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Jumpgate Evolution Developer Blog

Jumpgate Evolution is a Massively Multiplayer Online Game set in the open expanse of space. With breath-taking visuals and an innovative twitch-based space combat, Jumpgate is the definitive space combat MMO, putting you at the heart of the action.

Author: JumpgateEvo

Contributor: Khatie

Combating Combat - Hermann Peterscheck, Producer

Posted by JumpgateEvo Wednesday July 22 2009 at 1:39PM
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Most MMOs have some kind of combat system as a major basis for character advancement and progression. Jumpgate is similar in some ways, however as an action MMO, combat tactics are quite different than in other familiar and more RPG like MMOs.

When we approach combat we consider that at the core we must have various roles with both strengths and weaknesses. A dangerous temptation in design is to pick a favorite and overpower it. Avoiding super weapons is a critical part of balance and so the first rule is to design for weakness. As an example, our first two classes of ships were light and heavy fighters. The benefits are reasonably obvious. Light fighters are quick and nimble and heavy fighters are well armored and more heavily armed. The weaknesses are a bit trickier. Should light fighters have less weaponry or less armor or both? Should they have access to less powerful shields and if so, how is this accomplished? Most importantly is how this is communicated to the player and is it actually fun? 

Early on our lead systems designer, Jay Ambrosini, came to the correct conclusion that all of the preliminary balancing was best done in a PvP context. The reasoning is that in PvE, the player needs to feel powerful, but in PvP the fight needs to feel balanced. Once ship classes are balanced in PvP, its not as hard to make the player feel powerful in PvE, but the opposite is not true. We spent many weeks playing just the first class of ship, the light fighter, in teams of 5 or 6 in order to evaluate what it was that made those ships fun to fly and fight. After daily battles, you begin to see what makes those ships work. We also started with the mid level ships as opposed to the low or high level ships. This is primarily because you can find the center point and then work upwards and downwards from there.

With just one class of ship tactics are the easiest to work out. It's mostly people figuring out how to effectively fly inside the map, find cover, maneuver through tight areas and avoid missile lock-ons. It took a lot of time to get all of the various pieces working correctly, but eventually we were having a lot of fun and looking forward to the daily play tests. It wasn't until this point that we added the second class of ships which were the heavy fighters. Jay decided quite early that he wanted the classes to feel VERY different as opposed to having lots of small differences. Thus, the heavy fighters had considerably more armor, came armed with mortar AOE weapons, but were much slower at turning and accelerating. Initially this lead to heavy fighters being almost indestructible at long range and nearly useless at close range. This proved to be quite frustrating as neither side felt they could respond once the condition for victory had been set. Specifically, light fighters had no chance at range if they didn't see the heavy coming in, and heavy fighters were unable to break a fight once the lights got in close. We tried a number of things but what helped a lot was adding a combat boost consumable, mines and chaff. Chaff allowed the light fighters to overcome the heavy missile fire while combat boost allows the heavies a chance to get some distance. A tactic that worked quite well was to mix a few lights with a heavy so that the lights can chase off and incoming enemies and let the heavies stay further back and fire devastating missile and mortar fire.

A third class of ship was then added which we decided should be a more nimble and less armored fighters. One of the PvP maps is a traditional capture and hold scenario and thus rushing to the capture point is a key tactic. Also, being able to zoom around the other fighting ships to draw fire proved to be a very useful tactic. As with the light and heavy fighters it took many weeks of iteration to get the basics of the class defined.

The other thing that was interesting is that many times you have to give a change a while to see if it is good. After many months of playing, some people on the team become quite proficient at playing in very advanced ways; small changes in weapon damage, range, ship speed and anything else. It's difficult to decide between reacting to feedback from a change and having the patience to wait and see if the initial feedback changes after a few days of getting used to it. An example of this is that we changed the missile lock system to take into account line of sight. This was initially a huge disadvantage for heavy fighters and met with some initial criticism. After some time, however, we determined that it was the right decision.

I think that the key thing to understand is that tactics are the result of distinct and strong variation, simple rules and easy to understand advantages and disadvantages. Once you have that, people use that information to create very complex and interesting combinations.

It's very tempting to just throw a bunch of classes of ships together in order to say things like “our game has 15 classes of ships!” but this, we believe, is the wrong direction. People want meaningful and strong choices and not lots of meaningless, empty choices. Currently we plan to have 4-6 classes, but they will each have nearly endless possible configurations within those groups. I also suspect we will continue to add more classes and equipment which will continue the balanced and varied tactics available. Much of this will come from more extensive testing as many thousands of players will provide much better information than our group of developers working alone can.

WonderPengu writes:

Great stuff, the decision making process you guys have used gives me a lot of hope. I played CoH for 5 years, and they took the opposite (and wrong, imo) approach to this problem: adding PVP balance well into the lifecycle, and at the cost of the PVE core of the game.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said players want to feel powerful in a PVE scenario....positive reinforcement like this is what keeps people coming back for more.

Still not sure on the risk/reward setup for PVP, so the draw of it remains to be seen...but just the thought of a swarm of lazer spamming fighters makes me want to try it.

Wed Jul 22 2009 4:09PM Report
Prankster writes:

I have been stomping my feet over this game for weeks in an I want it now hissy fit. I still want it now but I can easily see whats taking so long. So I'll wait, I suppose, if I have to.

Wed Jul 22 2009 4:23PM Report
Krabb writes:

The reward of pvp is cameraderie and prestige if it's done right. This whole rewards mentality is catered too already in a ton of other mmo's. Please don't "combat" combat too hard JGE.

Let us fight in open space.

Thu Jul 23 2009 7:59AM Report
freejackmack writes:

It's nice to see a developer that gets it for a change. There are a million games that could have been good if they would have just given them the attention that ND is giving JGE!

Good  job ND! Keep up the good work!

Thu Jul 23 2009 10:16AM Report
StormNet writes:

This game is going to be the bomb when it comes out.

Thu Jul 23 2009 11:45AM Report
amifre writes:

 but they need to make the PvP more accessable than in other games, and make alot of team PvPs

Thu Jul 23 2009 11:59AM Report
wootin writes:

>>

I think that the key thing to understand is that tactics are the result of distinct and strong variation, simple rules and easy to understand advantages and disadvantages. Once you have that, people use that information to create very complex and interesting combinations.

<<

That is exactly what every other MMO (save 1 that I know of) gets WRONG. Players will make all of the complexity you need in a fight, but it's the ability to clearly understand what you do best, what they do best, and how to use the tools you have that free a player to do THEIR best. Overcomplicate the tools and you're only hindering the player's efforts to fight, win and have fun.

Thu Jul 23 2009 10:09PM Report
netboyz writes:

NetDevil can talk all they want, but their previous MMO incarnations were dismal failures.  Utter, complete failures.  Why someone gave them another chance is beyond me.  It's merely throwing good money after bad.

 

JGE is going to fail as well.  Take that to the bank.

Fri Jul 24 2009 2:20PM Report
Suraknar writes:

Because it is from learned lesson and mistakes that people become better not from victories.

They made their mistakes in the previous games, they learned the lessons it is why this one will be great.

Sat Jul 25 2009 9:59AM Report
freejackmack writes:

What we have seen from companies like SOE leads some to believe that they will never learn but that's one of the things that ND brings to the table.

Not to mention there first mmo JGC was not a failure because of ND. It was the publishers bankruptcy that killed the game! JGC still is a sweat mmo it just needs more development like mmo's usually get when their publishers don't disappear. So really JGE should be good because ND has made a good twitched-skill-based mmo before.

JGE will fill the sci-fi mmo hole a bit more. I think this game is gonna break even wows' records.

Mon Jul 27 2009 10:17AM Report
Vesavius writes:

One part of this interview scares me...

I want to feel CHALLENGED in  game, not powerful. My ego isnt so pathetically fragile that I need a game to make me feel 'powerful'...

Smacks of ez mode instant gratification game design tbh, which isnt good and has ruined every potentiolly good mmorpg I have ever played.

I remain hopeful though about this game... We will see.

Sat Aug 01 2009 7:33AM Report
Vesavius writes:

Sorry, when I said interview i meant of course blog... stuck in news mode ;P

Sat Aug 01 2009 7:36AM Report
rwp80 writes:

I like what he says about the types of ship. Having fewer, more meaningful choices is far better than more choices. This Google tech talk http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6127548813950043200 explains the concept very nicely.

 

The problem with open PvP is that it will not be balanced. The small groups of harcore players will completely dominate the PvP areas. This, sadly, renders the well-design ship types completely useless.

 

The issue with balancing open PvP is that it goes against the fundamentals of an MMORPG. An RPG gives players the chance to build up their character, equipment, and allies. With these in play, open PvP will always be in the favour of the player that has the most of these. Take these elements away and you're left with a very limited style of game, almost like a mini-game inside the larger game.

 

No developer has ever solved the problem of balancing open PvP and no developer ever will. I just hope JGE gives us opportunities to engage in some challenging and fun group PvE.

Unfortunately, this

"in PvE, the player needs to feel powerful"

makes me think that the PvE will be the same run-of-the-mill grind that we see in other MMOs.

 

I think it's funny that some people think that having a twitch system is going to magically solve all of these problems.

 

Thu Aug 13 2009 8:03AM Report
Dvalon writes:

Game is gona be easy mode, I hope they add a pvp server for those of us with more teeth than gums.

Mon Aug 17 2009 1:13PM Report
Literatii writes:

Am I reading this correctly? You have a beta sign-up but you're not sure how many classes will be in the game? (4-6). Hrm.

Once you get down to a miniscule number of classes (3-4) people will automatically think rock-paper-scissors. And it may be tough to dig your way out of it.

 

Sat Aug 22 2009 10:22AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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