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games: empire of sports
This week, online tennis for skiers.Empire Of Sports is an unusual proposition: a PC-based sports game. Sure, EA manage a few megabucks with FIFA and Madden, but the idea gets weirder. It's a PC-based sports game that is also an online world, with a persistent sportsperson avatar. A sporting MMO.
Actually, that isn't as weird as it sounds; the idea of training up a character works pretty well. You take on a particular sport and, as you get better at it, you become fitter and stronger. The point-and-click nature of the sports, such as tennis, make them instantly approachable even by beginners, and it's remarkably intuitive even using a mouse and keyboard.
It's not just by playing that your sportsperson can find themselves buffing up there are loads of mini games, such as rhythm action and reaction-time tests that you perform in a gym. The more of these you do, the better the strength and metabolism of your character. Also, rather like the classic monster-killing RPG, there are degrees of equipment to be obtained. The more sporting tasks you undertake, the better sponsorship you can receive, and the better rackets, shoes and balls you can use.
What will be most interesting about Empire Of Sports will be to see to what extent players self-organise to create sporting teams. While it's easy enough to instantly match-make for a one-on-one game of tennis, the larger teams required for basketball or full-blown eleven-a-side soccer could prove daunting.
Nevertheless, there's every reason to believe that Empire Of Sports represents a new breed of massively multiplayer game one that takes the technology and does something other than give us another world full of orcs and elves. Expect to see more of this sort of thing in the coming years.
Empire Of Sports will be out on PC in spring 2008.
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