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Exclusive Beyond Protocol Interview - Persistence, Unit Caps, and More

Posted Wed, Jun 25, 2008 by Cody Bye

Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

Answers by Diplomat of Dark Sky Entertainment

Unlike MMORPGs, the massively multiplayer online real-time strategy genre has yet to really take off. With only a few entrants in the marketplace, Dark Sky Entertainment is looking to make a real splash with Beyond Protocol, their first entry into the MMORTS marketplace. Recently, Ten Ton Hammer’s Cody “Micajah” Bye had a chat with the voice behind the MMOG development studio, DSE’s Diplomat. All of the answers are long and in-depth, so make sure you keep reading!


Ten Ton Hammer: To start, could you give the Ten Ton Hammer readers a brief overview of what Beyond Protocol is about?

Players in Beyond Protocol will have hundreds of choices.

Diplomat: Beyond Protocol is an MMORTS. That means a lot of players in the same persistent server/universe controlling empires, managing buildings, units, resources, relationships and technology in a real time. Specifically, it has a science fiction setting, which means the field of play ranges from lava, ice, acid, fungal, desert, oceanic, and terran planets to the cold reaches of space filled with stars, nebulae, and asteroid belts.

In creating Beyond Protocol, the developers had one idea in mind; afford the player as many options in running their empire as possible. At the largest level, player groups (Guilds, Factions, and Clans) can customize the way they play together, such as requiring a vote to declare war, or customizing ranks with weighted votes, or setting a tax imposed on each member which goes to the group treasury. At the lowest level, each building and unit can be customized from components, which can be customized from alloys, which can be customized from any of the 105 minerals available in the game. I could go on, but this is supposed to be a brief overview! In short, Beyond Protocol is about customization.

Ten Ton Hammer: In the past, MMORTSes haven’t had a lot of success trying to penetrate the online market. How is Beyond Protocol different? What sort of schemes do you have planned for the launch of your game?

Diplomat: Well, as you might imagine, our “schemes” are confidential, we seem to have already been targeted by some of the larger MMO’s as a potential sink from their player base, so I would rather not talk about that for now. What I can tell you about is our most vital feature to keep individual players and the community as a whole interested. That is the Galactic Senate. This system gives the players a dynamically democratic say in how the game actually functions. The larger players in the game, which will represent those most dedicated and involved in the game, will have the power to propose “legislation”. This legislation can be anything from adding a special technology to the tech cloud, to revising an in game mechanic, to voiding past legislation.

Once proposed, it goes to the developers who evaluate it for plausibility and an estimated time to completion. From there it goes to the player base. Every planet in the game is given one vote on the subject. For scale purposes, the relatively tiny Beta neighborhood has roughly 200 planets, when the game launches there will be many more. Each vote is public and can be changed over the 2 week voting process. Not only does this ensure that the largest or most active part of the community enjoys the game, it also adds a set of overlaying objectives for those interested in politics and control. The choice becomes either to campaign through rallies and speeches, or through destruction and domination. As I said already, any previous legislation can be overturned, so there will always be a struggle for power.

Players will advance their civilizations rather than their characters.

Ten Ton Hammer: What will MMOG players find familiar in Beyond Protocol? Will they be able to advance their characters or civilizations? Can they find loot and upgrade their units with it? Will there be raids, guilds, and PvP?

Diplomat: I may have touched on some of this already, but I’ll take this opportunity to respond in more depth. In Beyond Protocol, a player’s main representation is the civilization they create. This civilization is based off of the cities, fleets, agencies, departments and technologies under its control. Each of these can be advanced in many different ways. Cities or colonies can be shaped to function as research bases, war factories, trade hubs, cash cows, and sprawling capitols. Each building is a customizable entity, so the city can be renovated to fulfill its purpose better over time. Available technology will greatly influence how this is done.

Beyond Protocol has a very complicated research system that makes this interesting. While the player based designs are completely customizable, such as designing a weapon that fires every 5 seconds and deals 0-200 damage with each shot, there is also an overarching system of Special Technologies which dictate a player’s maximum values and available technology for such designs. An example of this would be a research that allows a special payload to weapons which yield different damage types or require different mineral properties. As the player develops their civilization, these technologies will advance along with them, but because of the inherent variables in this system, this advance is often quite different from other players around them. This creates unique strengths and weaknesses in each empire.

As for loot, upon destruction, each building or unit has the chance to leave debris or cargo on the play field. If it is collected before scavengers there are several uses for the loot. The first is inclusion in future designs. If, for example, a player’s opponent dropped an excellent engine, that engine can now be fitted into a new ship design. Another common example of this is picking up minerals dropped from cargo holds. In the Beta we have had players, of their own volition, play pirates. They abandoned typical base building and resource gathering techniques and lived solely off of the minerals and components dropped by their prey. This limited their growth somewhat, but made them extremely difficult to find as they could hide in their space stations relatively isolated from the rest of the solar system. The next use for the loot is for tactical evaluation. As soon as it is analyzed, the capabilities of the component or attributes of the alloy are known, what created the design is not, so this prevents copycat designs, but still affords the chance to better estimate a foe.

Will there be raids, guilds, and PvP? Yes, yes, and oh certainly! The raids and guilds I have gone over, but PvP should be explained. In this game, NPC empires are not common. This means major opponents will be human controlled. However, there will be certain environmental effects that serve to provide PvE, as well as the non combat portions of the game, like research and trade.

Players in BP will be fighting in a persistent universe.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will Beyond Protocol take place in a persistent universe? Will players be able to keep their units and characters over the timeline of the game?

Diplomat: The Beyond protocol universe will be completely persistent. Everything created will last until it is destroyed or the player decides to end their subscription to the game. The latter serves to prevent large inactive empires from cluttering the environments.

Ten Ton Hammer: How do the RTS elements work in Beyond Protocol? Do players have matches with each other? Or are there constant battles in the universes wherever players collide?

Diplomat: The universe is one large open place to play, so for the most part, battles are not instanced or separated from the rest of the game, and thus there will constantly be battles and front lines, so to speak. One interesting feature though, which has not seen the light of beta quite yet, is the tournament or mock battle system available within guilds. Players can contribute units to compete, test, or just play with. They can then fight to the “death” in order to reach an outcome, but when the event is over are returned unharmed to the owner. This can allow something like a tribal vie for power or an Olympic games type event without requiring, what are often, closely knit player groups to go to war with each other.

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