Recently, Above and Beyond Technologies announced that The Repopulation, their long-in-development MMORPG would be switching to Unreal Engine 4 from the Hero Engine. Not only did we all breathe a sigh of relief when the news was announced because the game's development would carry on, but we actually began to get excited for The Repopulation once more. We reached out to Founder Joshua Halls to chat about the move and the upcoming "side project" known as Fragmented.
The obvious, aside from the Hero Engine woes, why the swap to UE4? Over say Unity?
We gave both options a long, hard look. Source code, moddability, and networking were key issues for us, and we just felt that Unreal Engine 4 was a better fit for the game. We’re very happy with that decision.
How long do you estimate it will take Above and Beyond to rewrite the code for Repopulation and get the game back online?
We took an, “and the whole kitchen sink” approach before and it resulted in a rather long development cycle. We plan on having a bit more of a modular approach to The Repopulation focusing on the more successful aspects of the game as we seen in the testing and get those out of the door first. Using Fragmented as the base for the game will help as well as as many of the core aspects of the game (animation, cameras, networking, combat, etc) will be complete and ready to integrated. It is hard to set an exact date when we might have a feature to feature rewrite, but we expect to have an initial playable version before the end of the year and then we will continue to iterate on it and introduce different modules into it to get it closer feature to feature with where we were at.
Are you going to be hosting alpha/beta tests all over again?
Yes, existing owners will be able to get back in once initial testing is complete and the basic modules we designed and ready to go.
Will we see any design changes for Repopulation during the conversion? Any systems you want to trim or add?
We will examine everything during the conversion mostly to look at what was working successfully and to evaluate technology shifts from going from Hero Engine to Unreal Engine. One of those technology shifts is how we will design the server system and the modding capabilities of Unreal Engine. This will allow players to host their own servers and the capability of building their own mods beyond the rulesets and controls we design. This can be for a group of 4-20 friends or guild members to 100s or 1000s of players.
Our goals before was to offer a few rulesets to appeal to different types of players and we plan to continue that trend. The game at its core was wrapped around building a community and a solid in game economy and we plan to continue that.
What is Fragmented and how does it fit into the Repopulation?
Fragmented is a Multiplayer Sci-Fi Survival game, based in the same setting as The Repopulation, but it’s time frame begins when the first clones land on Rhyldan. It is before the advent of the core factions: OWON and FPR. Players play the role of the first settlers on the planet, trying to gain a foothold on the new planet. Repop owners will recognize many of the species and locations in the game, but this is before human settlement. It’s an open ended sandbox which will feature both PvP and Co-Op servers.
Gameplay wise if you took the Repopulation, and morphed it into a more action driven survival game, you’d have Fragmented. Complexity is downscaled and a bit easier to grasp, but it’s still a crafting, combat, and harvesting heavy adventure with the ability to create structures and form cities.
Fragmented also allows us to put a product (for free) into the hands of all existing Repop owners, to provide them with something to play, and a glimpse of what to expect from the UE4 version of Repop. Fragmented is forming the base of what will become The Repopulation, much of the code and artwork will be shared between the two games, so in essence those first Fragmented tests will also be the first tests of UE4 Repopulation.
A big draw for Repopulation was its intricate crafting. Will we see something similar in Fragmented?
Crafting is an important part of Fragmented as you will need to collect resources from the world and build all sorts of weapons, armor, buildings, ammo, food, traps, pets, etc, much like The Repopulation. However, most of the creating is fairly straightforward. There is dependency on other trade skill lines, and far less sub-combines. Most crafting recipes are single click adventures.
Some of things you can build include many types of armor and weaponry, structures, props, genetically engineered pets, food and drink, pharmaceuticals, crafting and harvesting tools/stations, traps, turrets, components, vehicles, and containers. Harvesting and crafting are a very big part of the game.
When could people that weren't involved with Repopulation expect to be able to play Fragmented?
We will start doing larger testing sessions this month and the progress of these testing sessions will play a very important part in setting that timeframe. Hopefully we will be prepared to evaluate further dates toward the end of the month.
When Repopulation comes back, will Fragmented halt development, or do you plan to use it similar to how Landmark is a "test bed" for EQ Next from Daybreak?
We expect to see some crossover of resources being used for both titles (such as art and to some degree some of the programming work). We will have specific needs for both titles, but we also see a lot of crossover that can be used in both titles. Work will continue on Fragmented when we start to gear up more work toward The Repopulation. While this will be a challenge working on 2 titles at once, the alternative was just to work on The Repopulation. This would of resulted in needing some kind of funding source from either a Kickstarter or some kind of investment opportunity and believed developing Fragmented first was a better all around option. Also, we believed was the best chance to make sure The Repopulation would get released and would provide a widely used and tested base in Fragmented to start development for The Repopulation from.