Kick off for sports

Martin Korda fires the starting pistol as the MMOSG race gets underway

More predictable than Man United overturning a deficit with a last-minute goal, it was only ever going to be a matter of time until we started seeing the emergence of MMO sports games.

First up is Empire of Sports (www.empireofsports.com), which sees you creating a sportsperson and training them up to become a super athlete, capable of competing in a variety of challenges. From the brains of French developer F4, Empire of Sports is promising to deliver strong community features, with several cities - each with their own style and vibe - providing the backdrop for player interaction.


After creating an avatar, you'll need to head to the gym and start honing your character's stats. Avatars will react to training and exertion like real people, and by that we don't mean they'll slump into a chair and stare at vacuous TV because they can't be arsed to reach for the remote.

Your character will use energy and lose fluids, while their physical appearance will be dictated by their training and the quality of food you force down their virtual pie holes. Your character's performance will also depend on how you've trained them, what equipment they have, and their personal skill at each sport.

Set to launch at the end of 2007, Empire of Sports will initially feature tennis, skiing, bobsleigh, athletics and basketball. We recently had a chance to test out the tennis and skiing games, both of which felt natural to play; sitting somewhere between arcade accessibility and realism, with the bias slanting slightly towards arcade action.

While the skiing felt rather rudimentary, the tennis game possessed far greater potential and proved more challenging and entertaining, though the controls did take a while to get to grips with.

Empire of Sports' developers have also announced that in early 2008 11-a-side football will be added to the game's line-up of sporting events, although concrete details have yet to be released.

If you can't wait for the full game to appear, you can sign up for Empire of Sport's beta test at the game's website.

Speaking of footy, we caught up with Monumental Games' CEO, Rik Alexander to find out what's in store for Football Superstars (www.footballsuperstars.com), a free MMO that'll enable you to lead a player from obscurity to superstardom by playing in teams made of human players (though goalkeepers will be AI controlled).

"Initially you won't be required to pick a position," promised Alexander. "However, over time you'll naturally gravitate towards certain positions. So if you like tackling, your character will become a better tackler the more you do it."


Alexander also told us that you'll be able to spend your winnings (the more successful you are, the more money you'll earn) on a variety of skills including tackling, speed and shooting.

At the start you'll be restricted to three- and five-a-side games in order to familiarise yourself with the dynamics of working with other human players and mastering a set position. However, over time, seven- and 11-a-side games will become unlocked.

A sponsorship mechanic that'll automatically assign you a team will hopefully make finding your feet easier than looking in your shoes.

"Every sponsor will have a team in each of the four divisions, so if you want to play competitively you can join one of these teams," said Alexander. "Leagues will be based on performance, meaning that a team can play any number of times. Each team can have lots of players, so if 11 of them are online at one time, they can play a match."

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