And the 3rd post in a row about Perpetuum is here.

I’ve read a few other blogs mentioning this game, and after Stargrace mentioned it the other day and I commented that I’d like to check it out she kindly sent me an early access key.

And so, I downloaded it and jumped right in.  It does a little bit of basic tutorial when you log in — enough so you can move around, and that’s where the 1st glaring design flaw jumped out at me.  It uses WASD movement (good!) but uses A and D to strafe, not turn (bad!).  It wants you to use the “press right mouse and turn it” method of turning, which is fine, but I still wanted to be able to use the keyboard to turn also.  I went in to the keymaps and. . . . . .no option.  At all.  If you wanna turn, you’re using the mouse.  I don’t mind using the mouse for turning when I’m just out running around, but in combat when it’s easy to exaggerate your hand movement I find I have finer control with the keyboard, but this game doesn’t give me that option.  As it was, I’m so used to strafing with Q and E that I remapped the strafe to them anyway, and A and D don’t do anything at all for me.

So anyway, I’m going through the tutorial and it has me go get in to some combat.  Again all well and good, except well…. lag.  Not bad lag, but enough that trying to click on something to select is doesn’t work very well for me.  And I rubberbanded around a lot too.  Not far for distance, but enough to make the game feel herky-jerky and to be annoying.  Still, it does show you how to bring up an EVE-like overview so that you can select things in there too, and that helps.  But there are no shortcuts in there for targeting either.  Can’t double-click or ctrl-click it.  You gotta either right-click and select “Lock Target” or find the “landmark information” window and after you select a target, then in that info window you have the option to click a button and tell it to lock there.  The overview I don’t mind — I play EVE, after all.  But the inability to target and LOCK from the overview is another glaring design flaw.

Did I mention that locking takes 12.5 seconds?  Talk about WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too long.  There’s a skill to reduce it, and apparently later robots/mechs have shorter base lock times too, but even so, I don’t think it can go lower than about 8 seconds in the best mech and fully trained to level 10 on that skill, which is still way too long, IMO, and therefore IMO this is another design flaw.

So anyway, there I am in combat, and I’m wondering “How many hp do I have?  Am I in any danger here?”  Turns out, there is a display for that, but it’s OFF BY DEFAULT.  Sure, it’s onyl 1 click to turn it on once you know where it is, and then it persists forever, but… it should a) always be on anyway, and b) there is no b, becuz it should always be on.  Radar/Minimap?  Off by default.  The “landmark window” (overview” actually has direction and distance indicators, but you don’t know that when you turn it on — you have to pull it wider to be able to see them.

Want to access the market, swap modules around on your robot, or turn in a mission?  You have to “enter” your terminal.  But nothing tells you that.  I just happened to notice the “Enter” button in the middle of my toolbar on top and wondered what I did, so I clicked it.  The 6th tutorial or so has you go use a teleporter, find and enter another terminal, then come back, but it’s not until then that anything mentions that “Entering a Terminal” is the same as “going home” or “docking your ship” or whatever.

You start in a “noob ship” like in EVE, and apparently also as in EVE if you are ever blown up and don’t have any other ship, one of them will be provided to you.  The 5th tutorial gives a slightly upgraded version as a reward, and then the 10th tutorial mission gives you the 1st “real” combat robot.  I didn’t know it would do that, so I’d been saving up to buy one, and was about 3/4 of the way there when I got to the 10th mission and got one for free instead.  That was a nice surprise.  and yeah, as in EVE, you have fitting skills, so I couldn’t fully fit the thing.  But still… 4 guns instead of 2 is quite ice, even with reduced hp since I can’t fit the armor plate.  I still have 770 hp vs 907 with the plate, so it’s not a huge difference, and with mobs dying faster, it works out.

Still…. after the tutorials, you’ve got no idea what to do.  There are missions you can run from your terminal, but the payouts are fairly low.  You can wander the countryside looking for npc mechs that you can kill and loot for kernels that you can research to learn recipes (or sell for lotsa cash).  But that’s really it.  Nothing indicates where the “harder” areas are, it’s easy to get lost, mobs are actually rather sparsely populated once you get about 2 km from the terminal and….. there just doesn’t feel like there’s anything to it.

So I made a 2nd “agent” and focused it on the mining and industry stuff.  Except that I already used the 40,000 “extension points” (skills) I got at account creation on my combat character, so he’s got his base stuff and that’s it.  I got in-game and told it I wanted to do the industry tutorial.  Turns out it’s more or less the same as the 6th combat tutorial mission, except that it has you mine a completely useless noob-only rock that you can’t sell or refine.  I looked and the stuff I would need to buy to be able to actually mine something useful was out of reach without doing some combat, and I didn’t really want to on a non-combat character.

So that was it for my playing so far.  I actually logged about 10 hours on the combat character over 2 play sessions, and just a few minutes on the miner today.

Overall, I’d say it’s got potential, but it needs more time.  You get 1 extension point per minute, and there’s no way to change that.  As much as people complain about EVE’s learning skills, they at least do serve a purpose in speeding up you training.  This game needs something to boost that.  I do like that it accrues points to your account and once you have “enough” you can go spend them on what you feel you need, rather than choosing a skill and devoting all points to it.  Perpetuum’s system lets you change you mind, at least.  The graphics are pretty, but it seemed to me that the night/day cycle leaned to the night.  IMO it should lean to the day, not even equal time, but 2/3 – 3/4 day to only 1/4 – 1/3 night.  At night it’s so dark you can’t see much of anything except the red crosses that signify mobs and the general shape of the land.  Targeting/locking needs to be simplified.  Speeds need to be boosted too.  When a mission sends you 2.5-3km out of the terminal and you’re only traveling 50km/hr, it’s a long hike to get out there.

Also… there are no roads.  Just random buildings plopped down near the terminals, and then wilderness.  Nothing guides you in any direction.  You can’t say “follow that road over there to the next zone” or anything like that — you’re pretty much lost all the time.  The minimap is decent, but the big map is pretty useless.  It can give you an idea of the direction you need to go, but it doesn’t show terrain, so heading the right direction won’t necessarily get you where you want to go.  So you spend a lot of time lost, and there’s no “hearthstone” type abillity, so if you get lost and log out in frustration, guess where you’re gonna be if you log in again.

Anyway, this is long, so I’ll wrap up.  I’m not really impressed.  It does have some appealing things, and so I’ll try to play it more over the next month to see if once it officially launches and has more people it grows on me, but for now…. I won’t be extending past the 1st month.

Posted on November 21, 2010, in Perpetuum. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The lack of direction is intentional – that is what a sandbox MMO is all about, finding your own way, and deciding what YOU want to do, be it working on missions, crafting, harvesting, PvP, etc. It’s certainly not for everyone, but EVE works the same way, and after so many other hand holding games, it’s refreshing to be left making your own choices about everything.

    • I disagree. EVE may not “hold your hand” but you still know about the systems’ sec status from the get go and know that the lower the status gets, the harder the npc enemies become, the better your resources become, and so forth. There is a direction there. Perpetuum gives you nothing.

      Since posting this, I have learned that you start on an “Alpha Island” and that there are 2 others and they’re pve zones, and there are also 3 “Beta Islands” that are open pvp. And apprently on the beta islands there are better minerals for the miners, higher payouts from doing missions, etc etc. That’s something at least to give me an idea of what kind of goals I can set for myself. But I had to find it out out of game — the game itself never gave me this information in any way. And since i don’t know anything about the game, I don’t know enough to make a goal otherwise. World domination? Capture and hold land? Arena-style pvp? Trade empires and trade routes? I don’t know if these are even possible and therefore I don’t know what kind of goals I can set. And since I don’t know what is possible, I can’t set a goal other than “get in a more powerful mech.” And well… been there, done that, in every MMO I’ve played. This really doesn’t have anything new to offer in that category.

      I’ll still be playing and learning more, but as an initial impression… not really a good one.

  2. “But I had to find it out out of game”

    Aye, this is my biggest complaint about sandbox gaming in general and Perpetuum’s design in particular. I don’t like the need to go find a wiki somewhere. I’d rather the information be in the game. It can be tucked away in optional tutorials or just be in the help files, rather than foisted on you with no choice to ignore it… but when you have to leave the game to understand the game, that’s just not very good design.

  3. Being a GM in-game gives me a certain amount of understanding in Perpetuum.

    1. There are hotkeys to targeting “R” is primary target and “F” is secondary target (P.s. “U” is unlock, “V” is interact)

    2. Options > Gameplay > Use Alternate robot control method for strafe turning left and right.

    3. With the addition of the big building there are some sort of “roads”.

    4. The game is not perfect as you have seen but it is a whole lot of fun. Once you figure everything out it will be hard to get you to log out :).

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