A little known developer named Reakktor Media are the designers behind Neocron, an ever-evolving, ever-growing massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) that looks set to be one of the hottest online releases of 2001.
Role-playing games are coming back into fashion as games like "EverQuest", "Ultima Online", and Microsoft's "Asheron's Call" dominate the online gaming community. But unlike any of the aforementioned games, Neocron will be set in a Bladerunner-esque 27th century, and with it will come different gameplay and rules...
The world is in upheaval as pollutants spoil the air, toxic waste layers the ground, and aggressive factions sprout up over the face of the planet. You play a hapless civilian fighting to make a living in this mess of a world, trapped behind magnetic shielding to protect yourself from the poisoness atmosphere outside.
Neocron will feature an entire city to peruse, split up into four districts. Surrounding the city there will be the Outzone, and beyond that the Wastelands, although radiation means that you will need protective clothing to enter those areas.
Each player will have their own apartment, where nobody can kill them, and where other players can come to visit and trade in private. The monetary system in Neocron will be based around the players, which means you can actually own your own shop. This is an intriguing idea - you could build your own business empire and hire other players to do your dirty work.
Players will also have the ability to interact with their world, accessing e-mail and bank accounts from terminals, going to JobTerm to find quests and to advertise jobs, reading about other players, browsing the Neocron BBS, or using their implanted eOrganiser.
Like System Shock 2, Neocron includes real time combat which is more based around first person shooter style skills than EverQuest's sedate turn-based fighting.
This will no doubt be welcome news to the masses who cry out for more action in their RPGs - forget the days of sitting patiently while your character automatically lashes out with your sword every couple of seconds in a robotic action.
Despite the more hands-on combat though, Neocron will still give players the usual attributes such as strength and agility, and these will be adjustable both when the character is first generated, and throughout the game by using special items such as implants and BioBoosts.
Items like these will be available at different prices, but instead of them all having the same effect on players, they will have different qualities depending on price, where they are bought, and who from. Cheap implants can have adverse side-effects such as dizziness, slowness, and loss of health.
And that's not all - there's the use of HoverBikes to ride around the city; the ability to form clans and take over entire zones; the developers' ability to create new quests after the game has been released; the CopBots and other NPCs, with AI that lets them hunt in packs...
Although the game won't be out until some time mid-way through 2001, I know my name's already down for the public beta-test towards the end of this year. For more information on the game, or to sign up to be a beta-tester, visit the official Neocron website, or the developers Reakktor.