Jumpgate Evolution Interview (P2)

25 Nov 2008  by   Paul Younger
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OK, so let’s move on from time and space, I think we’ve covered as much of it as we possibly can! Can we talk a little about why you chose to make Jumpgate: Evolution a stand alone product rather than an expansion to Jumpgate?

It was the evolution of the game, that was it really. We didn’t know what to do at first, do update the existing game, do we do a new one? We were on the fence for a while with it because obviously you have to know how much money you’re going to spend, how much time, etc. The first thing we attacked was the visual side and the AI and so when we got that stuff working in the original game, it became obvious that the game could be so much more. It was at that point the decision was made. That’s how the project has been. You start doing stuff and you realise that “that” could be really really cool, so that motivates you to do more cool stuff. I really enjoy working ad-hoc and creates a creative flow which I think is really nice. Of course you have to bear in mind getting the product finished.

Does that mean that the old Jumpgate servers will close?

We plan on keeping them open. My feeling is even with the first generation of MMOs, even RuneScape is still around, and those things tend to stay open. I feel bad turning an MMO off because you’re destroying a world that people have invested in. Unless there is some compelling business reason for doing that, I don’t believe there is any benefit in switching off a server.

There are people that have played Jumpgate since ‘98/’99, so you’re talking about a ten year investment and I got to tell you, there is a lot of pain in just turning off a whole world with a switch off a button. It’s very cold to me.

This is the first space MMO of its kind and I’m not going to draw comparison with EVE Online because, let’s face it, it’s completely different. Let’s talk about the evolution of the game and how different the solo campaign is, how you level your character, whether there are combat missions, escort missions and the rest?

In MMOs you need to have solo-friendly game play, so you start out with an introduction telling you what’s going on. You get campaign style missions such as reconnaissance missions and combat. When you come back to your base you push the storyline forward based on what you’ve found. It’s like RPG 101 of the way stories work, and we’ve obviously got those in the game. Those of course, in terms of MMO, give you mission experiences, faction ratings, it ranks you up through a progressive system which is familiar and that allows you to unlock different pieces of equipment. There’s loot as well when you destroy a ship, you get mission rewards and faction specific rewards too. There is also a fairly advanced dynamic mission generation system, which basically allows you to do those missions for a while. So you’ll choose a faction, and they’ll have their own agenda, so you come on and take the jobs that the faction needs you to do and gain faction points for flying those missions. From that you can buy faction specific items such as equipment to ships to weapons. On top of that there is a whole economy side of things.

So how does the economy work?

There are huge amount of ships, but the more industrial ships have mining lasers and the like. By going out into space and doing these mining missions, and depending on where you are in space and where you’ve been mining you get different raw materials. This raw material can then be taken to a refinery and will turn them into commodities for which you get money. There is also a corporate affiliation system, you can only affiliate to one or two, but you have the right to build their stuff. So for example, there is a corporation that does weapons, missiles and engines. By doing missions for this corporation you have access to their factory, and this in turn means you’ll learn to build these things and you’ll be able to put them up in an auction house and drive the economy.

Presumably this will help with leveling too?

Actually yes. This is something that more games should do, and I’m a little confused as to why they don’t. So in addition to affiliation, you get an affiliation rating, which means that trust goes up, reliability goes up and you’ll be able to build better and better stuff for them. But we’ve tried to have multiple paths to follow in the game. So for example, if you do PvP you’ll get experience, if you do PvE you’ll get experience, if you do missions you get experience, if you do mining you get experience, if you do crafting you get experience, so you can get experience everywhere. So let’s say you’re an industrial type player. You go out and you mine and you get experience for it and in turn so will your mining ability and advance through the mining tree. You’ll get faction rating, because you’re doing it for a faction and your corporation rating, if you’re affiliated, will go up too. So just for doing a mining and crafting mission you’re actually advancing through multiple experience trees.

In MMOs I feel they force you down a path almost, where if you choose to craft you won’t be leveling, of if you’re leveling you won’t be making anything. We didn’t want to do that. We want people to level in a few different areas at once and still get their experience.

So effectively there is no class in Jumpgate?

That’s correct. You’re just a member of the faction and how you play the game is up to you. The reason for that is that I don’t expect that from a space action game, where like, I’m the fighter and you’re the healer. Or you’re like the minor and I’m the cargo hauler. For me having space to play with shouldn’t mean that you’re restricted to a class. I want to have lots of different ships and do lots of different stuff. It’s about trying out all the different ships and seeing the cool stuff you can do.

Not only that, but we have licenses for flying too. So if you wanted to fly a large commercial hauler, then you have to get a high ranking commercial license. You have to work your way up the commercial tree. As a pilot you’re able to do anything and I feel that I’m the pilot that owns the ship, and it’s the ship that defines the class. So different kinds of ships mean you have access to different classes.

It just seems no fun if you were a minor and locked into that class and you wanted to do combat missions. You’d have to start a new character and that seems a little silly. No, I’d rather have a mining ship and a fighting ship and go mine for a little while and then come back and do some combat, joining that epic battle.

So does this mean you can’t have more than one character? If we are able to have more than one character, does it mean that we’ll see people playing the game in the traditional sense where each character created will have a specific role and following different progression trees?

I think that’s exactly what will happen because that’s what they end up doing anyway. You’re only going to be affiliated to so many corporations, you’re only going to be able to work up so many licenses. So yeah, people will have different characters, but be able to progress in a different way.

Well it’s not only that, surely people tend to feel more loyal to a specific character they’ve created? Also one of the major points of MMO is networking and meeting with friends, so if you haven’t used a certain character for a while you may be missing out on the social aspect of the game.

I agree, but I think the class/no class system is something developers decide when they’re building a game. If you build your game around a class system or not you have to keep that in mind. And both systems have their problems and limitations and advantages. But if the execution is good then people will play it. It’s the fun gameplay that’s the important bit.

One of the most fun things in space games is getting different ships and flying them, so we wanted to do that and facilitate that.

So how do you facilitate something like that?

I think a lot of game designers figuring out how to nail that expectation of a gamer in you and the gamer in other people. It’s a bit of a weird experience. You’re working on a game and it can be very tedious and exhausting but extremely creative too. Then you have to remove yourself from that role and pretend you’re somebody who’s actually playing the game. Even though I know how the game works but it’s still fun to me. It’s a weird thing to explain, but when it comes to fruition you can tell why it’s fun to play.

One of the pitfalls of game design in my opinion, is getting married to an idea and not seeing it from a gaming point of view. It’s not until you play it can you tell what was a good idea and what wasn’t.

Tomorrow we’ll be talking to Peterscheck about lore and what makes this space MMO different to anything else we’ve played.

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