We've had a couple of chances to meet with NetDevil, the developer of Jumpgate Evolution, at this year's E3 and Game Developer's Conference, but this is the first time that the game is playable. At the Penny Arcade Expo 2008, we had a chance to sit down with the game, which still has a ways to go in terms of a release date, but so far the visuals are very impressive.
Jumpgate is similar to other space action combat games except it's in a massively multiplayer online setting. You can upgrade your ship, buy new parts, and sell items that you find at an auction house in a player-driven economy. The core focus of the game is the combat, whether it's against computer AI or other players. We were promised that, by the time the game is complete, there will be a battleground for those who want to duke it out in space at any time.
Those who are familiar with space combat games should have no issues picking up the controls. We piloted our ship and completed one of the first missions to get a feel for the game mechanics. Using the WASD keys you can move forward, backward, left, and right, and the mouse is used to guide your ship in that particular direction. The shift key will give you a boost to get you through space a little faster. To make this game more accessible, there are many joystick configurations as well, so you can play with your most comfortable style.
The areas that we were shown were amazing. The graphics were almost complete, so what we saw was fairly close to the finished product. The environments themselves may feel large, but you never seem to be flying aimlessly in space. You can zoom out so that your ship becomes a small dot to take in the grandeur of your surroundings. There are structures on asteroids that you can fly into and check out, and if you love science fiction and everything to do with space, the ability to navigate through these beautiful locations is a real treat. One area that we checked out was fairly bright, which made it easy to spot floating space debris and other ships. Another area was mostly red and black, but still well lit, which meant that we weren't flying around blind.
We look forward to spending more time in space, so check back soon for more information. Jumpgate Evolution still has some time to evolve, given that it's scheduled for a spring 2009 release.