E3 2010 was loaded with jaw-dropping moments. Anyone who saw the Nintendo 3DS knows what I'm talking about. Anyone who saw Rock Band 3 knows what I'm talking about. Sometimes, the biggest innovations and most impressive jaw-droppers are far more subtle. Sometimes, you are more shocked by seeing something limited burst right past those limits and do something far greater. BigPoint, a company specializing in browser-based games, did this by showing off what is possible in Google Chrome with the demo of their upcoming game, Battlestar Galactica Online.
The key phrase in that last sentence is "Google Chrome." While they confirmed that the Unity Engine, which powers the game works with a plug-in for Firefox and other browsers, the game runs entirely within Google Chrome with no plug-ins required. This is an impressive innovation; it's no small feat to go from Google's tech demos to an A-grade game.
For fans of the series, Battlestar Galactica Online takes place during the height of Season 2, when the series' action was at its heaviest. The developers are working to make sure that the game mythos is entirely matched with the show's, with some new details provided via the in-game quest mechanics.
The core of Battlestar Galactica Online is on-ship gameplay, and the demo focused on fighters. The goal is to have the core be tactically focused and fast-paced, favoring small skirmish battles. (BigPoint confirmed that off-ship gameplay would come later.) The core controls allowed for complete ship guidance, including full spins and space. The rep only showed a little of this because open space, with no real "down," can still be exceptionally disorienting. The basic combat, however, is relatively comparable to World of Warcraft. You pick a target to go into autofire and then select special moves while jockeying for position. Unlike WoW, evasion is active in nature. Once that missile has fired, you move out of its path by dodging, not getting lucky on a die roll.
The basic gameplay isn't the only thing comparable to the juggernaut of pay-to-play MMOs. Amazingly, the overall graphics detail compares favorably to recent patches of WoW. This might not sound very impressive until you realize that it's running in a browser with no plug-ins, and it was running at a stable and high frame rate. The gameplay has both PvE and PvP elements, using the traditional two-faction system (human and Cylon). The developers set the group size as five, and the raid size as 20, though they did not discuss if there would be instanced content.
One PvP mode that the devs discussed was a twist on the endless mining that defines so many space MMOs. It puts a group together to defend a large gathering ship that does the actual work. The asteroids handle three to four significant resources.
Since this is a free-to-play MMO, you can heavily customize your avatar and ship. Unlike some free-to-plays, there are no plans for exclusive microtransaction items — though in many cases, buying them might be easier than finding them "cleanly." For those who are interested, the real-money trade elements are also available for skipping grinds.
BigPoint is aiming to launch Battlestar Galactica Online at the end of the year, initially exclusively on Syfy.com. Things are shaping up to indicate that the end results will be amazing.
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