For me and some other people this is a very exciting piece of news because “Face of Mankind” is very different from anything else in the MMO genre. The graphics are really good compared to many other MMORPG games, and you can play the game either in third-person or first person mode. The game is actually a hybrid of a massively multiplayer RPG and a first person shooter game. The most unique feature of the game is that it is truly player-driven. According to the yesterday announcement, the game will be somewhat different when it relaunches but it seems that many core features might remain unchanged.
For those who have no clue what type of game it is, I can provide a description of the game from the days when I was playing it a lot (in 2005-2006). During the character creation you joined one of the eight factions: Law Enforcement Department (= police forces), Freedom Defence Corps (= military forces), Mercenaries of the Blood (= mercenary organisation), Brotherhood of Shadows (= criminal syndicate), Guardians of Mankind (= pacifist clan?), Eurocore (= corporation #1), Vortex Inc (= corporation #2), Colonisation and Mining Guild (= corporation #3). Each faction was either allied, neutral or hostile with other factions. The relations changed according to factions’ agendas. Agendas were decided by the highest ranking player characters in the faction (i.e., army general, police commissioner, chief executive officer of the corporation etc.). The most organised factions had regular meetings of high-ranking members to decide their agendas. The realisation of the agendas in daily game-play was the responsibility of player characters who were on the middle steps of their faction’s hierarchy (i.e. police detectives, captains, lieutenants, vice presidents etc.). They had enough access rights to their faction’s database to be able to set up missions for lower ranking faction members (patrol cops, enforcers, sergeants, soldiers, miners, workers, supervisors etc.). Setting up a mission involved determining when mission starts and ends, what are the primary and secondary objectives, where it takes place, what money rewards are granted from faction funds for participating in the mission etc. People who created missions could also write a short text describing the missions and some special conditions or things that had to be taken into account. In the old version of the game players could also review missions after it was completed or failed (apparently so that higher ranking players could later monitor or evaluate the performance if they wanted).
There were no real NPCs or monsters in the game because it was mainly based on the interactions between players and factions. It was therefore possible to play the game in many different ways. Many people played it simply as a first person shooter game and didn’t care much about anything else, while there were also many who played it is an economics/politics game or a role-playing game. It might be the only massively multiplayer game where the game mechanics allowed you through your game-play to role-play a police officer spontaneusly without actually “role-playing” it. For example, the daily game-play of low rank cops consisted of patrolling streets and malls with other cops or alone, scanning bypassers for drugs, stunning and arresting player characters with “criminal points” (sending them to prison planet), guarding the prison planet so that criminals wouldn’t escape from there etc. Of course, there were always some corrupt cops who took risks and bought and used drugs themselves (“Brotherhood of Shadows” was the only faction who could manufacture drugs) or who prefered to kill criminals instead of stunning and arresting them, spied on their department and its agendas in favor of other factions, etc. If you preferred to work for the "government" but not in police forces, you could join the army ("Freedom Defense Corps"). Their game-play was different. Sergeants and corporals would take new soldiers to a shooting range or order them to stand in lines and different formations during exercise missions on board their starship, the GDC Yukon, and they’d even fine people for disobedience (remove some exp or game credits from character via faction database). For many new players joining the "FDC" this was sometimes the only way to get experience points and credits, so most people were quite obedient. One of the role-playing purposes for the army was to co-operate with police forces if the chief of police would declare martial law. This actually did happen occasionally. For example, some clan decided to take over a mall at Brooklyn in New York on Earth once and the police chief declared martial law. All police officers were ordered to retreat to another planet and army forces entered the area. Space marines were also known to participate in the defense of planets far away from Earth against some alien invasions and they took part in some corporation wars.
Anyway, you can probably get the picture what kind of game it is and why I am excited about this announcement.
Meanwhile, there's a video trailer from 2006. Unfortunately, the video doesn't have a sound for some reason, but it gives a nice overview of some elements of the game. The beginning of the video shows the different factions and some game-play on Earth. Then at 2:22 it skips to a colony outside our solar system and from 3:56 to the end it shows a deep space colony under a small scale alien invasion.
Originally the game failed for a few obvious reasons. It wasn't advertised much and it was released from beta into retail in April 2006 in a somewhat unfinished state. The game's community decreased dramatically because many players didn't want to pay for it, but the unique concept of the game requires a lot of active players to make the game interesting. Unfortunately, people who were completely unfamiliar with the game didn't get any free trail options to try it out before buying it. The game struggled for half a year in such a state and then died off because the player population kept decreasing and the game's distributor backed off from the deal. Yesterday, after almost one year break, the game developer has announced that the game will be resurrected in cooperation with another company with a new "free account"/"premium account" system.
I'll try to remember to bump this thread when "Face of Mankind" launches open beta. Until then, links to a nice trailer and some videos showing a few aspects of daily life in (old) FoM and some more info about the game.
FoM has somewhat controversial close-quarter gunfighting for a first/third person shooter game. There are a few people who don't like it at all and some people who really like it. Some optimists have said that it has distant similarities to "Gun Kata".
FoM has never been about killing some NPC monsters for exp and loot. You acquired experience points only by doing missions which were created by higher-ranking members of your faction. Experience points were needed only to gain higher rank in the faction and higher rank didn't give you any other benefits except some more social power in your faction. You got credits by doing missions or manufacturing products/items and selling them on the market to other players (who got their credits from missions). You got items by manufacturing them yourself, buying from players or killing players and looting them.
One of the things I really hate about many scifi MMORPGs (Neocron, Anarchy Online etc.) is that they have a lot of ridiculous-looking items, creatures and player character outfits/clothes. For me that stuff seriously damages the feeling of "immersiveness". Fortunately, the number of silly-looking items, objects and clothes is really low in FoM.
Many people are hoping that new FoM will retain the old manufacturing system because it was quite interesting and unique. Overall, there weren't too many items in FoM. Before you could manufacture something, you had to buy a "production module" for that type of item. If you became richer later, you could buy more production modules and had bigger variety of items you could produce. Item production involved some interesting manufacturing processes. For example, to manufacture a fragmentation grenade you had to build a titanium alloy core and a bunch of plastic balls for it. To produce the components for a fragmentation grenade, you had to get some specific minerals (iron, aluminium, coal, chemicals), then process them into some specific raw materials (steel, aluminium alloy, coal fibre, plastic). You had to spend time and credits on initiating mineral extraction operations on planets, transporting the minerals to a planet with manufacturing capabilities and manufacturing raw materials, item components and the actual items.
Fragmentation grenade was one of the most simple items to manufacture. However, manufacturing something advanced like a sniper rifle was very complicated because it had to be built from a lot of different components and even making an optical lens for a rifle's scope wasn't a simple task. There were three QL (quality levels) for each item in the game. To produce a QL3 item, you needed to get QL3 and possibly some QL1 or QL2 minerals and/or raw materials. Drug production was a bit different because you had to experiment with a "test tube" interface and come up with the right combination of substances in "red", "green", "yellow" and "blue" tube. After a game version patch only one faction remained with the ability to produce drugs ("Brotherhood of Shadows") .
The list of all items:
Armor: lvl 1-9 torso armor, leg armor, arm armor, helmet (there were nine sets of armor for each faction)
Weapons: knife, 2-3 pistols, 3-4 rifles and (sub)machine guns (1-2 with sniper scope), 2 plasma weapons, frag and emp grenades
Ammo: rubber, AP and FMJ 9mm bullet clips (for pistols), AP and FMJ 7.62mm bullet clips (for rifles), plasma cells
Supplies: biocells (for implants) and small/medium/large medikits
Implants: shoulder lamp, night-vision goggles, energy field implant, stamina implant, drug scanner (for scanning other players for drugs)
Illegal substances: amphetamine, dopamine etc. (at least 9-12 different drugs)
Misc: pizza, milkshake, faction-specific clothes, eye-glasses (9 different styles)
The game had been in open beta for two years and it had been completely free. After beta test the client was still free but they added 10-12$ monthly subscription and it wasn't possible to play it for free anymore.
Now they are planning to relaunch it with "free account"/"premium account" system. The client will most likely be free again and people with free accounts won't need to pay anything to play the game. It's still unknown what benefits premium accounts will have compared to free accounts.
The only problem now is that the developers are forced to make some changes to the game (probably to simplify it) and it will initially re-launch in a limited state. The game was shut down originally because it ran on a big and expensive server cluster and there weren't enough subscribers to cover the costs and expenses. They have now found a new company which can provide servers to run the game but apparently they need a more cost-efficient solution in order to avoid their old problems. After the launch they are hoping to expand the game gradually to its original size.