|I just started playing a scifi MMORTS game called Beyond Protocol ( or ). As an indie product it isn't as polished as some, but does have 3d graphics. There are some advantages that balance the rough spots, like the so-called "Imperial Senate" in which any player who owns a planet can propose, debate and vote on proposals that are then implemented by the developers.
Aside from some simple starting designs, all content is player-generated through an extremely comprehensive technology designer that allows the design of all equipment ( from the ground up--literally, since it starts with about 100 minable ores that can then be alloyed if desired to improve their characteristics. The tech designer isn't perfect, I feel like the system created by GDW for their Fire Fusion & Steel sourcebook was a bit more scientific, but it appears to be game-balanced, which is probably more important in this context.
There is a fairly detailed espionage system that allows stealing tech, finding locations of colonies or wormholes, economic manipulation, assasination of important NPCs, and such. There are no set factions, all politics is player politics (either individual or through player-formed guilds). Propaganda, bluffing and social engineering between players is a big part in the game as well.
The learning curve is steep, but the payoff is enormous. The game has been live for a bit under a year, so of course there are established users with higher levels of technology researched. They give an (unlimited, I think) free period in a practice "sandbox" system to get the hang of building, designing, and researching. Again, there are some issues with the interface not being the most user friendly...I spent 2 days getting an error that said I needed to choose a mineral every time I tried to design anything with minerals which turned out to be that I was clicking the "Set" button at the wrong time. That kind of thing. Now that I've figured it out, I'm good to go but it was frustrating at first.
You don't get to keep the tech you research in the sandbox when you transition to the main game so it is just practice. New players spawn in an isolated system with a few other new players, and the wormhole that connects that system to the rest of the universe is one-way going out until someone uses it, so there is a chance to grow before being thrown to the wolves. Dead players respawn in another isolated system, and the universe continually grows as new players join.
I've been wishing for a game like this for about a decade. Of course an MMO is only as good as the player base. It looks like the established players are pretty cool, and they *say* they try to let newer players learn the ropes before attacking them (most wars seem to be related to talking smack anyway...so, it is kinda like Europe up through the 19th century...).
But I'd still like to see more newbies like me. Preferably as allies. If not, at least for a "herd effect" ;)
My screen name is Gyrax, I'll probably tranition into the live game on the last weekend of the month. Allies are good!