Massively visits Stargate Worlds: The interview

Samuel Axon
S. Axon|07.10.08

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Massively visits Stargate Worlds: The interview

During our visit to Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment's Arizona studio, we got to sit down with five of the top minds on the Stargate Worlds team -- studio head Dan Elggren, creative director Chris Klug, art director Howard Lyon, VP of technology Demetrius Comes, and senior marketing manager Kevin Balentine. This exclusive, in-depth, and conversational interview is overflowing with information about everything in the game, including TV series tie-ins and cameos, episodic content, combat, graphics, mini-games, and much, much more. This meaty interview is an essential read for any Stargate or MMO fan. We've split it up into four parts for easy reading. Enjoy!
When I first heard about Stargate Worlds, the first thing that I thought was: "that's perfect." The show is about four people -- with different but complimentary skills -- who are going through a gate to different encounters. That's a similar format to what you would find in modern MMOs like EverQuest and World of Warcraft.

Were you guys thinking along those lines when you started on the project, or were you planning to try to push it in a different direction as well? Is there anything in particular that you are really excited about that you're doing differently?

Dan Elggren: Oh, absolutely. We looked at SG-1 and the Stargate theme, and that's something that's fundamentally different from any typical WoW. That doesn't really fit into that fantasy type of role model of being able to go in and hit each other over the head with swords, because we're using P90s and staff weapons and that sort of philosophy.

And like you were saying a second ago, that whole SG-1 team dynamic of how those different archetypes essentially play, because they all play differently. You've got Teal'c, who's the big Jaffa warrior, and then O'Neill, who's the commander and really savvy, and then you've got the archeologist and scientist and all that stuff and they each play differently. We wanted to make sure that the game reflected that in the gameplay.

Chris Klug: I started to think about it from the point of view of how can I make something that is well known as a TV show play in an MMO, as opposed to starting with an MMO and then borrowing from the TV IP to fill in the gaps. So what that means is that I wanted to make sure that we have gameplay for the scientists and archeologists, who aren't really combat focused.

I mean, that's one of the challenges in an MMO, is traditionally it's so focused on combat, but the show isn't focused on combat so much. It's problem solving and that sort of thing. So we took some combat archetypes -- the soldier mainly being what O'Neill can be in the show, adding to that a commando so that you have a broader combat gameplay style, and adding to that the scientists and archaeologists, who are viable in combat but they bring other gameplay styles to the table. Specifically through the use of our mini-games, which is an innovation that we think we've brought to the table.

I heard that the archeologist is going to have some kind of diplomacy skill. Is that a non-combat ability, or is that just another word for crowd control?

"Effectively we have non-violent combat gameplay."

Chris Klug: Well, I wouldn't really call it diplomacy. What you're probably referring to is a conversation mini-game. One of the things the archeologist can do in combat is distract a mob. They can despawn a mob through conversation. The metaphor is, "Hey, you, come here, I wanna talk to you about something." And that takes him out of combat, first of all, cause he's engaged in a mini-game with the archeologist, but if the archeologist wins the mini-game, it's like he killed somebody in combat, but he de-spawns them, right? So effectively we have non-violent combat gameplay.

That fits with the show, because Jack and Teal'c would fight while Sam was trying to decode something and Daniel was trying to talk to someone, all at the same time.

Chris Klug: That's exactly the idea. So diplomacy is probably not the way I would describe it, but it is more of a combination of using a disguise ability and this ability to sort of distract people.

Kevin Balentine: You know I think one of the interesting challenges the team had to overcome is implementing those minigames within the rest of the content of the game at large. Demetrius can probably talk a little bit about how the team overcame that challenge.

Demetrius Comes: Putting a 2D minigame infrastructure into a 3D first-person-shooter engine for an MMO? [laughter] That might be a good topic!

I would like to hear about that.

Demetrius Comes: We chose Flash as our minigame technology of choice ... It allows us to write these minigames and deploy them on the server. The game can come up and either download those minigames --or most of the time it will just be in the Unreal packages that we have on the client -- and be able to play the game. Nothing you can do on the client-side can affect the outcome server-side. So all you're doing is saying, "I click this button" client-side, and then that goes up to the server and the code runs there.

That gives us the ability to have -- okay, Dan and I can be grouped, right? Or Dan and I can't be grouped -- even better. So Dan's in my guild/command in another world, and I call out to him and ask for help because I don't know how to play this minigame. He can answer it and I can watch him play the minigame on my screen ... he can then finish the minigame, which then runs the actions on me for finishing that minigame so now I can move forward on my mission and unlock the door or unlock the area.

Dan Elggren: It also gives me XP.

So you would have archeologists or scientists sitting in town doing minigames all the time and leveling up that way.

Demetrius Comes: The hope is that there is an economy that breeds out of that all by itself, yes.

You're trying to please the hardcore players who like that basic core gamer combat mechanic, but then you also have people who might just want to do minigames. You're trying to get both of those markets at the same time?

Chris Klug: Yes. That's exactly the idea.

Demetrius Comes: And the hardcore gamer who runs up against the lock that he has to pick, and can't play the minigame, can still ship that off to somebody that can without actually stopping his own gameplay.
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