Connect 08: Hermann Peterscheck (NetDevil)
Huddled in a corner of the press lounge at Codemasters' Connect 08 showcase (taking place at Birmingham's neon-decorated Omega Sektor), I'm given the chance to question NetDevil's Hermann Peterscheck, producer of Jumpgate Evolution, on his new MMO title, and the state of the genre in general.
Why did you choose to make a sci-fi themed MMO?
Well, firstly we really like the sci-fi theme, and secondly, we think that quality comes through iterations. Our first game was a sci-fi game (the original Jumpgate), and then we made Auto Assault. First and foremost I really like games like this, and I can't play one at the moment, so I want to make it! When I wake up in the morning, I look forward to playing this.
Also, we know how to make a sci-fi game and we're getting better at doing it. Why is that it that Bungie make Halo 1, Halo 2 and Halo 3? Its because every time they're getting better at it. We get better at making Jumpgate every time, we're building on the lessons of the past.
It's tempting to go for the new cool thing, to make something new, but this robs us of past experience sometimes. The opportunity to go down into a really refined, polished experience. I want to make something that's really great and I think the way to do this is to put the time in, to iterate and iterate and iterate.
These are the main competing reasons!
How do you choose which features to include in your MMO experience, given the complexity of certain examples of the genre?
I think the way to think about it is, an hour of development time per hour of user enjoyment. What you want to do is provide the most amount of fun for the least work, especially because every time you add something you risk breaking what's there.
Figuring out whether battle stations are worth it, for example; you ask people, and if they say 'yes' you try and include them. Customisation? 'Yep, that's cool'. What about... homing missiles? 'No, we don't really care about that.' So its really about asking people. Then you test, and see if people play it. But really its all about trial and error.
You know, designers like to think they have it all worked out but it doesn't usually work like that.
Is this especially apparent because the genre is so young?
Look at the Portal post-mortem, the way they made Portal. The way they made Portal was like a student game. They made it in six weeks, then they made it again. Building and testing, building and testing, building and testing - and then eighteen months later you have game of the year.
They didn't know exactly what they were doing... but they knew to test. I really like that story.
Will Jumpgate Evolution be based on a monthly subscription?
I don't think we've announced that yet, actually.
For the purposes of a question - can we assume it probably will be?
For the purposes of a question I think we probably can [laughs].
What do you see as the future business model of the MMO genre - will subscriptions persist, or will alternative models be introduced, micro-transations, in-world advertising, etc?
Here's what i think. At GDC there was a panel on the future of MMOs. This question was asked, and there were some interesting answers. First and foremost it was suggested no one has made 200 million dollars from micro-transactions. But that's not true. Then we heard that subscriptions are dead. But just look at WoW in China.
The final answer is really interesting, and i think it boils down to making a really good game, and then fitting your business model around that. It doesn't matter how I try and charge you, I can't fool you into paying for crap. You're going to see through it.