OGDC '07 - Puzzling Out Stargate Worlds - An Interview with Joe Ybarra

Over the past few months we’ve seen varying amounts of information from the developers at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment (CME). They’ve been handling all sorts of interviews and Q&As, but even with a fairly high level of communication with the game industry press, very little has been said about two of the more important facets inherent in the Stargate SG-1 television series: the puzzle-solving and the exploration.

At the Online Game Developer’s Conference (OGDC), Joe Ybarra, vice president of product development at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, sat down with Darren “The General” Lee and I to discuss some of the finer points of what he foresees will be some of the more intriguing elements in Stargate Worlds (SGW). Due to the large amount of information that Joe was willing to dispense on our eager ears, we’ll be splitting the interview into two parts, with the conclusion of our interview to be posted on Wednesday.

The initial focus of the interview was on the puzzle-solving aspects of Stargate Worlds; a topic that has been mentioned in previous interviews but never really analyzed in depth. Joe was excited to hear of our interest, and his responses were both insightful and interesting.

Puzzling out Stargate Worlds

OGDC 2007 - Stargate Worlds

Joe Ybarra and Cody "Micajah" Bye discussing the intricacies of the puzzles in Stargate Worlds.

When asked about the puzzles in SGW, Joe was eager to explain why they were a fundamental part of the gameplay experience that had been considered from the very beginning of SGW’s development. “When we were first coming up with features to implement into the game, we wanted a non-combat gameplay mechanism to really reinforce some of the things in the show that were non-combat related,” he said. “If you actually watch the series, combat is a fairly small motif when compared to the rest of the actions the characters in the series partake in.”

For those of you that are unfamiliar with SGW, Joe is referring to fact that Stargate SG-1 is more oriented around discovering new technology, analyzing alien artifacts, and opening new Stargate coordinates. While combat with the enemy does occur in the television series, it is only a small part of the overall storyline and basically falls during the climax of episodes or long-running storylines rather than being regular occurrences.

The target audience for the game was also taken into consideration when the puzzles were being developed and discussed. “We wanted to reach out to the customers that aren’t necessarily into these games (MMOs) for the combat,” he continued. “There’s a fairly large percentage of those players that are out there, and we didn’t want to ignore them like some games do.”

According to Joe, CME currently has seven different mini-games that players encounter within SGW. These games are triggered by different activities that the players engage in when they are exploring the various worlds. “Imagine that there are alien ruins on the planet you’re exploring,” he began. “You’re an Archaeologist archetype character. What are you going to do when you walk into these ruins? You’ll walk in and there will be areas you can click on, such as a “rune totem” or another sort of aged script. The Ancients were notorious for leaving those things scattered about the universe.”

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Every world will have various puzzles that the team will need to solve.

“When the player clicks on these areas, there will be a little casual mini-game that will pop up that the player will engage in and try to decipher what it says,” he said. “The game might have the player match icons or orient different sections of a puzzle to beat the game. These sort of mini-games are scattered throughout the world, and you might need to do them to unlock a new area or expand an ability.” These puzzles, according to Joe, will also level up, getting even more complex as you progress farther into the game.

But what Joe described was oriented more towards a solo-play activity. There are also puzzles that will be sharable with other members of a player’s party. So if you’re in a situation that’s particularly nasty and you have a really complex puzzle in front of you, your party members will be able to help you through it.

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