Beta Botters: Perpetuum

By Jim Rossignol on October 7th, 2010 at 9:03 am.


Perpetuum is to hit open beta, and that will happen on the 18th of October. Perpetuum is an extremely interesting project, for a variety of reasons. Developed by Hungary-based indie outfit Avatar Creations, it’s the first MMO I’ve seen that tries to take what Eve Online did and do something useful with it. Avatar Creations are keen to distance themselves from Eve of course, and recent iterations of the game client have, frankly, often been about making this robot-based, freeform MMO less like CCP’s game of spaceships. But no matter how different the UI ends up looking, the underlying principles are the same. And perhaps they are wrong to try and deny that connection too strongly. CCP’s game, no matter how aged and entrenched it might now seem, remains a poster-child for the army of gamers who understand the MMO doesn’t have to equate the genetic lineage of Everquest and WoW.

Let’s continue this beneath the click, shall we?

Perpetuum takes place across a series of islands, each of which is inhabited by various wild AI drone bots, weird flora, and precious ores. Studded across this landscape are spectacular sci-fi skyscrapers. These structures share as the shared, neutral bases of the players, and PvP combat can’t take place near them without consequences, at least on the central islands. The outer ring of islands, much like Eve’s 0.0 space, offer a more dangerous space for interaction. Anyway, at its most basic, players take missions at this bases, and head out into the islands. From there they mine the landscape or fight with NPC bots, collecting resources for research, or materials and modules they can use to equip their robots.

Robots come in four racial types, but the lower end ones are all rather like skittery insect things, which is something of a shame. To get hold of a really stompy robot means saving up and waiting for the time-based experience to clock up, which is a shame, because I’d like to have seen stampy little mech-things in there right from the tutorial bot. Once you’re out in the field things become a little more familiar: these bots are a controlled in the third person, WASD to move, with a tagged targetting system. Having been fitted with a set of modules, you will have various ways of dealing damage, or collecting minerals. Anyone familiar with Eve is going to see the connection here. Combat is relatively slow, but it ends up being as much about positioning, which you have to do manually, as it does about your skills. You often find yourself fleeing from a fight, and the realisation that my missiles could collide with and knock over scenery caused me to coo in surprise.

The visual design is, for a team as small and new as Avatar, remarkably strong. There are moments where it really captures that 1970s sci-fi cover art feel of a weird alien world. The huge base structures are particularly impressive, and the landscape has recently been overhauled to be far more mechanistic, with giant spires and causeways hanging over the valleys, and hi-tech ruins littering the wider world. Pastel valleys of of grimy, ultra-tech junkscapes, rumbling towers, clicking alien AIs. This is a game world you will want to explore. But more than that, it’s a world with an esoteric look and feel. No focus-tested space generica here. This is different, delicious.


Of course what all this ends up doing is creating a player-driven economy, which is one of the more exciting things about Perpetuum. A few weeks back my old StateCorp Eve fraternity pretty much all ended up in Perpetuum’s closed beta. I suspect the population was basically too low for us at that point, because we weren’t able to find the PvP conflict that would have kept us interested. There was, however, a flicker of interest in the economy. The old desires to compete, to corner a market, appeared, and that’s something that’s only possible in a game that has an open market like this.

And that might not be over for us. With the population spike that will come with an open beta there’s a good chance that Perpetuum might get interesting. It will be certainly be wort seeing whether its islands can really scale to take a much greater population, but it will also be interesting to see whether it evolves over time in the same way that Eve did. There was a genuine Wild West sense of the Eve at the start, when many of the systems that formalised things like political alliances simply hadn’t be written into the game, and the weapons balance was almost unexplored. Perpetuum has this same untested feel to it. The same fertile space for development. The sense that it is a raw, heavy canvas. These early days that will come with the beta and the months that follow could be the most exciting for Perpetuum, because they could be the most formative. This is a game where the players will have to do the work, and if my experience is anything to go by, they will do it. Assuming they’re given the tools.

From a more distant perspective, it’s a game that is out there on the periphery of MMO design, in a realm that Eve Online – which floated past Ultima Online, now a decaying hulk – was bravely exploring, only to find itself alone and isolated. This was brought home to me yesterday when one of my old Eve comrades messaged me, lamenting that MMOs had basically gone nowhere, and done nothing, in the years and years he had been playing Eve. I had to agree. I had to shrug. Game design is a huge terrain, and most of the travelers are using familiar paths. The MMO world has learned nothing from Eve’s approach. It has not understood the power of the single shard world, or the community-grabbing possibilities of creating a game that is more like a giant toolkit for fantasy than it is a storybook or prescribed adventures. Perpetuum offers a rare possibility that this stuff might have had some traction in the wider imagination of game designers. It might not yet represent a useful alternative for those folks who want to push on further from the likes of Eve, but it could. It is growing and evolving. It might live in Eve’s shadow, design-wise, but that’s okay, because at least it isn’t cowering under the far deeper loom of World of Warcraft and its many inbred cousins.

The MMO, as a technology, remains the most interesting frontier of gaming, but there are few pioneers still out here. If a tiny, creative team like Avatar can do this, then perhaps this still hope that others will come. There’s so much potential left in living worlds, in player-driven systems, in free, open models of co-operation and competition, that it would be a tragedy if it were not explored further. For this to be a dead end, or a closed off niche, would be one of the most hideous failures of the industry.

I’ll be back in Perpetuum on the 18th. I hope to see you there.

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51 Comments »

  1. Gundrea says:

    Sounds interesting. Does it feel like robots or just players in mechanical suits? I can’t find information on how much of a monthly fee there will be.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      They’re very much robots. Some like spider centaurs, others like trrucks with legs. Some are more like classic mechs.

    • Torgen says:

      I wish them the best, even though they’ve captured most everything in my design doc for a mech MMO, down to the robot types. They actually made it, while I just pissed around and said “someday…”.

      I’ll certainly give it a try come the 18th.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      I don’t get, why people would want to play, what’s essentially Wall Street in a pretty outfit.
      When I see that artwork, I want to have epic adventures! With eye-opening stories and emotions! I want to explore and find secrets! Find friends and conquer secret bases!
      But definitely never ever look at charts or tables, to play virtual stock manager. Ever.

      Yes, it’s nice as a designer, to know you created a working economy. Really impressive actually. And powerful. But as a player it’s the old: “If I wanted my game to be like reality, I’d stay in freaking reality!”

    • Bret says:

      Not everyone wants to be Impactor or Straxus, barefoot.

      Somebody has to be Ratbat for everything to work out right.

  2. Tei says:

    Tips:

    - Theres a option to visualize impasable terrain, activate it so you will see where you can walk.
    - I don’t know, but seems maximicing capacitator seems a good idea. Theres never too much capacitator, if you are near this thing, you can just buy a expensive quality repair module to become very hard to kill.
    - The game seems to want you learn mining.
    - The game seems to want you group with other people.
    - If the mobs you are farming drop medium bullets, maybe you sould equip a weapon that shot medium bullets, so you don’t have to buy ammo to kill then, you can use the dropped ammo.
    - If the looted modules are white, repair and sell then, if are yellow or red, recycle then. I could be wrong, but this seems the most economic efficient way.
    - It could probably pay to have two accounts, one focused on industry stuff, and other on shotting down things.
    - You can’t figt pseudo-afk. Fighting pseudo-afk (like watching a movie while you shot down drones) can cost you your mech. But you can put audio, like music or podcast, on the background.
    - I can probably pay to think early what you really want on the longterm and works towards that.

  3. Wilson says:

    For some reason I misread this as ‘Beta Potters’ and I thought it might be some kind of bizarre online craftsmanship game. Still, giant robots are good too!

  4. Lobotomist says:

    Its very much 1:1 EVE – but on ground.

    Ofcourse there are subtle differences:

    Cover maters. You travel on ground , so no jumpgates and autopilots , travelling in straight line.

    Other than that its same ol.

    I quite liked the idea. But got cold when i realized that they are not going to add jump packs.

    What is the giant mech-warrior like robot without jumpack ;D

  5. DarkNoghri says:

    Registered. I’m always up for stompy (or crawly) robot action.

  6. dave says:

    Tried it out a while ago and it didnt capture me but im certainly ready for round 2.

  7. Icepick says:

    Does this have the same open PvP system that EVE has?

  8. andy says:

    aside from the WASD control it’s hard to argue it is at all different to Eve with that list of game mechanics – every single feature on http://www.perpetuum-online.com/Features is also found in EvE…

    Not that that’s a bad thing – Eve is an awesome game that completely stands out from the crowd for a lot of good reasons (even if most poeple find it dull!)… will see how perpetuum pans out with interest.

  9. Quests says:

    Beautiful article, very gut-felt.

    Some players don’t want challenges, they want quiet comfortable little trips on rails.

  10. Quests says:

    As for the game itself, i was in CB and didn’t enjoy the solo-ness. Farming to get bigger and meaner bots is completely fine, but a sandbox game is supposed to give more activities beyond that, otherwise it’s boring, and themepark freaks are right when they say “what’s the alternative to prescripted babysitting quests? farming for hours?”.

  11. Pandemic says:

    Now all we need to do is merge the Perpetuum and EVE into one game and you’ve got a space mmo game where you can visit the planets or even just stay on a particular one. But this may result in being nuked from orbit….. just to be sure.

    CAPTCHA

  12. Artist says:

    Sorry, but the features of Perpetuum Online are drowned under waaaaay to much “waaa waaa … like Eve…” and “…CCP”. Its already a common and very bad style to relate every damn fantasy MMO to WoW, but now I see the same done with Eve here. I would prefer to read about Perpetuum not Eve! Bad review – no cookie! ;)

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      That’s because it’s not a review. It’s an article *specifically* about Perpetuum’s relationship to Eve.

    • the wiseass says:

      http://11k2.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/091221perpetuum2shots.jpg

      Now tell me again this doesn’t look like EvE. I mean it’s an obvious comparison, nothing to be ashamed about. If the gameplay is any good, I’d be more than willing to test it. But it’s funny that they chose to copy EvE in that aspect, as most EvE players consider the EvE-GUI to be pretty horrible.

    • Manley Pointer says:

      I remember seeing a number of screenshots from Perpetuum that looked like very direct ripoffs of Eve, but as the article stated, they seem to have gotten better recently about making the game look different from its inspiration. The screenshot you posted seems to be from 2009, before they started changing things up.

      Also, while the Eve interface is certainly unfriendly and a little strange, it does sort of make sense. You can right-click on anything to see nearly all possible interactions, or you can select things in your ov and interact via the buttons on the box at the top of the screen (forget what it’s called). If you want to see a truly awful interface, check out FFXIV (but don’t pay for it, whatever you do).

  13. mandrill says:

    As Jim said, its nice to see this region of possibility in the MMO landscape being explored further. I was in the closed beta and it really does seem to push towards grouping, even if it just form someone to talk to whilst farming/mining.

    I found the similarities to EVE a littel on the confusing side as some things don’t work in the way that a seasoned EVE player would expect them to, and there was enough EVE-ness about it that this could feel jarring at times. Otherwise its looking pretty solid and I will be keeping a weather eye on it.

  14. Mike says:

    Which, I think it’s worth stressing, is not a bad thing necessarily. It’s just not what some people want.

  15. mihor_fego says:

    Perhaps this is a game those of us too intimidated to enter EVE at such a late stage. I’ve always wanted to try EVE, but it doesn’t sound newbie-friendly and I don’t wanna be forced into getting in an existing corp or group from day one. In this I’ll have the chance to build from zero up without worrying that long-term players will have me for breakfast.

    What I’d like is someone who was on closed beta or alpha, whatever was previously available, to give out some info on issues like latency, framerates and other technical stuff. Last time i entered a beta it was on another non-AAA MMO and no matter how much I loved the setting, these issues were too much of a hassle to follow the game after an initial negative experience.

  16. Cvnk says:

    I tried on two different occasions to get into this game and just couldn’t. I played EVE for a few years and loved it but this game didn’t interest me at all. I guess it could be because EVE was far more populous and active but it also could be that robots skittering around on a bumpy height-map terrain just isn’t as compelling as the expansive space of EVE with its thousands of solar systems. EVE’s map is very tactical, full of cul-de-sacs and pipes and out-of-the-way safe routes and catching other players in the open required some understanding of your locale and usually mistakes on the part of your opponent. In Perpetuum everyone is visible and chases amount to who can skitter faster.

    I guess there are plenty of people who have similar reactions to EVE. Maybe my experience was enhanced by being able to join up with a dynamic and flourishing corporation in 0.0 space from day one.

  17. bill says:

    @Tei: How do you find time to have played every game ever mentioned on RPS?

  18. bill says:

    Do you get to run around on foot, dwarfed by the robots? I’ve never been keen on giant robot games that keep you in the robot, as you lose the sense of scale.

    If they could mix this game with the combat options of something like Allegiance then they might have a game worth playing. Having different combat roles like scouts and having radar profiles and silence might make an MMO that doesn’t have dull combat based around the same tired buff/heal/hit idea.

  19. HermitUK says:

    Interested to try this out, actually. The fact that you’ve got direct control over your mech is nice. EVE does a good job of making 3d space navigatable but I always felt a bit disconnected from the action with all the route plotting and orbiting.

  20. BoltingTurtle says:

    The interesting bit here for me was that even if it looks a lot like eve on paper, the combat system, being based on cover and terrain and all, does make it feel a bit more traditional in the mob front. We were using a lot of the old “pulling” techniques to grab mobs, which just doesn’t work in eve. To me this means something entirely more approachable to most players considering coming into this sort of MMO. It has a hell of a learning curve, but I think the simple fact that you are on the ground makes it much more accessible to a new player. Particularly if they’ve played Mech Warrior.

  21. grim says:

    If you had a look at the game you would have noticed:
    - it has almost the same time based skill system as eve
    - acquiring targets works like in eve
    - robot fitting, damage types etc. are like in eve
    - endless list continues …

    • Stromko says:

      ix has a point. Bring on the EVE clones, please. EVE is not for everyone, but it got a lot of things right, so there’s a reason for this thing to exist (I hope).

  22. ix says:

    Your implication being that that is somehow a bad thing?

  23. Ted says:

    If this is as like EVE as you say, but with robots instead of ships, but easier to get into, then this looks very tempting.

  24. the news guy says:

    That screenshot is almost a year old now, there is not much on it that hasn’t changed since.

  25. the news guy says:

    sorry that was meant as a reply for @the wiseass

  26. theleif says:

    Yeah, i don’t get why they try to distance themselves from EVE. They should beet their chests and be proud of it.
    It looks very interesting indeed.

  27. goodgimp says:

    “The MMO world has learned nothing from Eve’s approach. It has not understood the power of the single shard world, or the community-grabbing possibilities of creating a game that is more like a giant toolkit for fantasy than it is a storybook or prescribed adventures.”

    Amen, brother, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  28. Sam C. says:

    This is going to be a rough segue, but I’m guessing like Eve, to get to the good parts that everyone talks about you’d have to spend 20+ hours a week in game? Because that’s what seems to put me off MMOs in general. I can see the potential and the appeal, and I want to like them, but maybe they’re not just for me, but something that requires me to put in as much time as a part time job just doesn’t seem worth it. I’ve tried Eve, Anarchy Online, WoW, Auto Assault, Star Wars Galaxies, and I’ve never made it more than a week or two before I gave up, realizing that I would have to kill x^2 things or sit and wait twiddling my thumbs for hours while mining or running yet another fedex or kill y creatures mission before I could do the awesome things like being part of a raid or starting up my own company. It just seems a little too much like real life. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I see these amazing looking games, with the promise of so much, and it ends up being “select target, wait for timer to tick down until thing is dead or collected, then repeat”. Is this just me, or am I missing something?

    • mwoody says:

      But, one of the great selling points of EVE is that you DON’T need to be online. You gain experience just by existing, offline or on, so long as you’re reading books.

    • Sam C. says:

      Experience points, sure. But instead of grinding for xp, you end up grinding for cash. At least, that’s how it felt.

  29. orangedragon10 says:

    Wow, this sounds very cool! And hearing that it’s similar to Eve Online is music to my ears. Definitely gonna check it out on the 18th, and I really hope they’re successful with this project.

  30. Paul says:

    Cool that there’s another MMO trying to avoid the usual mould – and if its like Eve then that’s a good thing imo as I consider Eve the finest collection of 1′s and 0′s ever assembled….

    Shame that the setting does nothing for me :(

  31. Korgan says:

    Must try, although Eve didn’t quite work out for me. And hey, those spider-bots are the best kind of mech! Anyone and their mom has big stompy bipedal husks, it’s boring. I’d rather take one of those cute/creepy spider-babies and sneak around weaving electronic webs.

  32. wcanyon says:

    For my money, it’s EVE without the RTFMnoob attitude from the devs. The dev team is very friendly and helpful. Which, coming from EVE , is a real shock.

  33. Melf_Himself says:

    I stopped reading at “time based experience”.

  34. malkav11 says:

    I will probably try it out. I honestly probably shouldn’t bother, as I can’t stand EVE and Perpetuum appears to be plumping wholeheartedly for all of the core design decisions that wreck EVE for me, but the mechs and the art design and such look really cool.

    Specifically, three things:
    1) Time based skill gain: disconnecting character advancement from what I’m doing in game makes character advancement essentially meaningless to me and removes much of the incentive to do gameplay stuff. Cash and lewts don’t interest me.

    2) Open PvP
    and
    3) Entirely player-driven economy:

    These are a problem for me for essentially the same reasons: they put my game experience in the hands of other players rather than the game developers. Other players have no incentive to make the game enjoyable for me other than their own whim/personality, and indeed many will do their best to ruin my day. The game developers have a strong, direct financial incentive to keep me enjoying myself – they get my subscription fee. Making your game depend on random internet people being cool, intelligent, interesting, fun individuals? bad idea. (Not that I am against player interaction, I just prefer it be with people I choose. WoW mostly lets me do this. EVE, not so much.)

  35. Colin says:

    That reads like the checklist to the EVE Beta with an extra note about terrain. Assuming this doesn’t end up being quite as soul devouring as EVE is I may have to check it out because Robots! and EVE!

  36. Slon says:

    9,95$/month

  37. So yeah.. says:

    So is this worth playing? what’s the scoop

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