It's been almost a year since we last saw Trion's upcoming MMORTS End of Nations. Now, to kick off the first of out E3 coverage, we spoke to one of the developers to find out how far things have come along:
Strategy Informer:Ok - so last time we saw End of Nations was at GamesCom last year. How has the game progressed since then?
Nick Beliaeff: Tough question to answer over such a long time. We have really focused on the differences between the two player factions, their personality, their play style, as well as really expanding what we had been doing with Commander Classes. We upped the number and have 4 total classes now, 2 unique for each faction, and they each have 3 unique paths they can follow in their tech tree. So it has been all about making sure that we have awesome asymmetrical gameplay in the core rock-paper-scissor game.
We have also spent a lot of time on the core player campaign and all of the maps in the campaign support at least 1-4 players. You can solo any of them, but we love that at a minimum you can play them coop in a 4 person group, which is 2x the state of the market today. Then we have our BIG maps, where up to 50 commanders can play at once.
Strategy Informer:Speaking about the classes, what can you tell us about each of them at the moment? There was also talk of exploring themed classes along the lines of Infantry and Air classes as well - has any more thought gone into that?
Nick Beliaeff: This has been one of the core areas we developed. Every class has a full panoply of units to choose from. We have five archetypes: Infantry, Strike, Artillery, Tank, and Aircraft. We want to make sure that no matter which class you choose, you are able to field a well rounded, competitive army. On top of that each class is able to deploy tactical structures that are also faction and class specific: A more combat oriented Commander Class will a lot more turrets, mortars, and the like, a more support oriented may have armoury that help units repair or emplacement that help hit accuracy. Finally, they each have Commander Abilities and Super Weapons that they can bring to bear - things like a Nuke or Orbital Strike.
Right now, we are really focused on the Spartan Class out of The Liberation Front. It is a heavy fire, stand and take it class. They have a lot of heavy units and can both dish out and take damage and they do not have a lot of support capability and can be made vulnerable to direct, surgical style attacks. Players who gravitate towards just wanting to get in someone's face and shoot things will love it.
Strategy Informer:Has anything changed from what you originally had planned since starting out this project? A game with this kind of potential scope could certainly be seen as ambitious, and sometimes developers realise that something they really wanted to do just isn't possible, or needs to be scaled back etc...
Nick Beliaeff: It is development, you always make adjustments. I think for us it is all about recognizing what our core is and designing from that, our core absolutely, positively has to be a AAA RTS game, and that needs to be pervasive in all of our design and decision making. Probably the most shifts had been where ideas looked good on paper in terms of the marriage between MMO and RTS but when we got to a prototype of the idea, it did not make RTS better and that is our philosophy when it comes to the MMO part of the equation - what parts can we take that will improve, expand, or revolutionize RTS?
So scale is a big example of that working, when we talk to RTS players or do focus groups, one thing they all consistently want are massive battles, massive maps, so in PvP we have maps that RTS players are super familiar with - 1v1, 4v4, 8v8, etc... and then we go all the way up to 26v26! That is a truly epic battle, but just regular old PvP is not good enough and another area where we can help make it better is by adding a persistent meta game, we want the players to be able to change the world so the factions vie against one another for domination of global resources in their battles against the Order of Nations.
Having something like that where benefits get passed along to everyone in your faction for owning a territory is cool, having victory conditions for the meta game as a whole is better. My faction is better that yours. We won. We beat you. That is powerful, and the fact that this takes place over time - it is not a battle or ten. We think that this will end up taking months to play out - it end up being the ultimate battle for superiority and bragging rights.
Strategy Informer:How do you think the larger battles are going to hold up from an infrastructure point of view? I imagine you're going to have some pretty hefty networking code in place?
Nick Beliaeff: I think that ends up being one of our core advantages, we have a true client-server infrastructure, this is not some sort of modified peer-to-peer setup. What that means is we end up doing all of the core game calculations server side and not client side, it also means that the days of your experience being throttled by the worst connection in your peer-to-peer group is over.
Trion has a bunch of patents surrounding our architecture, and it is working wonderfully in Rift, so for us the real limiters in those big battles are fun factor, not technical. we can technically handle more fairly easily. it is about insuring that a massive battle is a huge adrenaline rush for anyone playing it. We want to get to 100+ person battles, but it is all about 100% FUN person battles, so right now we have a laser focus on insuring that any map - campaign, comp stomp, PvP, is fun to play.
Strategy Informer:Do you think the larger battles are going to more about the pure, grinding, total war of which side is the best, or do you think you'll be able to fit in some objective based gameplay as well?
Nick Beliaeff: Objectives have to be a part of it, we do not want the battle to end up like a 5 year old kid's soccer match where they all swarm the ball. There are many different starting points, different paths to follow on the map, control points to conquer, resource to gather. In particular having your side be smart strategically about resource, which powers tactical structures, Commander Abilities, and Super Weapons and control points, which can be things like turrets, targeting buffs, or the ability to call in an orbital strike are key.
Strategy Informer:You mention tactical structures - those are structures that you can deploy on the battle map, right? How is the Player Base portion of the game coming along? Anything new/different there or is it working pretty much as was explained last year?
Nick Beliaeff: It can be a difference maker for the skilled player. We have spent some time making sure that the structures are faction and class specific and really do a good job reinforcing the personality and play style of each. Tactical deployment of machine gun turrets or mortars to help hold control points, or seeing that the enemy is about to make a drop of reinforcements and putting down turret missiles to shoot down their planes is very satisfying.
Strategy Informer:Are these tactical structure finite resources? Or are they more like the units you summon in? Can they be researched/built etc... from the player base?
Nick Beliaeff: Any Commander Class starts out with its factional tactical structures. As they progress in their tech tree, they can unlock more, as well as other units, commander abilities, etc. At any given time, you can have 6 structures deployed, from the players' perspective, they need to have collected enough resource to deploy them, choose their spot, and then they get an air drop and the tactical structure is deployed. You can choose to tear them down if you have secured the area and want to progress to a different area of a map.
Strategy Informer:How is the economy shaping up? Obviously trade and making money may not be a major focus for a game that revolves around war, but there's always one who will try and play the game without firing a shot. What are the options for the more economical player?
Nick Beliaeff: This is definitely a war game. The core is the rock-paper-scissors unit battle, the Liberation Front has a strong support Commander Class for the player who does not want to be on the front lines leading the charge. For them, controlling resource nodes and control points on the map can be more important as well as strategic deployment of their units to help their teammates.
Strategy Informer:Social Network integration was talked about - are plans still in place for that? What do you see if being used mostly for?
Nick Beliaeff: We have a ticker in the front end of the game - where you manage your units outside of battle, check out the state of the PvP metagame, your progress in the campaign, etc..., and that ticker servers up info about what your friends or clan is doing and other in game updates. Additionally, Trion has had some good success with Rift in terms of Twitter, Facebook, and other types of social media integration and we will look to be following their successes.
Strategy Informer:So finally, just to clarify - the main game is going to be a series of mission that can be done solo or co-operatively, with the PvP meta game lying separately to that?
Nick Beliaeff: The campaign is focused on the player's struggle against the Order of Nations. It includes some faction specific maps as well as the mega maps that support 50 people. And can be done solo or cooperatively.
PvP is all about the two factions struggling for control of the worlds resources in the battle against the Order of Nations. Of course, each faction know that they will use the resources better than the other side. It is also a chance for them to show off their superiority on the battlefield.
So, a bit of an informational update for you. End of Nations will be showing at E3 this year so our man on the ground should be bringing you all the latest details.