Auto Assault isn't quite like any online role-playing game that you've seen. Rather than go the traditional swords-and-sorcery route that so many online games take, NetDevil hit the road, literally. In fact, this vehicular combat game will remind you far more of an action game than a role-playing game. That's because Auto Assault is something of a role-playing game with Mad Max-like sensibilities. You'll create a character from one of three different races, and then careen around a wasteland-like apocalyptic world. You'll still take on quests and missions, interact with other players, gather lots of loot, craft items, and more, but at the heart of the game are high-speed battles and really big guns mounted on your vehicles.
We've covered Auto Assault extensively to this point. However, to get the details regarding the deep character development system in the game, we caught up with Scott Brown, the president of NetDevil as well as the project lead for Auto Assault. The game itself is scheduled to launch later this summer.
GameSpot: Tell us about the character classes in Auto Assault. How will they differ from each other, and among different races?
Scott Brown: Each player race has four character classes, for a total of 12 unique playable classes in Auto Assault. Each race's four classes fill similar combat roles, but how they do so is quite a bit different by race. To illustrate, first we'll need some background information on racial advantages.
The reemerging humans specialize in holographic and lightwave energy, long-range airdrop, and have control of a restored, old-world satellite network. The mutants are tightly connected to the ever-present Contamination saturating the environment, and manipulate it into some awesome, out-of-this-world effects. The half-robotic biomeks have abilities based on nanotechnology, viral behavior, and synchronicity.
So, for example, look at the human lieutenant, mutant archon, and biomek mastermind. All three are what we would think of as officer or leadership roles in combat, bringing summoned numbers to the fight while staying on the back lines, buffing, debuffing, and coordinating. Lieutenants will call in airdrop turret, infantry, and vehicle deployments. Archons will create swarms of ethereal wildlife literally out of thin air, guided by the spiritual focus of the archon and maintained thanks to the high power output of a vehicular power plant. Masterminds will, on the fly, construct and release automaton bots and minimeks that can assume any number of battle forms.
The human might debuff an enemy by maintaining a steady laser beam on the target. The mutant might simply cause an instant, projected excitement of Contamination around the target to debuff. The biomek might launch a nanoswarm virus that can hop from one enemy to another. So all three accomplish the same combat functions, but in highly different ways.
You can find even more information on the races and classes of Auto Assault in the recon section of the Auto Assault website. We release new information there every week.
GS: Tell us about the game's stats system. What ability scores do characters have and what do they affect? How, if at all, will players increase or change their ability scores (automatic advances when gaining levels, using items to temporarily or permanently change or increase their abilities, gaining ability bonuses from quests, buying ability scores by spending experience or money)?
SB: You have four attributes that you adjust by spending points as you level up. Combat affects your chance to hit. Tech is what determines your ability to maximize the armor on a vehicle. The more tech, the more hit points a vehicle will have. Theory is the efficiency at which you use your skills. The more theory you have, the more juice you can squeeze out of your vehicle's powerplant. Perception is the ability to detect weaknesses in targets, improving the chance for a critical hit. Perception is also the ability to drive in such a way as to conceal the weaker parts of the car from enemies, making a vehicle harder to hit.
Items in Auto Assault may require minimums of both level and a certain attribute, so some items may not be usable unless you have a high-enough-required attribute.
GS: How different are ability scores between the different races and classes? How important are ability scores in the game--will they give significant advantages in terms of the way players travel, craft, fight, or use weapons or other items? Will the highest-level players always be the ones with the highest ability scores, and if so, how will they be balanced against each other when players start going head-to-head?
SB: All of the races have the same attributes, and they affect each of the races in the same way. These attributes, in combination with your currently equipped items, completely determine your ability to hit a target and how much damage you will do when you hit. Depending on how you choose to specialize your attributes will shape the choices available to you significantly.
Being higher level will typically mean having better stats, like in other games. However, since weapons and armor have different damage proficiencies, coming to a battle with the right equipment can make all the difference. Also, the player whose driving skill allows him or her to keep the target lined up with the most TacArcs overlap will have the opportunity to do the most damage.
Crafting abilities are completely separate from your equipment and attributes so that we do not force you to choose if you want to be better at crafting or combat.
Don't Play to LevelGS: Are there any other features, or even nuances, you'd like to add about Auto Assault's ability score/stat system?
SB: What we are doing with Auto Assault is bringing real-time combat to the online role-playing genre, while maintaining the deep statistical and role-playing back end. Just like the leap that real time brought to strategy games, we hope to do the same with online RPGs. We think once you play at this pacing it will be hard to accept anything else other than for the nostalgia factor.
GS: Tell us about how players will advance their characters throughout the game. Will the primary method of character development be through fighting, assigned missions, or other avenues?
SB: Your primary way to advance your character will be through the completion of missions. All the missions in the game are handcrafted to reveal more depth on the many factions, territories, and histories of the Auto Assault world. Finishing missions also unlocks new regions and can give you a variety of rewards. For players who like to skim the text (you know who you are), we have additionally color coded the specific objectives. We have done a lot of work to make sure that conducting missions in Auto Assault is easy and fun, keeping you focused on your objectives.
GS: How quickly will characters gain levels, depending on what they do? Will players advance more quickly through missions than through random exploration and battles? Is the intention of the game to make gaining those levels a comprehensive and enjoyable experience that will be the heart of the game, or will the game be more focused on higher-level "end-game" content?
SB: One of the goals of Auto Assault is for you to level up while playing, not playing to level up. We want you thinking about your current mission and combat situation and not watching your experience bar and calculating how many more kills it is going to take before you level again. The focus of the game is the experience that you have on your way to the higher levels. We have spent a lot of time on the stories of the races and regions to give them real life. One reason why arenas can have level-specific matches and tournaments is specifically so you don't need to race to the high levels to enjoy player-versus-player gameplay in Auto Assault.
GS: What can you tell us about high-level end-game content at this point? We know that Auto Assault will have lots of different options in terms of PvP combat--what else will veteran players be doing with their high-level characters?
SB: There are several options available to you once you have played through the game. First is loot hunting. Auto Assault's dynamic loot generator allows you to hunt for infinitely better loot, constantly striving to get the stats just a little better than before. Second are the arenas. You can fight to maintain your ranking in several different game types available in the arena system. You will also need to fight to defend your clan's reputation in tournaments for all kinds of different prizes.
There will also be contested areas and highways in the "real world" of the central wastelands. You can compete over resources found only in these PvP zones. Finally, you can continue to refine your crafting abilities using the dynamic loot generator again to be the only one in the game capable of making very specialized items.
Of course, NetDevil will have the entire Auto Assault live team working hard to continuously bring new content once the game goes live, so there will always be new releases and patches for as long as everyone continues playing.
GS: Will there be more than just a simple level system based on experience? Will there be other areas in which players advance--like specific skill levels, standing with specific factions, medals or awards that players will earn for specific accomplishments, or anything else?
SB: You can advance attributes, skills, research and development all by spending points earned by leveling or by completing special missions. There are crafting disciplines, which are purchased from trainers to increase maximum potentials, and then actual ability levels are increased through practice.
We've put together an enhanced achievement system, so you can receive medals by completing specific tasks in the game. This can include feats like jumping a certain distance, destroying a certain number of a particular faction, or even simple things like reaching important odometer milestones.
And, of course, there's always the PvP arena ladders and tournaments. Did I mention those are serverless? In other words, you can compete with anyone on any server in the arena system, and the best of the best are kept on leaderboards on the Web site.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Auto Assault's character-advancement system, or about the game in general?
SB: Auto Assault offers a very rich world to explore and develop a character in. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of backstory, factional profile, and mission-campaign development. There are entire written histories that will never even be revealed to players, just for the sake of meaningful and cohesive fiction.
Not only are the deeper features players have come to expect from great online RPGs there, but we've mixed them with the real-time combat, fast travel, and casual grouping to give players a completely new experience. Combining this with our fully destructible, physical worlds is going to change what players will come to expect in any online experience, massively multiplayer or otherwise. This is why everyone who has had a chance to actually play the game for more than five minutes is so excited about it, and we can't wait to get it out there!
GS: Thank you, Scott.