Jumpgate Evolution is not a massive update to Jumpgate. It is a completely different game. “Basically, this is a response to focus testing and user feedback,” said Scott Brown, President of Netdevil. “We can’t have Netdevil just do another game. It has to be a great game.”
Once Jumpgate Evolution launches, it will run side by side with Jumpgate until which time, Jumpgate ceases to be viable, if ever. “We still have a lot of players that love the game and we’ll continue supporting it,” said Scott, “Jumpgate Evolution will essentially be like Asherons Call 2 and EverQuest 2. Set in a similar, yet different world. A world of the future.”
At the Connect event in the UK, Netdevil partnered with their UK publisher Codemasters to bring the game to players there. They were able to have the public play test a vertical slice of the game on 50 PCs. “They played the new user experience, and it was the first proof of concept that the new user experience in Jumpgate Evolution works.” Netdevil has treated Jumpgate Evolution as a “Live” project from the get go, with internal testing and developers playing the game. The story takes part in a later time and different part of space, but current players of Jumpgate will absolutely find it familiar.
The lessons learned from Auto Assault may have been painful but the take away from that is that playability and fun is key to any game, and set limitations are their mantra and design guidelines these days. Artists and developers are more creative within the guidelines and the pride in which they have crafted a beautiful and compelling space-scape within the constraints is evident. It looks beautiful.
Scott logged into the game and did not stop playing throughout the interview, although he continued to contribute and showed me many different portions of the game. What they have managed to do with the art is just beautiful as the screenshots they have released prove.
“So what exactly is Jumpgate Evolution?” I asked, requesting for a description in a nutshell. It’s a spaceflight trading game. Its story, trading and economy. It’s Freelancer / Privateer Online.
“We have Keith Baker, the writer responsible for Eberron in DnD writing the back story for the game,” said Scott. “We’ve created a really rich backdrop and you write your own story. There are three nations and sub-factions. Each group provides different missions.”
“It’s all ship play,” said Hermann, “and the selection of a nation provides you a path; if you need one to follow. You will be balancing faction gains and losses when you perform missions. Factions are locked into a nation, but not to a subfaction.”
“Otherwise,” said Scott, “you are participating in a living world, and integrated system, interacting with the AI which is also moving, acting and reacting. It is emergent behavior and players are a part of it.”
“What are you working on right now?” I wanted to know. Netdevil is concentrating on the MMORPG aspects of the game right now. The auction house system, the mining system, mail system, etc. The license system is your basic skill system and these include mining, piloting and weapons. Crafting is affiliated with companies, and your affiliation level dictates the types of things that may be made. This is fleshed out and they are in the implementation phase. “We’re really, really close to be able to go into closed beta,” said Scott.
I asked also about the passage of time in Jumpgate Evolution and the spatial feel of the game, remembering the awful vertigo I’d get playing Starcraft. Items in game will have spatial locations, and will have to be moved from one space station to another. They may be sent on an AI ship or a potential job may be created – that of a Cargo pilot who will move mail from one part of space to another. Potentially, they are also thinking of real time tracking – the ability to see where your goods are in space.
In reference to the spatial 3-D experience, Netdevil is making obvious clues in their art and station architecture for what’s considered up and what’s considered down. From the accessibility standpoint, this took much longer than expected since there are not real rules in space where there is no gravity and thus no real “feel” for up and down. As for player clues while flying in space, they are working on three different camera views – third person, first person clear view and first person with cockpit – which I voted for as that would give me a point of reference to know whether I’m actually flying upside down or right side up when all I’m seeing on my screen are asteroid fields and planets.
“What about the Economy?” I asked. “How important will that be and how will it be run?”
“Some items will be obtained through quests and the store,” said Scott, “but the majority will be player made. Most of the guns, engines, and bits and pieces. The components required to create and item will be player made. The stores will provide you low end items as well as high-end items that require a certain amount of faction to obtain.”
A departure from Jumpgate are the Battlestations – the Boss Mobs not found in the original Jumpgate. I watched as Scott took on a Battlestation by himself. Horribly dwarved in his tiny spacecraft, I exhorted him to “use the force” as he blew it up. “Do you have to escape the explosion?” I wanted to know. Both gentlemen laughed as they informed me I had just asked one of the most asked questions by focus testers. “That’s just a little too hard right there. Right now, the answer is No, but we could tweak that to make a better sense of combat reality.”
PvP? There will be some consensual areas and some wide open PvP areas, but no one will be forced to play PvP if they do not want to. The refineries and minerals, the items gained in PvP space will be specific to PvP play use. There are also PvP games – players can capture a beacon and take over a sector of space. While they claim that space, they will gain some bonuses. Another game planned is a PvP simulator which will be team against team and matched by computer AI. Netdevil is currently in the first phase of design for this simulator.
Is this a game of levels or skill then? Definitely a game of skill. “Levels are a symbol of your progress,” said Hermann, “Everything you do gives you whether it is crafting or running missions and that builds your level. It will not make you a better pilot or give you more life. You have to build your ship, get better weaponry and shields, get your licenses.”
Finally, we went full circle back to accessibility. How will you fly in this game, I asked. “Whatever way you wish! We will support joysticks, keypad and mouse, game pads, the really cool flight controls with joystick in one hand, throttle in other. They all will be supported.”