I’d been watching the enthusiastic Perpetuum tweets and blog postings of some of my Twitter friends with interest when what should arrive in my in-box but a code to give the game a try. Thanks to Perpetuum’s PR team for this opportunity to test their game for free.
In Perpetuum you’re trying to harvest resources on a distance planet that is occupied by a race of robots. Rather than send humans to the planet, scientists have discovered how to beam a person’s consciousness into one of the robots on the planet. Basically we’ve become the body snatchers in this game.
What that means in practice is that your in-game avatar is a robot, but you can hop between different robots once you have access to more. You do have a ‘human’ avatar but it’s basically just a face in a window now and then. Think of it like EVE Online. In fact thinking of the game like EVE Online only planetside will help you wrap your head around Perpetuum a lot more easily than my describing it all.
Perpetuum is a big game. You’re not going to just log in and play. There’s a steep learning curve and a heck of a lot going on and within a few minutes of starting to play your interface will be a mass of windows. This gets better as you become familiar with the UI and start tucking frequently used windows into permanent locations, and again, if you’ve played a lot of EVE this’ll be much more comfortable to you than if you’re coming from a level-based fantasy MMO.
There are a few key differences from EVE that immediately jump out at you. First, you have direct, WASD control of your robot (as one option…you can also lock on a target and ‘approach’ it or double click a spot on the terrain to go there). Second, while Experience Points accumulate in real time (like in EVE), rather than queuing up skills these EP’s just go into a pool that you can then spend at your leisure. This means you don’t have to spend your out-of-game life worrying about whether or not you have enough in-game skills queued.
But like EVE, this is a huge sandbox of a game. You decide what you want to do. Be an industrialist? A fighter? A crafter? A bit of all three? Work the markets? Steal (some of the terrain is PvE, some is open PvP) etc etc.
I didn’t get very far in Perpetuum so I’ll stop talking game mechanics now and refer you to Scopique, Stargrace and Sara Pickell for more specifics. Blue Kae is playing too but hasn’t blogged about it (yet). I really look forward to reading the Perpetuum stories that these people will share as they continue to play.
But Perpetuum just isn’t a good fit for me. First, everyone tells me not to bother trying to solo, and I’m definitely a solo player, more so now than ever. Second, it’s the kind of game where you have to spend a lot of time researching what’s going on: where the best market prices are, how to find a blueprint for robot Y, and things of that nature (I’m being vague because I’m basing this on the stories of others; I honestly didn’t get far enough for this to be an issue.). I no longer want to spend that kind of time on a game. When I get a little time to spend on gaming, I want to spend it playing, not researching.
Basically Perpetuum is a game for hardcore MMO players. By ‘hardcore’ I mean people for whom MMOs are their primary leisure activity. I used to be a hardcore player, but now MMOs are just one of the many things I do and I’m not willing to cut down on reading blogs/twitter, or playing with the dog, or watching movies or reading books, or even playing single player games, in order to devote more time to one specific MMO like this.
That’s NOT a knock on the game; in fact Perpetuum makes me long for the days when I had 15-20 hours a week to spend playing games: I love the theme of the game and, as I mentioned, I’m enjoying the game vicariously through reading my hardcore gaming friends who’re playing. I just don’t think it’s a game where you can do well by logging in for 30 minutes on Monday, an hour on Thursday and then 2 hours Saturday afternoon. It feels like the kind of game that’s going to want pretty regular attention: you want to be part of a corporation, keep tabs on deals on the market and so forth.
One last thing worth mentioning is the price. Perpetuum costs $10/month, and nothing else. There’s no client to buy. So if you’re curious (and didn’t get a code from a friend) you’re only risking $10 to give it a try. If you like deep, rich sci-fi games and MMOs, and you have time, I urge you to give it a go.
Now I have a challenge for game designers out there: is it possible to build a big sandbox game like Perpetuum (or EVE) and offer enough roles in it that hardcore gamers anxious to totally immerse themselves in the politics and economics and deep in-game technology can be satisfied, but casual gamers can also play and have a much narrower, but still satisfying, role?