Jumpgate: Evolution is a MMORPG set in space; we've gone from having none of these sorts of games to a definite influx. Jumpgate, however, seems to stand head and shoulders above its competition, perhaps due to its extended development time. Codemasters has been working along with NetDevil, who was on hand to show me the friends and family server they have running to alpha test the game. Sadly, I don't think they'll let me sneak on after the show, but it was an informative visit.
I created a new character and needed to choose between the three nations; the missions aren't any different, but the starting areas vary slightly and there are some minor storyline differences. I chose the mercenary factions (they were associated with blue), chose to be female, found a girl with a suitably angry face, and took off into space in my trusty ship. There was no need to choose a class; that would be decided later as I chose different types of equipment and skills. I zipped around the 1-10 zone doing some quests before docking for a rest. I was able to equip my ship and noticed as I levelled I would gain more slots for guns, equipment, and other valuable items.
Once players have completed the initial zone specific to their faction, they will enter a 10-20 zone where they can mingle among the three factions, making alliances, joining guild-type organizations, and improving their game skills. From there, each level bracket will come with a set of zones: 20-30 PVE, 20-30 PVP, 30-40 PVE/PVP, and finally 40-50 PVE/PVP, making six advanced zones in total, with 50 being the current level limit at launch. This means those interested in a more edgy experience with the danger of enemy encounter at any time can still talk and associate with their non-aggressive, grind-happy friends without being separated.
The thing that really struck me in Jumpgate was the attention to detail — for example, the mail system is currently planned as a very dynamic part of the game, where messages shoot off out of stations and will zap right to the player's ship even while they are away from a docking port. There's lots of menus in the ports, making managing character, inventory, ships, vendors, auction housing, and other typical town MMORPG tasks a breeze.
With the ability to easily pick up various roles (tank/damage/healing), Jumpgate looks to be a very fluid game for those willing to take a plunge. Though there's no official release date beyond a hopeful 2009 release, players in North America and Europe interested in a different sort of online experience should keep this title in mind when thinking about their next MMO adventure.