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AGC: David 'Zeb' Cook

Dana Massey Posted:
Interviews 0

Stargate Worlds - Interview from AGC

Lead Systems Designer David "Zeb" Cook talks to us about the game's progress

David “Zeb” Cook, the Lead Systems Designer for Cheyenne Mountain’s Stargate Worlds project took some time during the Austin Game Conference to update us on how his company’s rookie project is coming.

“We’re winding down our preproduction,” Cook told MMORPG.com. That phase has seen them concentrate on nailing down their visual style, prototype combat and set up their production pipelines. They’ve also worked hard to make sure their two major licensed technologies – Unreal 3 for the client and BigWorld for the back-end – play well together. As a sign of how far they’ve come, they even released their first screenshot just after the show (top right).

The prototyping phase has already altered some notions of how they want to do things. Originally, they had planned for players to have AI-controlled characters join them, but this has since been scrapped. They have also spent a lot of time thinking about how they’ll weave story into their game.

Combat, though, remains the primary concern. At every turn, they ask simply, “Is it fun?”

“We want combat to be more than you’ve seen in most MMOs,” explained Cook. He went on to talk about how traditional MMO AI doesn’t account for where the characters are. Monsters usually just charge in and perform a set list of attacks. In SG: W, Cook says their monsters will take cover, hide behind objects, fan out and perform other evasive action depending on their weaponry and level of intelligence. Simply, traditional AI won’t work in their setting.

Another advantage Cook is excited about is the fact that they’re building a game based around television combat. Stargate Worlds is not a modern combat simulation and they can get away with doing crazy things and having much closer and more personal interactions.

However, they must keep in mind two major things. First, the game is not an FPS. They’re not yet sure exactly how they’ll set up the combat interface, but don’t expect to be aiming and shooting. It also must not be too confusing. From a UI perspective, it is likely that the experience will be more in line with traditional MMOs.

Cook is also hard at work on expanding the role of non-combat solutions to problems. He doesn’t think the show was one where they blasted through every problem and nor should the game be.

Cook is an MMORPG veteran, having worked on City of Villains and a gaming and pen-and-paper legend. However, with SG: W, he had a chance to get in practically on the ground floor. So far, he’s relished the increased responsibility and voice this affords him, but acknowledges this means he assumes more of the risk if things do not go well. To avoid any problems, they’ve surrounded themselves with experienced MMORPG developers.

Recently, waves were made when the Sci-Fi Network cancelled Stargate, the television series that the game is based on. Cook is unsure of what the future may hold for the TV series, but didn’t seem overly concerned.

“We were always aware that this was a possibility,” he noted. “[The cancellation] doesn’t change much.”

He added that he does not believe it affects the commercial viability of their product.

Often, we hear horror stories of companies being bound by restrictive, non-gaming licenses. Stargate is no such beast, says Cook. MGM has been a dream to work with.

As per the license, they’re trying to capture the cheerful tone of the show and never take themselves too seriously. The fiction of Stargate is often playful; expect the game to be too.

Their license also solves a few big MMORPG problems for them. Stargates provide the perfect travel solution and suggest basic world architecture not unlike what most MMORPGs already do. There will be some travel and likely no mountable objects – he doesn’t foresee people driving motorcycles through stargates – but the very existence of the stargates allows players to jump from one area to another rather quickly. The show also had things like teleport rings to further ease travel.

The overall experience of Stargate should be directed, according to Cook. He wants players to have goals and things to accomplish. Stargate is definitely leaning on the side of a game, as opposed to a world. Cook does not think that one precludes the other.

Advancement promises to be relatively painless. Cook is not a fan of grinding and says missions are going to be very important. Random encounters are not a thing of the past though.

The endgame is still in design stages, but Cook does want to accommodate a range of play styles in whatever they do.

Stargate Worlds is still in very early development, but as the team expands they really seem to have found a strong core of industry veterans. Cheyenne Mountain has a long way to go, but it sounds like they’re definitely off to a good start.

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Dana Massey