Last summer we reported on a Transformers-based MMO that was being developed for the China market by NetDragon but there were no plans for that particular title to make its way to North America. We were a little sad, but not that much because we later found out that Jagex was working on their own just for us – it’s called Transformers Universe and it has the potential to be something special for long-time fans of the popular Hasbro toy franchise.

Transformers Universe is a browser-based game that will make use of 11,000+ characters from the far-reaching Transformers franchise. The game is aimed for a 2012 release with its beta becoming available sometime “soon.”

Jagex held a little shindig at E3 earlier this summer, but it’s been relatively quiet on the Transformers Universe front ever since the game was licensed back in February. Fortunately for us, Eurogamer had a chance to speak with Kris Jones, Executive Producer on Transformers Universe and got the lowdown on the title.

The key info: Tranformers Universe is being developed from a modified RuneScape engine which will take browser based gaming to the next level in graphics. The game is free to play and yes, it will feature transformers as a key gameplay mechanic for both combat and transportation.

The game will be mainly focused on the style and universe setup from the animated series, namely the most recent Transformers: Prime.

“We’ve taken some assets; we’ve been in touch with the studios and we’ve taken from that, but we are our own game – that’s the bit that needs to be made clear. We’re not making a game based on any existing continuity.”

“We don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves to just the toys, or just [Generation 1 1984-1993], or just Prime, or just the movies. We’ve been very clear that we want to take from all over the universe. That’s why it’s called Universe.”

“Stylistically we’ve taken some nods from the recent cartoon series, which have been incredibly well received.”

Transformers Universe Prime MMO

Transformers Universe MMO draws inspiration from Prime series

If you’re somewhat disappointed that Transformers Universe will borrow from the animated side of the franchise and not so much, Michael Bay’s Transformers movie trilogy, don’t worry, the game is not targeted towards children or younger crowds per se. In fact, Jones describes the tone of the MMO as being very “adult”

“We’re staying away from – currently in the cartoons there’s kids in the cartoons, we’re not having any children in our game.”

As for RPG elements, the robots in Transformers Universe will be heavily customizable and based on classes (which are restricted by vehicle choice). Players will progress their characters through the game although it’s unclear if any sort of levelling mechanic will factor into the gameplay. So, you if you’re a motorcycle, it’s unlikely your class will involve the heaviest of armor and weapons. But if you choose a class, you’re not locked down to one vehicles – this is where the progression will come in.

In terms of story, the game will also not be episodic like the cartoons, but rather will follow larger, deeper story arcs. As mentioned above, anything you’ve seen from the Transformers universe has a good chance of showing up in the game and players will certainly be able to customize their own ride. Thankfully however, it doesn’t seem like we’ll see a million different variants of Optimus Prime as Hasbro has rules in place to somewhat protect the canon of their key characters. So no, pink and green Optimus Prime. So, what vehicles can players play with?

“Some people want to be tanks, some people want to be motorbikes, some people want to be sports cars, some people want to be an SUV. It’s very much down to the person. It’s very easy to say, ‘Oh I want to be a Jet,’ but I think you’ll end up with a wide variety of what people will want to be. We’re currently working on [what vehicles we want to offer]. Obviously we’re going to have all your basic vehicles, but it’s still something we’re ironing out. I wouldn’t want to undersell what we’re aiming to do for launch right now. I can’t give you [a number]. All I can say is we’re going for the most variety we can have,” said Jones. “We’re all massive Transformers fans; we know what Transformers fans are going to want.”

There you have it: Transformers Universe is being designed for the fans by the fans and the 55 people at Jagex working on the game (soon to be 70 people) will hopefully be able to pull out a game that will give players a reason to try out another browser-based title.

In the meantime, check out last year’s Transformers: War for Cybertron and if you’re really desperate, you could also play Transformers: Dark of the Moon. War for Cybertron first though, trust us.

If you could be any type of Transformer, what sort of vehicle would you be?

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Source: Eurogamer