Update: We did mention a beta event, yes? The official End of Nations website has been updated with a counter for said beta, which has now been set for July 20.
Over the last few years, we've become more acquainted with Trion Worlds and Petroglyph's upcoming multiplayer strategy game, End of Nations. Though this massive RTS adventure is still without a solid release date, Trion has been exceptionally open about sharing their progress with gamers.
End of Nations is a hybrid of MMO and RTS, combining the massive scale of one genre with the strategic gameplay of the latter. It's been confirmed as free-to-play with a subscription option, and the very first closed beta event is fast approaching (brace yourselves for an announcement soon).
Recently, we were able to catch up on EON's progress with Trion's senior producer Chris Lena, head of third party development David Luehmann, and community manager Lance James. Anyone who has kept up with the game ought to be familiar with all three gentlemen. In fact, we spoke to Leuhmann earlier in 2012, then Lena at E3, when he showed us how the development was progressing.
End of Nations has been in alpha for a while now, during which the yet-to-be released MMORTS has already garnered a faithful following. When speaking about all the testing, Lena noted that they've learned a lot from players, who have become amazingly adept at picking out issues the staff never would've noticed otherwise.
"One of the interesting things with alpha is it's the first time you're putting the game out in the wild with real humans. So one of the biggest things I feel like we got is proper balance testing. We can play the game over and over again in-house, but it's not until you have that creative player from a unique point of view -- or a unique combination of players -- that they really find the real holes in your balance. So although we've been testing features and stability and all these other things, the core thing you get from these people is balance testing is from a perspective you'd never have imagined."
Luehmann also noted that exploits were a huge issue with which testers have helped immensely. Evidently, alpha testers only need about two days on average to find every bug and exploit within a newly released feature or unit.
Playing Nice with Others
The story behind End of Nations, as we've touched on before, revolves around two warring factions -- the Shadow Revolution and the Liberation Front -- that initially formed to combat the tyrannical Order of Nations. Players will choose to align with one of these two factions, but that doesn't mean you won't get to be friends every now and then. After all, MMOs often have missions that require opposing factions to ally against some greater evil or something of that nature.
In EON, certain maps will allow cross-faction play, Lena confirms, and he mentions a specific example involving waves:
"So we're trying to release a lot of different map times, including some that are cooperative, which aren't direct PVP. And those maps allow the factions to play together. For instance, one map we played a lot during alpha is called 'Hold the Line,' which is up to four players of any faction fighting against A.I. units to see how long you can last against the waves. We'll continued to expand on that kind of gameplay to include that kind of cross-faction cooperative play for sure."
Luehmann then adds that the results of mixing two factions are actually quite "interesting," and the team doesn't approach these faction neutral maps the same way as, well, normal ones:
"And we've experimented with that a little bit in alpha actually, where we can make certain maps not be faction aligned, so you can have two teams of mixed factions playing against each other with some interesting results. It makes for very, very fun gameplay. It's easily understood by players that this is what's happening; so the real lesson there is how you communicate that this map is behaving different than the other ones."
Sad to say, free-to-play strategy games aren't exactly known for having the friendliest communities. Players tend to be downright hostile, and developers have had to implement in-game features to combat this. League of Legends, for instance, now has cross-team chat turned off by default.
In regards to the End of Nations community, which will be a mixed bunch of free-to-play gamers and paid subscribers, Lance James stepped in with his two cents. Apparently, Trion expects the cooperative nature of EON to naturally "weed out" less desirable players over time, as James puts it.
"First off, within the game itself, say you join a match -- couple factors when you join that match, in our matchmaking system. Say you've been playing for a month, you're level 12 and playing against 'whatever' faction. The matchmaking will take into effect your ELO or your level and you'll be match up against people of similar skill or level. Along those lines, generally the people that don't play well with others, they won't generally play as long as someone like you, for a month. They'll join a match, and they might play four or five games and be done. The idea is that over time, those people will get weeded out, as they'll be playing amongst themselves. So the people who keep playing -- the people who have fun -- will play against other people who're having fun and enjoy the game."
Regarding the split between free-to-play and the paying crowd, James goes on to note that splitting players into shards should make moderating a bit easier. Of course, it's going to be an ongoing battle, but he promises the staff will do their best in protecting their community from the trolls and, ahem, jerks out there.
"The community itself, especially with a free-to-play crowd... we have to take into consideration the crowd. The free-to-play crowd, the free-to-play player is different than somebody who actually paid a subscription or goes out and buys the boxed copy. These people can literally be anyone who downloads the game, so we also have our shard [system] taking that into account.
"People will be selecting a shard when they log in, you'll be playing on that shard; that'll help us to somewhat mitigate the amount of people in a given area that're causing problems, harassing others, what have you. That's an ongoing issue we'll have to deal with as we go along. If you look at RIFT and how they handle their community, it's all about the community; they have people who play the game and make it better. We'll definitely be paying attention, be looking, be moderating, and be taking care of the people who have a good time and getting rid of those who are causing problems."
For those of you who've been waiting patiently to try the game for yourselves, details regarding End of Nations' first beta event are on the way. Oh, and the team assured us that bacon-inspired unit skins are still a thing. Hey, what could be more terrifying than a bacon-themed army? Nothing, that's what.
Now in addition to our hands-on preview back in February -- during which we were introduced to the Leuhmann's beloved bacon skin -- we also got to see End of Nations at E3 earlier this month. For a more in-depth look at the gameplay, check our walkthrough with Chris Lena.