There's two things that are certain in game development: your game is going to take time, and it's going to cost money. These are two things that Guns of Icarus Online's developers Muse Games know very well. Earlier this year while crafting the follow-up to 2009's PC only Guns of Icarus they took to a then little-known site called Kickstarter for their second campaign (their first was the successful support of their other release, CreVatures) to raise funds and awareness for their latest creation. It's now six months later and Muse are now prepping for the launch of Icarus Online by showing off how and why it's a whole new take on team-based multiplayer games... and it's not just because of the airships.
Guns of Icarus Online attempts to venture into brand new territory for gaming by bringing multilayer airship combat home to PCs. Very few games in the past have even included airship combat as a gameplay element; instead most dirigibles are usually used more for travel than to take into battle. Icarus Online goes in a different direction and let's you don the captain's hat and man the ship yourself, at least if you're the team's leader. Borrowing from squad-based multiplayer games like Team Fortress, Icarus Online boards each ship with a crew of specialized characters that all need to play their specific roles in order to keep their ship afloat.
Aboard each steampunk-inspired airship three crewmembers steer, shoot, and repair their way to victory, helping each other out along the way. The beginning of each multiplayer match consists of one player, that is designated as the Captain, choosing the ship and its loadout, while the other crewmembers each focus on their own individual skill sets. Captains are tasked with setting up the matches, as well as steering the ship and using their spyglass to mark enemies off in the distance. The Gunners focus on taking out opposing ships using their boat's artillery. Should your ship take damage, it's left up to the Engineer to run around and make the necessary repairs.
Each class has three skill spots dedicated to the tools of their respective trade, but they can also borrow one skill from the other two classes to help offset the duties of each player. This creates a team that's more well-rounded than siloed, allowing each character to do a little bit of everyone's job, but do theirs the best. It's an interesting way to craft a team dynamic, and much more realistic than just having everyone be the best at everything.
In a pleasant turn of events, the players aren't the ones in the line of fire, instead their ship is the target. This means that the players can't die, but if their ship goes down, the match is over. This mechanic takes the onus of individual survival off of the player, and instead turns the team's focus to protecting the ship, forcing everyone aboard to work towards a common goal. It also reinforces the idea that performing the duties of their particular class type is vital to their success.
After spending a few minutes aboard a couple of the airships in the game it's pretty clear that Muse have created a truly unique and intensely hectic game. Players need to split their attention between spotting foes, putting out fires, and launching explosives if they want to be the last ones standing. Covering the different decks of the ships, running from gun to engine to helm is clearly something that isn't a one-man task, and communication with your shipmates is key. Overall, it's a multiplayer experience that stands alone in terms of content and execution.
Guns of Icarus Online is still being put through its paces in beta testing, a reward for backers that contributed to the Kickstarter, and is on track to be released this August. If you'd like to stay abreast of all of the game's latest developments, you can checkout Muse's exceptionally comprehensive website for the game, providing both an overview of all the game's features, alongside some of the serious nitty-gritty of the game's design.