Monday 5 September 2005/... Recently, several members of the Auto Assault team were asked questions about their forthcoming game in the final part of a series of IRC sessions dubbed "Rush Hour". What follows is a transcript of the questions and their answers.
Rockjaw: Good afternoon everyone... and welcome to the Auto Assault Rush Hour! Today's topic is... well, there isn't really a topic - today we're letting you set the agenda.
Today we're joined by Ryan 'SamPenguin' Seabury, Design Director for Auto Assault... as well as Scott 'Scorch' Brown, President and Grand High Inquisitor - err I mean VIP - of NetDevil. Plus Steve Snow, producer on Auto Assault.
Okay, we'll get this show rolling now with one big question to start:
Question: When will AA go live?
Scott Brown: We are looking at a spring 06 launch at this point.
Question: How long will the beta last?
Steven Snow: The beta will continue to run until we are live. We are polishing Auto Assault so we want to see what players think of our changes before we launch, the only way to do that is through the beta test.
Question: Is there a set amount of resources within the game (more realism) or will "mined" items respawn (more fun)?
Scott Brown: There is not a set amount of resources, it all happens through our dynamic loot generation system. As you destroy buildings and enemies there is a small chance it will drop a crafting commodity.
Question: How long to you think it will take to reach max level/skill for an average player?
Ryan Seabury: We are still fine tuning the numbers in that regard; however, our goal is to make the max level more achievable than your typical MMO. We want people to feel like making multiple characters is not a chore and won't take years.
Question: If we're driving cars, can we do crazy things like race, and drive over scenery items such as ramps?
Scott Brown: We have specifically designed the terrain to include all kinds of jumpable features like dunes and cliffs. We also have placed ramps and broken buildings that act as ramps throughout the maps as well. We wanted driving to be fun and jumping is a big part of that.
Question: Will Auto Assault's missions have an "arc" like we've already experienced on CoH and will we see a significant bonus at the end, like a bulk of xp for completion?
Ryan Seabury: Yes, each player race has a completely unique mission campaign. This includes a few epic "core" story lines that can run from the beginning to the end of the initial released content, and tons of mini-arcs along the way. Often a major story arc will culminate in a private instance adventure where you get a big boss fight or some other scripted scenario.
Question: Will the game support any movement outside of your vehicles, i.e. can you walk around as a person, chat to other players, etc.?
Scott Brown: When you are on the highways you are only in your vehicle. However, when in towns you are on foot, talking to other players and NPCs.
Ryan Seabury: There are also a few unique mission mini-scenarios where you get out and do some exploration on foot inside installations in the world, just to mix it up a bit.
Question: Will we be able to do respecs, like those on CoH? Or will the vehicle's guns etc., be hotswappable at any time?
Scott Brown: Right now you can not respec your skill points but it is something we are evaluating. As far as your equipment goes, you can swap it out at any time. You have to be in town to swap out your vehicle though.
Question: NCsoft are famous for good back-stories, what is AA's like and will there be back-story involvement in missions?
Ryan Seabury: I think we can safely say "Yes" to this one. I counted up the other day, we have over 1000 pages of back-story, profile, and fiction framework documentation already... this does not include the actual content in the game, which is on top of that, but it all simply exists just to make sure the content designers are on the same page, and that a consistent fiction is presented across all races.
Question: I'm interested in the driving physics; will they be comparable to your average racer and similar to games like Interstate '76?
Scott Brown: The vehicle physics have been simplified to make driving easier. We don't want to be a driving simulator but rather a car combat game. Things like wheel friction, collisions and car suspensions are simulated through the Havok physics engine realistically though. It is acceleration and braking that we have enhanced to be unrealistic (but more fun).
Question: Will the convoy system allows players to group without taking level difference into account? (like in CoH)
Scott Brown: It will be a complete convoy level change as opposed to a 1 to 1 relationship in CoH. We are still working out the specifics now however. The plan is that the entire convoy will be brought within a level range (say 5 levels) of the lowest level convoy member. We don't want to let players skip ahead to future regions however. The beta will reveal if this is a good choice or not.
Question: Will PvP be in AA, if so how big a part of the game is it?
Steven Snow: You bet! PvP is a major focus for Auto Assault since it is more dynamic and exciting than standard PvE content. We have arena combat which you can participate in almost right away; some of the rewards for this are built around tournament prizes and a really awesome player ranking system. There are also PvP highways, called contested highways, where players can do specific quests that reward you for fighting players of opposing factions. Plus, we are still working on some other things in Auto Assault specifically for PvP.
Question: What have you planned for end-game content? Missions, raids, etc. to keep maxed out toons interesting?
Steven Snow: There are several end-game options in Auto Assault. The first is arenas, like I said, where you compete with other players for high end tournament awards as well as a detailed player ranking system. Then there is loot; since the system is dynamic there is always a chance for something better to drop, especially if you want to switch your character build. Loot can change a lot of things about your character and vehicle. And don't forget that we just slipped the game and we still aren't done adding to the game, especially the end-game...but it's top secret!
Question: Will the attacks/defensive powers be different in PvP than in PvE, like in CoH, and if yes, how?
Scott Brown: Right now there is no powers difference between PvP and PvE. We are, however, changing the to-hit system to ignore level differences between players and we will see how that works out. We want PvP to be something everyone tries and enjoys so we are always tweaking that combat system.
Ryan Seabury: We're doing our best to balance the character skills to be functional in PvE and PvP.
Question: Will the land change over time to reflect the action/achievements of the players?
Scott Brown: Yes! This is one of the coolest systems of our instance system, and part of the reason we don't want you to play ahead with other convoy members. If you destroy a base in an instance and then later return to that base from another mission, the base will be destroyed and any number of new things could be going on... For instance, another faction may be building it up, your faction might want to use it, and the old enemies might be back, with tougher enemies this time as well. There are also things planned for PvP maps as well.
Question: Are the loading times significant between regions or instances?
Steven Snow: Loading times are pretty minimal. We stream a lot of the content off the hard disk while you drive through the zone as opposed to loading it all at once. This has drastically reduced the amount of time it takes to zone.
Question: Will beta accounts and characters carry over into the retail game?
Steven Snow: The quick answer is no. The long answer is that we offer a head start to our pre-order beta customers; they basically get to play on the live servers several days before we ship the boxes. But technically that isn't beta, it's early live access
Question: What's the 'killing spree' system?
Ryan Seabury: The Killing Spree is a system we added to encourage a more action-based approach to spawn pulls... traditionally MMOs have trained players to carefully approach a group of enemies and pull only 1 at a time. You then eliminate that enemy, rinse and repeat until the group is destroyed. In Auto Assault, we want you to be more aggressive, because the game really shines when you are keeping your foot on the pedal, with guns blazing, while everything blows up around you. So the killing spree gives you more xp bonuses for additional kills the faster you can get them. What this does, in effect, is to make you plan "lines of attack" through enemy groups rather than the old pull one at a time trick, and keeps the action more intense.
Question: Will you be able to place go-faster stripes, pictures of naked ladies, and sponsor stickers all over your riced up autoassaultmobile?
Scott Brown: To customize your vehicles in Auto Assault we have the Tricks and Trims system. Tricks are accessories on your car like wings, skulls, bars, etc. They allow you to change the profile of your car. You find special trick commodities in the world, like carbon fiber for example, and bring them to a body shop for them to install onto your vehicle. Trims are different paint jobs like racing stripes or flames that you can use to change the visuals design. You will find paint cans out in the world that you also bring back to the body shop for them to paint your car in the design you want. These are completely separate from any stats, so you don't have to worry about balancing looking the way you want and getting the stats you want as well.
Question: Will you openly oppose the free trade of in-game items on auction sites?
Steven Snow: Yes, NCsoft constantly reviews the major auction sites and we shut down as many as we can. It's a company policy.
Question: Will there be any cross-continent events like in Guild Wars or are the servers separated?
Ryan Seabury: The arenas are entirely cross-server, so at any time you can compete with players from other servers directly. This means we can potentially have championship tournaments where we find out who the best of the best really is.
Scott Brown: Right now the servers do not support out of region competition though.
So you will be limited to competing against others somewhat nearby.
Leo Tan: Ok, and time for one final statement from NetDevil. Just a few words from the developers on the recent news that Auto Assault has decided to extend the beta, and the improvements they are working towards... Take it away, NetDevil!
Scott Brown: We evaluated the state of the current game after rushing to get lots of content into the game and realized it was not ready for prime time. So we are taking some time to go through every inch of the game's content now and making sure it is fun, looks great, and brings a new experience to the game.
Ryan Seabury: Specifically, this also gives us more time to get class balances right and make sure PvP is everything we want it to be for the initial release.
Scott Brown: It is giving us an opportunity that we are all very excited about, and lets us make Auto Assault the best game it can be.
More information on Auto Assault please point your browser at 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 http://www.plaync.com.
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