I’m sure you’ve heard of the MMOG privateer-ish game jumpgate. It’s set for release around the end of this month I believe, so I figured I’d have a look-see for myself with the open beta since I hadn’t heard anything on LtM about if it was any good.
I found the most boring, monotonous game ever created by mankind.
The ‘Big Two’ in terms of waiting in this game are travelling and mining. You are constantly travelling as you must run computer-generated missions that basically all boil down to getting from point A to point B and sometimes doing something along the way (like press the ‘scan’ key 38+ times if it’s a scanning mission). The basics and that’s all there are) of travelling are you point your ship at the next jumpgate, throttle up, wait for 2-4 minutes, press ‘j’ when you reach it, and repeat. ‘Short’ trips are usually about 5 jumps so you’re talking a minimum of 10 minutes per trip with nothing to do but soul-search as to why you feel the need to punish yourself with
this game. Some distances are longer than others.. I cannot begin to explain the sheer pain of seeing a distance of 60,000 to the next jump and realizing that at your top speed of 254/s, you’ll have yet another 4 minutes of dead time to fill. When you eventually
arrive at your destination, you’ll pick another mission and back you’ll be, out waiting in space.
As far as mining goes, just wait until you realize that you mine units of minerals at a rate of 0.006 per second! Doing the math, that’s about 3 minutes per_single unit_ mined, during which time you the player have nothing to do but sit and wait. It’s totally
hands-off. The icing is that if you try and alt+escape to do something else while waiting the eternity it takes to fill your holds, the game conveniently decides your time away from suffering
shouldn’t count towards your mining. I laughed, then I cried.
99% of your time playing jumpgate will be spent waiting.
I asked around for how other players manage this dead time that someone mistakenly called a game and the most common responses tended to be reading a book, doing homework, or working out.. which proves that people that can stand this game are sick puppies.
Not all of the game is waiting though. There’s still that unaccounted 1% of your time you’ll actually spend at your computer and not timing snack runs to the kitchen between pressings of the ‘j’ key. During that 1% you might experience some of the game’s innovative features.. like “Disco-death”.
The question always arises in MMOG development, what do you do if the player loses connection or crashes? Players hate getting disconnected at innoportune moments and winding up killed by a stray leet or a jwilson, but if you protect them while disconnected they might abuse that to their advantage. Jumpgate’s solution? KILL THEM ALL. That’s right, if you disconnect or crash.. you _DIE_, regardless of if there was something around capable of killing you, hence the name “Disco-death”. I find it a bit hard to understand why a few seconds of lost connectivity with nothing around me for lightyears warrant me exploding, especially considering I wouldn’t have spent those
seconds doing anything other than floating towards a jumpgate while eating pizza in the living room, waiting for the time to next press the ‘j’ key. I checked their credits carefully to see if I could find Jeff Friedman as a contributing designer, but this disco-death thing seems to be original stupidity.
Of course, no review would be complete without mentioning their case-sensitive profanity filter. Genius.
So what did I learn from my jumpgate experience? I learned that people complaining about mining being boring in Ultima Online don’t even have a clue what boring means. I learned that SwEarInG In MiXeD CapS AppArEntLy IsN’T SwEaRiNg. I also learned that there are people out there demented enough to be able to derive excitement from watching a counter go from 60,000 to 0 over the course of 4 minutes, pressing ‘j’, and repeating a few thousand times.
As far as the genre, I’m rather disturbed by the trend in MMOGs towards single-player style gaming. Anarchy Online’s and moreso Jumpgate’s mission generators seem like a way of sidestepping the supposed player interaction one would find in an online game and
instead bringing single player games into an online chatroom with bragging rights. Maybe we are witness to the birth of a new catagory of game? ‘MSOG’ – massively single-player online game.
Whoa. Harsh. To try to be fair to all involved I did a little checking around. There’s a fair number of people that hang out in the #lummies channel that play Jumpgate so I asked. Apparently there were many complaints about doing low-level missions (which is the only way to gain levels when you are a newb) when the beta started. However, I do hear that the game simply rocks at higher levels. According to my sources, at higher levels its all PVP and squid-hunting (mob killing). So while the rant/review is harsh, I don’t know that I’d write the game off entirely.
Also I heard that except for some problems with 3DO’s billing system (ok MAJOR problems with 3DO’s billing system) the European launch went very smoothly. I’d expect the same of the North American launch.