I spent the last couple of weeks tooling around the game's tutorials and early mission content as well as observing Perpetuum's community and customer service offerings. Due to the size of the community and the bare-bones approach to customer service, this week's issue of Community Detective departs from my standard data-centric format in favor of some general impressions. Join me after the cut to see what's happening on the planet Nia.
If it sounds like EVE Online, that's intentional, as Avatar has clearly taken quite a few design chapters from CCP's indie sandbox playbook. There's offline skilling, mission hubs that function exactly like EVE's space stations, similar gear and fitting mechanics, and a vast learning curve that serves to gate the emergent gameplay behind a wall of complexity that can put off those unwilling or unable to devote several play sessions to figuring out how basic things work.
Perpetuum's UI is dense, highly customizable, and at times confusing, as are some of the game's early goals. The tutorials, like EVE's, are mainly exercises in reading lengthy text boxes and applying what you've learned. I say all that with a smile on my face though, as it's just what the doctor ordered if you're looking to sidestep MMORPG cliches (and you're taking a break from New Eden).
I spent the majority of my trial period in a little Arkhe starter bot (and later a Mark II upgrade) that scuttles along the ground like a mechanical crab. I shot a ton of drones, mined a lot of ore, and performed a handful of delivery missions in order to earn NIC (the game's currency) and get my bearings. I also did a fair bit of random exploring and found that Perpetuum serves up a pleasing mix of gritty sci-fi hardware and appealing atmosphere.
For my first question, I solicited a bit of help on one of the tutorial missions:
This is, of course, no different from any MMO, except for the fact that community is everything in games like Perpetuum and EVE where even figuring out the UI often requires assistance from another player. Happily, this bunch seems to be devoid of some of the arsehats I've encountered in the global chats of the larger themeparks, and everyone is, on the whole, very helpful.
Unsurprisingly, Perpetuum's community seems to feature a high concentration of disaffected EVE vets and the occasional curiosity-seeker. In fact, the game's global chat features EVE-related discussions almost as frequently as it does those concerning Perpetuum. All in all it's a pretty amiable bunch, though, and there are generally around 200 souls in general chat during East coast U.S. evenings and weekends. During off hours, you'll see this number drop to around 100, give or take, but the good news is that there's always someone around to answer questions thanks to the round-the-clock GM presence.
I didn't have any gameplay problems during my Perpetuum tour of duty, but if I had, contacting customer service (and receiving a response) happens much more quickly than in most of the other games profiled in Community Detective.
If you need a paper trail for your support issues, Avatar does offer email assistance, and GMs also read and respond to the game's forums with regularity.
Perpetuum, its community, and its customer service were all pretty pleasant experiences, and the game just might be what you're looking for if you like your MMOs on the complex side and you don't mind the substantial similarities to EVE Online.
Aion to Zentia, the Community Detective case files are an essential part of any game-hopper's research library. Suggestions welcome, care of firstname.lastname@example.org.