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Bigpoint | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Sci-Fi | Status:Final  (rel 2011)  | Pub:Bigpoint
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Browser | Retail Price:n/a | Pay Type:Free | Monthly Fee:n/a
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Nick Porsche Interview

By Garrett Fuller on April 27, 2011 | Interviews | Comments

Nick Porsche Interview

Battlestar Galatica Online continues to see success. How has the game been growing in recent months?

Nick Porsche:

The game is growing extremely well. In fact, it has become Bigpoint’s best launch in our company’s history. In just about six weeks after the official start of the open beta, we hit one million registered players. That number is surging ahead, which is really important for the overall experience to be positive.

To date we have only been ramping up, both in player numbers and revenue – no sign of the well-known “receding launch wave syndrome” other big IP games have suffered from in the past. Within the first weeks after launch we had to add several more servers due to the high demand, both in the States and Europe.


Can you give us insight into how the browser system has worked for your team as developers?

Nick Porsche:

Our entire business is built around browser games, so I guess you can say it’s worked very well for us. In all seriousness, however, we truly believe that online games are the future of the industry. We’ve been doing this since 2002 and now have over 190 million gamers playing more than 60 games (casual, core, and hardcore). Battlestar Galactica Online takes advantage of the cutting-edge Unity 3.3 platform, which enables us to deliver insanely good graphics through standard web browsers.

Offering the core player the same ease of access entering his game as if he was surfing the web is a clear winner. Battlestar is being distributedly developed by several teams of seasoned HTML and Unity3D developers throughout Bigpoint and Artplant. It is in fact a perfect example of what is possible in browser development – one line focusing on server coding, the next team getting the assets into Unity while the third unit focuses on web and browser integration. And which “platform” has a broader install-base than the browser? We want to make sure our game runs on pretty much any PC or Mac out there – as long as it has a graphics chip of sorts. After all, we are not stuck in the days of text muds any longer….

What are some of the PvP aspects of the game you are most proud of?

Nick Porsche:

One of the coolest things we’ve seen is massive coordinated battles between the two factions as they vie for control of space. From a design perspective, we spent a lot of time creating each of the ships and balancing them accordingly. To see players engage in this type of behavior in a strategic fashion means we got it right. This is what we’re most proud of.

Testing the game in Beta has shown us to which potential we can grow it, as long as the design can keep up with the technical development. This is in fact what we are currently working on – making sure the strategic “meta” game comes full circle. We just implemented player controlled Base- and Battlestars, obviously closely tied into the PVP system. If you want to know what is possible from our testing, just picture 150 attack ships tied in combat, burning off the shoulder of Orion (to quote Batty from Bladerunner). Obviously there is just so much you can take in from your viewport at one time – but it works. We’ve tested it and now our players are experiencing it every day.

Another aspect is our “early-on” approach we’ve followed right from the high design. BSGO’s Rock/Stone/Scissor combat system allows PvP pretty much right from the start of the game. Making sure there is a role for everyone in our battlespace is probably the most challenging but at the same time most rewarding aspect of balancing. Battlestar Galactica Online allows players to join the fray without having to first grind their way up for months. Every ship class has a weak spot – you just have to identify and exploit it.

What surprises you most about the players and how they choose to play?

Nick Porsche:

In closed beta, we saw a majority of players choose to play as Cylons, rather than Colonials. Post-launch we’ve learned that this is no longer the case. On average, Cylon players appear to have attained higher levels and are generally more organized. We’re addressing this imbalance from both a design and marketing perspective. That said, if the Colonials think sheer numbers are enough to beat back the Cylons, think again…

Another amazing fact is the level of organization both factions adopted almost immediately. Again, Cylons tend to be slightly more hardcore then the Colonials, keeping their adversaries at bay – at least most of the time. We have players adhering to military discipline and tactics, cooperative Squadron and Wingman gameplay on a level never hoped for when designing the fundamental game mechanics. Players discussing the Dicta Boelcke and its effects on basic principles of modern air combat are but a few good examples. It’s as if the inclusion of the third dimension not just added depth to the visuals but to the way the players immerse in their game roles.

Do you find players more active in the game because of how easy it is for them to get started?

Nick Porsche:

Word is definitely spreading through the gaming community that BSGO is easy to jump into. Being free-to-play also helps, as does the fact that it’s based on such strong IP. We have heard from some that our opening tutorial can be improved, and we’re working on that. The beauty of online games is that we can make changes extremely fast. If something really resonates with the community, we’ll focus on it and make it happen. Keeping the community happy and growing is our priority.

Additionally we can clearly see by the amount of time and effort players are putting into the game every day, that there is a connection between these factors and the accessibility of our title. As a gamer you are playing with a multitude of nationalities in different time zones, logging on whenever you feel like it – not needing to wait for downloads, patches, updates, add-ons or anything else to download, unpack or activate. This is probably one of the most noticeable differences between playing Browser based games and client based MMO’s.

How have the factions balanced out? Do you keep track of the sides?

Nick Porsche:

Absolutely. Bigpoint is a German company… we count everything ;) As I mentioned, we’re seeing more players pick the Cylon side, but not by too much that it’s an issue. Generally, Cylon players appear to be more hardcore in nature, attaining higher levels faster and spending more time upgrading their ships and unlocking new ones. We are very sensitive to the game’s overall balance and always look for positive and negative anomalies that require adjustment. Any changes we make, however, must be done incrementally so as not to cause too much of a disruption.

Next to simply keeping track of each faction’s count we keep analyzing the strength of each faction on their server. Although sheer mass has a lot to do with overwhelming the enemy, there is a lot of tactical gameplay in our game, and we found that sometimes simple graphs can be very misleading in actually judging a factions fighting strength. This all being said we are seeing a general tendency of players to opt for the Colonial side – quite logically so, taking into account the immense popularity of the TV series and their focus on the Human aspects of the conflict.

Lastly any game system based exclusively on two factions will suffer from a misbalance of sorts - everyone involved with BSGO is fully aware of this. Without wanting to drop any clues we are clearly moving ahead in resolving this situation in the best possible manner for the player and fan of Battlestar alike.

In the short term, we already have and continuously will implement measures such as faction based bonuses on experience points or alteration of existing game mechanics to support the weaker faction. Additionally we are now introducing the possibility to switch sides, allowing conscious players and wings to join the opposing faction – leading to a more balanced game play.

Is there a learning curve for players? What do you say to a new player getting started?

Nick Porsche:

Like any game there is of course a learning curve. If you’ve played video games before, however especially flight sims, I think it’ll be very easy to pickup. New players are encouraged to do the opening tutorial and assignments – it’s the easiest way to learn how to control yourself in the game and what the goals are.

Quite clearly Battlestar Galactica Online caters to the core gamer, someone who usually has already come into contact with some sort of action oriented gameplay, be it FPS, flight sim or space shooter. Probably the biggest difference to titles like X-Wing, Freelancer or Freespace is to understand the implications of “massive.” None of the mentioned games had hundreds of players shooting at each other at the same time. In order to allow simultaneous Strike Craft combat, quick tactical Escort action, as well as strategic Line Ship battles we had to come up with a control method wrapping all of these styles into one coherent system. Having collected great player feedback in the course of the last weeks and months, we are now starting to adopt and adjust the system to make each class more accessible – for any player. Give us a few weeks and tell us what you think, we count on it.

What plans do you have for the game in the coming months?

Nick Porsche:

Lots of exciting things! We just upgraded the game to Unity 3.3, added new ships and the ability for players to earn merits, which they can cash in for the opportunity to pilot the Battlestar Pegasus or Cylon Basestar. More content is always in the works, as are missions, and other gameplay events. Beyond that, we’re constantly optimizing the game to run better all over the world and to make the new user experience as easy – and fun – as possible, while also keeping veteran players engaged. The biggest change coming, in terms of development, is that the entire project is moving to our San Francisco office. This move will localize all art and programming, design and production, under one roof.

Until then we are continuously developing Battlestar Galactica Online on several levels. Balancing and bug-fixing the issues encountered in a systematic way, prioritizing them by player impact as well as technological achievability and risk. This is probably one of the most underestimated continuous development issues; simply knowing about a problem doesn’t solve it by any means. Complex games like Battlestar are prone to introducing a plethora of new bugs if the existing ones are not approached from the right angle. It’s the famous can of worms – so please bear with us if we sometimes seem to avoid certain topics. It’s not for the issue itself, but the implications it brings along for the rest of the game.

This automatically leads to the second level of development – the long term horn of plenty we intend to pour out over our players. Refracturing those parts of the game which prove to be patch-resistant (see above), while designing and implementing exiting new features.

I recently read in a review remarks about the longevity of our game. And although this obviously lies in the eye of the beholder, I know everyone wants this game to go full circle. Please bear in mind we still are in “Beta” - meaning we consider this phase to still see important alterations to the actual gameplay and mechanics. This being said we’re not only working on implementing hot new assets like ships or items, we are designing along totally new routes, completing the strategic layers of the conflict, giving our players more meaningful gameplay. Most of these ideas in fact have been brought up in our forums by the community – so without me disclosing anything already, just read it up and you should get an impression of what we are envisioning.

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