Jumpgate Evolution Impresses At E3

by Adam Biessener on Jun 17, 2010 at 04:56 PM

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve implored the industry at large to make more games like X-Wing and Starlancer. I never thought the answer to my prayers would come in the form of an MMO.

Jumpgate Evolution, unlike original Jumpgate, focuses on space dogfights to the exclusion of all else. It’s a better game for it. Rather than bogging players down in minutiae, it offers fast-paced action in a dynamic universe.

Plenty of progression and socialization is available, and the spacefighter dogfights are legit. No numbers are crunched under the hood to determine hits, misses, or the like – this is an action game through and through. That part is easy enough. Jumpgate Evolution’s distinguishing features is its dynamic sector warfare system. Available in both PvP and PvE flavors, this system puts several objectives in front of players. These goals change with the situation in the sector, keeping players engaged in various scenarios within huge public spaces.

In a PvE setting, the objectives might consist of destroying a progression of defenses on an NPC space station, then gunning down the fleeing escape pods after blowing the reactor. These story-based sectors have a set loop that they go through. After finishing up the sequence of events, the sector resets to its initial state and waits for more players to come along and start it up again. Developer NetDevil showed off its ability to use this structure to tell interesting stories, as a simple “report to the dreadnought” objective turned into “destroy the aliens” as a nearby moon exploded to reveal an enemy jumpgate vomiting hostile ships into space.

PvP sectors, which appear to be Jumpgate Evolution’s true endgame, offer an ever-changing battlefield where the three factions fight over vital resources and other strategic objectives. These sectors never reset; the objectives continually shift to reflect the state of the sector. The idea is to have hundreds of players all duking it out in a bunch of different settings.

In both PvE and PvP, AI-controlled ships are at war with each other as well. The game can automatically scale AI activity depending on the number of active players in the area, giving a sense of being in a massive space war without having so many AI ships out there that you’re tripping over them instead of blowing up bad guys.

Jumpgate Evolution’s visuals are outstanding, pushing detailed ships through gorgeous skies. Clever use of fullscreen effects is a great complement to the impressive explosions. Space is more colorful than it is in real life, but the overall aesthetic is cool enough to forgive this minor detail.

Developer NetDevil looks like it has an excellent shot at cracking the tricky problems associated with creating a compelling space-based action MMO. Provided the dynamic content generation system lives up to its potential, Jumpgate Evolution will be a dream come true for old X-Wing fans like me. This is the most exciting MMO that I saw at E3 2010 – and I spent three days looking at little else.