The announcement that Codemasters would be working with NetDevil on Jumpgate Evolution (JGE) caught many by surprise. Further news that those attending Connect'08 would get the first hands-on look at the game was exciting news though. Never before had anyone outside of NetDevil played the game.
I was only able to play one demo mission, but if what they have on show now is anything to go by, this game is going to be a beauty, graphics-wise. It is supposed to look beautiful even if you only have a good machine and even more amazing if you have a top end machine. The computers at the Omega Sektor (the event location) are of course top end machines so it was a treat to see JGE in all of its wonderful glory. It is good to know though that they are very specifically looking at making the game able to run on both lower and higher specification machines.
A combat system that can make it possible for someone like me, who is horrible at flight games, to enjoy space combat without massive frustration is a feat. The movement and shooting is smooth and easy to figure out, it even has a lock on guide that shows you where you need to aim. Movement is easy to figure out and feels like second nature once you do.
On Saturday, I had some time to chat with Scott Brown, President of NetDevil, and from the moment he began speaking, I knew he was a man who was full of passion for JGE.
Scott told me that they are taking some special pains to make sure JGE is done right. One of those things has been a lot of focus testing. The game is not yet in the beta testing phase, but they have already had several focus groups in to look at the game. They are then using the feedback from those groups to help shape the game even before the public got its first glance. Scott told me that these focus groups have been very helpful for them in the development of the game so far.
During the presentation at the beginning of the day, the guys spent some time talking about missions. This being a big part of the game for many, I had to know more and asked Scott to fill me in. First, it should be made clear that the quest system is still a work in progress. It should work closely though with a character's faction levels. So depending on what your faction standing is with a certain group, you may get different quests from them. An example is that if you have a high positive faction rating with a group they may come to you and ask you to save them or help them. On the opposite side of the coin though, if your faction rating isn't very good, you may only be offered a quest that just pays you money and treats you like a mercenary or pirate. Of course, there would be variations in between too, but you get the idea. This is potentially a very dynamic quest system. As Scott himself told me, it's still a work in progress so we'll have to see how it goes.
Another thing that caught my interest is something Scott called "soft grouping". Scott explained it basically as teaming without actually teaming. The idea is that the game will see players working in an area together and see that they are maybe working on the same quest. So if they co-operate on the tasks together, without actually being in a team, they can help each other. Of course the first thing that sprung to mind was how the experience would be allocated. If players work together like this, they will both get full experience for the kills and tasks for the quest. The reason for this "soft grouping" is to encourage players to work together and help each other. I can see great potential in this system and I hope that they can actually pull it off without too much of a problem. Again, this is also a work in progress, so we'll have to see how it goes.
The focus of the game will be on both PvE and PvP, with rewards for both. Scott said they don't want to force people into doing one or the other when they don't want to and are trying to strike a balance between the two. This is good news for those of both gaming styles for sure. Unlike many games, you will be able to gain experience for PvP also. So if you just want to focus on PvP play, you can fully advance your character in that way. Good news for those that aren't too fond of what is seen to be the grind of PvE.
NetDevil isn't remaking Jumpgate, the company’s original game. JGE is more of a continuation of the Jumpgate story, beginning at the end of the original Jumpgate storyline. For those that played Jumpgate, I'm sure they'll be happy to see it carry on and to explore a whole new story from where they left off. For those of us new to the Jumpgate world this will be a new adventure.
I will definitely be keeping a close eye on this game. It plays well and has some very innovative ideas on gameplay. It really could be the next best thing in the sci-fi genre of MMORPGs.