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Space Pirates?

Pookie takes a foray into a universe he beta tested several years ago.. and is pleasantly surprised.
Jumpgate.

This game is probably one of the least-played massively multiplayer games out there right now - despite it's cheap pricetag and low monthly pricing scheme. Why? I have no idea.

Well, actually I do, but I'll get into that later. First of all: What the HELL is Jumpgate?

If you've ever played Freelancer, you know sort of what it's like. If you've ever played Descent Freespace, you know sort of what it's like. It takes all the trading goodness of Freelancer, combines it with combat like Freespace, and puts it all into a universe of Netdevil's creating.

There's even a semi-realistic physics system. That cargo tow with 200 tons of magnetics? Yeah, it's freakin' hard to stop. My complaint about the flight system isn't that it's based on physics, it's that these ships have a top speed based on the engines you've got equipped. That's all fine and dandy when you've got to worry about the drag of an atmosphere, but not in space! They explain it away, saying that after the cataclysm, there's enough gas floating around in space to create drag. It's a minor nitpicking point, but a point that a few people don't like nonetheless.

The combat (which I enjoy), is quite neat. In order to use projectile weapons effectively (from ranges of 3km or so), you need to use a vector targetting computer. It let's you lead and line up shots a bit easier than using plain guesswork. It's helpful with lasers, too. You can equip pirating weapons, which steal units of cargo from the target vessel - the downside to this, is that people can buy traps to load into their cargo. It's random what the pirate gets from the target's cargo, and if they get a trap - boom! they're dead. Which sucks, but they need some way to balance it, considering it doesn't have that large of a player base (I've seen 60 people online, max).

If combat's not your thing, you can spend time mining. I find it pretty boring, but a lot of people enjoy it. A lot of your time spent mining is spent staring at a screen with mining lasers shooting out of your ship. The neat thing about mining, though, is that once you bring it back to a station and sell it, the station uses it to manufacture goods specific to that station. If you want missiles produced at a certain station, for example, make sure it's got commodities it needs to make them with!

Which brings me to the third style of play - cargo shipping. Making sure your faction (or squads) stations are stocked with whatever they need to be stocked by. Generally you'll buy them from an overstocked station, ship em to the target station, and sell at a profit.

The universe of Jumpgate is split into sectors, each with a gate you jump through to get to a different sectors. The entire game-world takes about 30 minutes of flying to fly across, if you're in a fast ship. There are three major factions in the game - Octavian, Solrain, and Quantar. Octavian are warriors, with slow but powerful ships. Solrain are traders, with faster ships that have more cargo space. Quantar are religious miners, and tend to have the most maneuverable ships. There's tension between the three factions, which is heightened even more if you join a Squad (Jumpgate's version of the guild).

To deter pilots from killing rookies and people who don't want to be involved in Player-versus-Player combat, NetDevil has set up an 'Honor Guard' system. Basically, if you're Honor Guard you can kill other Honor Guards with little to no game-system repurcussion. If you're a Civilian, if you kill anyone you get a bounty on your head and a lower political rating with the faction of your target. The same thing happens if you're Honor Guard and kill a Civilian - commonly known as civripping.

If you like realistic space flight, or playing economics, or just sitting there in your spaceship mining and making money for your faction (or squad), this game is hella fun. If you join a politically charged Squad, be ready to enter an enthralling world of politics and intrigue, with a good ammount of combat thrown in as well.

Why did I name the article 'Space Pirates?'

Well, when the game first was released to the public, I envisioned creating a small squad to live off of the neutral stations, working as corsairs on the high ..err.. in space. I quickly realized, after playing the game, that this would be close to impossible. To have a half-way decent ship, you must have ship parts (engines, guns, capacitors, radar..) from all corners of the galexy. These cost money. When you die, you get some money back in the form of insurance. If you have too low of a political rating with a faction, though, their equipment is no longer insured. This means that when you die, you're sore out of luck, unless you've got a friend who's willing to go grab you some replacement equipment (or keep your station stocked with equipment you'll need).

This makes piracy harder, but without a larger player base (to cover the extensive funding you'd need for even a two-to-three person pirate squad), it's pretty close to impossible. With such a small player base, as well, word travels quickly - so and so is in Orus' Leg sector, he's pirating and his station is there. Soon enough, you get ten to twenty heavy fighers coming at you, because nobody has anything better to do.

So while Jumpgate is a fine start, it really needs a larger player base to come into its own. Why hasn't it achieved that?

It requires two things that most massively multiplayer gamers will not acquiesce to:

-reaction skills (piloting)
-patience

If you've got those two things, and love space sims.. sign up for a free ten day trial period. You've got to have a credit card, but it's a free download and you play for 10 days, free. If you sign up, send me a message once you get in game - I'm a Quantar pilot, callsign Tor. It's well worth the time spent.

Links:
NetDevil
Jumpgate Operating System Shell
screenshots of jumpgate - Launch - Flying away from a station..
Launch
Flying away from a station..
screenshots of jumpgate - I like Rocks. - Mining a 'roid
I like Rocks.
Mining a 'roid
screenshots of jumpgate - There's my 'clone! - My Cyclone sitting in a station
There's my 'clone!
My Cyclone sitting in a station

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