Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Old MMOs That Should Be Brought Back: 10Six Edition

In a previous post I mentioned my lack of enthusiasm for the contemporary cookie-cutter MMO. What's a shame is that there were some great concepts introduced to the MMO market years ago, but they have been forgotten, or are unknown to the average MMO gamer of today. One such game, however, took a unique approach and spliced FPS and RTS gameplay elements together (MMORTS).

Developed by Postlinear Entertainment and published by SEGA, 10Six was designed to hold a million players in capacity, which is pretty ambitious considering the game was released in 2000. Because of that one million player capacity, the game was given the name of 10Six, which refers to 10 to the power of six, equaling 1 million.

The setting of the game takes place on a planet that got caught in the gravitational pull of our sun and entered the solar system. Upon discovery of this new, alien planet, it was also found to contain a valuable source of energy called "transium". The mining of this resource serves as the foundation of the game that powers player camps and their defenses, fuels raids on other player camps, and fuels the economy and political landscape of planet "Visitor".

The game has four corporations a player can join; each faction has their own distinct look and personality, which influences their structures and arsenals. The four factions are Infrastruct, eXtreme, ToyCo, and BruteForce.

So there are four corporations competing for the resources on this planet, and since it theoretically acommodates a million players, there are a million plots of land which can be occupied. What makes the game interesting is that players can occupy those lands and build their own camps, which is where the "RTS" gameplay comes in. You build your transium wells to gather transium in order to make money. Like any RTS, you also build additional buildings, walls and turrets to develop your arsenal, and enhance your camp's defenses.

You can also build and command units called "rovers" which are the bread and butter of any raid/defense on Visitor. You also can arm you avatar with armor, various enhancements, and weapons (which comes in the FPS part). You can utilize your first person perspective and command your rovers to from point A to point B at the same time. In other words, you're able to fight right along side your rovers with your avatar. You can also control your rovers from an overhead perspective in your "Nerve Center" which is essentially the "command center" that you typically build first in an RTS.

With these gameplay mechanics, the player can expand to other plots of land (or take over plots of land from other players). Since this is an MMO, it is a persistent world. That means that even while you sleep all camps but your "main" camp are open to attack by other players from other corporations. In order to combat this, you can join an "MDN" or Mutual Defense Network (guild) so other players in your MDN can aid your camp when you're being attacked, or help you attack others. This also helps to protect your camps while you sleep (hopefully your MDN has night owls) as members of your MDN receive alerts when a camp is under attack. This opens up a lot of possibilities politically, and wars can be waged between MDN's of other factions if anyone rubs each other the wrong way. As this all implies, this game is all PVP, much like Planetside.

The economy was also pretty well done. Players of all corporations can come together in neutral plots of land that serve as market places. Players can buy weapons from players of other corporations through trade, and sell their own goods for a price as well. Players could also make money by raiding other camps that belong to players not of your own faction and loot weapons, armor, rovers, and components for rovers.

10Six allows for a lot of sandbox potential, because depending on the plot of land, the player can build their buildings and defenses however they want. They can raise walls to protect buildings or create choke points. Many players try to take advantage of the terrain when building, trying to optimize their protection. Turrets are often built where the player feels it has the best damage range and defensive potential. Players can even designate waypoints for rovers to patrol, and continue to patrol even when the owner is logged off. The level of customization allows the gameplay experience to be largely based on what other players contribute moreso than what the game itself dictates, allowing a much more open-ended experience.

Considering the context of time in which the game was released, it was very well done, and quite addictive. Unfortunately the game was shut down in 2002 when its publisher, SEGA, was heading in a direction away from PC games. However, the game still exists under another name, called "Project Visitor". It still holds a relatively small fan-base that refines and maintains the game...essentially on fan life support. Still, in spite of its downfall, it provided a novel direction in the MMO universe, and to this day its technique in combining other gameplay genres into one game proves to be far more creative than most of the MMOs out on market today.

It's evident that game companies are trying to break away from the traditional MMO mold with small variations like FLS with Pirates of the Burning Sea, or Funcom and the new twist on combat mechanics in Age of Conan. However, I think with the growing demand of MMOs on the market, game companies should take note of 10Six and its unique combination of genres and ideas. They should realize you don't even need a leveling system, or archetypes in order to make a decent MMO.

I've left a lot of things out about 10Six. Hell, it's been about 7-8 years since I've played it last, so I kind of have a caricature of what the game was like in my mind. If you want to check out what I'm talking about you can go here to get a better understanding (and perhaps even play it? The more attention it gets, the more a gaming company will pay attention to its conceptual potential:

Also, here's a video of some of the gameplay. It does look ugly and outdated by today's standards, but it's an old game, and I think we can appreciate the game in the context that something so old could be so different and cool for its day.


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