The robotic war is entering the massively multiplayer sphere. We’ve got an exclusive interview with the team at Jagex about the upcoming project.

At long last, the Transformers franchise has found success in the video game sphere in recent years, thanks to the work of High Moon Studios, and their War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron games. Simultaneously, another developer, Jagex, has been hard at work crafting a different vision for the Transformers – this one entering the MMO world with a browser-based game that looks to buck the trend and compete with high-end client-based MMOs. 

We put some questions to the development team at Jagex about the new game, and this is what they had to share.

The Transformers franchise exists across a number of different storylines and timelines, from the original cartoon, through any number of comic continuities, and on through today’s linked timeline of the Prime cartoon and the War for Cybertron games. Where does Transformers Universe fit in?

Alex Horton, Chief Creative Officer: There’s an incredibly rich lore and history surrounding the Transformers property starting with the original cartoon, and the 1986 movie right through to the Michael Bay films and Prime series that we’ve been able to draw inspiration from for Transformers Universe. As a game we sit within ‘the Prime continuity’, so we’re working within the overall Transformers story. We’ve a style and tone that’s our own but we’re still part of the overall Transformers’ universe. Transformers Universe is being built for online gamers – something to play and be part of. 

Can you offer some details about the overall storyline you’re exploring in the game?

Horton:  I don’t want to talk about story specifics too much but we’re about to enter a new chapter in the age-old wars between the Autobots and Decepticons.  You can join up with either side so we have to bring you both sides of the war.  Your side’s performance in the ongoing battle will shape how the story evolves, who’s giving the orders and where the battle is going to take you in the Transformers universe.

We’ve heard that Transformers Universe veers more towards action and away from traditional MMO questing mechanics. Is that a fair characterization? How would you describe the hour-to-hour gameplay experience, as compared to a traditional MMO like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2?

Horton: A traditional RPG setting doesn’t feel right for the Transformers brand, especially with where games are going in general. I could see it working as a collaborative/synchronous adventure but we want to do something more multiplayer with a broader reach, where you’re part of a massive, interconnected army that’s fighting wars on multiple battlefronts, facing and dealing wave after wave of attacks. Go into the game and do your bit for the faction!  There is a strategic element to the game that’s more than your average action game; you’re collecting and maintaining your custom squad of Transformers characters to take into battle, for freedom or tyranny.

Tim Coupe, Executive Producer: To add to what Alex has said, we’re an MMO in that we’re persistent and players will be playing together but we’re more aligned to session based, very action orientated PVP games. I think we’re several steps away from MMORPGs, especially in the minute-to-minute gameplay, but we do carry across some of the themes you see in those games. We are story driven; player actions will have a direct impact on where our story moves, there are some PVE aspects to the game especially in the early stages as players go through tutorials and familiarize themselves with the game, but at our core I think we’ve really built a game that is different from what’s out there and takes full advantage of the opportunities offered up by the Transformers license. 

Even though it’s clear that the game aims for more action than many MMOs, are there any other genre fundamentals that the game does include?

Coupe: What we’re aiming for with Transformers Universe is something that takes advantage of the world presented by the Transformers license. If you look at where the market’s going, the games that players seem to be excited by at the moment are focused on short-session, highly competitive gameplay. Players can expect a degree of familiarity when they first experience Transformers Universe, but they’ll also experience something that’s pretty new and unique.

[Next up: The weapons of Transformers Universe, and how much can you customize your bot?]