In Jumpgate Evolution First Look -- Part 1 we mostly talked about the basics of the game and its planned system requirements. Now, we were very excited to hear the game is being developed with a focus of supporting low-end system specs, but what we were more interested in is gameplay, and how Jumpgate Evolution sets itself apart from other MMORPGs. Scott Brown happily satiated our hunger for details with what could only be equated to a full course dinner for it being a “First Look.”
A twist on Auction Houses
Jumpgate Evolution takes place in outer space, so of course NetDevil is primarily concerned with making sure the ship-vs.-ship combat is fun, but they also want to make other parts of the game engaging as well. The game will ship with an auction house system that is set up similarly to EVE Online's, in that you purchase your goods from a “market” interface which displays the space station your goods are at. What's different in JGE is that you have two options: you can either go pick up the goods yourself, or opt-in for delivery of your goods to the space station you're currently at. The next time a cargo ship leaves the location your goods are at, it'll stop by the delivery destination to drop off your goods.
Now, this system opens up some interesting possibilities, and Scott was clear that this is intended. You see, these cargo ships will be attackable -- allowing players to take out the ship and loot whatever cargo it's carrying. Yes, that could include the item you just purchased. This should add a new layer of politics to the game beyond what is seen in other MMORPGs, as well as a way to get involved in Player versus Player combat in new ways by offering up the opportunity to protect cargo ships as they move toward their destination. We asked whether or not there will be an option for players to perform deliveries, but at this point in time Scott said that it's not planned, as it's open to potential abuse. He does however expect many players to play the market and purchase goods at stations in distant, dangerous sectors and then move them over to friendlier sectors at a premium price.
Crafting is pretty spacey
Playing the auction house isn't all you can do though... there will also be a crafting skill that allows players to create a wide variety of goods; weapons, ship upgrades, and even ships themselves. The crafting will take place at special factories situated throughout the game's sectors; you gather all your materials, head over to the factory and dock, and then you can create your goods. Factories are owned by what Scott called “corporations” -- sub-factions within the three major player factions, as well as non-playable factions -- and you must align with a corporation before you can use their factory to create your goods. There will be five major factions at launch, but only three will be playable, so you also have the option of aligning with various corporations. This is important because aligning with a corporation will grant you access to their facilities, including crafting factories. To fuel your crafting needs, players will also be able to take up mining -- allowing you to tap into the resources found in asteroids.
Wings and Squads... we can hear you!
One of the major aspects of an MMO is the fact that... well, it's massively multiplayer... duh. And what would that be without being able to team up with a group of friends, whether temporarily or on a more permanent basis? It'll be supported in two ways in Jumpgate Evolution: “Wings” and “Squads.” Wings are your temporary organizations akin to groups in other MMORPGs. You form a Wing, go on missions together, PVP, etc. Squads, on the other hand, are what most games call “Guilds.” What's special about Squads in Jumpgate Evolution is that when you create one, at the same time a web page is created for your squad on the Jumpgate Evolution website. This page will track a plethora of activity for your Squad; PVP battles won, member leveling activity, etc. The best part is all of this information will be fully syndicated via XML, allowing fansites to dig in and see what they can do with it all.
The major change to the dynamic is that both Wings and Squads will have fully integrated voice chat; NetDevil is working with Dolby to implement special directional voice chat. That way if one of your Wingmates comes under fire, they can tell you via voice chat, and you can actually hear which direction their ship is in relation to yours -- allowing you to adjust and assist them quickly.
The User Interface... in Flash?!
Yes, as the header suggests, Jumpgate Evolution's User Interface will utilize flash, and the best part is that users will be able to modify every portion of the interface. Modding the interface of MMOs was ushered in by EverQuest way back in 2001, but it didn't really become a game in itself until World of Warcraft announced that it would support LUA. Now NetDevil is hoping to take that to the next level with Flash, allowing players to create interactive interface elements. This will no doubt leave modders frothing at the mouth, rabidly awaiting their chance to get in and begin playing around with things, because we're sure excited about the potential it offers in allowing players to unlock a new level of creativity.
The PVP systems of Jumpgate Evolution
PVP is being set up in a way that will support a very political-based gameplay. Squads will be able to capture stations, allowing them to configure what the station offers... all within the confines of full-on PVP sectors. You'll also be able to level completely off of PVP, as NetDevil plans to reward experience for killing other players. Of course, for those that don't want to deal with open-world PVP, there will also be staged PVP events, similar to “battlegrounds” in World of Warcraft; a more controlled PVP experience where one side doesn't vastly outmatch the other in size. These battleground experiences will be level-limited too, allowing players to jump into them and not have to worry about being “griefed” by someone much higher level than them. Scott predicts most of the sector PVP will take place at max level, but expects that people will be able to jump into the staged PVP systems almost immediately.
And that's a wrap, for now...
In closing, I have to say I was personally very impressed by the content in the First Look, and I think that sentiment was shared by everyone at the office. NetDevil has had a hard time shaking the stigma of Auto Assault, but it looks like they've done a good job so far on Jumpgate Evolution. The fact that they're essentially their own publisher for the game in North America also means it's on their watch when the game gets pushed out -- not someone else's -- giving them the time to actually finish the game, unlike many recent MMOs. At launch the game will have over 150 sectors open for play, three playable factions -- the Solrain Commonwealth, Quantar Paths and Octavian Empire -- and Scott expects that it will take around 50-75 hours of gameplay to reach max-level. As he says, the endgame is really just the beginning for Jumpgate Evolution, so they don't want the leveling process to feel too daunting.
Actually one last thing...
During the gameplay presentation, Scott showed us the end of the new player experience, which involves taking out a space station with battlements on it. At the end of the fight, the space station explodes, so I had to ask: “So wait, can that explosion hurt, or even kill players?” Scott looked over and smiled: “Yep, in some situations those explosions will be able to kill players. We want that to be part of the excitement of taking something big out -- getting away from the explosion too.”
Hopefully our First Look articles have shed some light on the darkness surrounding Jumpgate Evolution. We'll be at E3 this week and I'll make sure to find out any additional information on the game that I can!