Robota: Our First Week In Perpetuum

By Jim Rossignol on January 5th, 2012 at 11:18 am.


It’s been over a year since I first dabbled in obscure indie MMO Perpetuum, and I decided that since PvP and territory war had been overhauled, it was time to go back. Click onwards for some thoughts on the game as it stands now, and for a report of the activities of the RPS corporation’s first week in the game.

There is no genre that excites and frustrates me more than MMOs. To me they represent the promised land of gaming: living worlds, teeming with real human intelligences, allowing us to live parallel lives in fantastic scenarios. The problem is that most of the game designs for MMOs do not support the kind of sandbox, freeform escapism that I believe MMOs should be about, and instead are tied to a quest structure, level system, and class mechanic that is derivative of classical RPGs. A few games have broken this down, Ultima Online did a lot of work, and recently we’ve most notably acclaimed the possibilities of CCP’s Eve Online. Others have, of course, tried to explore this player-driven stuff and ended up not being games at all – Hello, Second Life.

Anyway, it was Eve Online that brought me the closest to the kind of open, free, persistent world based on player interaction, that I believe the existence of MMOs promises us. I’ve written about it at length here and in numerous other publications. I got a lot out of it, but I had to put a lot into it. When I quit it was for good, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see other, similar games appear. On the contrary, one of the crucial things that came out of years of playing Eve Online and writing and talking about it, was the feeling that more MMO designers should copy what it did. Few did, and that is something that continually disappoints me.


One game, however, did make like Eve. Perpetuum is, in fact, pretty much “Eve with robots”. Despite Hungarian developers Avatar Creations’ vague claims of parallel development, the truth is that Perpetuum supports many of the same sorts of features as Eve, from the way skills work (with XP earned over time, rather than via actions) to the player-driven industry and economy, even down to how the combat is delivered via an overview. Although different in some quite distinct ways, Perpetuum exhibits are close family resemblance to the Icelandic space game, right down to the grit it takes to get something out of it. Hell, that alone was enough for me to want to try it and, as I was to discover, many of the people playing Perpetuum are refugees from Eve, people looking for a new frontier. There are many of the same corporation names recognisable in the world, including HUN, who were, long ago, allies of my own Eve corporation. It was while in that corporation that I observed, many times, that one of the main issues with playing Eve was that there was no alternative to it. Players of other MMOs could find similar games to move on to, but not so for the Eve player. Until Perpetuum.

Anyway, that’s all I will say about the glaring similarity, suffice to say that it makes Perpetuum intriguing to me because it has so much potential for offering up the same sort of player-driven exploits that made its space-bound cousin great. So I logged into the game, created a robot, did some tutorial missions and then began to recruit from friends and RPS readers.

Heading out into the world to do missions and gather resources – there is no story here except that which you make for yourself – I could see that although the game still has a certain austere sci-fi ambience, it is now very much overdue the forthcoming graphical overhaul. It certainly feels like a work in progress, and I understand the relatively slow pace of change is one of the core complaints for the current player base. Nevermind, though, because there is also the instant comedy of the lo-tier robots, which are all insectile, and look like scuttling crazybugs, to the point of one of the assault robots looking like it really needs the toilet. Later, hopefully, we’ll get into stompy mechs, and will be able to take ourselves a bit more seriously.

We’ve been playing for around a week now, and have begun to decipher some of the game’s more arcane processes, such as manufacturing via gathered resources. (And even harvesting alien trees.) This aspect of the game, which involves co-ordinating our players to pool their resources, is key to making our time there a success, but it is already frustrated by some arbitrary design decisions made by the developers. Efficiency in industry depends very much on your standing towards NPC factions you are doing missions for. So unless you are part of one of the station-owning factions in PvP land, you need to grind endless missions to get a decent standing and sensible economic access. This issue immediately frustrates players who want to play this for the trade and economy, and it is a needless braking mechanism on activity in the game that the devs should probably remove. If they want their player-driven economy to wake up (and it is currently oh so sleepy) then they need to start plucking away these kinds of constraints.

Anyway, we’ve begun to settle into the task of building up our corporation, with the awareness that this is probably a lengthy enterprise. A number of existing corporations are already settled in the “beta” areas of the game, large islands which offer free PvP and great resources for those who are able to exploit them. Being newbies we’re a way off being able to dabble in that, but it didn’t stop us poking about in these more dangerous areas for a bit of entertainment between the grinding for cash and resources.


Last night we rolled out with a dozen light robots, happily making jokes about our impending doom, and headed into the badlands. Bored PvPers immediately scouted us, and it only took a couple of minutes for them to send a bait robot after us. There was some back and forth as we tried to work out how to fight with Eve mechanics in a rolling hilly terrain, where there was no possibility of warping to our enemy. Eventually the hostile mech charged in and we engaged. It was, as we were well aware, a trap, but as it turned out our attacker didn’t need the six hidden mechs that were backing him up, since we had no idea that we needed to keep our distance from the right. As he popped the first two light mechs it looked like he was going to die, but as it turned out it wasn’t going to be from our guns, but from our exploding chassis. As he himself exploded, so the rest of our team, which was crowding around the dying robot, were destroyed. Ah. We had no idea that Perpetuum’s robots exploded with such damaging force. Not a mistake we will make again.

Disappointingly for the rest of our attackers, they were to arrive at the scene of the battle only to find one of our number scuttling away, and everyone else a smoking wreck. Not that we’d have won any kind of fight in our newbie ‘bots, but it was a bit of a shame we couldn’t have been murdered in more informative fashion.

So we’ve clearly still got quite a bit to learn about Perpetuum, and the rough edges and limited content of a game that is run by a team of just a handful of people in Hungary, certainly doesn’t help lubricate that process. Perhaps, as in another sandbox MMO I might mention, the trick is to get involved with other, more experienced corporations and form some kind of “alliance”. Yes, that might be the thing.

And so to diplomacy. And more on that, depending on how it goes, next week.

Perpetuum has a free 15-day trial. Drop by the “rps” chat channel if you are in the game.

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24 Comments »

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  1. MiniMatt says:

    Am I correct in gathering from the above that the combat model is quite similar to Eve?

    Eve combat I have previously decribed as “press orbit, activate modules, wait for explosions” with the bulk of the player skill being concentrated in the hands of the fleet commander (consisting of scouting, knowledge of mechanics and movements, desired fits etc) with individual pilot skill being largely one of “how fast can you press the buttons the FC is telling you to press”. Now it’s worth noting that this description gets alternatively praised and villified as either being startlingly close to reality or nothing like what can be achieved.

    What I’ve taken from this is that the above description does summise a significant number of people’s experiences in Eve pvp, and certainly adequately describes mine.

    So, movement, combat etc – do you actually “pilot” your robot in any sense or is it more of the eve style flying? Personally I desperately want Eve freedom, Eve scope and economy but with just the most basic of actual flight models, something akin to the Freelancer flight model, basic enough to be accessible but involved enough to feel like I’m flying in a fleet op rather than zoomed out to infinity and pressing F1 when the designated target is in range.

    • nizzie says:

      You move your robot manually, not like in EVE. That being said, the rest of the game is a complete copy of EVE online. They didn’t feel any shame and literally copied everything, from the UI to the targetting mechanism. I’m not going to support such behaviour in any way.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      You drive the robot with WASD. There’s some more need to keep distances and stuff, as we discovered, but targeting and shooting is a la Eve.

      ” They didn’t feel any shame and literally copied everything, from the UI to the targetting mechanism.”

      Wow, we’d be boycotting a lot of games if we didn’t play them for having the same mechanics as other games.

    • sneetch says:

      @Jim
      “Wow, we’d be boycotting a lot of games if we didn’t play them for having the same mechanics as other games.”

      Yeah, RPS would have ended at Quake, Dune II, Diablo and EQ.

    • pupsikaso says:

      Eve combat I have previously decribed as “press orbit, activate modules, wait for explosions” with the bulk of the player skill being concentrated in the hands of the fleet commander (consisting of scouting, knowledge of mechanics and movements, desired fits etc) with individual pilot skill being largely one of “how fast can you press the buttons the FC is telling you to press”.

      Obviously you’ve never engaged in anything other than blob vs blob warfare, or you are simply very, very bad at Eve pvp. Manual piloting is ESSENTIAL to coming out the victor in Eve pvp. If you just hit orbit, activate all your guns and wait for your prey to blow up then you’ll be surprised how easy it is for your prey to fool your ship’s computer and either run away from you or get under your guns and smoke you.

      Only ignorant noobs of Eve or those that never even played it claim that combat in eve is just hit orbit and shoot. If you’ve ever PvPed seriously you’ll know full well that manual piloting is what separates the good PvPers from the blobbers.

    • JarinArenos says:

      My problem is not that they copied from EVE, it’s that they copied blindly. Imagine playing WOW, where you have to spend 5-10 seconds “target locking” those kobolds in the starting zone, with no knowledge of whether one of the dozen other newbies in the area is also trying to lock it and will “tag” it before you do. Without the relative isolation of space, these mechanics (and many others, as the ‘warp to 0′ comment in the article references) do not work.

    • nizzie says:

      “Wow, we’d be boycotting a lot of games if we didn’t play them for having the same mechanics as other games.”

      There’s nothing wrong with having the same mechanics. But being a 1 to 1 copy on so many levels is very different. Perpetuum devs were simply too lazy to come up with their own design of the UI. Many theme park mmorpg devs of today are like that, it’s amazing how each time a new mmorpg gets released the UI looks pretty much like the one of WoW. I’ve often wondered, it’s not like the WoW one is that good, lots of player actually hate it and the popularity of custom UIs speaks for itself. So instead of innovation (and thus, progress) we get more of the same. Perpetuum is different though, it’s not just the arrangement of the UI elements, it’s a complete copy that goes so much into detail that to me it feels just cheap.

      Again, nothing wrong with getting the inspiration and a general idea of how you would design your game. But why should I pay for your work when you did so little yourself?

  2. alert says:

    One problem I remember from playing this a while ago was that small mechs are also slower and have much shorter range weapons. Eve’s tracking mechanics meant even crappy frigates had a role as tacklers, and horde of them could do a bit of damage. Since both games are based on open world pvp and all the associated politics getting new players into this in a productive way is important.

    Our little group brought this up with the devs but they seemed to think that the largest mechs should also be among the fastest, which just meant that hordes of light mechs get kited and killed, and grinding and gear carried the day effortlessly.

    Anyone know if this has changed and if their balancing philosophy has developed?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I’ve not quite figured out if they’ve balanced it further, but it’s not looking promising. A mech popped my light bot in two volleys last night.

    • Alexanderz says:

      Small robots of course have a short range but they (When fitted equally as well as a larger robot) are much faster than the larger robots and can be much smaller making them hard to hit.

      Weapons in Perpetuum use hit dispersion and robot size as well as terrain. The use of terrain is what sets this apart from most other games similar to it.

      Of course if the target is larger, better equipped and more tactical you won’t stage a chance. 1 vs 1 light robots are fairly disadvantaged but in groups they are very powerful. Even more so when you take a support with you.

      Check out http://www.perp-kill.net to see some of the action that’s going on.

    • Cooper says:

      Terrain!

      Most definitely a PC game then…

  3. Saramara says:

    Thx for the fun on Alsbale. You owe me one Artemis.

    The PvP in perpetuum differs a lot from that in EVE. While engaged you need to watch and adjust distances, line of sight, and a buch of other things continually. It takes an EVE player some time to get used to, but once you do there is no going back to warp/orbit/shoot.

    • Asher535 says:

      I’m still irritated that nobody got the kill mail for you!

      It was hilarious though.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Bastimoo says:

    Are there still some gamecodes left? I’d love to join Perpetuum again:)

  5. etzel_desu says:

    You don’t need a high industrial corp standing to be successful. Although it’s a good way to compensate for low extensions.

    Perpetuum combat allows for more micromanagement compared to EVE. Terrain is a large part of it but also the variety of modules you can equip and control at the same time.

  6. koo slayer says:

    i like the robots

  7. Torgen says:

    Is anyone running support/ECM? I always wanted to try those gadgets, but never had a group to run with.

  8. Saramara says:

    support and ewar is always welcome in any pvp groups

  9. Pyrosity says:

    I tried to enjoy this, I really did, but it was so clumsily put together (the interface, while seemingly copying eve, was truly a chore to get around) that I stopped within about 10-15 minutes in frustration.

  10. Jambe says:

    This issue immediately frustrates players who want to play this for the trade and economy, and it is a needless braking mechanism on activity in the game that the devs should probably remove. If they want their player-driven economy to wake up (and it is currently oh so sleepy) then they need to start plucking away these kinds of constraints.

    Games writing. I love games, I enjoy your writing, and I find it fascinating that economies can be important aspects of games and that they draw such criticism.

    I’ve probably said this before here… it just makes me happy somehow. I’m not a big market nerd myself but plenty of my friends are and it’s pretty neat stuff.

    A nice look into Perpetuum! I look forward to the next installment, though I’m not sure I can be asked to play Perpetuum (just like I probably won’t go back to EVE, though I still read about it).

  11. Premium User Badge

    shoptroll says:

    “Last night we rolled out with a dozen light robots, happily making jokes about our impending doom, and headed into the badlands. Bored PvPers immediately scouted us, and it only took a couple of minutes for them to send a bait robot after us. There was some back and forth as we tried to work out how to fight with Eve mechanics in a rolling hilly terrain, where there was no possibility of warping to our enemy. Eventually the hostile mech charged in and we engaged. It was, as we were well aware, a trap, but as it turned out our attacker didn’t need the six hidden mechs that were backing him up, since we had no idea that we needed to keep our distance from the right. As he popped the first two light mechs it looked like he was going to die, but as it turned out it wasn’t going to be from our guns, but from our exploding chassis. As he himself exploded, so the rest of our team, which was crowding around the dying robot, were destroyed. Ah. We had no idea that Perpetuum’s robots exploded with such damaging force. Not a mistake we will make again.

    Disappointingly for the rest of our attackers, they were to arrive at the scene of the battle only to find one of our number scuttling away, and everyone else a smoking wreck. Not that we’d have won any kind of fight in our newbie ‘bots, but it was a bit of a shame we couldn’t have been murdered in more informative fashion.”

    This made me smile at work. Thanks for a great mental image John.

    Also, as an onlooker, how many times have you heard “Autobots roll out!” in /rps chat?