In the summer of 1980, when I was cough-cough-not-quite-a-teenager-cough, Luke Skywalker was a hero of mine. The Empire Strikes Back had just been released. The Star Wars phenomenon itself was only a few years old. Darth Vader was still scary. And yet Luke Skywalker faced him down. That wasn't even the cool part, though. The cool part was that at the end of Star Wars, Luke and Han Solo were offered big cash rewards. Han Solo took the money. Luke Skywalker, though? He asked for and got his very own space fighter to do with as he pleased. To my pre-teen brain, that was very, very cool. The Millenium Falcon was always breaking down, but you could sink an X-Wing up to its cockpit in a swamp, tow it out, and it was still ready to rock. An X-Wing was fast as hell, could cross the galaxy or land on a planet, could tangle with or dodge TIE fighters, and yet still be a threat to the Death Star.
But, I was conflicted because I was also a Star Trek fan. And Star Trek starships weren't the same as Star Wars ones. They were big and heavy and slow, but with planet-shaking weapons. There were many episodes where Enterprise would fire her phasers down toward a planet, or fire photon torpedoes on proximity detonation, and if you were anywhere nearby, you were having a very bad day. To my pre-teen brain, that was also very, very cool. An X-Wing fighter couldn't do that. But Enterprise also required hundreds of people to make that happen, and the combat was a little distant. It wasn't immediate and loud and flashy like Star Wars combat. And Captain Kirk didn't get to take his starship wherever he wanted (Star Trek III notwithstanding). He went where Starfleet told him to go.
EVE Online is like Star Trek. The ships are big and heavy and slow, with bad-ass weapons. There's lots of people involved. And if you're an EVE PvPer, you probably go where other people tell you to go.
Star Wars? The place of Star Wars -- at least for a few more months -- is looking to be taken by an MMO in beta called Black Prophecy.
In the tutorial introduction for Black Prophecy, you are given your very own space fighter to do with as you please. It's not much, but it's got engines and guns and a cockpit, and a shield generator if you can afford one. You can tinker with it, modify the specs here and there, choose the types of guns and engines you want to use, and as you tinker, the appearance of your ship in-game changes. And when you sit down, you are strapped in. If a battleship goes by, it's not a little box 15 pixels across on a screen with a hundred other battleship boxes in the fleet. It's a hulking behemoth that cuts off your vision of a third the sky, blotting out the local star.
And guess what, your wing commander just ordered you to fly along its hull and destroy as many of its turrets as you can.
You don't get to just lock them up and hit F1. You need to get in there with the engines you've chosen, manually aim and fire the guns that you've chosen, and hope the shields you have fitted can stand up to the punishment. Just try not to take too much damage, because repairs cost money...
Think of Black Prophecy as "EVE with aim."
It's sharded and instanced, but it hides it really well. No sandbox here (yet). And it's only a beta product. Crafting doesn't work, painting your ship doesn't work, and there's not a huge amount of content available yet. PvP is a big question mark. There's only eight or ten types of guns, and limited selections of other mods.
But there's definitely a lot of potential here, just the same.
I was quite prepared not to like it. And then I found myself still playing four or five hours later. It's got the "wow" factor going on on a number of levels, from ship customization and graphics, to backgrounds, to models, to story. The first time I fired one particular type of energy weapon, I laughed out loud. It was a beam laser that I could fire for as long as I liked... or at least until the emitter burned out from overheating. That is how an energy weapon should work, all right. Oh yes, there's definitely potential here.
More to come.