Visuals and Sound Interview
Information on Jumpgate: Evolution has been “out of the gate” so to speak for over a year now, with NetDevil demoing the game at various events, showing new features as they build, develop, improve and iterate.
“Our artists are way ahead of the game development team,” said Scott Brown. “So they’ve had time to optimize and refine.” According to Scott, the NetDevil artists have been doing better and better work, yet kept systems specs low. “They’ve done an amazing job,” he said, “and the most recent is the work on the particle system.” Keeping the system specs low is a major design objective for NetDevil as their goal is to allow keep framerate high and allow gamers with lower-end machines to play their game. The ripple and reflective effects of glass panes are really something else now and some of the Capital ships are truly impressive.
“Playing a game should be fun and shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg,” said Scott, “and we want to be able to get as many players as possible into the game.” This would also hold true for game events such as raids and PvP. Players with lower-end machines would expect some slow down when there are many ships in the area, but hopefully, it would not be a major issue.
Keeping the frame rate high also assists with the vertigo effect. Some gamers (like me) are more susceptible to vertigo than others and prior to Jumpgate, I would not have even looked at a space flight game as watching it gave me vertigo as well!
Jumpgate has just gone through a friends and family beta, and from the feedback garnered from that and focus groups, they have done a lot of work on the game, re-doing many parts. “One of the things we’ve had to do was to slow the ships down. Can you tell the difference?” he asked. I could not.
There will not be much appearance customization of ships or avatars in the game as that slows the game down. Instead, there will be many ships to attain and choose from, and character portraits, as this is a space combat game, instead of avatars to walk around on space stations. “In the future, however, who knows?” Scott said, referring to EVE Online’s plans for walking in stations.
The Mission system is receiving an overhaul so that players aren’t presented with large paragraphs of text they have to read through. Instead, the mission will be delivered in a series of steps with much shorter text messages popping up at different stages. This was to involve the player more, to create a more immersive experience as the mission is no longer as straight forward as it may seem at first.
A voice-over system has been added at the newbie tutorial stage to help new players get into the game faster, so they are not presented with a bunch of text they have to read while trying to learn how to fly their ship, and an auto-docking system has been put into the game.
There are different rules in PvP space, I was told, and a new story line at level 10 will teach the player about the PvP rules as well as the different factions in space. The PvE death penalty is basically time and money as you’ll get a nice repair bill for your ship. There are plans to have different rules for PvP death, but this was not fleshed out during our interview.
I asked about the collision rules. At this time, it’s only Player against AI & Environment, not player against player, although it could change for PvP. NetDevil is currently working on the extent of damage that could be caused by explosion backsplash and debris. It would suck if Luke Skywalker’s X-wing had been caught by the explosion of the Deathstar, so there’s some balancing to do yet, and NetDevil’s next big development push is open PvP.
For the second year, NetDevil shared a booth with Dolby. That is because Jumpgate: Evolution is Dolby’s MMO game showcase for their Dolby Axon software suite. Dolby Axon provides full surround sound, direction, position and distance attenuation. “Space will not be without sound,” said Scott, “Players will hear ships when they fly past, and you will be able to catch radio chatter.”
Dolby Axon was built from the ground up for games, with dialogue leveling built in, so players will not have to spend the first ten minutes of logging in, adjusting levels and telling each other to get their mikes closer or further away or turning volumes up.
For Jumpgate, players will not have to use outside services such as Teamspeak or Ventrilo as Dolby Axon is built into the game. Depending on the game, voice chat will be served from the game servers or Dolby’s servers. Different classes of users are built into Dolby’s API and provided to game developers, so a hierarchy of users could possibly control chat. For example, when the Raid Leader speaks, all others could be muted and this rolls downhill for guilds with different class and squad leaders. Voice mods are also in their API and some provided in Jumpgate, and voice fonts are also available.
Jumpgate is currently taking closed beta sign ups although they will go into another friends and family beta when this iteration is done, before going into closed beta later in the year. As for Dolby Aoxn, beta signups are being taken at https://axon.dolby.com which will begin at the end of September. During beta, for groups as little as 5, the chat will be hosted on the chat initiator’s computer with larger groups rolling onto Dolby servers.