Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and take a look at a quick demo of NetDevil’s upcoming MMORPG, Jumpgate Evolution. For those of you out there who have been salivating for some hands-on time with this game, no need to worry. I wasn’t driving this demo, but instead stood behind JGE Producer Hermann Peterscheck and it was in his capable hands that the ship was controlled.
Since our own Donna Desborough is currently attending Codemasters Connct ‘08, where she will undoubtedly get even newer info on this game, I will throw my own opinions into this report of my demo and interview:
Personally, I like the way that this game is coming along. The look of the game alone is rather striking, as the guys from NetDevil seem to have succeeded in their attempt to create a space environment that is colorful and interesting. Watching the ship fly around, you can believe that you’re in space, but it doesn’t leave you with the same dark and isolated feeling that is often produced in a more “realistic” spacescape.
“Another area is "realism".” Hermann said to me as we discussed the subject of the game’s look and feel, “I kind of think that games are escapism. I know space is black and empty and silent and void of things. But I wish it wasn’t. I wish it was full of cool stuff to do and nice things to look at.”
“If you watch PBS specials you'll notice that they show space as full of asteroids and colorful nebulas... giant flaming suns and so on,” he continued, “they don't show the 99.999% part of space that is empty vaccum.”
The developers succeed in creating a more interesting and vibrant spacescape than strict realism might dictate, without making the game look cartoony and over-done. In the end, from what I’ve seen, the team seems to be striking a nice balance.
While I was sight-seeing and let’s be honest, drooling a little bit over the look of the game, the actual purpose of the demo was to show off JGE’s battle stations. There are two different kinds of station in JGE.
The first is the “Core Station”. Core Stations are where players go to “transact non-combat related activities: missions, buying and selling, trading, stuff like that”. Basically, these stations serve as cities for players.
The second station, and the focus of the demo, is the Battle Station. Battle Stations, as you might imagine, are well-defended fightable enemies. These stations are kind of like raid bosses that you might find in other games. They require skill and thought, people working together, and all of the elements that make MMOs grand:
“Battle Stations are staged combat encounters, the one I showed had 3 stages: 1) kill turrets which reveals a shield core 2) destroy the shield core which reveals the energy core 3) Destroy the energy core which ends in a large explosion and loot fountain.”
I think now might be a good time to explain what Hermann means when he says “loot fountain”. During the interview, we talked a little bit about his philosophies on player rewards, with specific attention to loot:
I don't really understand why game designers get so caught up on holding back rewards,” he said on the subject of in-game reward for players. “real life is frustrating enough, in games I want to be the badass!”
“I like loot,” he continued, “I hate nothing more than taking out some massive beast and getting nothing for it. I’d rather have 100 useless items and 1 great item than no useless items and 1 great item.”
What Hermann means is that when it comes to loot, it’s always better to have too much for players than too little.
“I also like it when there is "clever" loot, like pirates dropping crates of ‘drink’, stuff like that. So I think you can use loot for not only appealing to cleptomania but also to bring home the story some. I think JGE players can expect a lot of it [loot].”
Overall, I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of this game. It seems as though it is going to offer sci-fi fans an alternative to the games that are currently filling the genre. While there are many who might compare this game to EVE Online, I think that there are significant differences between the two that, even though they’re both sci-fi games where you control a space ship, make them totally different games.
As an example, and then my times of comparing JGE and EVE are over, one of the more unique features of JGE is going to be the variety of control available. While EVE makes excellent use of a point and click interface, JGE will allow players to fly their ships using the WSAD keys, or even a joystick. Manual flight plays a huge part in the way that this game operates, requiring pilots to fly and fight at the same time.
In the end, this was just a very quick peek at this game, but for those of you who might be out there wondering, development is definitely progressing, and what they have so far is looking great. Keep your eyes peeled for more JGE info in the future.