You're a galactic warlord with the latest space tech and a pile of resources burning a hole in your pocket. What kind of spaceship would you like to design? You'll get to answer that question in a million ways if you play Beyond Protocol, an online game being developed by Dark Sky Entertainment. It will feature infinitely customizable ships, a massive technology tree and a persistent online galaxy that grows and changes (and attacks your forces) even when you're offline. I got a chance to check it out at the Origins Game Fair a few weeks ago, and it looks to be a deep game that will fully engage your brain.
Beyond Protocol is a MMORTS, as their PR rep told me somewhat apologetically. That's a Massively Multiplayer Online Real-Time Strategy game. Like a traditional RTS, players start with a basic home base where they begin to collect resources and start researching new technologies. As they build their armies and armadas, they'll expand their territory and ally themselves with other nearby players. Or try to conquer them. Combat can occur both planetside and in space - the demo screens on display at Origins showed large fleets of ships circling eerily in unison over futuristic cityscapes, then suddenly turning and flying off en masse.
Rather than creating a bunch of cookie cutter units, each player will use their technologies to design their own ships, with different types of weapons, armor, shields and other parts aligned in unique combinations. If you're not interested in warfare, you can put your designs on the open market and make a fortune as a trader, or set up an espionage ring and steal secrets from other players. A galactic senate will allow diplomatic and political strategies as well. When you log off, your units will take up defensive positions and use their AI to defend if you're attacked. Don't trust the AI? You can set up email or mobile alerts and direct your empire from afar.
Beyond Protocol is still in closed beta, but a monthly fee will be required to play once it goes live later this year. They're still refining the game and working on a comprehensive tutorial. That's a good thing, because this game looks very complicated. In their own FAQ, Dark Sky describes it as, "one of the most intense and complex games ever made." Probably not a "jump in for an hour and have some fun" type of game, but if you're looking for something really challenging and in depth, Beyond Protocol looks like it might have a lot to offer.