Archive for November 11th, 2010

My Perpetuum

I want to like Perpetuum, I really do.  It has stompy robots, EVE-like thumbing of the nose at MMO traditions, and pretty visuals.

It’s just… I can’t run it.  OK, technically I can, mostly.  I’ve been through a couple of early tutorials (fairly nicely done, actually), but it’s slow, visually inconsistent (with texture resolution wildly variable) and a bit laggy or unstable (I’m not sure which, but at least it hasn’t crashed).

I should stress here:  I think this is almost entirely my computer and connection’s fault.  It even has some trouble with WoW, of “runs on a toaster” fame.  Quite naturally, Perpetuum, a more demanding game, will have trouble, then.  I was hoping to be able to play anyway, but it’s just not working well for me.  I bear no ill will toward the game for this.

From what I’ve seen though, I can make note of a few things about game design:

One, there are a LOT of choices to make in character creation.  Since I have almost no way of knowing what those choices will mean in the long run, I leaned to energy weapons (I love PPCs in BattleTech) and mining/crafting (I was curious to see if one could make a career in that instead of combat).  There winds up being nine “classes”, I think, if the “spark” choice is indicative of major gameplay focus, but plenty of knobs to fiddle with under the hood to make yourself a generalist or specialist.  The sequential nature of this series of choices is a bit tedious if you want to go back and change some aspect of your character, but without knowing what any of them really do to the play experience, I didn’t really bother much with a lot of tweaking.

The game itself doesn’t do a good job of explaining what it actually is, or what you’re expected to do.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a sandbox type game, but Perpetuum does seem frontloaded with decisions with no measure of what’s really important to gameplay.  Not having experience actually making those choices work, I’m not sure if any build is viable or if there will be one or two “golden path” builds.  I’d like to think anything can work, though; otherwise, frontloaded decisions like that are a Bad Idea.  It stinks to require a third party wiki doctorate program to understand character generation.  (And of course, if you can respec, it’s not a big deal, but they make it a point to point out a few immutable choices, like the Spark that I’m roughly equating to a class, fairly or unfairly.)

Two, built on the first, is the system of character progression.  Apparently, your account gets the equivalent of XP (or skill points, rather, that get spent on training) based purely on time.  Also, any character on the account can spend those points.  As near as I can tell (though I’d be happy to be wrong on this), spent points cannot be refunded, even by deleting a character.

This does a few things.  First, early adopters win.  At least, if skills are important.  I presume this will be like what I understand of EVE, though, where skill points are mostly just a baseline and player skill and planning are the real key to progress.  Second, altitis hurts.  If you want to try out all nine “classes”, or even just different builds, making alternate characters to tinker can suck up those account points quickly.  Maybe.  Again, I’m not sure, not having spent a lot of time with the game, but again, this seems to benefit those who plan far ahead and/or can live with whatever uninformed choices they make on creation.  If the game is flexible enough and/or playable with low skill points spent, that’s not likely to be a big problem, but if it’s easy to make a deeply flawed build and/or it’s expensive spending skill points to get to playable states, that’s going to be an unfortunate limit in the game.

Three, the UI isn’t like DIKU MMOs much at all.  I’ve read that it’s like EVE’s UI, which would make sense (yes, I still need to try out EVE, but that probably won’t happen until next year).  Looking at it in a hypothetical vacuum, it’s a complex beast, but it seems to be laid out fairly well.  You can move around most elements of the UI, which is a great feature.  It does come across a little like Windows on top of a game, so it’s not really high on the immersion scale, but that doesn’t bother me too much.  All in all, the UI seems complex, but clean and usable.

Aaaand that’s about all I’ve got at present.  I do wish I could have a cockpit view, like a MechWarrior, but that’s more a matter of taste than anything else (and maybe I just missed it).  The basic robot I started with couldn’t jump, so Guild Wars haters take note, but I didn’t really expect it to.  Controls are clean enough, standards WASD/mouse controls… though A and D strafe rather than turn by default.

Anyway, the game is still in open beta until November 25th, I think, so if it’s interesting to you at all, you may as well check it out. They aren’t planning on wiping characters at the end of the open beta, so if you like it, that’s a bonus. EDIT:  I just got an email from them announcing the launch, and I was wrong, they will wipe characters and experience. I do recommend at least investigating it, as it seems like it has a lot of potential.  I’m curious to see how the progression scheme settles out, and whether or not those character generation bits really matter.  That could make or break the game.

As much as I’d like to like it, though, it’s just not going to be a game I can play much at the moment, and with a $10/month subscription impending, it’s not likely to be a game that I can play later if I get a better machine.  Still, I wish the Perpetuum guys well, both for their own sake and in hopes that their success can pave the way for a MechWarrior MMO.  It really does look like a good game that I’d have plenty of fun with, it’s just not going to work out.  Maybe it will for you.

Other voices chiming in:

EVE + Battletech?

Gremrod’s Terminal Chat

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