Planet Cyrene

There’s more than money at stake in this intriguing FPS/MMO

As long as there have been MMOs, there’ve been dice. Not actual in-game dice, mind you; instead, we’ve been looking over our characters’ shoulders while virtual dice are rolled behind the scenes to determine our accuracy. Although skill-based first-person combat has crept into the genre with match-based games like CrimeCraft, real-time FPS combat hasn’t made its way into a truly open-world MMO like WoW or Champions Online. Planet Cyrene wants to be the first of its kind, a full open-world MMO with skill-based action combat in the first-person perspective, with some premier social features like player-run facilities and guild-owned real estate. Oh, and everything you pick up in-game can be converted into real US dollars.

Unless you’re a fat cat millionaire that lights his cigars with billion-dollar bills, that last bit about “real US dollars” probably caused you to forget everything else just now. So explain that part first: Planet Cyrene is affiliated with Entropia Universe, an online games platform (and genuine Swiss bank) that provides in-game currency with a fixed exchange rate to the US Dollar (10:1). This means that every time you loot a corpse or sell an item at the auction house, you receive, for all intents and purposes, real money. Of course it goes both ways: You’re going to be a lot more upset that someone wiped the raid when you’re forking over real dough for the repair bill - not to mention even more disappointed as the decline of the dollar begins to affect your in-game assets as well.


Above: Will you have the skills to pay your real-life bills?

But before you declare your undying love for (or holy war against) the idea of a real money economy in an MMO, Ed Robles, Planet Cyrene’s creative director, wants to make it clear that their primary focus is to make a great game that lets you meet people and play with friends, not milk others for money or get rich quick. During my trip to Creative Kingdom’s Thailand studios, Robles told me, “I think some players will play Planet Cyrene just to make a profit, and some of them will be successful at that. But if they’re coming to the game for that reason only, they’re not really our target market. We want people that are going to enjoy the game - that’s why we’re focusing on gameplay aspects like questing.”

So while the real money economy might be big news for players, it’s just a business model for the developers - one that allows them to distribute their game for free to as many players as possible. In fact, like other free-to-play MMOs, Robles assures us that Planet Cyrene will have more than enough content even if you don’t spend a dime. “There are those that are rich in time and there are those that are rich in money, and there’s an excellent balance in the game. It’s going to be a fair system.”

At its core, Planet Cyrene has all the elements of an open-world MMO: sci-fi/fantasy setting on a futuristic world where robot armies and shamanistic natives battle for control, quests, crafting, exploring, etc. But then it mixes things up a bit. First, there are no character levels; instead skill levels for the different weapons, crafting professions, and the rest are raised naturally by performing the relevant action, a la Fallout 3. Also similar to Fallout 3, players will be able to choose their reactions to different groups they’ll encounter throughout the game, and they can pick their primary faction allegiance early on (defending natives vs. invading robots). Lastly, while the developers were tight-lipped regarding specifics of the game’s combat system, they did confirm that combat is not only “skill-based” and “in FPS view” but also that some PvP modes will allow for third-person perspective.


Above: Janus, the last great city of man, is heavily inspired by Roman architecture

In the vein of more social-focused experiences like Second Life, Planet Cyrene will also let gamers play music in designated areas as in-game DJs, purchase land, and own houses and facilities that have unique physical representations in the world. Developer Creative Kingdom’s roots are as a premier architecture design company, the effect of which became evident to me when I walked into a room filled with 10 giant 3D models of zones in the game. Everything from an underwater city to a giant tree with villages hanging from its branches to an epic battle inside a live volcano had been carefully crafted, showing off impressive, exotic architecture design. We expect that this high level of stylized fantasy architecture in the game world will be matched in the options players are given for designing their player-owned facilities.

Aug 21, 2009

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