The number of massively multiplayer games in development continues to increase as more and more developers are throwing their hats in the ring, trying to gain the attention of fans of the subgenre. Developer XYZ is hoping to turn some heads with its entry into the massively multiplayer domain with 3rd World, a massively multiplayer RPG set in the deepest reaches of space, where you can use several different methods for survival. You can choose to create a character that focuses on the economic side of 3rd World by controlling a space station and selling goods and supplies to travelers. Or, you can create a space pirate with a powerful ship that's capable of overtaking larger vessels. The space scenes take place in full 3D while the in-station mode takes on an isometric view, where you can view your character while walking through the station. We had a chance to speak with Vitomir Jevremovic, project manager for 3rd World, to find out more about the types of characters you can create, what characters are able to do, and more.
GameSpot: Can you tell us a little about the development team working on 3rd World?
Vitomir Jevremovic: XYZ is a game development studio currently working only on 3rd World. There are members of the team that have already done a few game projects, while some of our people are, for the first time, active in the game industry. We have separate team members working on every different graphics aspect of 3rd World. There are low-poly ship and station modelers, low-poly texture painters, high-poly station interior graphics, and character modeling and animation. Coding is divided into a space part, a station part, a server part, and an additional-modules part.
We will soon start development diaries at our official site where every team member will be separately introduced.
GS: What inspired the team to make a space-themed massively multiplayer RPG?
VJ: There are a couple of different reasons why we are doing an online space RPG.
First, there is the very strong sci-fi influence from the best games and movies that have appeared during the last couple of decades. These include games like Elite Serials, TradeWars, X-Wing, Shuttle Simulator, etc. Movies were also a great inspiration for 3rd World, and these include titles like Star Wars, the Alien series, Star Trek, Ghost in the Shell, etc.
Second, and much more important, is the fact that there are no real MMORPG [games] yet. Yes, we have EQ, UO, and AC, but all these games are concentrated around NPCs, and player-vs.-player interaction is down to a minimum. There is also the fact that every new MMORPG in development is still following this basic design (although there are some attempts to allow more PVP conflicts).
We believe this is not a good thing for the next generation of MMORPG games, so we are going with one very different design approach. We will not have any NPCs in the game, we will not have any in-game quests, and we will allow almost unlimited possibilities for our players (that fit inside the gameworld, of course). This will allow players to completely organize their own way of living in the gameworld.
This is a big risk and a very different approach from anything seen so far in the MMORPG genre. We find this risky because human nature is very unpredictable, and this game will be based on human nature, so anything can happen. And this is the real reason why we are doing this game: Because we always wanted to play a game like this.
GS: Characters in 3rd World are a little more dynamic in the sense that a ship or a space station becomes an extension of your character, but how is basic player-character creation handled?
VJ: Creation is handled through a standard character creation process that is introduced at the beginning of your game life. We will have options for choosing the race and other specifications for your character, which are specific for that race. Then there will be a part where you divide the skill points that you get at the beginning. After that you visit the shop for the first time and buy additional items and clothing for your character.
GS: Do players choose what skills they want to give their character, or are there preset classes with defined abilities?
VJ: Character advancement will be based around skills. Different races will have different modifiers for specific skills, but there will be no specific classes for characters.
GS: Do player characters increase their skills by leveling, or do they increase specific skill abilities by performing them repeatedly?
VJ: There will be a lot of different methods for advancing certain skills. Sometimes you will have no idea what action increased your skill...you just did something, and your screen blinks, and you receive skill points.
We will try and avoid stupid, boring, constantly repeating actions for skill advancement. The idea is to let players have great freedom, where they will forget to constantly run for skill points but rather concentrate on player-to-player business.
GS: The only time players actually get to control their player characters directly is when they're in space stations, and 3rd World switches to an isometric perspective. What can players do while they're in space stations?
VJ: Space stations are main centers for player-to-player direct interactions. Inside, you will be able to chat with other players, make business arrangements, rent a room, relax in a local bar, trade with the station or with other players. You can also buy or sell additional equipment for [your character] or for your ship.
We will later introduce even more possibilities for this in-station play and allow players many more gameplay options. Things like inserting an old-school arcade machine in a bar so players can compete for high scores. We also have plans for specific galactic pets. Then later we will make arenas for illegal (or legal) pet fights.
With our module system we have almost unlimited possibilities for later game upgrades, so anything could happen.
GS: Can players attack other players in stations?
VJ: Yes, players can fight each other while in stations. This will be handled in classic RPG style, but we will go for a more RTS approach here. You will have a fight in real-time, but this fight will be concentrated around skill points.
There will be a variety of weapons, equipment, and items used for attacking or for defense inside a station complex.
GS: How is death dealt with? Do players lose money, experience, or items?
VJ: Yes, players will lose everything that they have on them in the moment of death. Plus, they will lose experience points and possibly even some skill points.
There will be many different ways to die in 3rd World. The way you die determines how many experience and skill points you lose. Here are a few examples of different deaths: You die during a space fight you started; you die in a space fight you didn't start; you die in a station fight; you die from a bomb placed in your room on a station while you were asleep; you die on a station, which was destroyed in the attack when you were not online at all.
These are just a few examples. Precise figures on this will be determined through the beta phase, as we don't want to ruin the gameplay by taking from players more than they deserve. There will also be some insurance, so players can get some money for what they have lost.
GS: What items can player characters carry, and what kind of inventory system will there be to manage items?
VJ: Players will be able to carry all sorts of items. From small button-sized implants, equipment, or keycards to big two-handed weapons.
The inventory system will be very detailed and will have options for putting your items in different pockets or bags that your character has. This is very important because thieves will have to go for a specific pocket, and they can get only what is stored inside that specific pocket.
GS: How many players will 3rd World support per server?
VJ: 3rd World will be one big universe. There will be no shards or different servers.
GS: How large is the 3rd World universe? Will it take a sizable amount of time to travel from one station to another?
VJ: The 3rd World universe will constantly expand. Its size will be determined by the number of active players. This is important because we feel that when there are no NPCs around, players should be able to meet each other more often. There will also be a lot of unexplored systems that players can search and discover. New stations can be built around some of these new areas.
GS: Are there any quests, or are players free to do what they want within the gameworld?
VJ: There is no predefined system for quest generation or anything like that. Players will make their own quests! Players will also have the ability to hire other players. They can pay each other with money and with experience points. On space stations there will be billboards that will allow players to specify jobs they are offering and how much they are paying.
GS: How do skills like hacking come into play when players are on stations? Will they be able to hack into security systems to enter new areas in the station?
VJ: Yes. It looks like a big number of players will be interested in hacking skills. There will not be many hackers inside the 3rd World universe. Hacking skills will be one of the most hard-to-get [skills in the game]. As hackers are attacking many security systems and, in that way, are threatening the lives of many, many players inside a station, they are considered very dangerous. No station owner will be interested in having a hacker around his or her station, so being a hacker is not a pleasant thing at all but can have a lot of possibilities.
GS: In addition to pregenerated stations, there are also player-owned space stations. What aspects of the station can players customize, and what are the benefits to owning stations?
VJ: Stations will be one of the most important centers of 3rd World's universe. All trading between planets is handled through space stations. Owners of stations are responsible for all politics and wars in the galaxy.
They will organize other players, form trade routes, prepare big fleets, and fight in big wars. And it will all start simply by setting your own prices for goods that are sold on your station. After that you will have to handle a lot of other station issues to keep your business operational. You will even have to advertise your station so people would know about it and come to trade [there].
GS: Do planets factor into 3rd World's gameplay at all?
VJ: Yes, they factor in a lot. Planets are the main suppliers and consumers of all the goods that are traded throughout the galaxy. Some specific materials will be produced only from raw materials from specific planets, much like the situation with "spice" in Dune. These planets will become centers of galactic conflicts, and owners of stations that surround that planet will have a lot of worries on their heads.
GS: Players travel from station to station in their own ships. How many different types of ships are there?
VJ: There will be many different ship types. Also, every race will have their own ship style. We will introduce new ships even after the game is officially released, as our module system will provide all the support we need for that. Ship types will be determined by their size and usage. More about this will be known when we release the first test version of 3rd World.
GS: How customizable are these ships? Can players add new weapons, defenses, or any other type of features?
VJ: Ships in 3rd World will be highly customizable. Players will be able to change almost every part of their ship. Cockpit, engines, thrusters, weapon systems, defense systems, shields, radars, HUDs, additional equipment--all of this will be upgradeable and customizable.
Players will also have the ability to place pictures on the hull of the ship. Clan signs, names, or anything they can produce that will give their ship a unique look.
GS: It's been noted that fuel plays an important role in 3rd World. Are you hoping that conflicts or alliances will come about as a result of players' need for fuel? Do different ships consume varying amounts of fuel?
VJ: Fuel will play one of the most important roles in the lives of 3rd World characters. Fuel is needed for any sort of space travel. The consequence of this is much like with the movie Mad Max, where if you have a lack of fuel, a lot of players will be directly involved, and thus they will have to fight for what they need.
And yes, different ships consume different fuel amounts.
GS: How does combat work while in a ship? Is it similar to various space simulation games such as Wing Commander?
No. The fight model in 3rd World will not be action oriented. There will be no dogfights like in other space simulations. Instead, we will concentrate more on the tactical element of space fights. Ships in 3rd World will be heavy and rather slow compared to other fighter-style ships in other games. This will give us an opportunity to make the lag as low as possible and give players an interesting ship-combat experience that they never had before.
GS: The graphics engine for the space scenes looks amazing. What kind of features is the development team incorporating into the graphics engine?
VJ: We are always developing new features and effects. Our goal is to make the best-looking space game ever, and we are putting great effort into the graphics part of the game.
The graphics engine for 3rd World has all the standard features seen in almost every other top 3D game. But we are making some rather innovative effects that are not yet seen in any game, and we will continue to come up with new and original ideas and thus make 3rd World stand out from the crowd. We are aiming for a movie-quality 3D engine, and until we have reached that goal, we will never stop.
GS: What will the minimum system requirements be for 3rd World?
VJ: With the recent acquisition of 3dfx and Nvidia's great advancements, we are probably going to raise our minimum graphics card to GeForce. Other system specifications should stay pretty low, as we are going for a much wider audience, and we will try and keep our system specifications as low as possible.
This of course means we will build objects with smaller polygon counts and with extremely high poly counts, so every user can be satisfied. Furthermore, players will have options [to adjust] detail levels of the 3D engine, so they will be able to turn off all the unnecessary effects that are slowing down the game.
With Internet requirements, we will go for 56k modem minimum.
GS: With the module system making it easy to add new features into the game, what kind of support do you plan to give 3rd World after its release?
VJ: We will extend the gameworld boundaries on an everyday basis. This means that we will constantly build new modules, new ships and stations, and new character upgrades.
The economy and war will be closely monitored and supported in every way. The most beautiful thing is that no one really knows how the future of 3rd World will look...the human spirit is very unpredictable...we'll just have to wait and see.
GS: When do you expect the game to be complete?
VJ: Somewhere in 2002. The precise date depends on a future publisher and the quantity of materials that should be included in the final release. Looking from our point of view, the game will be fully operational even with the basic set of modules, a few ships, and a couple of stations.