Stargate Worlds: Exclusive Interview with Dan Elggren

Cheyenne Mountain Senior Producer Dan Elggren sits down to answer some questions about Stargate Worlds in this exclusive interview. Announced a few months ago, SGW places players in a world drawn from the famous TV franchises Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.

WarCry Q&A: Stargate Worlds
Answers by Dan Elggren, Senior Producer
Questions by Dana Massey

imageWarCry Network: For those who have never heard about Stargate Worlds or have not been following it, can you explain the high level goals of your project?

Dan Elggren: Stargate Worlds is a science fiction MMORPG set in the distinctive Stargate SG-1 television series universe. Players will investigate ancient ruins and contact alien races using Stargates, ancient gates that allow instantaneous interplanetary travel. Players will fight frantic battles, solve intricate puzzles and explore unknown worlds.

WarCry Network: Combat is something you’ve identified as an area where you want to change the dynamic. Run us through some of the key differences between combat in SGW and normal MMOs?

Dan Elggren: The major difference players will experience is the need for real-world tactics. Players and MOBs will have to use appropriate tactics to defeat their enemies. That means seeking out cover for protection, maneuvering to flank your foes and using firepower to suppress the enemy while moving into position to take them out.

Real world military squad-based tactics will work in Stargate Worlds. The last thing we want to see in our world is a bunny-hopping Jaffa.

imageWarCry Network: Every developer I’ve ever spoke to who tried to do guns with RPG mechanics said the task was a nightmare. How are you going to get guns to feel right in your RPG?

Dan Elggren: Stargate Worlds is not a first person shooter. We want combat to be fast and deadly, but not to the point of one-shot kills. Like the show, we are making combat in Stargate Worlds exciting and filled with constant action. We are tailoring the mechanics of our system to bring this to life within the game.

There is no doubt that it’s a challenge for our team, but we are confident that we will do it right.

WarCry Network: The license you’re working with is quite popular, but took a dent when the original series came to an end. Given many of you come from original IP backgrounds, what are some the biggest advantages and disadvantages of it so far?

Dan Elggren: Stargate SG-1 may have been cancelled, but not before becoming the longest-running sci-fi show in history. That’s quite a legacy to live up to. Stargate Atlantis is going strong in its third season and a third, as yet unnamed series has been announced, so there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the franchise.

imageThe biggest advantage of working with an established, popular IP like Stargate SG-1 is the built in fan base that is so excited that they will have a chance to be part of the Stargate universe. Another great advantage is the deep and varied back story that has been fleshed out over the course of 10 seasons of SG-1 and three seasons of Atlantis. When fans of the series log in to Stargate Worlds, we want them to feel like they are coming home. When players who aren’t familiar with Stargate try the game out, they will get a rich introduction to a living world that will draw them in. Those are aspects that are difficult to imbue in an original IP.

But the knowledgeable fans and incredibly rich background also provide our biggest challenge. If we don’t get a detail right, I expect to hear about it.

WarCry Network: Most identify this game with Stargate SG-1. What will there be in there for the fans of Atlantis?

Dan Elggren: As we get started, we want to focus primarily on SG-1 and the stories that evolved over the series’ 10 seasons. Those 200 plus episodes have given us a great deal of material to work with. We also have some flexibility that we can use to extend that story.

Material from Atlantis would be ideally suited to an expansion pack. There is just too much material to include in the initial offering and an expansion would allow us to give it the appropriate treatment.

imageWarCry Network: Artistically, the jump between your first image and the first big batch was huge. Can you talk about your art direction and respond to the critics who say that everything is “too clean”?

Dan Elggren: The art that we’ve revealed to date represents very early concepts. They show in part the quality that we expect to achieve, but not the finished product. As we get deeper into development and release more screen shots, you will see an evolution in the art. Our ultimate goal is to capture the feel and nuance of the Stargate series.

WarCry Network: Stargate was never all about gunfights. What are you doing in terms of non-combat options and non-violent solutions to potentially sticky situations?

Dan Elggren: We are working on several options when it comes to negotiating with potentially hostile MOBs. We aren’t ready to provide more details on this area of the game at this time, but it is something we are taking into account in game design.

I can tell you that there will be challenging puzzles that capture the non-combat action from the show. Combat is an important part of the Stargate setting, but it isn’t the only aspect by far.

WarCry Network: You’ve purchased Unreal to power your graphics and BigWorld to power your servers. What does each one bring to the table?

Dan Elggren: Unreal Engine 3 allows us to build an incredibly detailed and stunningly rendered graphical environment. BigWorld’s engine ensures robust flow during game play. By marrying the two technologies, we have created a superior set of development tools for our team.

imageWarCry Network: The very concept of Stargates solves your dramatic compression problems, but it also seems a logical way to instance the game. How do you feel about instancing as a tool in MMOs and how much will be in SGW?

Dan Elggren: Instancing is a tool that should be used in moderation. The problem with going overboard on instancing is that your massively multiplayer RPG can suddenly feel much less massive when you lose the player interaction. Our ultimate goal is to use instancing only when it makes sense, creating a persistent, living world for the players.

WarCry Network: What will the progression curve in Stargate look like? Is this a game that you can max out characters very quickly, or will it require a lot of time? Furthermore, how directed will the experience of that progression be?

imageDan Elggren: First of all, we’re not going to focus all of our attention on the end game. We want our game to be re-playable many times. We have to balance levelling so it’s not so easy that players feel no sense of accomplishment nor so hard that players give up before reaching the end.

Once they reach the end, we want them to be excited enough that they want to do it again and get a different experience. On our end, that means giving each archetype a different path to take through the game. A player who first experiences the game as a Jaffa will be able to see the game in a new light by playing the second time as an archaeologist.

We also are building extensibility into Stargate Worlds, so our live team can add content to the game anywhere along the progression curve. With this in place, we can insert new levelling content so the second time a player goes through the game, there will be new challenges to overcome.

Thank you to Cheyenne and Dan for taking the time to answer our questions. Interested in what you’ve heard? Comment at the link below!

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