Testers In Disguise: Transformers Universe’s Open Beta

Good axe, that.

The Turing test is all very fascinating for academics, I’m sure, but how does it apply to video games? How could we tell whether a Transformers Universe player is an abusive, incoherent teenager or a robot? Maybe every other player is an AI training for the day it’s housed within a fighting robot that’s also a beat-up Chevy? We’ll be able to test our robot-detecting abilities from tomorrow, as that’s when its open beta phase will begin.

Our Alec played a bit in April and quite enjoyed himself, not simply because it’s about Transformers. It’s a 4v4 PvP sort of thing (Jagex unhelpfully call it a MOTA: Multiplayer Online Tactical Arena), with modes including team deathmatch and capture-and-hold. Which is all good and well, but I’m most taken by how Transformers can switch between fighting robot and vehicular disguise forms. Few games can have cooler mounts or travel forms than Transformers.

The game has been in closed beta for a while, doing that popular (popular? prevalent) free-to-play thing of selling ‘founder packs’ with beta access and in-game cash to buy microtransaction stuff.

Transformers Universe’s open beta will start at 11am on Friday. If you absolutely positively must begin playing as soon as possible, you can register your account now. The open beta launch will be accompanied by all sorts of pageantry too.

Here, have a gander at this recent developer video going over one of its robots, Sparkscape:


  1. Hypnotron says:

    I’m showing restraint. It doesn’t look very good.

    Seems to me if you believe (as I do) that Transformers is an allegory for the biblical apocalypse with angels and demons (hiding amongst us) at war on earth, then you cannot create the same strong emotional connection to the audience (players) as was created in the cartoons if there are no human characters depicted.

    Titanfall actually does a great job at mixing these two distinct classes in terms of gameplay and visuals, but of course, Titans aren’t “alive.”

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I’m pretty sure it was an allegory for selling toys to children. The best allegory for selling toys to children ever.

      • Hypnotron says:

        Even if “Transformers” was conceived as a simple gimmick, the reason it resonated with viewers in the west is because of how the story paralleled certain Christian mythology. So luck or by design.. it doesn’t really matter. But if one wants to keep it going, they should seek to understand all the qualities that helped make it successful.

        • frightlever says:

          Most Biblical stories follow the rules that Joseph Campbell pointed out in the “Hero’s Journey”, similarly, so do most game (and novel and movie) stories, so it’s hardly surprising. Or, you can read whatever you want into whatever you want.

          • Hypnotron says:

            In this case we’re mostly talking about angels and demons and some chosen humans.

            Still you’re making my point. So when you make a Transformers game and there’s no humans in it… you’re probably screwing it up on a fundamental level.

        • Sleepymatt says:

          I’m pretty sure most 7 year old kids couldn’t give a flying fuck about Christian mythology… as evidenced by Rab’s own delightful daughter in these very pages: “Jesusblahblahblah”.

          • Hypnotron says:

            You’d be surprised. 7 year old kids raised in the West will have already learned a lot of Judeo-Christian mythology by that age. That said, I don’t think there will be enough 7 year old kids to save a Transformers game that has distilled the story down to robots fighting in deserted streets.

          • MadTinkerer says:

            I find your point of view fascinating, because I was raised in a Presbyterian denomination as a child, and although I picked up on the allegorical stuff in the Narnia books (where it was blatant), and things like Willy Wonka (where it was subtle but still deliberate), I never thought Transformers was particularly seriously allegorical.

            I mean yes: the obvious Good Alien Species vs Bad Alien Species And They Were Originally The Same Species thing is there. The Autobots are a bit Secret Guardian Angels and the Decepticons are a bit Traitorous Tempters. But the actual mythology in any version is way, way off from Abrahamic stuff. Unicron in particular is far closer to a Lovecraftian abomination than Lucifer. As Moviebob pointed out, the closest analogy with the characters is that Starscream is the most like Lucifer, and Megatron is more like a human conqueror than any supernatural character.

            The Optimus-Jesus analogy was completely unintentional because the original writers were going to let him stay dead and only decided to do a resurrection storyline because the toy companies and angry parents demanded it. Rodimus Prime really was supposed to be the replacement for Optimus, but Peter Cullen was just too good an actor.

            Still, I kinda, kinda see what you’re getting at. Even if, really, it’s not quite a proper 1:1 allegory going on.

        • Stardreamer says:

          Even if “Transformers” was conceived as a simple gimmick, the reason it resonated with viewers in the west is because of how the story paralleled certain Christian mythology

          I’m sorry, mate, but that is the most hilariously wrong-headed thing ever written about Transformers. It ‘resonated in the west’ because they were toy cars and planes that turned into freaking robots. It had sweet Fanny Adams to do with some religious theme that you have imprinted on the show, whether due to your personal belief system or otherwise.

          • Hypnotron says:

            Transformers story was created by veteran American comic book writers hired by Hasbro.

            “Jim Shooter and Dennis O’Neil were hired by Hasbro to create the backstory; O’Neil also created the name “Optimus Prime.”[5] Afterwards, Bob Budiansky created most of the Transformers characters, giving names and personalities to many unnamed Diaclone figures.”

            So what we have now is a series that was created specifically for western markets based around a rebranding of two different sets of Japanese toy lines. So even if the ultimate goal is the cynical, subliminal marketing of toys to children… how do you go about doing that even more effectively?

            If you’re fabricating a story between good and evil and you’re selling it to children, it only makes sense to take advantage of themes western kids have already bought into.

            And let’s face it, comic book writers have been retelling Judeo-Christian stories since the beginning of the medium.

          • Dare_Wreck says:

            If you’re fabricating a story between good and evil and you’re selling it to children, it only makes sense to take advantage of themes western kids have already bought into.

            I’d love to hear your theories on G.I. Joe. No, actually, I probably wouldn’t.

          • Hypnotron says:

            GI Joe just seems like American nationalism for boys. There was a lot of that going on in the 80s. Rocky, Rambo, WWF, Top Gun, American Gladiator. Perhaps this represented a lot of post Vietnam damage control to the psyche of American children. In many ways the 80s form of nationalism felt more multicultural than todays which comes across as much more Tea Party-ish.

            It is interesting though to look at the list of Cobra Command villains
            link to en.wikipedia.org
            Their make up is a mix of charismatic fascists, nihilists, madmen, and amoral opportunists. If GI Joe is a reverse image of their foe, then Joe is conservative (old school Leave it to Beaver variety and not today’s neo-liberal faux conservatism) and was perfect embodiment of heroism. They never shot first, they didn’t break the law for some greater good, they protected the innocent and prevented collateral damage, they taught lessons in virtue at the end of each episode. GI Joe would get along great with the classic “goody two-shoes” heroes of the Justice League.

            But Joe might find themselves constantly butting heads with the preemptive, big brotherly, liberal SHIELD.

    • Dare_Wreck says:

      This is, without a doubt, one of the weirdest theories I’ve read on the internet.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Well, I believe that Transformers is an allegory for some awesome alien robots who sometimes have to deal with annoying humans for some reason. The best stories that have ever come out of the franchise–most of the animated movie, the best of the UK Marvel comics, the late run of the US Marvel comics, Beast Wars, much of the IDW comics–have dealt purely with the alien machines and their culture, with humans either absent or an oddity.

      Fuck the stupid squishies, and fuck “audience identification”. If I’d wanted to watch a show about boring humans like me, I could have watched practically anything else on TV.

      • Hypnotron says:

        Transformers had plenty of episodes after season 1 that tried to provide some type of lore to the characters / toys, but for the most part, nobody remembers it. The main thing people remember are the major themes of good vs evil in that sixteen episode 1st season. People remember Optimus and Megatron, a few of the supporting cast (Starscream, Bumblebee, etc), and the Autobots defending mankind and saving the Earth from the Decepticon’s attempts at destroying it.

        Their alien culture really didn’t come into play until season 2 (which has 3x as many episodes) after Hasbro & Co realized they had a successful series. That 1st season is the season that defined the Transformers and their legacy which now includes several blockbuster films. Even the films don’t give a crap about all that culture stuff because that’s not what most people remember about the Transformers.

  2. Dawngreeter says:

    I might be wrong, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that any game that makes a sharp turn in development to become a MOBA is guaranteed to suck.

  3. Jehar says:

    This doesn’t look fundamentally flawed, but I will say that control-point based area control is a bad mechanic in the context of transformers. You could see in the video that the vehicle mode was primarily used for transport from the spawn to the relevant control point, and then it became a matter of holding a line in the sand around an arbitrary point.

    Transformers games are strongest when there is a lot of variety in situational context (which provides incentive to take advantage of the different modes), and everyone clustering around a single point doesn’t really play to that strength.

    • WiggumEsquilax says:

      There’ll be no real variety to the transformations. Any attempt to replace vehicle mode speed with strength/firepower would break the game.

      What’s the point in Transforming into a fast moving vehicle, if you’re only going to stand still once you get there? For that matter, where’s the purpose of having faster vehicles, like cars, if they’re only going to get smashed by the tanks camping the control point.

      The only variety to this game is in robot mode. Missing the point of Transformers combat, almost entirely.

  4. KDR_11k says:

    You know, if you want transforming robots in a “MOBA”-like game you could try AirMech, that has transforming mech-vehicles.

  5. mattratcliffe says:

    Had a go in the closed beta and it was good but something felt “off”. The Transformers felt a bit floaty in the way they jumped around and transformed and the guns didn’t really have much kick to them either. Which is a shame as they are massive hulking bits of metal leaping around.

    Still, a lot of love has gone into the Transformers themselves, if you were a fan as a kid like me it might be worth giving it a whirl.

  6. socrate says:

    Everything i see about these new transformer just make me imagine optimus prime getting raped constantly with robot tears all over the place while corporation keep getting paid for the next rape to happen till there is no life left in any of the transformer and all thats left is the mentally broken robot.