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Article: Game: Boundless Planet Preview

By Admin on 2006-03-05 11:52:25
Homepage: mmorts.com email:admin at mmorts dot com


I recently signed up for a beta account at Boundless Planet. I thought I'd write up my thoughts on this fledgeling MMORTS title. I'll wait until the game comes out of beta for a full review.

The beta is free to play, and the player community is growing. A lot of the key elements of an MMORTS are in place. Graphics are serviceable, there are occasional sound effects, pathfinding seems to work, they have a minimap and the fog-of-war. There seems to be a decent variety of units and buildings in the tech tree. As for the MMO aspects, there is a simple private and public chat mechanism, guilds, and while the few times I've been online there have been only a few people online, everyone is friendly.

Boundless Planet continues to play while you are offline. There's no automatic base protection, your units aren't saved, if you aren't around to watch things, stuff gets blown up. For newbies, the game gives you 36 hours where you won't be attacked. In my first week I haven't been attacked, although I had some action and blew up some transports of a nearby empire tonight, so I'm expecting some retribution before the next time I sign on. I don't have any base defenses yet, I'm still researching, hopefully it will be done before I have to log off.

Researching new technologies takes a very long time. Fortunately, you can start some research and log off, when you come back in a few hours the research will be complete. Research is key in getting access to more powerful units and base defenses.

The world is large, so having a good minimap is very important. I didn't find the minimap particularly useful at first, however when I discovered that PgUp and PgDn zoom the minimap in and out, it suddenly became more helpful. One of the big problems I had at in the beginning was losing track of my units. Once they went off the minimap, they were impossible to find again.

The second time I signed on, I couldn't find my base. I had apparently wandered off before logging off the previous session. After some tedious searching, I went to the website to read the helpful instructions here and found out you can simply press the Home key.

While the art in the game is serviceable, these guys really need to hire an artist. Some more color and some more attractive textures would really go a long way in making this game more attractive to potential players. The trees are quite pretty close up and the units are sort of blocky but serviceable.

The camera also needs some work. If you zoom the camera out and move around the map, the terrain textures pop in and out, the terrain silhouette pops, it just isn't pretty. At higher altitudes you can't even tell where your units are. It would be nice if there was some indication where they are. I remember when Command and Conquer Generals came out, the totally mobile 3D camera sounded like it would be so great, but in the end it was just disorienting. I left it pointing north all the time for simplicity of navigation. Boundless Planet's camera isn't any better. I didn't find the latitude/longitude coordinates on the minimap much help. One of my units was attacked and the message told me the coordinates, but it was long blown up before I could find my way to its location.

While a lot faster than Time of Defiance, unit production is still pretty slow. If you're used to the short build times of the Command and Conquer series, you're going to be frustrated. I've always thought the point of RTS games was to get lots of units and let them fight it out. Maybe with online it is just too difficult to get lots of units all on the screen at the same time battling it out, but it sounds like fun to me.

Having some idea of just how complicated an undertaking an MMORTS game is, I have to commend the people at Boundless Planet on what they have accomplished so far. They have got the elements of a full-on MMORTS game coming together and it is very impressive. I hope they will continue to work on and refine the game so that some time in the near future everyone can go roam the boundless planet. If you have a chance, go give it a spin yourself.

Screenshots (1024x768)




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