Say, how'd you fancy crowdfunding a persistent sandbox space MMORPG? Drifting between the stars in a spaceship of your own, making ends meet however you jolly well please--space-trading, space-mining, space-manufacturing, space-murdering, and all that space-jazz. No, not Elite, nor Star Citizen. Another one. MechWarrior Online developers Piranha Games have launched their rocket-powered space-hat into the ring and announced Transverse, a sandbox space etc. The main difference is that they're trying to cut down on NPCs as much as possible. It certainly is pretty, and I do fancy running a space-bar. Come watch the trailer.
The grand vision is a big sandbox universe where ships, stations, and bars are built and run by players. Pirates are other players. Mercenaries are other players. Miners are other players. Merchants are other players. It's mighty ambitious. Even EVE Online relies heavily on NPCs as it simply doesn't have the playerbase or game systems to do away with them entirely. Transverse might feel oh so vibrant if it takes off, or empty if it doesn't.
In a Star Citizen-y sort of way, they're hoping to fund and make it with a series of goals. $1 million (£620,000-ish) will see them release a sandbox to simply fly around. With another half-mil they'll work on spaceship construction, then combat, and so on. Pledges start at $30 (£19) for the game and a basic ship, running up to $250 (£155) for the fanciest ship and other typical backer bits.
If I sound sceptical it's not because of the game--that sounds jolly pleasant--but the business model. Elite and Star Citizen have already taken huge wads of cash from people with crowdfunding. I'm not sure Transverse is different enough to get those same people to jam squillions more pounds, dollars, and euros through its own Internetbox, or to attract enough people who didn't fancy either of those for whatever reason. And if they're cutting down on NPCs, it sorta needs to be a hit.
Say, but what about MechWarrior? Piranha also announced this week that they've got the publishing rights back from Infinite Game Publishing and are now solely responsible for MWO. They say, with the greatest of delicacy, that it can "be very difficult at times to make the corporate needs and strategies of two companies align". Maybe they'll finally start a European server now.