Interviews

Transformers Universe First Details - An Interview with Steven Huckle

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Earlier this year Jagex announced its latest MMOG project, Transformers Universe. Details were still a bit thin so Ten Ton Hammer caught up to Art Director Steven Huckle on the show floor at gamescom this year to see what more we could find out. As it turns out, Steven was happy to answer our questions.



TTH: How long have you been developing Transformers Universe?

Steven Huckle: We started in earnest in January, but there was a build-up before then.

TTH: Are you talking about a persistent world where everybody is a transformer, an autobot?

Steven Huckle: Yes. Essentially, itÂ’s more self-contained, I want to say it's a traditional MMO but itÂ’s not. ItÂ’s combat based because you have 30 foot robots going around smashing the crap out of stuff. ItÂ’s going to be good. We have some very unique things other than traditional vehicles or class mounts that get you from A to B. Here, the mounts are you.

Character progression is something that we really want to get right. If we get too complicated, people donÂ’t know what weÂ’re doing.

TTH: Are you using a proprietary engine?

Steven Huckle: No, itÂ’s our own design. We have a whole new graphics engine for it. Runescape is what weÂ’re built on. WeÂ’ve got a lot of experience with engines. With Transformers, weÂ’ve got something more.

TTH: So it's going to be browser based?

Steven Huckle: Yes, it is. It's more accessible. It makes it easy for people to get their heads around it.

TTH: Obviously, thereÂ’s going to be some PvP?

Steven Huckle: Yeah, itÂ’s going to be a mixture of PvP and PvE. I think, again, itÂ’s that broad audience we're after. We want to give players the opportunity to do both.

TTH: Now when we were talking about the universe, are you looking at the modern universe or at the classic universe?

Steven Huckle: ThatÂ’s a difficult one to answer. Transformers had 11,000 transformers in the last 25 years so weÂ’ve got a lot to choose from. Obviously we have the big names in there. We want to give something special to the fans and weÂ’ve got a couple identifiable characters that weÂ’re not really talking about at the moment.

ItÂ’s set in the Prime Continuity because thatÂ’s what is on the latest TV show now that the films are out of the way. WeÂ’re kind of conscious that thereÂ’s a big world of wealth of transformers to choose from so weÂ’re going to take cues from everyone. ItÂ’s an MMO, weÂ’ve got ten to twenty years hopefully so over that time, weÂ’ll be able to add lots and lots of stuff into it. We feel like kids in a candy shop and sometimes have a hard time which bots we're going to choose.

TTH: Sometimes picking up a large IP like Transformers can be somewhat restrictive by trying to stay true to the canon and all. Do you find it restricting at all or do you find it just so invigorating that you just want to do it?

Steven Huckle: I think that itÂ’s a combination of both. We knew that we couldn't make Optimus Prime pink for example, so I think certain restrictions were kind of set.

With the character customization, and the fact that weÂ’re creating our own and weÂ’re designing the world and making it for the players to use, we have a lot more freedom there. WeÂ’re restricted in some ways, but more free in other ways. Which works out really well. It makes our life very, very easy. We can actually focus on making it look good and play well as opposed to battling over smaller details.

TTH: Obviously we know that itÂ’s an MMO. But is it more of an MMORPG or a MMO action game?

Steven Huckle: I canÂ’t really say at the moment. ItÂ’s more action oriented.

TTH: Gotcha. Do you get equipment upgrades that you wear?

Steven Huckle: ThereÂ’ll be weapons in it and thereÂ’ll be a progression system, so as you play the game, you wonÂ’t have the same exact stuff and stats that you start with.

TTH: YouÂ’ve got a great IP. YouÂ’re going to be pulling in a broad audience. You said that you wanted a big mix, so what age range are you shooting for?

Steven Huckle: 13 and above. There are many, many reasons behind that, but I donÂ’t want to go into them. Making it accessible for 13 and above, in many ways, makes it a lot easier.

The films are PG as well, so it works. We didn’t want to say, “Let’s make an 18 game,” because it’s transformers. There’s too many people outside that who would want to play it. We keep it really broad. That’s probably not the best words to use, but it’s true. With transformers, there’s very few people who haven't heard of it, and the kids now will love the new stuff. We’ve got it all at our disposal.

TTH: What I really liked about the transformers movies was Megan Fox.

Steven Huckle: I can tell you now that she isnÂ’t going to be in it.

TTH: Oh no, disaster.

Steven Huckle: No chance on that one.

TTH: What kind of timeline are you looking at for launch?

Steven Huckle: WeÂ’re hoping for beta around Christmas time, but thatÂ’s quite flexible. WeÂ’ll have a closed beta, then weÂ’ll have an open beta, and then weÂ’ll have a release. The release is going to be sometime in 2012. Those set dates we donÂ’t know yet.

ItÂ’s one of those projects where we've got the time and we want to make sure that we get it right. WeÂ’re conscious that we need to deliver and get it out. We want to make sure, and weÂ’re all big transformers fans on the project, what we do and what we deliver is absolutely right for us. When we go to beta and go over beta, we get the fansÂ’ feedback. DonÂ’t forget that online, we get the opportunity to be open to changing and updating on the fly as we do it. We can see how people are playing, what theyÂ’re liking, what theyÂ’re not liking, what theyÂ’re fans of.

TTH: Are you concerned at all about players making transformers that look too much like the iconic transformers, such as Optimus Prime?

Steven Huckle: It’s something that we’re trying to avoid. Bumblebee is the most popular character out there. We don’t everybody getting a sports car and making a Bumblebee out of it. There are design and style cues that we’ve gotten from Hasbro that we know to stay slightly away from, but so far, our relationship with Hasbro has been brilliant. I can’t fault it. They’re loving everything we’re doing. We’re really happy with the feedback that they’re giving us, so we’ve been quite clever with the way that we’ve designed everything that we don’t too close to what the main guys are like, but close enough so that the fans go, “Hey, I can see myself being…”

TTH: Inspired by?

Steven Huckle: Exactly.

TTH: Will the look of their character change during the course of the game?

Steven Huckle: I donÂ’t know. Those are things that we could potentially do or not do. ThereÂ’s a lot of stuff, as you guys probably know, that change as you get into beta and you start really hammering out the game with the fans. They give you very good feedback! You need to react to that and follow what theyÂ’re saying and listen to them, because at the end of the day, theyÂ’re the ones who are going to be paying and playing the game. If weÂ’ve pleased them and everybody else, then weÂ’ve done our job brilliantly.
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