about exploring the unknown regions of the universe) I must say that the ship combat felt absolutely brilliant. I was in a role-playing group for a while, and doing missions with them was just so incredibly awesome. The brilliant sound effects (notably the voice that updates your status, damage and all that) helped a lot too, I truly felt like I was in a Star Trek show.

And to feel like you're a true Viper jocky, BSG Online neeeeeeds zero-G physics.

Sounds like an epic fail waiting to happen.

I thought the "new" Battlestar Galactica was pretty good too, but one thing to understand is that the show is character driven. It's a drama more than anything. There was very little action in it overall, and what action you saw was gritty in a way that is kind of anti-thetical to most gameplay.

What's more there really isn't much of a world setting here. Sure there is a backstory, but a lot of the details are intentionally glossed over. What's more a lot of very stupid and nonsensical things are done by all sides of the BSG universe simply to provide drama. I'm not going to harp on it, but let's just say that like many things that made good books, movies, or TV shows, this is not something that I think can translate well into a PnP RPG (it was tried), computer game, or other media.

A point to consider is that part of the atmosphere is that there are so few people left. It's a bad climate for "untold stories" or heroes that were off doing other things, because anyone who was competant enough to be an RPG player character, or the protaganist of a video game or whatever, would logically have been a factor in key parts of the show where they were literally tapping every resource they had. You can't just start tossing out Ace pilots, and Rambo-like space marines left and right.

What's more the show designers didn't even have clear concepts of weaponry and relative capabilities of the factions. It varied entirely based on what they wanted to happen. For example you had Helo walking around on earth ambushing and killing Centurians with hand weapons. Later a handfull of Centurians get on board The Galactica itself and are basically ripping through the crew like they are nothing, with weapons suddenly becoming totally ineffective despite the fact that they were now conceptually dealing with Marines, as opposed to one downed pilot with a sidearm.

A weak explanation was mentioned off handedly about the types of ammo being used, but that made no sense that a pilot would be carrying some kind of hyper-HEAP rounds for a sidearm, yet responding squads of marines presumably with assault weapons would not have the same stuff, or better.

No TV show or ongoing science fiction concept is going to remain total consistincy (people pick on it all the time) but this was worse than most, especially given the planning that apparently went into it ahead of time, compared to shows which might have dozens of differant writers at times, and have their fate in more jeopardy season to season than something that was apparently planned out from day #1.

So basically, what is this game going to have you do? It looks like your supposed to be flying fighters and such, but really there wouldn't be enough pilots to make it an MMO since they wound up having to literally scrape up and tolerate drug addicts and such. The only reason why a couple of major characters weren't executed was the sheer lack of capable personell.

All this rambling aside, the bottom line is that I think it's a bad intellectual property to mine. It will lose everything that made it cool IMO. If they want to develop a space fighter combat game or whatever, they should develop their own property from scratch. Stamping "Battlestar Galactica" on it is not going to do the franchise any credit.

Wow, for a browser based MMOG it sure looks pretty.

And I agree, when I first say those screen shots I could have sworn it was Eve, which is certainly not a bad thing if it is F2P


Although, im not sure it needs an MMO, but, if they were and going to create one, then this might be the best idea to get people wanting to play

Gah they should make a strategy game for the series, seems like it would fit better...

still waiting for that perfect space mmo... taikodom almost delivered but asked for a monthly fee AND premium items.. greedy...

this might be it.

(just for the record i'm ok with f2p games that have premium items OR a sub based game with no premium shop... one or the other, NOT both)

I love BSG, and I love free things. I will definitely try it when it comes out.


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