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

By Jon Wood on February 04, 2009 | Interviews | Comments

Progress Report Interview
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Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with Hermann Peterscheck, the Lead Designer on NetDevil’s Jumpgate Evolution to get a report on the game’s progress since the last time that we spoke.

The most obvious question to start with whenever we haven’t spoken with a company for some time is to ask where the game is in terms of development cycle?

“It’s a really great time right now,” Peterscheck responded, “we’re just now getting to the point where we’re going to start announcing more external people coming into the game. We’re ramping up the internal tech for that. A lot of the features are now at the point where we can play through them. We’ve done a lot of work, especially on making the game have a much more epic combat kind of feel to it.”

He went on to tell me that they have also come to the point where a lot of the uninteresting back-end stuff is getting wrapped up, things like logging on, registration systems and the like.

“We’re getting to the point where players can come in and give feedback and stuff like that.”

So, what’s new with the game that we might not be aware of?

“We’ve got a battle space scenario that we’ve been working on. It’s a capitol ship type of battle, so that’s the big exciting thing we’ve been working on lately. Then, we’ve just added a multiple mission system so that you can take a bunch of missions at the same time , you can use those to gain faction rating to get all kinds of new ships… We’ve got a lot more to flesh out.”

“There’s a lot more content in the game,” he continued. “We spent probably the last five or six months just adding a lot of content making sure there’s a complete experience all the way though.”

He went on to tell me about some of the rewards that they have planned. They seem to have taken a page out of Xbox’s book with statistics and medals and awards, following in the footsteps of other MMOs like WoW, LotRO and others that have incorporated alternate achievement paths into their games.

Missions

From here, I asked Hermann to go a little bit deeper into some of the specific features that he mentioned previously. First, I asked him if the multiple missions that he mentioned earlier were different from quest strings that we see in many MMOs.

“Most space games tend to be: you take a mission, you fly out and do it, and then you return to the station,” he answered. “We realized very quickly that that gameplay was not very conducive, especially if you’re with a group of people, so we had to change that so that you could take multiple missions at the same time.”

“Our missions break into a main storyline that goes through the game for each of our nations. Those are campaign, or story missions that are very specific and directed, and then there’s a generated mission system and those are missions that come from factions.”

The factions, we are told, are different groups in space. Working with them can gain different rewards and unlock new things in the game. Hermann said that these missions give the game more depth than a simple “I do A, B, C, D and E” to achieve my goals in the game.

The team has also identified one of the problems with what Peterscheck called “generated missions”. He noted to me that often, generated missions are unique, meaning that you won’t be given the same mission as your group mate, which suddenly makes grouping a lot less appealing. In JGE, however, you will be able to share your generated content missions with others.

These missions are dynamically created, and are created in groups. Often, with auto-generated content, players are left with disjointed missions that don’t make too much sense when taken together. NetDevil plans to offer dynamic content in the form of logical quest chains. A slightly different take on an old idea.

“The way that we do that,” he explained, “is we have designers write stories that can be put together in interesting ways. Then, we can link them by saying that these missions take place at the beginning, then these are in the middle, and then these ones would happen at the end.”

To clarify the point, Peterscheck told us that boss fights don’t generally come at the beginning of a quest chain. They come at the end. So, their system would put the boss fight part of the chain at the end, rather than the beginning. The end result of which is that the dynamic quest chains should feel more natural for players.

“It allows us to create an infinite number of things to do in the game that are still meaningful while we also have the ability to keep putting in pieces of custom content.”

Capitol Ship Battles

From there, I asked Hermann to go into a little bit more detail on the capitol ship battles that he had mentioned previously:

“The space genre lends itself to massive space combat,” he said. “If you think of Star Wars or Battlestar Gallactica, you always envision tons and tons of ships flying around. That’s been a core drive of the game, so in addition to all of the MMO components, you want that space combat kind of feature… the way that we discovered to do that was to have lots of ships at the same time , both AI and players, and then different scales of things you’re fighting against.”

What he means by this is that instead of just saying here’s my really big fleet or army and it’s going to fight your really big fleet or army, The Capitol Ships allow many ships of a smaller size to fight against a single, enormous entity.

“We’re trying to take down your Capitol ship while we’re trying to take down yours. I don’t mean six vs six, I’m talking about fifty vs fifty.”

His mention of Battlestar Gallactica (at least the new series) earlier on can serve as an example here. When Gallactica fights, she deploys manned gunships called Vipers. Their enemies do the same and the resulting battle is a lot of small ships trying to destroy a large enemy ship (while the enemy does the same thing). Fans of the show should have a pretty good visual cue as to what Capitol Ship battles are meant to be about.

Now that we have an idea of where NetDevil’s Jumpgate Evolution is coming from, and where they have been focusing their energies as the game moves toward more public testing, we can start to get an idea of how the full game will be shaping up. We hope to be in contact with Hermann and the rest of the dev team on a more frequent basis as the game inches closer and closer to launch.