Jumpgate Evolution: Developer Profile of Producer Hermann Peterscheck

by Cody "Micajah" Bye

From start up company to successful independent gaming studio, NetDevil has gone through a wide metamorphisis of changes. As more news begins to filter out concerning NetDevil's three upcoming products - Warmonger, Jumpgate Evolution, and LEGO Universe - people are beginning to wonder about the men and women that function behind the scenes in the company. Through the wonders of our industry, the Ten Ton Hammer staff has attained some of the background on the NetDevil employees. Our first volunteer was NetDevil's Jumpgate Evolution producer, Hermann Peterscheck, and he touches on his education, involvement with video games, and much more!

Ten Ton Hammer: For starters, can you give the Ten Ton Hammer readers a brief synopsis of who you are and what your role is at NetDevil?

Hermann Peterscheck: My name is Hermann Peterscheck and I am the Producer for Jumpgate Evolution.

Hermann Peterscheck

Ten Ton Hammer: What genre of games do you play regularly? Do you mainly stick with MMOGs or do your interests spread into other games as well (tabletop, card games, etc.)? Do you prefer one variety over another?

Hermann: While I occasionally play tabletop and card games, I mostly stick to video games of one kind or another with a strong preference for MMOs. When I first started playing games, I tended towards RPGs, and it pretty much removed my desire to play non-computer video games. When I started playing MMOs, it also removed a lot of the desire to play non-MMOs though there are many MMO games that will still grab me from time to time.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you have an all-time favorite game(s)? If so, why do you enjoy it so much?

Hermann: It’s hard to say. For the longest time it was the second trilogy in the Ultima series. Ultima 4 was the first time I played what I thought was a “world” game. Everything seemed very real and natural, and there was so much detail that I felt that I would never see it all. I spent hundreds of hours playing those games and they really solidified the feeling of wanting to be in the game development industry.

That being said I played so many hours of Diablo 2 and Starcraft that it’s hard to not put those high on the list. These days, along with the rest of the world, I spend a fair amount of time in World of Warcraft. Blizzard seems to be really good at making games that stick quickly and stay fun for long periods of time which is why I (and I suspect everyone else) play them so much. It’s a testament to the quality of a game when its 6 years old and still sells for approximately $40 (Diablo 2 Special Collection).

Ten Ton Hammer: What games are you playing right now? Why did you decide to explore those games and what did you learn from them?

Hermann: On the MMO side, it’s still World of Warcraft.  I suppose the reason it’s that one, is because I think it’s the best. When I find a game I enjoy more, I play that. For example, I think BioShock was very impressive, as were Halo 3 and Gears of War. Looking at that list it’s fairly obvious that I like the same games that most people do, which is what makes them such massive sellers I suppose.

Every once in a while a more obscure game will fly onto the radar. For example, I thought Defcon was a fantastic game made more fantastic because of the size of the team that built it. Everything fit so well and the atmosphere was very impressive. Emotionally, it’s one of the best games I’ve played in a long time. I also think that Mythos is going to be a ton of fun. I enjoy “beta testing” that and I can’t wait for it (not to mention Hellgate: London).

Ten Ton Hammer: What are your hobbies? What do you find relaxing/entertaining about it?

Hermann: Hobbies? My job I suppose. Honestly though, most of my time is either working or doing work related things, which goes hand in hand with having a job you love. Other than that I love reading all sorts of random stuff – almost exclusively non-fiction. I like learning little bits and pieces of everything just because I love the way things fit together in seemingly obscure ways. I also enjoy playing the piano and spending time with my dog.

NetDevil was Hermann's first "official" game employer.

Ten Ton Hammer: How did you get started in the industry? What led you to become a developer?

Hermann: Since I was young this is pretty much what I wanted to do, and it still is. NetDevil is my first “official” game employer, but I applied all over the place. I can’t tell you how many rejection letters I received from Origin back when I was begging for a game tester job. I started at NetDevil as a programmer and eventually got into production. Production is a funny title because I produced more things when I was in programming than I do now that I am in production, but that’s how it goes, I guess.

Ten Ton Hammer: What kind of schooling have you received? What was your educational focus? Has it helped you with the development of MMOGs?

Hermann: Yes and No. As with many people in the industry, games and working on them was more of a distraction from school than it was a benefit. When I was young my parents moved around a lot so I got to see all kinds of different schools and meet all kinds of people. This probably helps in some small way when it comes to being sensitive to what people like and don’t like and being comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

After high school I studied English Literature for a while and I think that helped with regard to knowing fiction and stories. Honestly I think that everything you learn can help you with developing games, especially MMOGs. It’s one of the few fields where lots of random useless knowledge seems to help rather than hurt – which is one of the reasons I like it so much. Art history, math, science, architecture, cooking, economics, they can all be useful in game making. It always helps to have some kind of hard skill (programming, modeling, writing, etc.) as well, of course.

Ten Ton Hammer: Has your gaming history influenced your work on Jumpgate Evolution? How has it helped your work?

Hermann: Yes. From a playing point of view it’s great to be able to remember all kinds of experiences because chances are if you can remake those you will be more likely to have a successful game. In terms of working on games, that helps you learn what works and what doesn’t and you become better at “smelling” the future. You don’t ever know when something will or won’t work, but the more you do it the better your senses become and you can trust them more. I’m a big believer in intuition and simplicity. Things that just make sense and are easy to explain and understand are usually the best ideas… and most fun.

Currently, large ship combat is Hermann's favorite part of Jumpgate.

Ten Ton Hammer: As a player, what's your favorite aspect of Jumpgate Evolution?

Hermann: That’s difficult to say since we aren’t finished yet! We recently started working on large ship combat and so that is my favorite thing right now. I suppose my favorite thing is usually whatever it is that is currently being worked on. One of the things we try and do is figure out what it is we, as a development group, want to play and that then helps guide us down the development path. If you make a game that is fun for your team chances are people outside the team will also like it.

That’s only 50% though; you also need to test with people that aren’t on the team to make sure that you aren’t just fooling yourself. Also, the people working on the game *know* how it is supposed to be played and tend to play it that way. People from the outside will most likely play it the way they are not supposed to play it which is where most problems are identified, so that’s really critical.

Ten Ton Hammer: Conversely, as a developer what's your favorite aspect of the game?

Hermann: I think the same as above. It’s always good when you are working on the same thing you want to play. If your team plays their own game above other games out in the market, that is a real accomplishment and, I think, a good sign that you have a quality product – note that forcing them to play is important, but not the same measure. What I hope for is that people stroll in at 2 pm because they were playing Jumpgate Evolution until 6 am the previous day.

Ten Ton Hammer: Why should an MMOG gamer play Jumpgate Evolution? How would you recommend the title?

Hermann: The answer is because it’s fun. That’s the real reason to play games, isn’t it? I think all too often developers get concerned with who the audience is and what that audience wants, etc. Our audience is game players and what they want is good games.

As an example, think about the games that sell millions of copies: Mario, Zelda, Halo, World of Warcraft, LEGO Star Wars. Those games have little in common but I have played all of them. People that are “FPS Players” may also play Zelda. People who are “MMO Players” also play Halo. If you look at my game shelf it’s similar to other people’s game shelves. Let’s see: World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo 2, Halo 3, Gears of War, and so on. I think those games succeed so well because they are fun as hell to play – even though they may not be your “type” of game.

If you want to break into the video game industry, heed Hermann's advice.

Now, of course, not everyone plays Halo 3, but many people who don’t play FPSes do. I think if you make a fun and attractive game you will have a success. This is what I am trying to do with Jumpgate Evolution. If we as a team succeed, I think the game will recommend itself so to speak.

Ten Ton Hammer: Finally, what's the best part about being in the MMOG industry and what advice would you give to anyone else wanting to break into the field?

Hermann: If it’s what you want to do, don’t give up. Probably the best way in is to just start making a game. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just try something simple and finish it. It also doesn’t matter that much how you do it: Flash, PHP, C++, whatever. We get LOTS of resumes from people that have a lot of passion but if anyone has any kind of game attached I always check it out.

Taking an idea and making it real is a very hard thing to do, if you do that you will put yourself above about 90% of all other applicants. Don’t worry about it being crappy and simple. If it’s fun and polished, that’s a bonus! Try making a Tetris clone, or Pac-Man or Gauntlet. If you like RPGs make a simple web based game with basic combat and character progression and maybe loot. The lessons learned in just trying to do it will be so valuable to any employer.

How interested are you in Jumpgate Evolution? Did you enjoy what Hermann had to say? Let us know in the forums!

Ten Ton Hammer is your unofficial source for Jumpgate Evolution news and articles!

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