Strike While Its Hot: Miner Wars 2081 Demo

By Adam Smith on July 31st, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

I keep forgetting that Miner Wars 2081 exists, usually remembering just after my daily rant to the people on the streets below my apartment. “People liked Descent.” I’ll shout from the window, refastening the sash of my dressing gown as a harsh Mancunian gust threatens to undignify me. “With all this new tech, why isn’t there a freeform game in a similar style but with fully destructible scenery?” Usually people are so gobsmacked by the question they forget to holler back, “Miner Wars 2081 is such a thing.” Jim has already played an alpha version and now there’s a public demo containing the first story mission. There’s a video of that mission below, although it might be best to play it first unless you hate surprises.

The destructible interiors look superb but combining that with the scale of the biggest outdoor arena of all, SPACE, is quite stunning. A $19.99 pre-order gives access to a closed test build with “even more updates” and along with the single player story shown off in the demo, which will allow for freeform rock-busting as well as completion of missions, there’s an MMO due as well.

I’m all excited now and Miner Wars has tunnelled itself so far into my brain that I won’t forget about it again.

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53 Comments »

  1. KDR_11k says:

    I bought the game loooooong ago, every few months I remember that it exists and fire it up to check if it has become an actual game yet. Is it past the tech demo stage now?

    • AshEnke says:

      Same, I seem to have bought it two years ago but never really tried it.
      Should I try the public build or the alpha one ?

      Are there important features on alpha that aren’t available on public ? Is public only for the demo or is there more content for customers ?

      Nothing is very explicit on their websites.

      • marek_rosa says:

        At this moment PUBLIC and TEST have the same features. But since TEST get more frequent updates, it will get ahead in the following weeks. TEST is only for customers.

  2. JackDandy says:

    Hot diggity. Been looking forward to this..

  3. aliksy says:

    I liked Descent a lot. I also liked that its story was in the background, unobtrusively told between missions. Too many new games are very hand-holdy.

  4. Maxheadroom says:

    I’m becoming less tolerant of painfully bad voice acting in my old age, but that aside, it does look pretty good.

    Although Descent used to give me a headache

    • dE says:

      I kinda agree on the voiceacting part. I generally wish Indies would spend their money on other parts. Low Budget Voice Acting generally comes off as grating to my nerves. I just can’t stand it and have to deactivate it.

  5. EPICTHEFAIL says:

    And, to break up the gushing…. The level design is awful. The weapons have no impact whatsoever. There is no way to tell you hit an enemy until they start smoking, which takes a solid 20 seconds of firing. Have I mentioned that it crashes at a rate that would make Morrowind jealous? This needs a lot more work.

    Still an awesome concept though. Nice to finally see a space shooter that isn`t made by Egosoft or Starwraith. Once the glitches have been ironed out, the game looks to be very fun indeed. I personally dislike the setting and level theme, but, then again, it`s a subjective matter.

    • Dominic White says:

      This is literally the first public Alpha build – I think you might be judging it a bit harshly, given that until now, they’ve almost exclusively been making the game engine, rather than the game itself.

      • EPICTHEFAIL says:

        Hey, I am judging it. I am quite aware that it is an alpha, but it does not mean it should not be criticised for any flaws it might have, which it does. Besides, if you`re going down the “barely an alpha” route, look no further than Infinity. It has had nothing but a combat prototype for 6 years, and it is looking far superior to this. Of course, it`s also been given a tentative release date of “just after Valve releases another Half-Life game”, but that is a different issue entirely.
        I might just be having a negative response because of a certain level from X3 (anyone who has played the campaign knows what I`m talking about). Still, the game has yet to offer anything which isn`t already done by something else out there, but I`m hoping it will succeed anyway, just as I am hoping Skyjacker will get made even though I personally hate just about everything about it, simply because we NEED more space sims.
        I just realised there is a scroll bar in the editor screen of my post.

        • Shortwave says:

          I suppose it’s best fit for people who want to be more active in the whole process of creating the game.
          You could likely help them out by providing constructive feedback and report bugs. The usual kind of things. Def’ hold off on this if you are expecting or wanting a polished product of course. Heh. I’m sure it’s going to be great though pending it doesn’t take them entirely too long to complete.

          • marek_rosa says:

            Actually I am glad for getting the bad critics too.

            I agree with EPICTHEFAIL’s complaints – he is pointing on features we haven’t had time to polish completely and we are about to do them any day (I hate that I have to shoot 10 seconds to enemy… :)

            This type of early ALPHA release is a great thing for validating your vision of game with what other players want. In most cases I see that people complain about the same stuff as I feel we have to change.

            Marek Rosa, Keen Software House

          • marek_rosa says:

            Actually I don’t agree with this: Still, the game has yet to offer anything which isn`t already done by something else out there

            That’s just so not true :)

            voxels, destructible environment, interior + exterior, open world solar system, in-game editor… I don’t know any other game that can offer all this.

          • EPICTHEFAIL says:

            Erm… Cheers mate, sorry for being a bit rude? As said before, the basic concept is great, finally a game with asteroid caves that:
            a) Isn`t Descent
            b) Isn`t horrifyingly boring and uninspired.
            A bit more work, sort out the optimization and voice acting (I take back the remark about level design, though you guys could use a tutorial popup or two), and it may well turn out a fun game.

            Edit: I am the slowest typist in the world. I am also unable unable to read feature sheets. This seems to be caused by me having the sleep patterns of a housefly. The editor is a nice touch, as is the terrain destruction… once I am able to see it for the lag-inducing particle spam which causes lag despite looking like it was dated a full decade ago.

      • KDR_11k says:

        Not really, the game has been available to purchasers for a long time already (I could swear that it has been years). This isn’t the first public alpha, I’m not even sure this is the first free version of it (wasn’t there one when it was first announced?)

        • Dominic White says:

          It’s been pre-alpha up to this point. They’ve basically just finished making the game engine and the building blocks of a game. Now they’re building a game. Once they’ve actually got something mostly complete and need to tune and test it, then it goes into Beta.

      • Jay says:

        Surely now’s the ideal time to judge it, when it’s early enough in development that major changes could conceivably be made in response to negative feedback?

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      Well, looking at what is happening further down in the thread it would seem I have accidentally unleashed a tidal wave of bile. Oops.

  6. Shortwave says:

    You sold me. Yup.
    /me puts his hands up

    Thanks for the heads up on this, I’m obsessed with space flight simulators it seems.
    I play them nearly as much as I do FPS games these days.
    This game is simply beautiful, a long needed breath of quality in a world of seemingly slightly lackey modern space simulators. (Still a lot of great ones mind you, such as Black Prophecy.)

    As I typed this, a group of fighter jets did a circle around my house.
    Living close to an airport has it’s perks!

  7. Xari says:

    Gameplay reminds me of ye olden arcadey starfighter games. If they manage to make combat tight, I’ll be easily sold on this one.

  8. Spengbab says:

    Space Russians? IN SPACE?

  9. FunktionJCB says:

    I confess I’m a bit confused: Diablo III gets constant mentions on this website (and rightfully so) for the ridiculous “always-on” DRM it uses, which doesn’t allow someone who just wants to play the game in SP to be able to do so without login-in to Battle.net, and having the internet always on during the game.

    Ubisoft’s Uplay gets several mentions as well, and again rightfully so, because it makes you log-in to the service before playing a SP game, which is problematic when the service is down (although, fortunately, the initial “always-on” requirement seems to have banished from recent games; well, it’s a start).

    Which brings me to Miner Wars 2081, which even for its SP mode it makes you both initially log-in to its service, but also makes you have a constant internet connection available.
    Funnily enough, they don’t call it DRM. To quote the game’s requirements:
    «The game will not use any sort of DRM protection or activation code. To play the game you only need to download, install, and enter your login/password. The game interacts with our servers during the gameplay – active internet connection is needed to play the game!»
    http://www.minerwars.com/ForumTopic.aspx?id=95

    Fortunately, and according to Mr. Marek Rosa (which funnily enough happened to post earlier), that’s only a problem to players who, and I quote: «don’t have internet or who want to play in a forest, but according to some stats, that’s only 1-2% of possible players».

    I have an internet connection, and I don’t want to play in the forest, yet I’m surely part of the 1-2% of possible players, since I’m surely skipping the game. As soon as pre-orders opened I went to their website to order the game, and noticed the always-online requirement for SP, which made me skip the game, even though I’m a Descent fan and was looking to play something similar.
    Apparently it’s too much to ask to be able to play a nice, SP, offline game nowadays…

    Surely this kind of protection is worse than Uplay, and it deserves to be mentioned on news posts about the game, so that potential customers can be aware of the always-online requirements.

    • Brun says:

      It’s an indie (or at least a small-studio) game so it gets a free pass for always-online DRM.

      Or at the very least, people are willing to look the other way because:

      A) It’s indie.

      B) It’s not transitioning a franchise from offline to online. It’s just starting out as online, which makes it okay.

      • psyk says:

        Got to love double standards

        • theleif says:

          This is not about double standard, it’s about different expectations and demands, and it is, i believe, pretty normal. I don’t think I’ts crazy of me to get upset about bugs in a 60€ game with a huge budget like Diablo 3, while just getting somewhat annoyed by bugs in a 30€ game by a smaller outfit like Warlock MotA.
          I’m also much more accepting of bugs in games with emergent gameplay, like Stalker, Europa Universalis and Skyrim than I am of bugs in a linear FPS.
          This game is also being developed as an MMO, so the developer saves money and time by not having to code and bug test two different code bases. For someone like Blizzard or UBIsoft that time and money is negligible if you compare it to the total budget.
          Not so for a small outfit like Keen. Anyway that’s how i see it.
          Finally, DRM like UPlay makes me wait to get the game until it’s at most 20€, and that’s what (i think) I payed for Miner Wars.

          • psyk says:

            Double standards

            So the 5 pound game with the backdoor is fine but the 30 pound game with backdoor is not.

          • LTK says:

            Yeah, but this is not about bugs, this is about what’s apparently a deliberate design decision. As has been pointed out to us ad nauseum during the release period of Diablo 3, there is no reason why a contained single-player experience in a pre-designed set of levels and missions needs a constant connection to an external server. And yet, Miner Wars requires it anyway. That’s not a bug, they implemented this with a specific goal in mind. What that is, I don’t know.

            Also, being riddled with bugs will cause me to buy a game at a reduced price in the future. Maybe they’ll have fixed those bugs in the mean time Having an objectionable DRM scheme will cause me to refrain from buying it altogether. Just because the game becomes cheaper doesn’t mean the publisher despises their customers less, so in that case you shouldn’t just go out and buy it anyway.

          • theleif says:

            Again, this game is being developed as an MMO. Always online is pretty standard in that genre.
            I’m fine with paying 20€ for UBiPlay games, and I’m fine with paying 20€ for Miner Wars.
            And finally, what backdoor are you talking about?

          • theleif says:

            @LTK
            Of course this is not about bugs, I just mention them in the context of having different expectations for different types of games and/or publishers. This game is actually developed as an MMO, and i think there wasn’t even any structured SP campaign planned from the start, so unlike the case of Diablo 3 I think it’s an excuse that holds up better. I don’t doubt this game could work completely offline, but then we come back to the resouces available.
            For your other argument, the right answer is completely dependent of your stance. An always online DRM is not a guaranteed no buy for me, but it is (unless there is a reason i think is valid) a guaranteed buy when it’s on sale instead of release.

          • CptPlanet says:

            They have two versions, the co-op version and the MMO version. The co-op version has supposedly a story campaign but it also requires constant connection if I’m not mistaken. It’s really no different than D3 in that regard.

      • FunktionJCB says:

        It gets a free pass why?
        Is it only a problem if it’s a Blizzard or a Ubisoft title?

        I was prevented from playing games from both of the above referenced companies because their servers were having issues, or were down.

        When a multi-million company, who surely has more money for servers and infrastructures has plenty of issues that prevent paying customers from playing their games, what’s to say about a smaller company such as the one behind this title, whose infrastructures are surely a small portion of Blizzard’s or Ubisoft’s?

        I’m a big supporter of Indie games, most of the games I purchase and play are from small developers working out of their pockets. If this game didn’t have an always-online requirement, I would have surely purchased it already.

        But a problem is a problem, no matter the type of company behind the product, and a paying customer shouldn’t have to be subjected to crap like this. I purchase all my games/films/music releases, I don’t have a single peer-to-peer tool to download illegal stuff on my PC, I have a recordable drive on my recent PC for the first time (and I never used it to records any disc), so I have trouble understanding why I have to be subjected to this, for a SP game.

      • LTK says:

        As these posts indicate, clearly people are not prepared to look the other way. An unnecessary always-online requirement is not to be tolerated from anyone, indie developer or multi-million dollar franchise.

        • psyk says:

          Why should the readers have to point out these things?

          RPS have put there stance on DRM out in the wild but don’t give the readers all the facts.

          • LTK says:

            Either they didn’t realize that the always-online requirement was there, on account of being very unobtrusive, or they did realize and dismissed it as being an issue. I hope it’s the former.

        • Vinraith says:

          True, but it’s nevertheless a bit worrying that RPS, which is normally very conscientious about these things, neglected to so much as mention it. I shouldn’t have to learn about something like this from the comments.

      • KDR_11k says:

        It seems to use some online interaction, I know when I last tried to play the sandbox mode I got the error that it could not commit the sector state to the server.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Neither of those are valid excuses.

    • Dark Nexus says:

      Well, that just wiped out any interest I had in the game.

    • Vinraith says:

      Thanks for the warning. Shame on the developers for lying about this (or at least being extremely misleading) and shame on RPS for not warning their readers.

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      Funny thing is that in the thread you linked they deny it’s DRM, but a few posts up claim that “I think this is the only real copy protection.”
      Er…

    • Jay says:

      One thing devs really need to keep in mind, “1-2% of possible players” doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up pretty quickly. Never mind that it sounds like an extremely conservative estimate.

      Even in areas where stable connections are less of an issue, there’s more and more of us gaming on laptops as a secondary platform, where connection issues are much more of a lottery. Basically it’s a bad idea, and not something I can support for singleplayer coming from anyone, indie or major.

      • Caiman says:

        I’d like to know where they get the figure “1-2%”. Is this pulled out of their arse, or based on actual data somewhere? Given that far more people on the planet have either no permanent internet or at least a shitty internet connection, I’m going for the former explanation.

        Pity, I was about to buy the hell out of this game. I’ve been following it for ages (as a huge Descent fan) and now that I see it’s actually going to be a game and not a glorified tech demo I’d be happy to plunk down cash. But not if it’s going to be online only. Sorry guys. Pity Retrovirus didn’t get funded on Kickstarter.

    • Urthman says:

      This is a preview. I’m sure an RPS Wot I Think would include a warning about the stupid mandatory internet connection.

      • FunktionJCB says:

        But didn’t previews for Diablo III invariably mention the always-online requirement?

        Surely, the person who made this “preview” (and the other staff members who previously posted impressions for the game) had to experience the always-online DRM, since you have to log-in to play the game, so they should have mentioned it.

        To me this looks like a clear case of double standards. Apparently this is only a problem with a number of games, or with a number of companies, and is swept under the rug for others.

    • Sardaukar says:

      I preordered ages and ages ago, before learning about this. I have enjoyed the various samples, and look forward to the game, but it is incredibly distressing that the developers don’t see their system as DRM, going so far as to compare it to the system used by Minecraft without recognizing that Minecraft has got offline singleplayer. I desperately want to see this game succeed, so I hope enough complaint and negativity about this portion forces them to either change things, or at least stop being so evasive and dishonest about the issue.

    • Shortwave says:

      Wow dude, I wish I could give you karma points or something for that information.. Haha.
      Seriously though, I didn’t realize it was always online.. That’s a problem for me.
      The last game I bought I didn’t realize was always online and it’s unplayable for me for that reason.
      I really don’t plan on supporting any games that support this model, it’s simply not WORKING out.
      I will however keep playing the game for the time being and hope they figure this out before it hits the market. At which point I will be likely very easily swept away by any other game at the time, that I know will work for me.. ALWAYS.

  10. LTK says:

    I think there’s a bit of a perspective issue here. Given the size of the environment, it took a really long time for me to realize that inside the red reticules were actually enemy crafts of the same size as the one you’re flying, and not tiny little unmanned scouting drones. Plus, at no point did I see any indication that the enemies were shooting back at you. Does this have something to do with FOV? In any case, I couldn’t make any estimate of the size of things around you.

  11. Slinkyboy says:

    So I’m on a jetpack with twin Machine guns on my shoulders, fighting off the Robot Russian Uprising in a mineshaft? OK

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