Digital Tabletop: Transform and Roll Out

Back during Botcon of this year, the official Transformers convention for those not in the know, Hasbro announced that there was a browser based MMO in development from Jagex Games Studio, dubbed Transformers Universe. With a release date of next year, not much has come out about the game, but I’m very interested. Seeing as how I’ve ended up adapting rules over the years to include Transformers in some of my favorite RPGs and worked to make a tactical game you could play using your toys on your dining room table as a combat simulator, like Warhammer or AT-43 only with bigger miniatures, I’ve been looking for something more than just an action game, shooter or brawler on a console or PC.

While I loved Transformers War for Cybertron, I only mildly liked the customization you were offered in multiplayer to create your own Transformers, and I’ve wanted a game where my own characters could interact a bit more with the Transformers world rather than just blowing away enemy troops. Yes I know, I’m a huge Transformers nerd.

Now there is something like this already out there, at one of the bigger fan-sites out there, known as Heavy Metal War; you make your own team of Autobots or Decepticons, but it’s all text based, there’s lots of waiting, and it takes you forever to level up your stats as you start off at 0 in everything. Now, there is a graphic representing your character that ends up being your vehicle mode that you can change the color of, but this is hardly the height of character customization. The game itself has been in a state of flux and has had a number of programmers at its head, but something always happens to kill that next version of it. My biggest problem was you have no direct control over any of it. You prep your robots and send them into battle, and then they’re in the hands of a random number generator for an hour. I did enjoy playing HMW, but I’d like to see it expanded and be more like the MMOs I’ve come to enjoy, which is where I think Universe will fill in nicely. I mean, I’ll be honest; while I’ve played MUDs before, I haven’t logged into one since the millennium. I do like a bit more visual variety to my games now, and all War for Cybertron did was wet my appetite for bringing my creations from HMW and my imagination to life in a Transformers video game.

While I get the feeling that Universe is going to be nothing more than an action MMO at this point, they have said that there will be more character customization than we’ve seen before, at least as far as appearances are concerned, and like War For Cybertron, there will be a class or type system in place to differentiate play styles and abilities.

So far the only one we’ve seen is the Brawler, which is being described as the main line tank you’d see in any other MMO. Given that Jagex developed RuneScape in the past, I’d say the MMORPG is a safe bet, but we’re still mostly in the dark for now. Players will be able to choose sides between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and I have to say that the initial designs are looking great. With any luck this will be a bit more involved than the Clone Wars Adventures MMO that came out awhile back, which is basically a series of mini-games they expect you to pay money for.

The game is set in the Transformers: Prime setting which, if you haven’t seen any of the series, is something of a blend of the live action films, Beast Wars story-telling when they were being a bit more serious, and that feel I got when I watched the 80’s cartoon as a kid. The new designs they’ve shown seem to fit very well with the designs on the show, and while different from what we’ve seen in the past, are nowhere as extreme as what we got in the live action films. This is one to keep an eye on if you’re a Transformers fan and might offer something unique for MMO players as well.


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