We talk with 3DO and NetDevil about their recently launched massively multiplayer online space sim.
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GameSpot talked to 3DO producer Brian Clayton and NetDevil president and lead programmer Scott Brown about their recently launched massively multiplayer space sim, Jumpgate. The game, which was released one month ago, lets players assume control of a spaceship and engage in combat, trade, and mining in order to gain wealth and status in a persistent online sci-fi universe. Clayton and Brown shared their thoughts about the game's smooth launch, what kind of response the game has received from new players, and some of their plans for future updates to the game.
GameSpot: First, what kind of response have you had from new players who weren't involved in the game's beta test? Have you been pleased with how the game has been received in general?
Scott Brown: We are very pleased with the response from the players who have signed up for Jumpgate. I think Jumpgate represents what all the fans of previous space sims have been waiting for--a massively multiplayer space sim.
GS: Jumpgate initially shipped as a limited edition. Was this done intentionally to reduce strain on the servers? Are there plans to release a larger number of copies in the future?
Brian Clayton: Yes, absolutely. We wanted to do everything possible to ensure a smooth launch. We are still discussing how we will handle future production and distribution.
GS: Did you expect the game's launch to be as smooth as it was? Were there any surprises? What sort of problems have players encountered in the game?
SB: We did. We actually had no patches or updates required to download for players. They could actually install the game and play for once. No surprises, and the only problem that players seem to have right now is learning Jumpgate.
GS: Did you learn anything specific from the launches of other recent online games?
SB: Yes, make sure you are "gold" in beta. Don't try to add a ton a features between beta and release, as you really want to test everything you can before releasing the game.
GS: While Jumpgate has received favorable reviews, one criticism the game has drawn is that its graphics aren't up to the high standards that many fans of space simulations are used to. Do you have any plans for graphic upgrades or enhancements in the future?
SB: We have lots of plans for graphics updates. One of the last features we added to Jumpgate was support for DirectX 8. This will give us the ability to take advantage of the newer hardware technologies like vertex and pixel shaders.
GS: Another prominent criticism of the game is that it takes too long for a new player to really get started. What kinds of changes are being made to the game's beginning?
SB: We have been working on helping the new player get started for the last year of beta. We have helpful pop-up tips; gave players more credits to start the game; added newbie protection through the early levels; kept conflux from spawning at low-level players; added more in-between equipment for low-level players; added more ships at the lower level; increased mission experience and payment, especially at the lower levels; and added an experience bonus for medals. We are now adding stricter penalties for killing new and mid-level players and a wingman system to provide an incentive for veteran players to work with new players. We feel these additions will make the game more fun right from the beginning.
GS: What do you have to say to the players who have been disappointed in the past by problems in other massively multiplayer games? How will Jumpgate avoid these problems?
SB: First, I would like to say that we pride ourselves on server and update stability. We want the game to work well for as many players as possible. We have over a 99-percent uptime for all the servers and Web pages since Jumpgate's release. Second, we have worked hard to try and make sure that Jumpgate is fun for all styles of players. Jumpgate includes trade, combat (player vs. player and player vs. environment), missions, mining, and exploration.
GS: What's next for Jumpgate? Can you share any plans you have for the future of the game?
SB: We have many features set to be released over the next few years of Jumpgate. To name just a few of our favorites: station storage depot, corvette-class ships with multiplayer turret control, capitol ships (that is, destroyers and carriers), enhanced exploration systems, new technologies, subversive pirating systems, new playable factions at high ranks, player/squad-owned stations and resources, entire new galaxies to explore, and the list goes on...
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
BC: I'd like to encourage all space sim and massively multiplayer game fans who want to experience an online game that's novel, challenging, and exciting to take a serious look at Jumpgate. NetDevil has done a superb job developing a gaming experience that creatively melds economic, warfare, and dynamic storyline elements into one terrific package. We look forward to seeing you in space!
GS: Thanks for your time.
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