Auto Assault Q&A - Overview
This upcoming massively multiplayer car combat game will let you blow up the whole world. Most of it, anyway. NetDevil president and project lead Scott Brown explains.
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When you think of massively multiplayer online games, you often think of role-playing games where you choose to play as some kind of fantasy character and go out and slay orcs with other players until you gain a level. Auto Assault from publisher NCSoft and developer NetDevil will be similar, except that the game won't take place in a fantasy world, there won't be any elves (or orcs), but there will be plenty of armed and armored vehicles blasting everything to bits. In this upcoming online game, you'll play as a driver in a post-apocalyptic future where the world has been taken over by aliens and mutants, and you're only now able to travel in an armored car or tank to take on street gangs and alien armies. And Auto Assault will make use of modeled physics to let you blow up practically anything--your enemies, the surrounding trees, and all those pesky houses. Project lead Scott Brown explains.
GameSpot: Could you give us an update on Auto Assault's development? What's the team working on at this point?
Scott Brown: Currently we are focusing on getting started with our beta. We have done our first external tests now and are adding to the game based on the first play-through. We are a few weeks from getting the features in we really wanted for ship and can then move to "polish-and-optimize mode" while continuing to add content like crazy.
GS: Tell us a bit about the game's three races, human, mutant, and biomek. For instance, we understand the biomeks have vehicles that can actually transform? What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of each side that might encourage different kinds of players (players that prefer to go on solo adventures, players that prefer socializing and grouping, etc.)?
SB: The mutants are a byproduct of the alien contamination in the world. Few survived this sickness but the ones who did gained new abilities and consider themselves the chosen ones to reign over the new world. The biomeks are a bio-mechanical race created to fight the mutants and have been enhancing their abilities to match the mutants' since the conflict began. The humans, after deciding the best course of action was to simply wipe the face of the earth and emerge to reclaim the planet, have been developing technologies like shielding to survive in the now post-apocalyptic earth. They have just recently emerged to find remnants of the other races still fighting over what few resources are left.
Each race has its own unique strengths and weaknesses that will be revealed over time. One of the biggest features for each race is its hazard mode. The biomeks gain the ability to transform their vehicles into "meks" and smash everything in their path for a short period of time. To compete with this, the humans have added shield inversion to their vehicles giving them a short term, highly damaging electrical storm which encompasses their vehicle in a light show no enemy would ever want to encounter.
GS: We understand that in addition to driving around, you'll also be able to get out of your vehicle and travel on foot in certain environments? Through how much of the game will you be driving, how often will you be on foot?
SB: You are on foot only where it is completely safe. Infantry really stand no chance in the open world so we keep you fastened in your seat while in combat. In towns, players can get out of their cars to purchase new equipment, change any of their vehicles' look at the body shop, craft, get missions and socialize.
GS: Tell us a bit about the post-apocalyptic world that Auto Assault is set in. How big is it, and how is it divided up (if it is divided at all)? Are there many towns and cities? Where will you go to repair your vehicle or rest up?
SB: The Auto Assault world is broken into regions. Each region consists of a highway map, several instanced highway exit maps, and a few towns. The highways are huge maps, usually more than 30 square miles of territory. This is where you play with lots of other players, completing missions and wreaking havoc on the world. Some mission arcs will include playing a part on an instanced map that you can either play alone or with your current convoy of fellow drivers. These maps are instanced just for your group and retain the state of what missions you have completed on them. For example, if you destroy an enemy base on an exit map, when you return with a later mission, the base will remain destroyed. Each map has at least one repair station where you are returned when your vehicle is destroyed. The highways also have truck stops, which are large repair stations with stores. Players can travel quickly between truck stops and towns once they have discovered them in the game.
That Is His Name...the Nightrider
GS: What kind of missions can we look forward to? Can you give us some examples of instanced missions, and what are some of the more general missions that will take place in the "regular" world?
SB: Auto Assault is a very mission-centric game. We have lots of standard mission types like killing enemies, destroying buildings, collecting, escorting, delivering, defending, scouting/sneaking, patrolling, crafting, and exploring. We also have unique mission objectives like jumping, racing, and arena battles. Each mission is handcrafted and can be just a small part of a larger story arc. Missions can have multiple reward types, including experience, money, items, attribute points, and skill points.
GS: How's the game being designed to accommodate the wide range of playing styles and schedules out there? For players that may only have time to play in short periods of a half hour to an hour, what kind of content will be available? And what will be available for the players that are ready to hunker down and play for long stretches?
SB: In many games, the most limiting factor in having real, fun, and compelling play sessions in a short amount of time involves finding a group and getting that group to where you want to play. In Auto Assault you will be able to quickly find a group and get everyone to the same location. Because our focus is on fun, we have designed the game to enable players to spend more time playing than traveling or coordinating. Some missions can be completed in 15 minutes while others may take significantly longer.
GS: It sounds like combat will involve a combination of reflexes and role-playing-style statistics and ability scores--about what percentage of each would you say? If you're not the sort of player who always plays fast-paced, reflex-based games, how will you hold your own against players with much better reflexes?
SB: This is where we will be spending much of our time going forward: to make sure that the game is not only fun, but also challenging for all players. An example of this would be our "tac-arcs" for weapons. Instead of having to actually aim your gun exactly in the right place, you simply need to get the other vehicle within the arc before you fire. Having good driving skills will still help you get more shots on the opposing player. Once you pull the trigger, the role-playing game system kicks in to determine both if you hit or miss and for how much damage. However, strategy will be more important than reflex-based skills. Using the best possible weapons or armor for a particular type of fight will make a big difference to the outcome of the battle.
GS: Will you be able to purchase vehicles that belong to another race? Will you be able to steal other vehicles? For instance, could a human operate a biomek vehicle and vice versa?
SB: You will only be able to drive vehicles from your faction. Players drive specially configured supercars able to smash through buildings; the cars are modified so that players from another race would not be able to control the vehicle.
GS: With the fast pace of driving, will there be an easy way to communicate with your teammates if you're in a convoy? Are you exploring any voice-chat options?
SB: Good point! We are including voice chat with the game and players will be automatically added to a voice channel any time you join a convoy. You can, of course, disable any players you do not wish to hear.
GS: Now that the game has been in development for a while, tell us about the variety of vehicles in it--we've heard of motorcycles, cars, vans, and tanks. How are the vehicles being balanced against each other?
SB: Balance is starting in its second phase now, where we will be tracking all data about gameplay and getting reports on balance between races, classes, levels, skills, vehicles, and equipment. We plan on spending significant time here to make sure the game's balance truly reflects our intentions. Different vehicles have a number of different pros and cons, including speed, weight, armor, inventory, and weaponry-mount restrictions.
GS: We know that the game is using Havok physics to model destructible environments, but can everything in the world be destroyed? What are some of the gameplay possibilities that arise from this?
SB: Not every item is destructible in the game. We have to limit a few items that are used as barricades from a region to keep control over where a player can go, but often, every item in an encounter will be destructible. For example, the houses, fences, fuel tanks, stacks of tires, and crates in a town are destructible, but the cliff walls around the town are not.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Auto Assault?
SB: As we move into our beta phase of development, we are very excited about the possibilities Auto Assault has. It is already a great product, and we're looking forward to getting feedback to see how users react to the world we are building, and how we can improve it even more. Stay tuned for more details as we move into beta and gradually increase our tester pool.
GS: Thanks, Scott.