Codemasters Connect 08 marked the first time the general public was able to get their hands on Jumpgate Evolution. So, I got on a plane and headed for England and while I was there, I also got to speak to Producer Hermann Peterscheck about the game and what NetDevil hopes to accomplish.
I started playing the previous version of Jumpgate a couple of days after it launched in 2001. It was the MMO that led me to eventually get hired into the game industry and it’s a huge sentimental favorite of mine. That’s part of why I was so excited when at the OGDC (now called ION) in Seattle, NetDevil President Scott Brown showed me what they had been working on. The game did not look the same at all. The visual changes were sweeping, but the question remained: Would it still have the same player-driven, fun gameplay?
Connect 08 gave me the chance to find out for myself. After creating a Solrain character, I was treated to an opening cinematic and then the reality of flight in the new game was upon me. I was using a machine equipped with a Saitek X52, because I had been one of those hardcore flight sim guys when I played long ago. As I shifted into first-person mode, it felt familiar, but looked completely different. I was having a great time, shooting pirates and Conflux (alien NPCs) when it dawned on me that this was the game I had always wished I could see when I played the old version. The graphics are top notch and even though I didn’t know the setup of the computer I was using, NetDevil assured me that they were taking their system requirements very seriously and hope to have it run on as many older machines as possible, without a large sacrifice of quality.
The controls felt good and I had heard that there were some concerns that joysticks might not be able to take full benefit of the lateral thruster mechanics, but using the left hat switch on the X52’s throttle seemed to work great. For those that want to have a flight model similar to the original, you can turn off the “dampeners” that determine the amount of effect the flight physics have on your movement. Just for the record, real pilots don’t need any stinking dampeners.
The game offers a very intuitive mission system and I was able to follow the instructions to achieve goals and eventually reach Level 6 and destroy a Pirate Battlestation as part of the final mission of the introductory portion of the game. Even though it was a very early, almost pre-alpha build, the first sector seemed to be quite complete. Sadly, they had PvP turned off, but given the fact that 90% of the people there to see the game were hardcore PvPers, there would have been a complete shunning of any content as we all shot each other without mercy or end.
After I realized that a couple of hours had passed, I got up and made a note to come back the next day and try the mouse/keyboard flight style. I found that to be a much easier way to control the ship as it felt more like a standard MMO, mostly due to familiarity with WASD. In this configuration, third person view was the better option for me..
The game truly impressed me, and it felt good to be able to revisit the Jumpgate universe and see a completely new game using all of the familiar and favorite parts of the old version. I am really looking forward to seeing more of what NetDevil has to offer and can’t wait for my next chance to play.
After my first play session, I then sat down with Hermann Peterscheck and talked a bit about the game.
Click to Page 2 for the Q&A portion.
WarCry: After playing the new game for a bit and looking around, I noticed the commodities and equipment market were updated as well. Do you plan for this to be a player-driven economy?
Hermann: My preference would be that during the early part of the game, you would get most of your stuff from the store or through mission rewards, but very quickly that should fall off and most of your things should come from other people or even yourself making them. To me the player economy is user generated content in itself, and you can’t compete with that. It’s all about dependencies. I love mining in games, no matter the game I always find myself mining. In MMO’s I already take the resource gathering route and I want mining to be like an Easter egg hunt where you’re flying through asteroid fields looking for stuff. You collect it and sell it to somebody else who turns it into a commodity or component of some kind, and in turn someone else buys that and creates a piece of equipment. Creating those dependencies intentionally gives games a lot of length and depth.
It also helps fight inflation, which is something you can’t get away from in MMO’s. The more people play, the more money goes into the economy and the cheaper things get and without players being able to set prices, you would be battling that forever. I really want to put as much of that in the hands of the players as possible.
WarCry: How about allowing players to generate missions?
Hermann: It’s a bit tricky, because how do you prevent it from being exploited? I’ll give you a specific example that we may or may not implement but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway. We want to have deliveries, for example, you may be a manufacturer who makes guns. In order to make guns you need a great deal of resources, but you don’t want to go and get them. You could find that there are 400 units on one station, 500 on another and you buy them. That might generate a delivery mission for another player who could be a hauler and then would pick up those packages and bring them to you. You could say how much you’re willing to pay but you wouldn’t set XP reward. To protect from griefing where a person could accept and just never bring it to you, a deposit may be required or after a certain time the mission would cancel and the items would be available again.
WarCry: The game seemed to have a bit of an opening cinematic. Is there a story arc for your character that continues as you advance?
Hermann: The first few missions are a story, but we’re going to have to start attaching pieces to it. I have a few ideas on how to do that and will see how they test. So the answer is yes, and we want to inject it at key points. Think of something like Grand Theft Auto, where there is an over-aching story but you can choose to not deal with it and run around and do your own thing. A lot of ours will involve Amananth and Hyperial; they’ve always been mysterious so they are great for attaching our story arc.
WarCry: How do you plan on mixing PvP and PvE play styles?
Hermann: There are two different strategies we have for that. My view is that the PvP/PvE debate is religious and you can never win it. People who are hardcore PvP will never like PvE and vice versa. What’s important is that you don’t punish one group or the other and you reward both types of play. We can separate space into PvP and PvE areas and build a progression path at some point and support both roles, possibly with a battleground type system. I think a large part of players do both. I like to do both, but I like to control which one I’m doing. We are going to treat both types of play very seriously.
I want to thank Codemasters for having me across the pond to attend Connect 08 and see Jumpgate and I also want to thank the Hermann and the rest of the NetDevil team for taking time to show me the game and talk freely about what they want to do with it.