Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
Answers by Hermann Peterscheck, Producer for Jumpgate Evolution
Creating believable space-based combat is no simple feat in the video
game realm. Gravity is taken out of the equation and strangely
functioning objects (like asteroids or gravity wells) are tossed in.
Still, the developers at NetDevil are attempting to do just that with
Jumpgate Evolution. As the second part of our two-piece series on the
combat and controls of the game, Ten Ton Hammer's Cody "Micajah" Bye
caught back up with Hermann Peterscheck to sketch out the rest of the
details of the combat in the upcoming space-based MMOG. However, make
sure you check out Part
as well, if you haven't already done so!
Ten Ton Hammer: Not all
MMO gamers are familiar with space dog fighting. How are you going to
introduce them to that style of gameplay? Will there be an extensive
tutorial and will advanced players be able to skip ahead to other
sections of that tutorial?
developers hope to provide an introductory experience that allows old
and new players alike to learn the new game with ease.
Part of the core design philosophy is that the game should be
accessible, but that doesn’t mean that it is inane or
simplistic. Our approach to a “tutorial” is for it
to function in an on demand way. Tutorials need to be timely and
meaningful. My favorite example is teaching someone how to drive a car.
If you give someone a huge manual and 2 hours of time, then take away
the manual and put them behind the wheel odds are they won’t
remember what they read (not to mention they will be bored out of their
minds)! If you put someone in a car but let them drive anymore and try
to give them the idea of what it might be like to drive the car, that
might be timely but it isn’t meaningful.
Ten Ton Hammer: What are
some of the ways that you're keeping combat from becoming too
difficult? One of the big sticking points for some players of the early
Jumpgate was the high difficulty level of the game? Is there a solution
My favorite games are the ones that put me right into the game and then
tell me what I need to know at the moment I need to know it. This is
what we are doing. It’s a very time consuming approach, but I
think in the end it will work well. A separate goal is that if you have
started the game for the 10th time (hopefully we have a lot of
replay-ability) you shouldn’t feel like you are forced to get
through the “boring part” in order to do the
“fun stuff.” Fighting the first guy should be
satisfying and fun, even if you have done it 100 times.
Hermann: Yes. You
test the game on beginners and make sure they are able to succeed,
right form the start. Then you make sure that further on in the game
people who have more experience have challenges. I have found no fast
and simple way to do this. If you want to know if your game is playable
by a beginner you have to watch a beginner play and see if they can do
it. Then you can evaluate whether or not the game meets what you want
Ten Ton Hammer: How many
different weapons will the players have to choose from when they're
equipping their ship? Will weaponry play a large part in determining
who the best dogfighter will be?
The trick with difficulty level is that the more buy in a player has
the more tolerant they are of difficulty level. If you play a game for
the first 3 minutes and get killed over and over again,
that’s not very fun. If you play a game for 400 hours and are
never challenged, that’s not very fun either. The progression
of difficulty is one of the landmarks of a great and highly replayable
game. I have not found an easy way to do this…
it’s tedious and frustrating and I think it’s where
most games actually really fall apart.
Hermann: Range of
equipment is another one of those accessibility things. If you make
people choose from 300 weapons right off the bat they will likely be
confused and worried that they are making “the wrong
choice.” If after 400 hours of gameplay I’m still
using the same weapon, I’m going to be bored. I think games
like Zelda do this brilliantly. They introduce new weapons and
mechanics gradually which simultaneously avoids confusion and reducing
boredom; so we’re going to try something like that.
The equipment/skill thing is probably the most difficult area to
balance. Because games like World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 are dice
roll combat it’s pretty much all about equipment. Skill
doesn’t come into play until the very end when everyone has
more or less the same amount of power in terms of their equipment. That
being said, WoW has a very rich PvP game that relies very heavily on
skill and strategy. Games like Quake and Counterstrike rely almost
exclusively on skill and strategy as there is no equipment advancement,
My point is that the way it works is that equipment will create a range
in which skill matters. So if the difference in the first weapon and
“best’ weapon in the game is 1 point of damage then
you have a mostly skill game that relies very little on equipment.
However, there is very little incentive to advance. If you make each
rank you gain double the power of equipment then you have removed much
of the value of skill outside of the particular level range of the
My guess is that this is something we will be balancing for a long
time, but the general thinking is that the level range of effectiveness
will be much larger than other MMOs. Also, I expect that the players
that care the most about this will tend to be the people that play the
most and thus they are likely to consume content much quicker than we
are able to create it, putting them at the “end
game” much of the time. You can see this effect with almost
any other MMO – the toughest most powerful groups also eat
through any new stuff within a week or two, even if it takes the
developer a year or more to make it.
Ten Ton Hammer: Combat is
always a huge part of any space combat sim. What sort of guarantees can
you give the gaming populace to assure them that Jumpgate has their
dogfighting needs in mind?
NetDevil knows that
combat needs to be epic in Jumpgate Evolution for the game to succeed.
wonderful thing about this is that the best way to
“punish” a developer for executing a core game
feature poorly is by not paying for the game. So I can guarantee you
that if we make a space combat game with crappy combat we will not
succeed as much as if we make the greatest space combat experience in
history. So we are extremely motivated to create a great space combat
experience. How do we know if we have a great dogfighting experience?
Easy. People are dogfighting all the time and can’t stop
Ten Ton Hammer: Can you
tell us anything else about the dogfighting in Jumpgate Evolution?
You’ve done a great job at “being
exhaustive” here. *smiles*
For you, what's the most
important part of space combat? Is it the control system or something
us know on the forums