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Massively speaks with Black Prophecy development director Simon Bachmann

James Egan

Massively is watching the influx of sci-fi MMOs very closely and we're happy to point out that gamers will soon have a number of options for space-based gameplay. While gamers will be flying and dogfighting in Jumpgate Evolution this summer, there's another dark horse in the running for your play time: Black Prophecy, a sci-fi MMO in development at Reakktor Media.

Whereas the reigning sci-fi MMO title EVE Online has a well-deserved reputation for appealing to a hardcore audience, Black Prophecy is decidedly more casual. This is a design decision that Reakktor feels will keep their game accessible to a wider audience, although they state that hardcore players will still find the content is engaging on a collective level. We fired off some questions to Reakktor Media's Simon Bachmann, development director on Black Prophecy, about what the game will offer sci-fi fans and some of what we can expect from Black Prophecy's gameplay.

Gallery: Black Prophecy | 46 Photos

Gallery: Black Prophecy Concept Art | 9 Photos

A recent interview with Reakktor Media's CEO Kirk Lenke hints that Black Prophecy is designed to be friendly to casual gamers, as opposed to a title like EVE Online which has traditionally appealed to "hardcore" sci-fi MMO gamers. What are some of the elements of Black Prophecy's gameplay that could be appealing for the casual MMO gamer? And are there less casual elements to the game for those seeking more depth?

We have focused on designing the character advancement gameplay in a way that does not force players to spend weeks or months just to reach a single goal. This allows players to jump into their cockpit and enjoy the game alone or with their friends whenever they want to, without the necessity to excessively grind their way through the game like it is daily routine in other comparable games.

Together with the action-paced real-time combat system, we are specifically serving the target group of the casual gamer but still offer more in-depth content for hardcore gamers. An example for this is the clan system where clans will be able to build own clans stations that can be flexibly expanded with numerous different station modules. With such a station as home base, clans can then participate in the daily battles for resources and of course honour and glory for their faction.

Is Black Prophecy purely ship-based, or will players have avatars as well?

"We are specifically serving the target group of the casual gamer but still offer more in-depth content for hardcore gamers."

In Black Prophecy, the ship represents the actual player character, which can be assembled with numerous different ship parts and weapons. It's quite similar to how you would equip your character with body armour in an MMO with 3D player avatars. In addition to this, players will also have a 3D avatar of their pilot which is fully customisable and will appear in dialogues with NPCs or in conversations with other players.

Can you tell me about the perspective that players will have in Black Prophecy while flying in space? Will the game be experienced through first person views from within the cockpit, or the more standard third person view of the ship and its surroundings?

Black Prophecy will offer both perspectives for the player to choose from. The third person perspective puts you behind your ship with the regular HUD elements. The first person perspective comes in two different ways. The player will be able to choose either between a fully designed cockpit with the regular HUD elements or the standard first person view with the regular HUD elements, but without the cockpit graphics.

The recent trailer for Black Prophecy showed some rather stunning scenes of flight and combat in space. Will flight in the game have dynamic joystick-style control, or click-to-move?

The decision to use a real-time, physics-based combat system was made very early in the planning phase. In Black Prophecy you will have full control of your ship in ways of using the classic WASD keyboard setup and mouse, as well as game controllers. An explicit support for joysticks is still a topic to discuss whereby we will involve our community to hear their ideas and wishes.

I've read that advancement in Black Prophecy will be tied to the completion of missions. Will players level up in Black Prophecy as with many other MMO titles, or will their advancement be tied to unlocking new levels of equipment or technology?

The skill system is quite similar to commonly used systems. The player receives experience points by performing specific actions, such as killing NPCs or accomplishing missions, and levels up within the maximum level range. With increasing level, the player gains access to better version of items such as ship parts and weapons.

The advancement is tied to missions insofar that important missions like the story missions are only available from special NPCs in designated mission hubs. Once the player has completed these missions, the next mission hub will be unlocked and appear as a warp destination on the star map. Mission hubs are also explicitly designed to fit the player's level within a specific range to guide the player through the character advancement. Next to the story missions, these mission hubs will also offer regular missions that either play in instances or open world sectors but again are limited to players within the appropriate level range.

Will Black Prophecy have player-vs.-player combat which can occur anywhere, or will PvP take place in specific zones, servers, or missions? Will PvP be tied in to a character's advancement, as with PvE mission content?

"We could tell you more about it, but then we would have to make you disappear forever on one of the Tyi blood moons or in a Genide ore mine."

Open PvP areas are definitely on our schedule but are still heavily works-in-progress, and for that reason we are not able to provide any information at the current time.

PvP will play in instances but also in open world areas where players receive specific PvP missions. Within these missions, objectives can be assigned to single or multiple team members which support strategic approaches of the players and require good teamwork. Like in PvE missions, experience points are distributed for the completion of a PvP mission and so they are a possible way to advance your character.

Black Prophecy's lore paints a picture of epic conflict. In humanity's future, players can choose to be one of the biologically-superior Genides or the technologically-superior Tyi, thus choosing one side in the struggle between these opposing factions. Will the players and their clans (guilds) have the option of neutrality and playing on their own terms, or by design will everyone in Black Prophecy choose a side in galactic conflicts?

During the prologue missions, the player is introduced to the story and learns more about each faction. At the end of the prologue, the player will be driven into the situation where he has to join either side or be lost in the depths of space forever. This decision determines the player's fate and cannot be reversed. Please understand that we cannot go into details any further as we do not want to spoil the story.

As both player factions face a common threat, the ancient Restorer alien race, will it be possible for players from opposing factions to work together to survive?

This goes very much into the further story of Black Prophecy and cannot be revealed yet. We could tell you more about it, but then we would have to make you disappear forever on one of the Tyi blood moons or in a Genide ore mine.

On the business side of bringing this title to market, gamers looking forward to Black Prophecy were concerned this past summer with the 10Tacle Studios insolvency. Has this had an impact on Reakktor's Black Prophecy development?

As a subsidiary company of 10Tacle Studios, Reakktor Media also had to file for insolvency. This brought us into the situation where it was unclear if the company could be saved and whether or not the development of Black Prophecy could continue. But thanks to our excellent CEO Kirk Lenke, who managed to handle the insolvency without having to lay off a single staff member, and the strong will of our team to stick together and get through these bad times, we are again looking forward to a bright future. With 10Tacle Studios gone and new, strong investors behind us, we are eager to finish our work on Black Prophecy and take on future projects.

The latest game trailer states that the Black Prophecy beta is coming soon. Any word on when players will begin to fly as Black Prophecy's beta testers?

From our side we are ready to start the beta and understand that everyone is eager to jump into the cockpit but without having our publisher on board yet, we are unable to give you an estimate at the current time.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with Massively, Simon.

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