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Massively interviews JGE producer Hermann Peterscheck - Part two

Chris Chester

We read recently that you were against the idea of separate servers for players who want to PvP and players who want to PvE. How do you plan to allow the two groups co-exist and still fulfill both groups' desired play-style?

I'm actually not opposed to that at all. I think it depends on what kind of game you have. The issue of PvP versus PvE is a hotly contested issue in the core gamer circles and the game development industry. Outside of that, it's not nearly as hot a topic. It's like every other almost religious debate, like capital punishment or abortion or whatever. You're never going to convince people that are believers in one versus the other that the other is correct. If I hate PvP, you're never going to convince me that it's a good thing. You have to build the game in such a way that you acknowledge that both of those positions are valid and that you give both sides something to do.

That being said, the way you implement it into your game is largely dependent on the kind of game you want to make. So if you look at a game like World of Warcraft, which is a largely kill-collect, progress-based game, you see the Battlegrounds and Arenas and stuff like that. They've acknowledged that both are important.

The way I see it working in a game like Jumpgate is that the large PvP space battles are largely going to be done by the people who represent a large minority of players. Maybe something like twenty percent. They're going to log in every day and want to engage in massive battles. Those people are being fed by the player-run economy, which is being contributed to by another minority of players. And the rest of the people are in the middle, and are probably going to mostly hang out in the safe areas. Every once in a while though, they'll venture out and see what PvP is all about.

You basically just divide the space. This area of space is safe, this area of space is not safe. But you have to make sure that there is opportunity for fun on both sides. If you make a sort of situation where the first 30 levels are PvE and the second 30 levels are PvP, you're going to make everybody hate you. The PvE players are going to quit at level 30, and the PvP players are going to wonder why they have to grind through all this crap to get to the fun part.

"I'd love to have something like the hardcore servers in Diablo where you lose everything if you get killed."

So by bifurcating the experience, we tell players, 'Go PvP, and you'll get X rewards. Go PvE and your rewards are Y.' There's no bias towards one or the other and you can easily flip between the two. That's kind of how I imagine Jumpgate being. That said, I'd love to have something like the hardcore servers in Diablo where you lose everything if you get killed. So I love the idea of having a server where everything is open PvP, and you can kill anybody at any time, and that's it. We'll see how that pans out, but that's how I imagine the Jumpgate universe working in regard to that.

How does that translate to an end-game. Obviously, PvP players can just continue with their huge battles, what would be the PvE equivalent of that?

That's already reasonably well-established. PvP would be something similar to Battlegrounds, where you have instanced PvP and also open, epic PvP between organizations. And then on the PvE side you have things like really, really tough creatures that you have to band together with a bunch of people and there's limited access to. Those are the things that give you the best rewards in the game.

Personally, I like both. I like engaging in big battles against other players and I also like cooperative battles operating with others people against some giant boss that nobody's every taken out before. So we try and do both of those things.

We've read on your forums that you're knocking around the idea of including capital ships, how big are these battles going to get?

We've been knocking the idea of capital ships around for a while. It's sort of the consequence of the way that we approach iterative development. If you think about space fiction, one of the things that always comes to mind is blowing up the Death Star, basically, or the equivalent in other fiction. It's the huge base that a bunch of people take out. So we've had this idea for a space station. And there's all these reasons why we thought we wouldn't be able to do it. We didn't have time, maybe it's something that we can do after release, but it kept coming up. So we decided that we have to look at this. So we actually made a battlestation. And it turns out that fighting a huge battlestation with a bunch of people is really really fun.

The natural progression of that is to have some sort of large ship that flies around . My expectation at this point is that they won't be player-flyable. One of the problems we had is that since Jumpgate is a skill-based game and if you have this giant battleship that you're flying and you have turrets on it -- now you have to balance it against you and your ship with aiming. It's tricky. We've thought about things like having other players man the turrets and then one person is the pilot, which games like Battlefield have done, so there's a possibility for that. But for now, when we're talking about battleships, on the PvP side they would be largely AI controlled and player-friendly and on the other side, they'd be either giant things you attack or things that fly with you when you attack. You as a pilot would still be controlling your personal ship.

That being said, it's really cool to fly around and get that sort of Battlestar Galactica thing going. You see the huge ship that's sort of hulking along, around it are the little Corvettes that are a little bit faster, and then around that are the sort of quick-moving individual craft. We want to create that sort of experience.

How do you take something like mining for minerals or hauling cargo and make that as fun as a giant space battle?

I don't know, I think it just sort of works out. I spend many hours in EVE just mining. In fact, right now I'm trying to get my isk bars because I want to do that. So I'm happy to spend lots and lots of time just mining, learning how that system works, and just making money in doing that kind of stuff. They have this other kind of stuff there that drives the economy . So it's a different kind of economy. The way we've implemented mining, for example, is to make it a sort of Easter Egg hunt. You're flying around amongst the asteroids, looking for that rare thing. And then you go and find it and it's like a slot machine, and you mine at it and it might drop something rare. Then you can go sell it and make a certain amount of money, and there's an anticipation and reward for that in the same way that there's a reward for taking out a new tough enemy that you've never taken out. I think it's all about giving people a path to achieve something. And you can do that with any number of different verticals -- you can do the same thing with crafting, which we call manufacturing. It's all about putting in time and effort to make progress, and getting rewarded for that is fun.

To me the whole point is that different people like to do different stuff, and those same people like to do many different things instead of just one. I think many successful MMOs have alternative activities that you can do so you don't get bored. As fun as it might be to just blow something up, after you do it two hundred times, you might want to do something else too.

Going back to the PvP, we've heard Jumpgate described as a skill-based game. How much is skill going to weigh in relative to the amount of time invested in player versus player engagements?

We're somewhere between World of Warcraft and Quake. In WoW, equipment arguably matters more than skill (although this tends to change as you get further and further into the arenas), but if you look at a game like Quake, equipment is irrelevant because everybody has access to all the weapons. So we're somewhere in between there. A rank 1 guy coming in with beginning equipment whose the best pilot in the game is unlikely to take out the guy in the most powerful battleship and the best equipment. Our game, however, gives a much larger range where you can participate in PvP. So whereas in WoW if I'm level 65 and you're level 68 and have much better equipment, it's unlikely I'll be able to beat you. But in our game, that's not the case. If you're a much better pilot, you'll probably take me out, even if I'm in better equipment. It's that sort of subtly that I have to balance. So we have to be careful balancing that.

Of course, it's very unlikely that somebody whose played the game for hundreds of hours and has accumulates a bunch of equipment is not to be a better pilot within the rules of the game than somebody who just logs in one day. So it's likely that the people who spend the most time will be the most skilled AND have the best equipment.

Positioning yourselves as a skill-based game, do you plan to use client-side hit detection or server-side?

We're similar to first-person shooters, where we have to trust the client to some degree, but we have a check on the server to make sure that people aren't cheating. In a game that's more turn-based, you can do something where you say you want to hit, and the server says, "OK, now you're swinging" and plays the animation. We can't do that. We have to verify and authenticate and trust more than a lot of MMOs do. But it's really no different than games like Quake and Counterstrike, and those kind of games have. You just have to solve for the cheating using the game style that you have.

Anybody that's developed an MMO before knows that a certain percentage of your resources goes to the eternal battle against people trying to cheat. Every game has it, and it runs the gambit. It's hacking the client, it's trying to break into the servers, it's contacting customers and trying to steal their accounts, it's hacking memory, it's exploiting weaknesses in the system. I can't think of any MMO that doesn't have a constant war between their tech people and groups of people that are trying to exploit the game. The funny thing is that most of the people trying to exploit the game aren't doing it for any other reason than it's a challenge for them to do so.

Without giving away too much, we have to be clever in a way that corresponds to the style of game we have, expecting of course that it'll be an on-going scenario.

Maybe it's too early for you to talk about, but have you decided on a subscription model for Jumpgate? Will it show up on the shelves at Gamestop, or will you use digital delivery or what?

It is too early to say, yes.

That doesn't pose much hope for this question, but we'll ask anyway. How close are we to the closed beta?

Let me put it this way, I want to release a game as soon as I possibly can, which means I want a beta as soon as I possibly can. However, I won't do it until it's necessary. The way I see it, you should go into beta when internally you can't make decisions about where your game is without it. Not just to prove some point. A lot of MMOs go into beta way too early, because they have some schedule that says, 'OK, beta here.' I think what happens when you do that is that, you have these players who are really excited about your game, and we have lots of these kinds of people. And then you release them a pile of crap doesn't work and then they say, 'Hey, why did you give us a pile of crap that barely works?' and they tear you apart. Then you close the beta, go back into development, and work on something else, and maybe it's better, but you've already burned all those people.

So yeah, people ask that question all the time, and I think a lot of the time they think I'm being coy or something, but I really don't know. It's not tomorrow! And there's some period of time where I know it's not, but I don't know, because game development is a tricky thing. You don't really know when a game is going to be fun, you don't know what thing is going to make it work, and you also don't really know what major probably could be lurking just around the corner. So to know more than a few weeks or months in advance for something like a beta is just guess-work. You can beta when you're ready or beta before you're ready, but that doesn't change when it's ready.

I guess the simplest answer is: as soon as we can.

Thanks Hermann, we appreciate it.

No problem.

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