Jumpgate Evolution - Dev Chat Summary
On Thursday night, the developers from Jumpgate Evolution stopped by to talk about their game in our most recent Developer Chat. Today, we present this article summarizing some of the interesting aspects of the chat.
Last night, the guys from NetDevil stopped by to answer fan questions about their upcoming MMORPG, Jumpgate Evolution in our most recent MMORPG.com Developer Chat. Joining us for this chat were: Draker the Producer, Awen the Community Manager, Binkies the Business Development Manager and Istvan the Programmer. This chat marked the first for the Jumpgate crew, but we hope that it isn’t the last.
From Past to Present
As readers may or may not be aware, Jumpgate Evolution is a follow-up to NetDevil’s original Jumpgate, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when some of the questions revolved around the previous game. Perhaps the most interesting question to start with got right to the point in asking what the major differences would be between Jumpgate Classic and Jumpgate Evolution. Istvan answered that the biggest difference was going to be the look of the game, the “huge graphical update”. He also pointed out that the intention is for Evolution to be a “more modern game overall”, addressing some of the systems that are incomplete in the original version of the game.
Questions about the nature of the game and its relationship to its predecessor went from the more general questions above to much more specific questions about how this new game will function. There were questions about everything from braking in space to piracy. The answers to these questions made it quite clear to the participants and to readers here today that while Evolution is going to follow in the footsteps of the original, that it will be a kind of re-imagining. Here, for example, is how Awen answered the question about pirates:
“Pirates [are] something that we’d really like to do but chances are that it will function differently as this is an entirely separate game from the Classic. We’ll be interested to see what the players are going to suggest in this area.”
Beyond pirates, they told us that the merit / medal system from the original would be left intact (and enhanced), that the game will be played on multiple shards (unlike say, EVE), that ship availability would still be close to the original, but that some ships will now require faction unlocks. This early in the game, it’s impossible to tell how similar the follow-up will be to its counterpart, but early impressions seem to suggest that, like any true sequel, it will take the spirit of the original game and transpose it into a new form.
Throughout the chat, the developers appeared keen to listen to what the players had to say and seem to be waiting for that feedback before making some of their decisions. Currently, the game is in pre-alpha, a stage of development where we wouldn’t usually see developers willing to come out to answer questions either from fans or from press, so it was exciting to see the guys come out and be so enthusiastic about their answers, even if more often than not, the answer was that they couldn’t yet answer.
The game itself, we are told, is scheduled for a late Fall 2008 launch, an impressive timeframe for the development of the game which currently employs only 10 people: five programmers, three artists, a Community Manager and a Producer. Obviously at this point there are no set dates for a Beta, but we were assured that the Jumpgate Evolution community would be the first to know when the date was set. At this early stage of the game, it’s hard to tell how the Evolution team will handle their community, but so far it seems as though they want to encourage feedback and reward loyalty. Below, you will find an exchange that resulted from a fan asking whether character and squad names that he used in the old game could be reserved for the new game:
“We really appreciate the support that our classic players have given us over the years, so it is something that we are looking into implementing,” said Awen. “I really hope that it’s something we can put in there. You guys have been awesome to us.”
The Jumpgate team was surprisingly tight-lipped when it came to discussion of Evolution’s story. “Right now,” said Awen, “we’re keeping the backstory under wraps. We’re going to reveal pieces of it over the next several months.”
While the team is keeping relatively quiet about the story, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t putting a lot of effort into that area. “I can tell you that Keith Baker is writing it and he’s incredible.” While the team doesn’t go into more detail in the chat, Keith Baker is a name that should be familiar to fans of Dungeons and Dragons as it was Baker who created the Ebberon setting for the classic pen and paper game (also the world in which Dungeons and Dragons Online is set).
Normally, I am the kind of gamer that gets bored talking about technology and requirements and the like. Will the game be point and click? No. Will it use WSAD movement? Yes. Naturally, this aspect of the chats never really grabs my attention. This time though, I heard a word that I haven’t heard from MMORPG developers in quite some time. Joystick. Joysticks, we are told (as well as gamepads), will be “absolutely supported”.
Even through the giddy promise of dusting off my old joystick (please keep the jokes to a minimum), I and the others gathered for the chat didn’t miss the inevitable “What are the predicted system requirements” question:
Said Drakar, “One of the things we are concerned with is keeping specs low. Right now we are aiming at 512 MB RAM and fixed function video cards. We are more or less trying to shoot for the same requirements of games such as EVE and World of Warcraft. They both accomplish impressive visuals without asking people to pay $3000 for a new machine. We are taking the same approach.”
While there were many more questions (in fact, the developers actually exhausted all of the questions), the above should give readers an indication of the tone of the chat. While most chats don’t see that many questions answered with “I’ll tell ya later” style answers, it is rare that developers working on a game at this stage of development would come out and answer as many questions as they did openly and honestly, even if the answer was “we have no answer.”