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Publisher: Mightygames
Developer: Netdevil
Scheduled Release Date: 2000

Written By: Brian Rubin
Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2001

In the last few years, we’ve seen a surge of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG’s from now on), and most of these have stayed within the realm of fantasy, such as Ultima Online or Everquest. While we do have on-line sims, such as Warbirds or Air Warrior, none have really melded the concept of simulation and role-playing in a contemporary or futuristic setting…until now. Welcome to Jumpgate, what the developers call “your next life.” This, fortunately, isn’t far from the truth.

Jumpgate is a futuristic space sim/role playing game in which you take the role of one of three humanoid factions, the Octavians, the Solrains, or the Quantar. Each of these three factions has their own strengths and weaknesses, such as combat or mining, and your playing style will help determine which faction is best for you. The game is a sim because you fly a craft all around the known universe, completing missions and gaining funds. The game is also a role playing game because you advance in levels, prestige, and capabilities as you acquire more money and experience.

The story of Jumpgate, according to the website, goes something like this:

It was a time of light, it was a time of darkness. The four systems had prospered greatly within the balance that only peaceful coexistence could bring. Each of the known systems had something to offer the others, who were all eager to receive. The ancient axes which had been ground for millennia between the traditionalists of the Octavian empire and the rebellious commonwealth of Solrain had long since been buried. The vicious, seemingly eternal struggles between Quantar and Hyperial forces had been peacefully resolved. Then occurred the unthinkable... an event of religious armageddon for some, an event of impossible chaotic chance for others.

To this day, no one fully understands what happened, but the memoirs of Desigrey Hettir, Cornea Station's first commanding governor, attempt to provide the simplest description possible.

When the dust settled, chaos and confusion were all that remained. The planet Solrain, so long the seat tribunal of the four systems, had vanished. Although remote contact with the planet's massive informational databases was still possible, no one was able to locate its physical position. All communication between the systems was lost.

Some millennia passed, as the inhabitants of the sixth planet of the Solrain system began to rediscover the mysteries of the new world around them. The ancient technologies that powered the great civilization were mysteriously ineffective. Indeed, it was a great task to rediscover the basic natural principles which now seemed to govern the galaxy. The Solrain Reconstruction Initiative was founded in order to overcome these obstacles, and begin the re-establishment of what once was. After some time, SRI scientists discovered strange fluctuations in gravity fields within the galaxy. After much trial and error, the first gyroscopic gravity de-fluxer was created. The great Sorian thinker, Watt Jeffries Samon, conjectured that if one could counter the gravitational fluctuations, long distance space flight could again become a reality. His theories proved true, and the first "jumpgate" was born. The gravity anomalies in certain points of space became commonly known as "gravity wells". W.J. Samon's plans were to build artificial de-fluxers surrounding a gravity well, thus allowing physical matter to simultaneously exist in 2 completely different points in space at the same time. If it worked, a spacecraft would be able to "jump" between the two points instantly.

Two Sorian years after construction began, the brave initiates for the maiden voyage boarded the virgin craft built to travel through the first jumpgate, christened the "Revival I". They carried with them the hopes and dreams of a broken system and its life forms. It was the chance that all had been waiting for, to restore the golden age that the history databases described with such honest detail.

Unfortunately, triumph led to tragedy as the Revival hurtled towards the jumpgate... it vanished, and never returned...

Deep in Quantar space, a strange bluish pyramid appeared in the heavens, quickly noted by Quantar astronomers. It was quickly decided that a probe should be sent to investigate the strange ornament, which crackled with unknown energies. As the probe came closer, an alien craft was found drifting less than a click away from the pyramid. The craft was covered in a liquid black film and whatever was alive inside was now dead; charred bodies shaken into pieces as if struck by an ancient disrupter. Later research confirmed that co-existing in multiple points of space simultaneously causes a specific set of synapses in the normal human brain to overload and misfire. This malfunction sets off an enormous chain reaction of gravitic energies within the body. In the case of the Revival I, this caused spontaneous combustion of all of her crew.

Ancient Quantar religious texts prophesized a "visitor of the night, who swims the bottomless seas...", which was instantly applied to the find. The prophesy predicted a re-dawn of prosperity. This generated massive excitement and hope for the Quantar people, and so an unmanned ship was built to send into the pyramid in hopes of fulfilling the prophecy. The craft contained an assortment of messages in various languages, hoping for some communication with whomever was responsible for the pyramid's appearance. The mission met with success, and dialog began between the people of Quantar and Solrain. Not long after initial contact, Quantar scientists discovered the genetic breakthrough which allowed safe passage of life forms through the gravity wells. Quantar joined the Solrian Reconstruction Initiative, which then became known as it is today, simply "The Reconstruction Initiative". TRI began to grow in power and credibility.

The genetic alteration, however, was determined to have some highly desirable side effects, most notably that the recipient typically gains super-human abilities within an environment of constant low gravitational force. The Reconstruction Initiative proudly released these results and began a large scale recruitment program delivering fame and fortune for all who signed. Rules and regulations, law and order, ethics and morals were all suspended from the Initiatives' charter in favor of rapid expansion. The move proved valuable to TRI as all manner of life forms from all corners of the known systems began joining in hopes of a brighter future . . .

Pretty interesting stuff. It’s apparent that a lot of time and effort was put into the storyline of Jumpgate, and it shows not only in the background fiction such as this, but in the game itself. In this preview, we’ll take a detailed look at Jumpgate, and explain why it might, indeed, be your next life. If the beta I played is any indication, this one is going to be a whopper. Why, you ask? Read on my friend.


On its surface, Jumpgate plays very similarly to other games in the genre, like Privateer or Terminus. Once you dive a little deeper beneath the surface, however, you can see just how much is going on in this game. Let’s start with the player factions (there are actually five main factions in the game, but three are available to the player).

We first come to the Octavius faction. This is the warrior faction of the game, and their equipment is the most power hungry and offensively geared in the game. Octavians are mainly mercenaries for hire, and their ships, weapons, and equipment, are all geared for combat, above all else. The next faction is the Quantar, who believe in deep, natural relationships with the cosmos. They are called “terrifying holy warriors,” but the mainstay of Quantar society is mining. Their equipment and ships have a more natural, flowing look to them, and are also a bit bulkier than some of their sleeker counterparts. Finally, we have the Solrain, who are the efficient manufacturers of the group. Solrain equipment is usually some of the best non-combat oriented equipment around, boasting a level of efficiency unmatched by some of the other faction’s equipment.

What does this all mean for the player? Basically, when choosing a faction, each of the three factions will cater to a certain player’s style. If one wants to be heavy on combat, they’d choose the Octavians, while if one wanted to be heavy on trading and economic matters, they’d choose the Solrain. While three factions might seem a bit skimpy, their definitions are broad enough to allow for a wide variety of player styles, such as a Quantar Mercenary or an Octavian Miner. The three factions also have different bonuses when starting a career, such as more credits or better armor.

Once a faction is chosen, it’s time to get into the game and do the one thing that drives many games of this type…make money. In Jumpgate, there are several ways to go about this, including mining, missions, trade, combat, and so on. We’ll take a look at these in detail. When a new pilot is starting out, there are few options available to them. While unarmed, combat is not an option, so missions or mining is usually the order of the day. Missions come in eight varieties, including Combat, Scout, Patrol, Cargo, Transport, Mining, Faction, and TRI. Many of these missions have three different levels, the lowest being the easiest and quickest to complete, while the highest offers the bigger payoff at the expense of a higher difficulty and time commitment. The missions, for the most part, are pretty self-explanatory. Combat usually tasks you with killing a certain amount of Conflux (the AI enemy in the game), ships. Scout usually requires you to purchase a camera or scanner, and either take pictures of a station, or scan an anomaly. Patrol is just that…go to certain sectors patrol through them. Cargo and Mining missions usually involve getting a certain amount of a substance, whether it be a commodity for cargo or a mineral for mining, and bring it to a specific station for sale. These missions can be difficult for new players, as cargo bays on the beginning scouts can be quite small. Transport missions are basically “Fed-Ex” missions, meaning you basically take an item from one place to another.

The last two missions, Faction and TRI, aren’t as self-explanatory. Faction missions can differ from faction to faction, depending on who’s station you’re on at the time. This could include combat, scouting, or patrol, and is never really the same. TRI missions are very long patrol missions where the payoff in credits is large, but the payoff in Experience Points is always the same. Speaking of which, we’ll now come to the next “currency” in the game, Experience Points.

Experience Points are the lifeblood of any pilot. When starting as a new pilot, you have no experience points, and must get a certain amount to get to the next level. Completing a mission gives you experience points, as does successful combat, and flipping beacons. Flipping beacons means that, on the map, each system has a TRI beacon, which can be flipped, using a piece of equipment, to your faction’s color. If you flip the beacon’s color, you’ll get experience points for holding the beacon for a certain amount of time. This can be dangerous business, as flipping a beacon in occupied or faction space can really tick some people off.

Experience points are very important, because much of the equipment is restricted to certain levels. For example, a Quantar needs to be of level three in order to buy the next ship up from the default scout, but might need to be level nineteen in order to buy that big gun that they want for that same ship. This is where the concept of levels becomes so important. With higher levels comes higher payoffs in missions, better equipment, more money (you get a bonus every time you reach a new level), and more responsibility, especially if you’re a member of a squad (which we’ll discuss later).

Another important factor (and the real stars of the show) are the ships themselves, and Jumpgate has a plethora of them. Ships are broken down into several classes, including Scout, Light Fighter, Fighter, Transport, and Cargo Tow. You begin the game with a scout, which is pretty dinky as ships go, but usually pretty maneuverable, so it’s a good place to start. Each ship serves a different function. The scout is best used for patrol and transport missions. The fighters are best used for combat and escort duty. The Transport is best used for mining missions, and the Cargo Tow is best for transporting large amounts of goods from one station to another (Cargo Tows usually have hundreds of spaces of cargo room). Each ship behaves differently depending on faction, size, and cargo. Light fighters are quite maneuverable, while Cargo Tow’s (especially when fully laden with cargo), fly like drunk cows covered in molasses, as they should.

While there are several different ships, there’s even a wider variety of equipment. Equipment is broken down into several categories, including Power Plants, Capacitors, Guns, Missiles, Engines, Shields, Radar, ECM, and MODX. Power Plants are the heart of your ship, and give power to every system on board. If, for example, you buy powerful engines, but have the default (i.e. crappy) power plant, you’ll wonder why your radar doesn’t work when going full thrust. Capacitors are your weapon’s power reserve, and are used to power energy weapons. Bigger capacitors mean less power drain and more available power for your energy weapons (projectile weapons use no energy).

Guns are obvious, and there are several different types to chose from. As a recruit, you’ll probably begin with a low-end mining laser, which is used to mine asteroids, but useless against fighting enemies. There is, then, laser weaponry, which come in a wide variety of damage, power use, rate of fire, and so on. While some laser weaponry might be more powerful, it also might have a longer firing delay, making aiming all the more critical. We finally have projectile weapons, which have enormous rates of fire, do decent damage, and use no energy. Unfortunately, without the help of a targeting computer (which must be bought separately), aiming projectile weapons in Jumpgate is rather difficult. Missiles also come in a wide variety of types, based on maneuverability, damage done, and speed.

Radar, Shields, and ECM, are all self-explanatory. Radar tells you what’s in your immediate area. Shields protect you from enemy fire (or collisions, if going slow enough). ECM makes it harder for your ship to be detected on radar. MODX are completely different, however. MODX modules include equipment such as cameras for taking pictures, scanners for (obviously) scanning anomalies, BCU’s (Beacon Control Units) used to change a beacon’s color, targeting computers, and so on.

While this is a wide variety of equipment, there are several things that might prohibit you from using a certain piece, namely size, power requirements, and cost. Size is one of the most important factors. Each ship’s space (be it for a gun or an engine) has a set amount of space that it can hold. The Respect, for example, is probably the best engine you can get to fit in a size two space, while the Dream will only fit in a size five space, and is only used for larger ships. Power requirements also come into play, and also has something to do with space requirements, as the bigger a power plant you can get, the more power you’ll have. Factional equipment can also vary. Octavian equipment is very powerful, but not terribly efficient, resulting in more power used. They combat this with more powerful power plants.

While the wide varieties of ships and equipment is all well and good, it wouldn’t be worth a hill of beans if it wasn’t fun to fly, and Jumpgate is pretty fun to fly. Jumpgate uses a mix of Newtonian and Conventional flight models, in which while inertia does play a part of the game, the element of drag is introduced. That means that, unlike Terminus, where you pointed your ship in a direction, fired off the engines, and just kept flying in that direction until you decided to change it, Jumpgate forces you to always keep the engines on, or else you’ll eventually come to a complete stop. While this does take some getting used to (all new pilots are HIGHLY encouraged to practice in the simulation module), it eventually becomes second nature. This especially comes into play with docking and mining, where slow speeds and touches on the breaking thrusters are mandatory. Your ship only has one fuel source, and it’s used for breaking thrusters and afterburners only, meaning that you can cruise on normal engines indefinitely. Breaking thrusters are incredibly important for mining and docking, as going over a certain speed will mean death if you collide with anything. The HUD helps with this, providing two arrows. One tells you the direction you’re currently going, while the other tells you the direction in which you need to go in order to reach the currently targeted object.

The game also has a simulation mode, which allows you to practice your maneuvers either while docking or in combat against other pilots. Simulation mode also allows you to try out any piece of equipment in the game, including every faction’s ship. This is a great way to test that upgrade you want, to see if it will work properly or not. It’s also a great way to vent out frustrations and have competitions with other pilots.

Let us now speak of the social aspect of the game. Currently, in the beta, there can be between fifty and two hundred pilots on at any one time (with more coming, assuredly). This means that the long trips between jumpgates are made easier by the constant chatting going on in the certain booths and in the systems. There are several communication modes available, including sector only (you’re talking to everyone in your sector), whispering, squadron (you can speak you fellow squadron members from anywhere in the universe, a nice touch), and global booth chats. This means that a wide variety of options are available for your conversations.

The other large social aspect to Jumpgate are the formation of Squadrons, which NetDevil fully supports through their website. Using the Jumpgate website, squads can be created and managed by squadron leaders, and some have gotten quite large (50+ players). Squadrons each have different objectives, from escort duty, to mercenary, piracy, bounty hunting, and so on. You can either ask to join a squad, or be invited to join by a squadron member, and each squadron has its own ranking system and hierarchy. I was recently asked to join a squad after a particularly exciting engagement (go RFT! *Flash* *Flash*), and I’ve found out just how much your squadmates will be willing to help each other out. The full support and inclusion of squads is great for brining a sense of camaraderie and companionship to what might otherwise be a very lonely game.

In all honesty, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the gameplay in Jumpgate. There is so much to do and see in this game that it literally boggles the mind. The game’s universe is huge (and can be made infinitely larger through use of a modular system), the variety of players, ships, and equipment are vast, while the social atmosphere, through use of squads and what not, adds something that few other games of this type have ever had. I’ve told many people that this is what multiplayer Terminus should have been like, but in all honesty, Jumpgate is a better.


The visuals in Jumpgate are more than adequate, but not stunning. This makes sense, as it keeps the current download small and lag times to a minimum. They might not match the sheer-drool factor of the reigning kings, X-Tension and Freespace 2, but they’re nicely detailed and quite pleasant on the eye. The ships and stations of the different factions look quite different, and emphasize the different styles of the factions. The Conflux have an eerie organic look to them, and some are quite frightening. The weapons effects and explosions are sparse in terms of looks, but get the job done, nonetheless. In all, while the graphics in Jumpgate won’t win it any awards, it’s game play will, which is more important.


The audio on Jumpgate is pretty good. The game uses MP3 audio for its music, and the music is different depending on who’s space your in, which is a nice touch. The sound effects are the usual we’ve come to expect from a game of this type, with the usual docking, hissing, and laser effects. A fan site, Planet Jumpgate, already has several user-created sound packs that can change the sounds of certain aspects of the game, such as the pack that changes the sound effects to those used in Independence War. Overall, the sounds add mood and atmosphere to the game, which is all anyone can ask for.


Jumpgate is multiplayer only, and while it does have an off-line mode for you to practice with, the main game is only available online. Getting online is quite easy, and while there have been some server problems, usually the game is quite stable and ping times are quite low. This is impressive, given the game’s current beta status. The social aspects of this game make the multiplayer component a must, as the game wouldn’t be any fun if just flying around with AI.

Fun Factor

This game is so much fun it should be listed as an addictive chemical. Let me put it this way. Space simmers, this is your Everquest, your Ultima Online, or your Asheron’s Call. I can barely begin to convey how much fun I’ve had with this game. I’ve played it way too much, to the point where my other projects have suffered in order to get in “one more mission” so I could get that Power Plant I’ve had my eye on. It’ll be hard, once this preview is complete, to find an excuse to keep playing, but darnit, I will, because my squad needs me. This is a game that, indeed, will become your next life, because it’s exactly the game us Elite playing, space simmers have waited for.

Bottom Line

I’ve pretty much sung the praises of Jumpgate from the mountaintop, and I could keep going. I’ve played over 50 hours of Jumpgate in the past few weeks, and I’ll probably keep playing LONG after this preview has been posted. In the best way I can think to say it, if you’ve been looking for a multiplayer, online-only version of Elite, Privateer, or Terminus, then Jumpgate is your dream game. The game is so deep, so complex, and so involving that it will suck you in and never let you go. I’m sorry, I have to stop writing now, because I need to complete that one last patrol mission in order to reach my next level. I hope to see you online…just look for a pilot named SimHead in the RFT (*Flash* *Flash*) Squadron. You can go, finally, to, Planet Jumpgate, or The Official Jumpgate Site for more information.

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