We're getting a massively multiplayer Transformers game next year—a free one—and now we finally have a hint of what it'll look like.
After eating some free sushi and looking at some tiny Star Wars figurines at a fancy hotel in midtown New York tonight, I was told that the developers of Transformers Universe were finally ready to show a little bit of their game, making me the fifth or sixth person outside of their studio, they claimed, to ever see anything of this game. Now you get to be the seventh (or so).
The Transformers people didn't show me much, alas. I saw a trailer, stills of which you can see here. The trailer doesn't show real gameplay, but the developers say the character models are indicative of what the graphics of the game will look like. After watching the trailer, the developers and I talked about the game, so let me paint you a word picture (word screenshot?) of what kind of Transformers MMO we're getting next year.
(Click through the thumbnails in this story to see stills of the debut trailer for Transformers Universe along with characters sketches.)
Before today, all I knew was that the people making Transformers Universe are Jagex, the folks behind the massively successful online game Runescape.
Their massively multiplayer Transformers game will be free-to-play. It will be supported by an as-yet unexplained microtransaction or subscription model, according to a marketing rep who fielded questions about Tranformers Universe at this evening's Hasbro event. You'll play the game in a browser, running only a small downloaded client, nothing like the big application you'd have to have to run, say, a World of Warcraft.
The game is set in the Transformers Prime universe, which coincides with the world set up in the book Transformers: Exodus. That means this isn't the Michael Bay movie Transformers. There will be some sort of connection to or acknowledgment of the Generation One Transformers, but as with most things about this game, Jagex and Hasbro aren't sharing details yet.
The game will be set on Earth and, while there will be human elements to the world, robots will be the featured characters. Players will control a Transformer of their making, with famous robots like Optimus Prime mostly serving in companion, support or other non-playable modes. The game's rep declined to rule out the option that players would sometimes be able to play as famous Autobots or Decepticons, so it does seem like that will be some sort of option. Primarily, though, players will cultivate the development and progression of their own Autobot or Decepticon, picking their class, body shape, color scheme and more, adding new abilities as their character advances in the MMO.
Players will use their robot form as they would any standard MMO hero. They'll use their transformed vehicle state as an MMO player would use a mount. Essentially, you'll be your own mount. Initial vehicle classes will include trucks and motorcycles. The developers had considered everything from plane to submarine transformations (a fellow reporter and I also suggested dinosaurs), but it sounds like land vehicles will be the primary transformations for starters. Players will find that picking, say, a sports car transformation will allow them to be more nimble than if they chose, say, a heavy-bodied truck.
How MMO-ish or WoW-ish will this game be? The game will include player vs. player and player vs. environment third-person combat. The Transformers Universe marketing guy who talked to me about the game occasionally used terms like "tank" and said that people familiar with "guilds" and other concepts of group play in other MMOs will be familiar with some of the trappings of this game. The rep assured me there would be "team-based activities" in the game. I asked if those included forming Devastator. He said, laughing, "No comment."
Hasbro and Jagex's demo for the game was unusually light. Typically, meetings with press will involve more than a trailer using in-game graphics. I had hoped to see actual gameplay or screenshots of the game running, to say nothing of seeing the game in action. The lack of content shown tonight signals how early in development Transformers Universe is. The trailer from which the stills in this story were snapped, will run in a theater at the New York Comicon, which starts tomorrow. So the public will get a similar taste in the coming days. But we're really just in tease mode now.
Tonight, it seems, was the dry run, a chance to educate the press a little bit about what amounts to a first glimpse of an actual game... a new tease of a game for which MMO fans and Transformers fans will likely have high hopes. It's far too early to assess whether Jagex is going to meet them, as there's certainly more to this game than—wait for it—met my eyes tonight.
Transformers Universe will be shown at booth 522 at the New York Comic-Con this week. Keep an eye on the game's Facebook page for more information.