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Gaming - Interviews Gaming

In the area of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, or MMORPG's, we've usually seen games geared toward a fantasy setting, such as EverQuest or Asheron's Call. A genre that would fit in perfectly with MMORPG's is the space-sim genre. Elite, many many years ago, introduced this concept with the idea of levels, such as Recruit or Elite, and this concept would fit perfectly into the genre. Luckily, while games like Privateer and Wing Commander Online were cancelled, one company, NetDevil, was working hard on their Space Sim/MMORPG Magnum Opus, Jumpgate. In this interview, we were able to talk to the developers of this hot looking online game, and find out a little more about it.

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Interview By: Brian Rubin
Developer: Netdevil
Publisher: Mightygames
Published On: 3/24/2001

1. Why did you create Jumpgate, and what is its purpose?

We are basically just a bunch of gamers that wanted to play something that looked like the huge battle scene in Return of the Jedi. But we wanted to do it with real people in those ships. A game like that was not available at the time so we thought “why not make it ourselves”? That’s how development on Jumpgate started four years ago as hobby project that soon evolved into something more. The more we worked on it, the more complex it became until all off a sudden we had a game with an economy, mining, aliens and a bunch of other stuff. Today Netdevil is a full-fledged games company and we are all doing what we always dreamed off.

As for the purpose, well, that’s just like any other game. We want to provide an environment where you can live out your fantasies and do things that are not possible in real life. With a single-player game that experience is finite or repetitive after a while. With Jumpgate we have the opportunity to never let the fun end.

2. I’ve seen a lot of similarities between Jumpgate and other games like Privateer and Terminus. What are the influences behind Jumpgate?

The complexity of Elite, the combat fun of Wing Commander, the balance of Starcraft – those are all things that no real gamer can escape. And those games certainly had an influence on Jumpgate. But we like to think that Jumpgate is a game that can stand on its own merit and introduces new aspects into the space genre. We never – at least never consciously - looked at any other game and said “we need that, too”. For the sake of a sales pitch or a press release you simply have to explain a game by comparing it to others that are widely known, but we have always put our own signature on Jumpgate. That’s something we are proud of!

3. In the game, there are three main player factions (Solrain, Quantar, and Ocatvius) and and an enemy alien race (the Conflux). The three factions are mainly humanoid. Will you be introducing any more, possibly non-hostile, alien races besides the Conflux, and if not, why not?

We’ve had some discussions about this subject. The fact that all three races are humanoid has to do with the backstory, which will be slowly revealed as players make certain discoveries in the game. Obviously the conflict with the Conflux will need to be resolved first. For the “villains” after the Conflux we have a whole bunch of possible ideas, but again, these depend on where the players will take the game. So, whether or not they’ll be humanoid or alien hasn’t been decided yet. Also, let’s not forget about the Hyperial and Amananth (our two non-player factions). They might figure into this, too.

4. As of right now, players can control fighters and transports. Are there any plans to introduce other classes of craft, such as capital ships or carriers, and if so, can you go into more detail?

We will definitely introduce more ships into the game. As a matter of fact we just added a new building to the game – the Naval yard. It is here where new ships will be build. How quickly (or slowly) these ships will appear depends on the players. They need to provide the Naval Yard with materials. As for carriers and capital ships, this was always a consideration. It might be a while until they appear but we are planning on introducing them. This will not be an easy task in terms of programming, since we really want those ships to be special. Just having a real big ship flying around is one thing. Having a ship that is commandeered by several players simultaneously – like having a captain, navigator, gunners, etc. - is a little more difficult to accomplish.

5. Will there be any story or far-reaching objective in the JG universe, and if so, any hints on what it will contain?

There are several things that will be introduced as part of the story. Again, we really want to see first where the players are taking the game, before we make a decision. Since we have these great player-driven dynamics in a MMPOG we want to take advantage of them and base our decisions on what the players want. There are lots of things that we’ve discussed in anticipation of what the players might do and want. If we are right, that’s great. But if we’re way off we have no problem with adjusting goals and objectives accordingly.

6. Will there be any NPC’s in Jumpgate, such as merchants and what not, and if so, can you give us some information on them? If not, why not?

I think there is no better intelligence than the human one and therefore I will always try to avoid AI if I can. That was not possible with the Conflux for obvious reasons. But as more and more players enter the Jumpgate universe, stations will be overflowing with merchants, explorers, or mercenaries that want to deal with other pilots. So, I don’t think that NPC’s will be necessary.

7. The flight model in Jumpgate is an interesting hybrid of Newtonian Physics and more traditional flight sims, in that it introduces the effects of drag. Why was this hybrid flight model chosen, and what are its advantages and disadvantages of other, comparable flight models that you could have used?

Pure Newtonian physics would make it almost impossible to fly and fight, whereas traditional style lacks challenge and does not really reward pilot ability. We think we’ve found the right combination between the two. I remember playing many traditional style space sims where you had no problems killing 20 or 30 opponents in a dog fight. That’s just not realistic enough for me. In Jumpgate it takes skill and practice to even down a rookie pilot or a small alien ship.

8. I’ve not tinkered around with trading too much, but is the economic model in Jumpgate dynamic, as in other games of this type, and if so, what kind of model is it based on (i.e. supply-and-demand)?

Our economy is about as complex as the one in the real world. It is not only based on supply and demand, but also gives players the chance to create a demand and supply it. This happens through yet another new structure, the science facility, where new technologies are developed and made available to the stations. Each science facility in Jumpgate specializes in the development of one particular component, but there are many of those facilities throughout space. As long as players deliver the needed materials to those stations new equipment and components will be continuously developed.

I’ve noticed that the missions in Jumpgate seem to be created by the computer? Will users be able to create their own missions, such as bounty-hunter or escort missions?

That’s happening already, just ask some of the pilots that are being hunted right now, because the transport pilot they attacked placed a bounty on their head. And escorts are hired practically all the time, be it by a rookie that needs protections from Conflux or an experienced cargo hauler that needs somebody to deal with pirates along the way. What everybody needs to understand is that Jumpgate is a game that requires interaction with others. Just placing missions for the sake of having them is not serving any purpose at all. Instead players should use the chat channels to offer their services or hire somebody. Besides, it is very hard to implement such pre-determined missions without attracting cheaters or to make them really meaningful in an environment that constantly changes.

10. What are your philosophies for creating, maintaining, and improving a game like Jumpgate?

Simply this: Make Jumpgate the most fun and excitement you can have with your clothes on or off. Listen to the player community, since they are the ones that know best and make your improvements accordingly. Don’t play developer god by implementing stuff that you might think is cool, but serves no particular purpose. This genre is new therefore observation and flexibility are the most important assets a company can have.

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