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Auto Assault Gets Caught Up In Rush Hour

The Second Set In A Series Of In-Depth Questions On Auto Assault, The Ground-Breaking Massively Multiplayer Online Game

Friday 12 August 2005/... Recently, several members of the Auto Assault team were asked questions about their forthcoming game in the second of a series of IRC sessions dubbed "Rush Hour". What follows is a transcript of the questions and their answers.

Rockjaw: Good afternoon everyone, welcome to the Auto Assault Rush Hour - number 2! Thank you all for joining us! I am Rockjaw, Content and Community Manager for NCsoft Europe. Joining us today from the USA we have Ryan Seabury from NetDevil, the developers of Auto Assault.

Ryan Seabury: Howdy, howdy!

Rockjaw: Ryan is Design Director for NetDevil, which means he's got a great insight into the game... he's responsible for much of the back-story and AA history. Also joining us is Steve Snow, who is the Producer for Auto Assault.

OK, on with the show. Here's our first question:

Question: How important will be the influence of skills be on gameplay?

Ryan Seabury: Pretty important. In terms of gameplay each character class is defined by the kinds of vehicles they can drive, the equipment they can use, and finally their skills. So a lot of the characters' style and techniques (their flavor) are very class specific and come from the skills. Certainly those who employ their skills well will do better than those who just "run and gun".

Question: Are there real differences between the skills of the three races for a same class? For instance, will a Mutant healer be any different than a Biomek healer?

Ryan Seabury: Absolutely! We wanted each archetype class to fulfil the same combat roles, but achieve them through mechanically different ways. For each race, the skills are flavored based on the culture of survival for that race.

Let's illustrate using the healer classes: Human Engineers will employ beams and energy based repairing, since Human tech is highly based on light and shielding etc. A Mutant Shaman will manipulate the Contamination to create phaseformed vegetation that replenishes nearby allies. Biomek Constructors deploy nano-bot technology, automated mini-meks and bots to help their friends. Of course, there are many other skills that each of those classes have beyond just repairs that are different from each other.

Question: How many skills can a character learn? Will it be possible to master the two skill trees with only one character?

Ryan Seabury: We're still working out the balance of the final number of skills per class, which may be a different number for each one. As far as mastering both trees, it will not be possible to fully train every single skill in both trees with a single character.

You will have to decide if you want your specialization to be down one or two lines of the tree (there are three lines per tree), or you can be more of a generalist and get a few ranks in many skills.

We wanted there to be variety within the character classes, so that when you get a level capped character, you're not exactly the same as everyone else.

In addition, the faction skill trees share a line with two of the other character classes from your race. We did this so that you could "bend your template" towards one of the other classes if you liked... for example, the Human Commando shares a line with Human Engineers and another line with Human Bounty Hunters... meaning you can make a "support commando" or "ops commando" if you desired, a very light hybrid (still heavy on commando of course).

Question: How are the skills going to be used in the midst of battle? Through a system of skill points or through a finite number of uses for each one?

Steve Snow: Nice question! From a gameplay standpoint you have a quick bar where you place all of your critical items and skills, for access during combat. As far as limiting skills over time each car has a power pool, this is modified primarily by the engine type you have equipped in your vehicle.

The engine stats decide how large the pool is and how quickly it can refresh. Each skill will tap this pool, as well as having a re-use timer. So you have to be careful how you use your skills, otherwise you can find yourself with a ton of enemies that need to be 'blowed up' but no super skills to use on them.

Ryan Seabury: One thing to point out in regards to the power plant's power pool is that power plants also control heat regulation and venting. This means you have a choice to make when equipping one: do you want to be able to fire your big 'Uber Gun of Doom' in large bursts without overheating, or do you want to spam more skills?

Depending on the situation you are entering, you will want to carefully evaluate your current power plant.

Question: Is there going to be any way to recover from overheating?

Ryan Seabury: You can recover in a couple of ways, there are consumable items such as 'coolant flushes' that will drain heat in a major way. There may also be some skills related to this and we are evaluating ways the environment may also affect your heat.

Question: Is there any feature to let you reset, or 'respect' your skills instead of starting over again?

Ryan Seabury: In the current beta build respeccing has not been enabled. Internally, we are investigating the right method to do this. I think we will end up using a growing expense model (i.e. first time respec is cheap, but gets more expensive each time) but again, we're still looking into that on our internal dev environments first.

Question: About skill trees, how 'deep' will each branch go? How many levels can you put into a skill?

Ryan Seabury: It varies by the skill, each one can have a different max rank potential. This makes it easier for us to balance and also provide interesting upgrades at each rank. Of course, with each rank are ever increasing costs, so for example rank 1 may cost 3 skill points, but rank 2 may cost 10 skill points, and so on.

Question: Can we expect the skill tree to grow with new content/skills as the game develops, or is everything pretty much set in stone from the off?

Steve Snow: You can certainly expect the skill tree to change after the launch. MMOs aren't about shipping and then going to work on the sequel, we are staffing a lot of people to make sure that Auto Assault can grow and change based on the needs and feedback of the players.

As Auto Assault matures, changes will be made that will affect the skill tree. Some might be as simple a balance, and others might be additions or dropping unused skills in favor of new ideas. But it's impossible to really predict what changes might be needed right now.

Question: Will it be possible to combine two or more skills to get additional bonuses?

Ryan Seabury: Many of the skills are designed to be complimentary to each other. but they do not chain off of other skills in combos; we found the combat to be way too frenetic to manage that, so we kept a simpler, more action friendly model with the skills

Question: Can a skill be learned from another player or can we only learn it from a trainer?

Steve Snow: Players teaching other players skills isn't a focus for Auto Assault; we want you in the action! We'd rather you were spending your time on the highways obliterating TemperNet outposts or in the Arenas and Contested Areas schooling other factions on why they shouldn't mess with you... So when you level you get to spend your points right on the spot you're at, no need to drive back to town to learn something or wait for someone else to have the time to show you.

Crafting is a little different since you have to visit key trainers to increase your knowledge cap, but the reason for this is that crafting isn't considered an action oriented system.

Question: Is the craft system related to the general skill system or is it totally separated?

Ryan Seabury: We wanted crafting advancement to be totally independent from character class and combat skills so that, for example, you don't have to pick Class X to be a great crafter.

Mechanically they are a little different as well in how you advance and use them but that's probably an entire Rush Hour topic in and of itself!

Question: Do enemies use the same skills players do, if they use skills at all?

Steve Snow: Yes and no. Some skills are very tied to your faction. Biomeks are all about using a virus to infect electrical systems, so it would be a little weird for the game's backstory if Pikes, who worship rocks and earth, had the same ability! Pikes have unique abilities unto themselves, so when encountering Pike enemies you have to be careful about how interact with them - watch out for the healers or guys tossing dynamite out of their windows at your car.

Question: Are there skills that have pre-requisites in order to be learned (i.e. minimum level in other skills)?

Ryan Seabury: Currently, no. However, there are level pre-requisites for getting access to skills; basically, every 5 levels or so you will get access to a new row of skills in all your trees.

This may be subject to change if ongoing testing dictates, but at this point, we actually removed other skill dependencies that existed in an earlier beta phase. It was a fun vs. realism decision and fun usually wins in Auto Assault!

Question: Do some of the skills specialise in team play? Can you give an example?

Steve Snow: Hell yes! Like I said earlier Biomeks have abilities with viruses, these skills have a chance to infect other enemies nearby. Just like the Biomek's virus ability they also have skills that have positive modifiers which can be passed around. For example the Biomek Terminator gets an ability called Havok Relay, this modifies key combat stats. Spending points in this skill increases the chance for it to jump to another convoy member as well as how many times it might jump.

Personally I always put points into Havok Relay because buffs like this can give you the edge you need in PvP combat, as well as PvE.

Question: Can you explain the major differences in the Hazard Mode from race to race?

Steve Snow: Yes, each race has a different style and they look amazing!

Biomek vehicles actually transform into massive walking machines of doom, allowing them blow the crap out of everything in sight.

Humans can invert their shields, which cascades out massive amounts of electrical damage to anything nearby, not to mention that it looks sweet as hell.

Mutants can phase shift into a totally awesome spirit form; damaging anything nearby. There are trailers on the site that show all these off:

Question: Will players be able to extend the duration of Hazard mode, as they climb levels?

Steve Snow: There are all kinds of loot that players can acquire. Players will find that hazard kits can have unique stats that change the way the mode functions, so it really depends on what kind of kit you have equipped.

Question: What's the average cool down between two uses of Hazard Mode?

Ryan Seabury: Hazard Mode is activated by accumulating a charge up from killing enemies... so that means it's entirely up to you to determine how long it takes; you will have to kill about 100 infantry type enemies on average to activate it again.

Question: Will the power/look of Hazard mode be visually identical for every member of a race? For example will a Biomek guy with a tank have the same destructive mech as a Biomek guy with a small car will?

Steve Snow: Kind of; the Biomek hazard mode is setup for different vehicle types to transform into a similar mech type. The SUVs share a common mech look but that mech looks nothing like a smaller vehicle's mech.

The Mutant Hazard mode is more spiritual, and tied to the class that's using it. So each base Mutant class has a unique hazard look. Human Hazard mode has little visual difference, but again, all hazard modes across all races are modified by the hazard kits, which can have unique stats.

Question: How deadly are the Hazard Modes? Don't you fear large battles could be over too quickly as they become just a huge Hazard Mode damage exchange?

Ryan Seabury: The hazard modes are indeed designed to be pretty kick ass and actually we've had some PvP setups specifically to match hazard modes against each other, it's really fun to watch (and more fun to play)!

To answer your question: due to the time it takes to charge up hazard mode, and the relatively short duration they really function either as openers or escapes, not entire drawn out battles.

Rockjaw: Thanks Steve. We have time for a couple of... err... irreverent questions we've received. First one:

Question: Let's say I'm a Human duelling a Mutant, and we both activate Hazard Mode at the same time. Who dies?

Ryan Seabury: Easy: Everyone else.

Rockjaw: For our very last question I want to bring recently promoted Associate Producer Todd Keister up on stage! This one's for you, Todd:

Question: Can you grow fruit on the skill trees?

Steve Snow: Tough one!

Todd Keister: The fruits of your labour in crafting, can yield a number of fantastical wonders for your gaming pleasure... ;)

Ryan Seabury: was that a Haiku?

Rockjaw: Alright... thank you to EVERYONE who has joined us here for today's second Auto Assault Rush Hour Of course, don't forget we're going to be back NEXT WEEK with Rush Hour #3 So thanks to you all, and we'll see you next week - stay safe out there on the highways!

Ryan Seabury: And remember... Don't Twink and Drive!

For more information on Auto Assault please direct your browser to the official web site:

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About NCsoft Europe

NCsoft Europe (NC-E) is headquartered in Brighton, England and is part of Korea-based NCsoft Corporation, the world's leading developer and publisher of online games. NCsoft has already successfully established itself in North America, Japan, Taiwan, China and Thailand. NC-E began operations on 1st September 2004 and serves as a central hub for all NCsoft sales, marketing and distribution operations in Europe, via its European distribution network. NC-E launched Lineage® II in November 2004, City of HeroesTM on 4th February 2005 and Guild Wars® on 28th April 2005. More information about NCsoft Europe can be found at

About NetDevil

NetDevil was founded in 1997 under the inspiration of JumpgateTM, the world's first massively multiplayer space simulator universe. NetDevil is an independent game development company dedicated to the construction of massively multiplayer universes. NetDevil is committed to creating immersive, interactive virtual worlds in unique settings outside the typical fantasy genre. For more information, please visit

NCsoft, the interlocking NC logo, Auto Assault, NetDevil, and all associated NCsoft logos and designs are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCsoft Corporation. City of Heroes is a trademark of Cryptic Studios, Inc. and NCsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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