Las Vegas-based Petroglyph is hard at work on a new project with publisher Trion Studios--End of Nations, a massively multiplayer real-time strategy game. Yes, it's been tried many times before, and yes, this concept hasn't always panned out. But the studio is not taking the same approach that other games have tried and failed with--namely, having a persistent base and holdings present in the shared world that can be attacked after you've logged off and gone to sleep. Instead, the game will be heavily instanced and based on one-off encounters that take place all over the globe. The game will have two playable factions that players can join, though there will also be a third, non-player faction known as the Order of Nations. And the Order will be your primary enemy in player-versus-environment instances that will progress your character through the game's story. However, in order to help take over the world on behalf of your faction, you'll need to engage in player-versus-player matches against players from the opposing faction. But Trion and Petroglyph aren't going into the details of PVP just yet. In any case, the game will let you freely drop in and drop out of various instanced missions whenever you like.
You will play as a one of three professions--tank commander, strike commander, or artillery commander. Tank commanders specialize in tanks, the meat-and-potatoes combat unit of the game that balances good armor with good firepower; strike commanders specialize in smaller, faster tactical vehicles; and artillery commanders specialize in less-armored but devastatingly damaging long-range artillery. While these professions grant you specialized abilities and bonuses that are weighted toward one of the game's three vehicle classes, there's nothing stopping tank commanders from adding a couple of light vehicles or mortars to their armies if they need slightly more well-rounded troops in the next mission. All missions are at the war room interface, which lets you find hot spots around the globe (including key areas where your faction is losing ground and needs support) and check in on your holdings and your standing armies.
Your avatar in the game is a persistent headquarters that does not exist in the open world but in its own private instance. You can build up your HQ, much like you would upgrade your base in a conventional real-time strategy game, with such upgrades as an airfield, which will then unlock the ability to call in a devastating air strike. The war room also lets you jump to your character's armory, which houses all your units. Over time, you'll collect various tanks, artillery cannon, and light vehicles in a giant virtual garage. You can then customize their colors and add decals to them. Each vehicle in your possession has a specific point value, and different instances will have different point value limits that can be deployed (the mission we watched, for instance, had a 500-point limit, which meant that we were able to bring a force of about eight or nine tanks into battle).
The mission we watched was a midlevel PVE instance (for characters of level 10 to 20 or so) in which the Order of Nations controlled a ruined industrial area with small companies of tanks and light vehicles, as well as a gigantic boss. The huge map, a virtual 20-square-mile expanse of derelict factories and shattered concrete, was populated by several small pockets of enemy vehicles that our expeditionary force was able to defeat fairly easily. However, once we got to the boss, a gigantic, landed battleship with tank treads dumped caches of missiles and electromagnetic pulse payloads on our heads. Fortunately, by this point in the demonstration, we had been joined by several other players who joined an impromptu group. High-level bosses like these will definitely require coordinated teams of players to take down, all firing off their special abilities (like the aforementioned air strike, which paints a stretch of ground with a spectacular carpet bombing) and using support powers, such as "healing," which won't be exclusive to any one profession.
End of Nations seems like an interesting take on online strategy. The game seems to be taking the approach of drawing direct analogues between massively multiplayer archetypes and real-time strategy archetypes. Your HQ and units are like persistent characters who grow stronger over time with upgrades; missions act like instances; there will be plenty of story-driven PVE content for players who don't necessarily want to play PVP at that moment; and instances will be presided over by huge, raid-style bosses. This unique game is scheduled to launch next year.