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E3 launches into space Taikodom-style!


There are not many games that truly give the player the feel of what it is like to fly a starship in space. In fact, even some of the MMOs that label themselves as sci-fi are often just fantasy games with a futuristic paint job. And if you're looking for, more specifically, a free-to-play sci fi MMO, you will find but one game, and that game is Taikodom, the Brazilian-born, space-action game. If this game seems familiar, it's because it was recently acquired by GamersFirst, who have really put production of this title into full gear. Massively was lucky enough to to get our hands on the current incarnation of this game -- pre-beta! -- at E3.

Set some 300 years in the future, Taikodom tells us that Earth -- or at least, Earth as we know it -- has completely changed. We are no longer able to set foot on the soothing surface of our blue-green homeworld. Instead, groups of space stations called Nodes are now our homes. Corporations run these nodes, and each has its own distinct faction and personality. Humanity now explores the galaxy in starships, which simulate and repeat familiar sights and sounds back to us. Hyperspace between Nodes is traversed via giant disc-shaped stations called, predictably, jumpgates. Explore this vast and exciting galaxy with us after the break!

Gallery: E3 2010: Taikodom | 7 Photos

The very first thing we notice about Taikodom is its compelling combat system. Unlike other popular ship-based sci-fi MMOs, Taikodom is twitchy. Combat has the very unique feel of WWI dogfighting. It is a beautiful kaleidoscope of laser blasts, engine trails, and spaceships. Each of these spaceships, even those piloted by NPCs, flies with goals specific to its own needs. Even if the big picture appears to be merely random chaos, there is a complex orchestration at work here, a careful balancing of the NPC factional needs and real-time locational changes. If no players were on the server at all, this symphony would still play on. A player merges himself with this medley by following the area activity feed and disrupting NPC activity, or he can take a mission from one of the stations in the area. Each action is critical for a faction's status. If a player fails a mission, or if a player interrupts another ship's activities, his faction is weakened, and vice versa.

"At E3, Joseph Willmon, the producer of Taikodom, told us: 'We refer to it as Pimp My Spacecraft.'"

Customization is key to Taikodom as it is in most MMOs. As the player completes missions, she gains factional influence as well as skill points. These points can be applied to whichever skill the player wishes to learn. There is no pre-set path, just as there is no set factional alignment. Everything is completely up to the player -- her choice in paths is her own. But the customization doesn't end with skills; it carries over into the ships, too. As a player's skills increase, she is able to change the type, the weaponry, the size, the gadgetry, the color, and even the decals of her ship. At E3, Joseph Willmon, the producer of Taikodom, told us: "We refer to it as Pimp My Spacecraft."

Just like any other MMO, Taikodom is at least partly focused on social networking -- gaming with your friends and making new ones. If you have a few friends all working towards the same short-term goal, form a Squad to tackle it together! However, if you find you have the same long-term goals or wish to have a reliable group of friends with whom to game on a more consistent basis, you might be better off forming a guild, or more specifically in Taikodom, a "Corporation." Corporations, as you might expect, are all about resource control. Resources refer to any any asset that can be claimed: territory, minerals, or possibly whole nodes, if the Corporation is large enough. Willmon told Massively there may eventually be gear specifically designed and unique to Corporations.

But the final detail is what piques our interest: its cost. Taikodom will be free to play! Willmon assures us that all gameplay content in the game will be completely free. When expansions are added to the game, every player will be able to join in. On top of that, Mac users will have reason to cheer; like so many free-to-play games of late, Taikodom will run in the Unity engine, so the game will be available on both the PC and Mac platforms. Although Willmon could not expound on what was going to be in the item shop at this time, he did say there will be such a shop, along with an optional, more traditional subscription plan that will bring more consistent benefits to participants.

"Nobody is doing anything like this... that's why I wanted to produce it" Willmon says. Quite frankly, given how very few free-to-play sci fi MMOs exist at all, we agree. Sera Brennan, the Massively editor who brought us this first glimpse, summed it up perfectly in her final comment: "I want it!"

Stay tuned to Massively -- we'll continue to follow Taikodom as it goes into beta sometime at the end of this summer; the final release is expected around the end of the year.

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