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Trade Wars: Dark Millennium

Pros

  • Developers respect game's classic roots
  • potential cross-platform compatability
  • screenshots look great

Cons

  • this game will face stiff strategy competition


Bottom Line

MMPOG strategy with classic gameplay roots. I remember logging on to the City Works BBS (Bulletin Board System) in Toronto, under the handle "Guido the Killer Pimp." Hey, give me a break--I was like 14 or something. BBSes in those days were considered amazingly high-tech if you could have two users on simultaneously. There were simple message boards, which I'd browse using a 300 baud modem (I later upgraded to a whopping 2400 baud). Whenever I went online, I'd tie up the phone lines for literally hours downloading 32 KB files. And believe it or not, I would play online games on these BBSes.

One of those games was Trade Wars.

Trade Wars was a great game because you could play it online against other players. You commanded a ship, and you traveled throughout space looking for planets with valuable resources. You'd pick those resources up, and try to find a starbase to sell them at the optimal price. With the money, you'd buy some fighters, and then go looking for the other players, and try to destroy them. The top traders were ranked for all to see, and I was obsessed with making the grade.

Later versions of Trade Wars became more complex, with neutral space where newbies could reside in safety, ship customization, an allegiance system, and so on. This was the mid-to-late eighties, on the precursor to the Internet; pretty impressive for the time.

Okay, history lesson over. I'm feeling old anyway. Skip ahead to 2001, when Realm Interactive got the rights from Epic Interactive. Realm is going to make a new version of the game, Trade Wars: Dark Millennium.

We will be going from a text-driven interface to a persistent world, real time strategy game with RPG elements, set in "an enormous virtual 3D world comprised of planetary and space environments," according to Realm. Unlike the original Trade Wars, where one player took a turn, used up their moves and then waited for their next game session, Dark Millennium will be a MMPOG (massive multiplayer online game). Realm says it is aiming for "hundreds of thousands of people in the persistent game world." The Dark Millennium game sessions will be partitioned into shards of "several thousand people."

The look may be radically different, but the activities will be familiar to veteran traders. Realm says that you'll be able to "build empires with other players and work towards common goals," and "establish trade routes, mine resources, pirate, hunt creatures, and wage war against opposing empires." In addition, you'll have different "cultures" to command, "each with their own technology and special abilities."

Realm Interactive is a new developer that wants to become a big name in MMPOGs, especially now that future consoles will be Internet-ready. They plan to build a community around Dark Millennium, with a ranking system, timed competitions, and tournaments for prizes and prestige. There will also be public tests before the final is released.

The people at Realm describe themselves as "old Trade Wars fans" and even contacted the original game's creator, John Pritchett, for his input on Dark Millennium. Realm says that they "hope to keep him involved in the process as the game progresses."

The PC version of Trade Wars: Dark Millennium is scheduled to release Q4 2001 for the PC, with Macintosh, Linux and console versions "slated for release soon thereafter." Realm Interactive says they are building the game with "cross platform compatibility in mind," and are even planning on making a version of the game for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 "in the future."

The official site of the game, http://www.tradewars.com/, is now open.

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