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MMORPG | Setting:Sci-Fi | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel N/A)  | Pub:Codemasters
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Interviews: Codemasters Producer Interview

By Sean Bamberger on July 21, 2009

Codemasters Producer Interview

Having your IP set in space, you are naturally more limited in quest variation than, say, a traditional orcs and goblins fantasy MMO. How will interest be maintained in what is essentially an experience/license based grinding system?

Mike Rowland:

The setting in space opens Jumpgate Evolution up to a much wider variety of scenarios and missions that you wouldn't normally see in other MMOs and we're working extensively to make the mission system as compelling and free-flowing as possible. With a sci-fi universe, anything is possible and as we develop more new technology new ideas come into the fold allowing us to make the player's journey as fun-filled and exciting as possible. As you can see in the screenshots and movies released to date, we have made space vibrant and different to people's perception of a black and empty universe. Couple that with intense battle scenes against capital ships, alien hives and enemy stations, there's a whole lot of variety put into the mix that will keep interest high.


Speaking of variation, will the Battlespaces all take place in open sectors, or will there be some enclosed space stations to give the option of close-quarters dogfights?

Mike Rowland:

We've been experimenting a lot with combat variety and scenarios; recently showing a couple of examples at E3 of how we're mixing up the Player Vs Player environments, which to date have received great feedback. Our first step in creating open world PVP was to take a step back and create a skeleton for PvP. We did this by creating an area where we could test balance of ship flight, weapons and equipment and see how players utilise these in-game. Our first environment involved an epic three-way battle between each Nation with clear objectives: destroy the Capital ships and protect your own. From here we iterated and added additional AI controlled fighters, created multiple stages to the conflict and multiple systems for statistics tracking. When we were happy with how this played, we progressed down the next path of creating an internal-area or "indoor" map. In a distant sector of space now lies an ancient station where elite pilots from all Nations can battle it out to be the best of the best, capturing and holding a central beacon whilst fighting off the hoards of enemy players with the same objective in mind. With obstacles and close quarters dog-fighting, we've found this experience to be a true test of pilot skill, playing very differently to our open space battles.

From these initial Battlespace maps we're creating multiple variations in open world sectors using similar tech, plus a few other surprises that we're keeping under the hood for now.

Will there be customization options for ships in terms of the purely superficial, or will an emphasis instead be placed on ship/weapon combinations to add individuality to a player's in game experience?

Mike Rowland:

We've been doing an extensive amount of work on the weapon and equipment systems that ships can use, adding variation in the stats that allow a player to find suitable equipment for his or her play style. For example you can find different shield types that allow for fast regeneration with low protection values, or vice versa. If while flying you take a lot of hits you may opt for faster regeneration. On the other hand you're quite evasive and really want to withstand a big hit once in a while, you may opt for high protection. As you move through the different equipment types you'll discover variation that will make you think, "What's best for me?" and "What's best for this situation?" Couple this with the many ships we have in Jumpgate Evolution that each have unique payloads, we're aiming for pilots to find their own style and individuality throughout their piloting career.

We've seen video footage of asteroid-sized Conflux Hives, and heard stories of vast Battlestations. Does it all stop there, or will the bosses be taller, wider and angrier nearer to the end game?


Mike Rowland:

There are a lot of surprises to come and I don't want to spoil that experience yet. The art and tech team have been doing a lot of awesome things in the last few months that we haven't even shown our Friends & Family Testers. I think it's pretty safe to say however, what we've shown to date is only the tip of the iceberg in what's to come.

How does the aggression system work inside JGE? Are the enemies split into squads, and if so will they respond to player aggression even if not inside the aggro 'bubble'?

Mike Rowland:

The system in game has been evolving as we balance the player ships and the enemy ships. We're mixing up how the enemies fly and fight together so for example, players will see formations of mixed classes of ships working together when attacked. Enemies will manoeuvre accordingly to engage you if they see you and you're hostile. They'll lure you in so that their allies can get a good shot on you whilst scurrying to their own defence if you apply pressure.

It is understood from various sources that there is only one neutral sector separating the three Nations instead of a mass distance between them. Why was this particular layout chosen? And what is there to stop high-level players just rushing in and laying waste to a particular Nation's home sectors?

Mike Rowland:

Players are introduced to Jumpgate Evolution in PVP-free sectors of space that allow them to learn how the game functions from flight and combat, to manufacturing and lore. In order to do this we have purposely created these neutral starter sectors that eventually lead players to a Tri-Nation operated area of space. Containing five sectors, players will meet the other Nations and a number of new mutual enemies (enemies of all the Nations) that explain further elements as to why they are there and the history of the new space the three great Nations now occupy, or seek to eventually control.

Jumpgate Evolution is split between unregulated and regulated sectors of space. The central meeting point of all three Nations, as well as the starter sectors all fall under unregulated sectors. The reason we've done this is because we don't want the initial playing experience to be ruined by higher level griefers - we feel players should enter the realms of Player vs. Player once they're ready and on equal footing, so that it becomes a true test of skill rather than a gank fest.

Will there be an option to 'hire' NPC escorts for difficult mining missions in unregulated space?

Mike Rowland:

We opted to encourage making friends in-game rather than hiring NPCs, so this kind of role will be something we want real players to fulfil. As a player you can be a professional pilot escort, making a living as miner support, or work with your guild / squad to support each other for commodity runs. This will be one of many player-driven economy roles that pilots will fulfil in Jumpgate Evolution.

What are your current favourite ship classes/playstyles?

Mike Rowland:

We've been doing a lot of ship balancing during our Friends & Family testing and we've recently created a batch of new ships to fulfil intermediary roles between Light Fighters and Heavy Fighters. The Recon Fighters for example have great manoeuvrability, strong weapon loadout and reasonable defences, but I do like my Heavy Gunboat equipped with the mortar that gives a satisfying boom and AOE damage to other ships in the area. It's chunky to fly, but the armour and weapon pay off make me a happy pilot, unfortunately I'm also the most targeted pilot.


The official forums are always a hotbed for discussion and speculation. Have there been any particular ideas offered up by the forumites that have actually made it into the game, or have their discussions and arguments proved useful in solving problems the dev teams and alpha testers have encountered so far?

Mike Rowland:

There's been a massive amount of useful and inspirational comments on the forum and some of the ideas do make it in-game or are ideas that are being worked after similar reactions in-game from the dev team. We do get extensive feedback through other forms that prove extremely informative, plus simply watching how players go through the game during our tests shows many problems we would have otherwise missed.

We encourage our community to take part in these community discussions as the input can really help us decipher whether we're going in the correct direction, after all they are the ones who'll be playing the game once it's released.

Hermann's talk of constant item and recipe updates from the NetDevil development team presents a viable solution to the problems facing most MMORPG's come end-game. How will this work regarding casual gamers? Will they constantly have to grind for money to upgrade to keep up with the hardcore players? Will this not ruin the delicate game balance that was the original basis of the IP?

Mike Rowland:

Due to the nature of the game's play style, I would certainly say that players aren't disadvantaged greatly by not having the latest and greatest upgrades, especially with an emphasis on player twitch skill. The key to avoid making a game that relies on grinding is to test, test and test, working on getting that balance right and the in-game markets reasonable. The economy itself is a key aspect we will be working on until launch and then post-launch via our regular content updates.