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Servo: newest game to come from RTS royalty.

Servo is badass, putting the power to summon great, hulking robots of war in your hands. Servo is also crisp and beautiful, its bold colours and playful designs blithely setting it apart from the usual RTS smorgasbord of grey and brown. It comes to us via a new, somewhat dorkily-named indie studio Bonus XP, but the team’s got a serious pedigree behind it: about half of its 20-strong staff is from Ensemble Studios, the guys behind RTS classics like Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, and Halo Wars.


COMING INTO BLOOM
Set in the far future, Earth has long ago been abandoned and consumed by a dangerous energy resource called Bloom. Humanity has recently learned of Bloom’s potential, though, and is now back to mine it in true human-like fashion. You’ll play a mercenary mining outfi t, battling other greedy corporations for control of the Bloom.

At the heart of your mining company is the servo, a one-hundred-foot tall robot formerly used as mining equipment that now also serves the secondary purpose of trying to flatten anyone who might get in the way of your beloved Bloom.

“The cool thing is, you make them yourself,” Pottinger says, likening Servo’s RPG-style customisation elements to the peanut butter swirl in a hunk of chocolate. Servo units are called down from giant dropships in the sky, and from there you can change them up: each servo has a pilot with a cool, unique ability, and all of a servo’s actions are defined by the player’s chosen gear.

“If I wanna put on a rifle, that'll change what I can do,” Pottinger says. “We’ve got a sniper rifle here; equip it, and it adds a 'sniper shot' to our abilities. If I want to change out this servo's rockets for grenades, I can do that too.''

There will be up to 1000 functional servo parts to play around with at launch, as well as three servos. The default, most human-like one is the most versatile, while a hefty, hulking tank-class servo is something that Pottinger calls “The Juggernaut.” The third is a flying servo that BonusXP internally calls “The Floater” (“we need a better name,” Pottinger admits sheepishly) that can manoeuvre around obstacles the other two land-dwelling servos won’t be able to bypass.
There will be up to 1000 functional servo parts to play around with
THE BLADE CUTS BOTH WAYS
While Bloom is the player’s resource, it’s also responsible for some of the biggest threats. Some of the corrupted “Bloomspawn” creatures that inhabit maps are essentially like World of Warcraft raid bosses, with devastating stun and area-of-effect abilities that require a seriously planned and coordinated effort to take out.

We were shown a servo pilot with a particularly cool ability: the ability to make a Bloomspawn its personal pet. The longer a game goes on for, the more aggressively Bloom behaves so early in a match, the ability helps you hoard the Bloom resource, while you’ll be able to sic it on your enemies later on when it turns nasty.

Speaking of match length, that’s one of the ways in which BonusXP is adapting its RTS formula for the new generation of gamers.

“An Age game was about 45 to 60 minutes long,” Pottinger explains. “A game of Servo, in most modes, is only about 10 minutes so people can play a lot of games in half an hour. We’ve found that’s been great; it gets players really excited about the gear. Instead of playing 45 minutes to get one new piece of gear, you’re playing 10 minutes. If you don’t like your gear you can sell it for credits, maybe eventually earn enough to buy a crate for a chance of rare gear. There’s more opportunity to customise your servo.”

It also lends itself to greater experimentation with strategies; Pottinger notes, “People play a shorter RTS game a lot more differently.” When your investment is only ten minutes instead of an hour, players are much more likely to experiment with less conventional ways of winning.

FRIENDS AND FOES
The single-player campaign will last about 15 to 20 hours, but BonusXP knows that Servo’s lifespan will depend more on its multiplayer offerings. After practicing in a skirmish mode against the AI, players will be able to play PVP and even co-op matches.

“We actually had envisioned the game really only as a PVP game for a long time, but then we added co-op because it was easy for us to implement. It turns out that, in the BonusXP offices, co-op is our favourite way to play,” Pottinger reveals.

“We still expect that PVP to be more popular, but I’m hoping that co-op is at least as popular amongst players. We’re currently designing more PVP-based maps, but if co-op is popular, we’ll shift that balance based on what the fans like.”

Does Pottinger hope the PVP lends Servo to some eSport potential?

“We didn’t set out to make an eSport game,” he says. “I wouldn’t know how to do that. I’d love for it to be as popular as StarCraft or anything like that, but I think for us it’s about being a great game first. If the game deserves it, then it will become that popular. If the game is fun, those things will follow.”

Servo is impressive for a game that, according to Pottinger, has only been in development for under a year. As an “old-school paid game” with no in-app purchases, it’ll be entering its Early Access stage within the next couple of months; final release is scheduled for spring.

Pottinger finishes our interview with a mission statement of sorts. “I don’t want to make a game that’s like what other games have already played, but I also don’t want to make something so niche that only my mom is going to buy it. Servo has a lot of appeal and looks cool and has a chance, I think, to become really b comes down to what the fans think and how the reaction goes.''
“I think the potential is here.”

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