Exclusive Jumpgate Evolution Interview

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It's the lore and history of a game that creates the framework that will transform you from a person sitting at your computer to a character immersed in an alternate reality and that's something NetDevil understands. Jumpgate Evolution's Producer, Hermann Peterscheck took some time recently to answer some questions about the lore of their universe from one of our space combat junkies, Eric "Dalmarus" Campbell.

Ten Ton Hammer: For some players (myself included), the lore of any game is just as important as the virtual world you find yourself in. Did the team take any "real life" events or characters from the first Jumpgate and add them to Jumpgate Evolution?

Peterscheck: Jumpgate Classic had a lot of really cool things in it and we’ve built Jumpgate Evolution by using the best of Classic combined with a fresh perspective.  Obviously ideas always draw from pre-existing fiction of all sorts and I suppose you can’t help but be influenced by real life events, but we haven’t done anything specific to incorporate details of real life or other fiction, yet.

Ten Ton Hammer: Three seems to be the magic number when it comes to conflicting cultures/races in MMOGs today. Can you explain why this number also works so well for you, compared to adding a fourth playable culture?

Peterscheck: Honestly I don’t know why three is such a magical number. From a balance point of view, two is much simpler as you can make a point-counterpoint design. I think what makes a three sided game interesting is that it automatically creates diplomacy. It throws a wrench into the balance of power and that creates a natural state of conflict. This might be bad in world politics, but it’s fun in games.

Ten Ton Hammer: The Solrain are currently in the lead for appearing to be the most fleshed out in comparison to the Quantar and the Octavians in terms of the lore available on the website. What intrigued the team the most about them as their lore has expanded?

Peterscheck: I don’t think it was because Solrain appealed to us more or less than the other two groups. Honestly, it was just the first group we started with and since we wanted to build the game by putting together a slice of game play first, it’s natural that they seem to be the most fleshed out. I think what intrigues people is simply mixing all the various pieces of the game together and how those pieces influence and extend the fiction. We’ve tried to make Jumpgate a bit more gritty. It’s easy to split groups into warriors, miners and spiritualists; but we wanted to ensure that all groups were more human and believable than that.

Ten Ton Hammer: With the majority of the Solrain people being part of the corruption that appears to be rotting it, will players be able to rise up the ranks of the various mega corporations? Will they be able to join up with the Commonwealth Restoration Organization to fight the system? What different advancement methods can players use to gain reputation with the various factions?

Peterscheck: There are two distinct types of associations. On the one hand we have the large corporations which the player affiliates with in order to gain access to their production facilities located throughout space. As you work with them, you gain trust (affiliation) which then grants you access to build more valuable and powerful equipment. The other type is faction rating. This is your relative standing to the various groups including the CRO (although there are many more). As you do things for them, your rating goes up which gives you access to things such as CRO specific equipment and ships.

Ten Ton Hammer: How drastically will a player's beginning experience differ from another who chooses to be part of a different culture when they create their character? How long will those differences persist throughout that character's career? Are their methods in place to bring friends of differing factions together relatively quickly if they so choose?

Peterscheck: The story, missions, map layout and general feel are completely different, but the mechanics and options available are largely the same. At the beginning this is much more pronounced as the groups are largely separated. After the first few hours, however, players begin to mix much more – earlier, I believe, than most MMOS. I think those differences will remain throughout a player’s career, but that is really something that players themselves tend to decide. While the nations can communicate and transact with each other, they can’t join each other’s squads. We need to have ways of enforcing some kind of conflict that is clear to communicate and it became increasingly difficult to deal with things like open PVP and battlespace if we allowed for mixed squads.

Ten Ton Hammer: The lore on the website mentions how it’s said that great Quantar pilots have the Skein flowing through their hands. Will there be anything in place in the game to actualize this as a player grows in skill and power? If so, what?

Peterscheck: We’re working on that very thing right now. Something to keep in mind is that Jumpgate is primarily a skill based game – that is the player’s skill. We have to be careful not to rely too heavily on stats. That being said we have some stuff in mind that will work along the lines you are describing.

Ten Ton Hammer: How will the ships of the Solrain, Quantar, and Octavians differ from each other past the shape and style? How has the team gone about giving the player (an Octavian, for example) a sense of being different from his Quantar and Solrain competitors without actually upsetting the balance between the three factions?

Peterscheck: So early on we tried to make ships that looked like they belonged to a particular nation. The Solrain ships looked like this, the Quantar like that. What we ran into is that they all ended up looking the same, and what people really want is radically different looking ships. Afterwards we went down that path instead. The most important thing to a player when they look at ships is that they think “Wow. That’s cool! I want to fly that ship.” This is secondary to “Oh, I can tell that is also a Solrain ship.” Thus we rely much more on color and texture to define nation and let our artists have more freedom when it comes to shape and profile.

Ten Ton Hammer: Obviously, I'm a huge fan of game lore. Some companies have found success in creating novels based on their games, with some that even serve as a sort of prologue to give those that are interested some extra depth of "universe development". Are there any plans to do something like this in the future? I mean, Keith Baker has done some writing in the past….

Peterscheck: I suppose anything is possible…

Ten Ton Hammer: The first transmission log, admittedly posted long ago, gives a great sense of impending danger (perhaps even doom?) with hints that the Conflux have discovered the human race again as we continue to seek out the mysteries of the universe. What kind of role will they play in the conflict of JGE at launch?

Peterscheck: The Conflux are a great story mechanic because they are both mysterious and antagonistic. We have a lot of ideas about how to use the Conflux and Amananth in particular, though I’m not going to reveal them right now.

Ten Ton Hammer: With the reported attack on Bleakstone, it's been almost nine months since the last Transmission Log was posted on the Jumpgate site. Are there plans for more official fiction for the Jumpgate universe to be posted on the website soon? How soon should players expect the storylines of the Quantar and the Octavians to be told?

Peterscheck: Yes. It’s always difficult to juggle the development of the game and communicating those things to players effectively. As we get closer to the end of development things also become much more firm, which I know is what players are really after.

Ten Ton Hammer: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything else about the various human factions (or alien enemies) you'd like to share with the community before signing off?

Peterscheck: Just want to say thanks to everyone for the continuous interest and support.  We got a ton of great coverage at E3 last week and many fans stopped by to say hello and play the game.  The best part about game development is seeing how much the players enjoy your work!
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