Transverse is the newly announced MMO from Mechwarrior Online developer Piranha Games. Following in the steps of the likes of Eve Online, Elite Dangerous, and Star Wars: Galaxies, Transverse is a sandbox universe which goes light on NPC scripting in favour of procedural and emergent mechanics. In short, they’re throwing you into space with a load of other players and seeing what happens.
The business model isn’t. Not one bit.
Piranha announced the game earlier today with this trailer:
Like Star Citizen and Elite, you’ll pilot ships in third person, and like those games you’ll be free to trade, pirate, and explore your way to profit. Piranha are hoping that, like in Eve, players will create roles for themselves and the bulk of the action will derive from their interactions. (Transverse sounds like a lot of games currently in development.)
Where Transverse starts to eek out from the shadow of those other games is that Piranha claim to want to include very few NPCs, for the bulk of their universe to be populated by human players. Star Citizen and Elite both support large multiplayer communities but they essentially drop in and out of your own instance of the game, most of the ships you encounter will be piloted by AI. That’s less the case with Eve which, as an MMO, is full of other players but every station has NPCs working as shop keepers and quest givers. It sounds like even those would be cut in Transverse.
Piranha want players to be able to design their own ships and space stations, build their own factions, and start their own wars. If they give players the tools to do all that that will be exciting.
The thing that really excites me for Transverse is that potential for ship modification. Piranha made Mechwarrior Online, the best mech game in recent years. One of MWO’s strengths was the how much you could customise your mech and the results it would have on play. You could load it up with lasers and link them so they all fired at once, immediately overloading your coolant system, but making your machine a one-shot kill sniper where your accuracy meant the difference between glorious win or embarassing loss. Or, you could build your machine to generate little heat so you could stay in a fight longer. You could sacrifice armour for speed and slap some sensors on the outside to build a perfect scout mech. If that level of detail is applied to Transverse then it could make for a versatile PvP.
What puts me off Transverse is how Piranha are hoping to fund it. They’ve started a crowdfunding initiative on their site that’s looking for $1 million. However, $1 million doesn’t get them enough money to make the game they’re talking about, $1 million is enough to make “the basic flight mechanics of spaceflight! Take to the stars in your backer ship.” With another $500,000 ship construction is unlocked. At $2 million you’ll be able to “fight each other online in local space instances”.
Whenever a company sets up a crowdfunding scheme on their site rather than something like Kickstarter or Indiegogo I become worried about how protected the backers’ cash is and what will happen if the team are unable to reach their target. Unlike Kickstarter there isn’t a month’s campaign time after which, if the funds aren’t raised, the campaign is called off, it’s just an ongoing process.
Another concern is that, for a game that wants to drop NPCs, you need a lot of human players to fill all those roles.
One final concern is that while I thought MWO was an excellent game in beta the support since launch has been pretty poor with new features dropped in favour of releasing more mech skins. It would be frustrating to see a promising sandbox game get cught up in free-to-play nonsense.
If you’d like you can pledge your support to Transverse over on the game’s site.