Back in December, Westwood Studios denied the rumour they were developing a massively multiplayer online title. Now, several months later, it looks like there is some substance to the speculation, as the magazine Computer Gaming World,
Red2.org, and Westwood's own site have information concerning the game, which will be entitled Earth & Beyond. Much of the information here comes from Computer Gaming World.
Earth & Beyond is a science-fiction based MMORPG, a field which is growing in size with such other titles as Anarchy Online and
Star Wars Galaxies generating a lot of interest in the gaming community. This particular title is set in the 23rd century, and depicts humanity struggling to recover from a near-armageddon which took place 100 years prior. Civilization is still living in a state of cold war, and three factions struggle for dominance. The Terran Alliance holds earth, and are described as 'voraciously capitalist'. The Jenquai live on one of Jupiter's moons, and are a people much involved in science and research. Finally, there is the Progen republic, which consists mostly of warlike, genetically engineered colonist warriors inhabiting Mars. This game takes place on a huge scale; there are gigantic space ships, mammoth space stations, and even some of the monsters dwarf player ships.
In an effort to create a more immersive experience, Westwood is hoping to incorporate fan fiction into
Earth & Beyond in the form of players reporting game events. In fact, this could even become a type of character if the role Westwood envisions here is successful. Further enhancing this online-but-real approach is the planned ability to buy and sell items online- but out of the game. While this is by no means a new idea(as a quick visit to ebay will attest to), it sounds as though Westwood has a few surprises up their sleeves in this regard.
Earth & Beyond is currently slated for a Fall 2001 release. Westwood is currently accepting applications for beta testing of the game; those who are interested can apply
here. Note, however, that all applicants must be over 18 in order to qualify. While no pricing information for the game has yet been released, Westwood has confirmed they intend to charge a monthly subscription fee. Keep watching RPGamer as more information about this game becomes available.