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Auto Assault Interview

Richard Cox Posted:
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MMORPG.COM: First off can you introduce yourself, tell us a little about yourself, what your title is and what you do on the Auto Assault team, and anything you may have worked on in the past?
Ryan: Hi, my name is Ryan Seabury. My official title with NetDevil is Senior Developer. I've done a little bit of a lot on Auto Assault; some programming, some design, and some business. Right now I'm trying to focus more on managing our content design and production to make sure it matches our story consistently, and making sure that everything is fun. My only previous commercial game development experience was with Jumpgate, a MMO space simulator, our first title at NetDevil. Oh, and I sometimes hang used underwear or fresh carrots on the walls of my house as "art."
MMORPG.COM: According to the back story of the game, Earth has suffered an alien attack, during which all of the weapons at our disposal were used and thus the Earth was left in Post-Apocalyptic ruins. How long ago did this war happen?
Ryan: Several alien vessels crash landed on the planet a little over 200 years prior to when the game starts. Technically it wasn't a war so much as just a catastrophe that snowballed into a doomsday scenario. No one ever witnessed any intelligent life from the alien crashes, just strange autonomous devices that seemed uninterested in humanity -- unless a human got too close. The real problems resulted from the contaminations and mutations that started spreading from the crash areas. Things took a turn for the worst when the survivors known as the Humans tried to "clean things up", using a variety of nuclear and chemical scrubbing bubbles of mass destruction (or SBMD). This did a pretty good job of knocking out a lot of indigenous life, but apparently had very little effect on the alien presence (other than the alien craft seem to be more "touchy" now).
MMORPG.COM: Were all of the aliens destroyed or might we see a reforming and another attack by them as part of the game's future storyline?
Ryan: All attempts at eradicating the alien presence have only succeeded in containing it geographically. There are still bizarre autonomous alien craft doing unknown things out in the wastelands, which are quite dangerous if disturbed. Questions still remain as to where the craft came from and exactly what they are doing here. The more common danger is really the broken state of civilization. Swarms of bandits, street gangs, even AI military robots that have run amuck, all roam the desolate highways. Most of them want to kill you.
MMORPG.COM: Can you tell us a little more about the three playable races in Auto Assault? We know each has their own special abilities. The Humans have their shield technology, the Biomeks have their adaptable vehicles, what do the Mutants have for an ability?
Ryan: The Humans are the ones responsible for unleashing the world's caches of super weapons on the rest of the population 200 years prior. They thought nothing would survive, and they could return from their underground hiding places to begin again after a decent amount of time. What they really accomplished was creating two races of extremely hardy survivors, who by the way, would like to return the gift of extinction to every Human they come across. The Humans are just now reemerging topside to reclaim their world, with some interesting energy manipulation technologies.

The Mutants represent a people who adapted and evolved with the alien contamination and genetic mutations. Through many generations, they are definitely not human anymore. They are not the grotesque mutants you might expect when thinking of typical post-apocalyptic genre material. They are much more like an X-Men flavor of mutant. They believe they are a chosen people, whom some divine power has granted special powers and status, to be used to ascend over the lower forms of life (including Biomeks and Humans). Their altered state gives them a strange affinity with the contaminated environment, which they can manipulate to almost magical effects. They have developed an interesting living compound from the alien contamination that can regenerate itself, used in construction materials and vehicle plating.

The Biomeks are half-human, half robot cyborgs. They survived by replacing diseased and failing body parts with cybernetic cores. Their roots are in the middle class of the world's contemporary military forces, who were betrayed by their high command and powerful leaders 200 years ago. They harbor a special resentment for the Humans who betrayed them and caused the mass destruction, as well as for the Mutants who are constantly trying to kill them.
MMORPG.COM: Can you give us more details on what each of these abilities do? Or maybe a brief description of each?
Ryan: Currently, the Humans have energy shields which recharge over time, giving them a free extra layer of hit points. Other properties of the shield are controlled through a shield generator component, which can be swapped out like any other piece of equipment. The Mutant vehicles are alive in some sense, and regenerate hit points always. Different heart components can be switched out on Mutant vehicles with different gameplay properties. The Biomek vehicles have a "hazard mode," which means they can transform into hulking robotic forms and lay waste to the immediate vicinity. The capabilities of a given hazard form are controlled through a computer chip that is swappable.

We actually got such an overwhelmingly positive response from our E3 showing of the Biomek Hazard Mode, that we are considering adding some kind of equivalent gameplay mechanics to the other two races as well.
MMORPG.COM: Do the races have bonuses and/or penalties for different classes? In other words are there race/class combinations that work better than others?
Ryan: We depart from traditional fantasy RPG a bit here. Each race has 4 exclusive classes that the other two races cannot play as. Each of the 4 classes represents a combat archetype which we boiled down to the tank (commando) role, the support (engineer) role, the commander (officer) role, and the special ops (ranger) role. Each of those class types will be restricted in the kinds of vehicles they can drive, useable equipment, and skill sets. For example, the Biomek Terminator, a tank class, will drive heavier equipment ranging from heavy pickups to -- you guessed it -- tanks! While the Biomek Agent, a special ops class, will drive very agile vehicles from armored motorcycles to combat buggies.

While there are similarities across races for each of the archetypes, the individual classes really are unique to each race. Additionally, every class is a combat class -- so your traditional healer role in Auto Assault is going to be able to hold their own in solo combat, albeit through indirect means.
MMORPG.COM: Speaking of classes, can we get a list of available classes and a short description of each? You've mentioned the Commando, good at heavy artillery, and the Scout, good with light mobile vehicles; what else is there?
Ryan: Sorry I can't reveal the full list at this time. Gotta keep a few things under wraps, right? We are planning on revealing more details on each character class in the coming months in our Recon section of the Auto Assault website.
MMORPG.COM: The stats, (Combat, Tech, Theory, Perception), how exactly do they affect your character? I mean what specifically does each of them do for you?
Ryan: Combat represents raw combat ability. It affects the character's ability to fight while driving, mainly your chance to hit targets and damage modifiers in some cases.

Tech represents the character's practical, down to earth knowledge. It affects your ability to repair your vehicle, salvaging better equipment from wreckage, identifying unknown items, and affects experimentation from blueprints.

Theory represents the character's high level, theoretical intelligence and education. This affects your command and coordination abilities, affects your vehicle power levels and usage, and affects experimentation from complex blueprints.

Perception represents the character's awareness of their environment and threat assessment ability. It affects your chance for a critical hit, the chance of enemies hitting you, your ability to detect cloaked/stealthed/hidden creatures and items, and affects your ability to scan and analyze creatures and items.
MMORPG.COM: Let's talk cars, since they're easily one of the primary focuses of the game. It seems you have just about every type of drivable vehicle covered; sports cars, sedans, semis, motorcycles, etc. Will there be different versions of each base type? In other words, multiple different looking sedans, etc?
Ryan: Yes, we have a variety of vehicles designed for the game right now, and we plan on offering a good selection at launch. While the base visual concepts come from a very wide range of modern commercial and military vehicles to high end sci-fi concepts, the big thing to point out is that our player vehicles are super vehicles. They are capable of sustaining and dishing out enormous amounts of damage, so you'll be regularly trashing "normal" looking cars all over the place. Our loot system is dynamically generated, so you can have similar vehicle bodies with different gameplay statistics and properties. There are some other ways to add your own style to the base models as well, which I'll touch on later.
MMORPG.COM: With the wide range of weaponry available for the vehicles, how will the amount of weaponry you can have on a vehicle be handled? Will different vehicles have different "attach points" for weapons, or will it be player level based?
Ryan: Currently, a chassis can have up to three weapon hardpoints: front, turret, and rear. Not every chassis has all three, each hardpoint is mass limited, and turret weapons come in a few different sizes which must match the hardpoint. There are also a variety of other equipment slots and special socket component slots which might grant additional skills while the player has them equipped. Weapons can also be class restricted, level restricted, or stat restricted for balance reasons.

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Richard Cox