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Auto Assault Developer Interview

Date: April 6, 2005
Author(s): Rob Williams

Who like’s driving around in their car blowing up everything in their path? The folks at NetDevil of course! They’ve put all that excitement into their upcoming MMOG, Auto Assault. We ask the questions, so you don’t have to, so check it out!



Introduction

Auto Assault is a game that personally has interested me since I first found out about it. The idea of combining vehicular combat, along with normal Role Playing elements sounded so unique to me, and I thought it would be a blast to play.

Netdevil’s other MMOG, Jumpgate, proves that they already know a thing or to about massively multiplayer online games. NC Soft is publishing the game, and they have pumped out such hits as Lineage II, City of Heroes and have a few upcoming MMORPG’s as well.

We had the great chance of talking to NetDevil to find out more about this very cool MMOG. Let’s get on with the questions!

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Techgage: Obviously, this is a new type of MMO we’ve never seen before. So firstly, what’s the game about, and how did the idea for this type of game arise?

NetDevil: Auto Assault is an idea that we at NetDevil have had for a long time. In fact, when coming up with ideas for a game it came down to doing either a space game or a car game. We did space first with Jumpgate and are now putting the finishing touches to our car combat project, Auto Assault. Auto Assault is a high action MMORPG.

You must combine your character’s abilities with your vehicle’s statistics (weaponry, armor and so on) to destroy enemies, other players and even the actual game world if you can see it, you can usually blow it up!. We wanted a game that had all the fun of action games, specifically including vehicles and the afore-mentioned blowing everything up, with the long-term enjoyment of persistent world online games.

TG: Other than the game being centered around vehicular combat, what other aspects of the game separate it from other MMOs?

ND: The biggest difference that separates Auto Assault from its MMO predecessors is the inclusion of a physics engine into both the client and the server so that nearly everything in the game world is destructible. From the very beginning, we have aspired to create a game that supports truly physical environments. This has led to some difficult and trying development quandaries to resolve but the results have been amazing and we’re certain that we’ve created something that players will have never experienced before in a MMO.

TG: What is the character creation and customization like? How many different combinations are possible? City of Heroes impressed us with the vast amount of configuration… will Auto Assault be similar?

ND: Although most of your time in Auto Assault will be spent inside one of your vehicles, we wanted to include robust character (avatar) customization. There are multiple combinations that allow for a unique character, so that you’ll easily be recognized when on foot in one of the game’s towns or cities. Most character tweaking takes place in the head and shoulder area, since this will be the part of you that other players in your group (or ‘Convoy’ in Auto Assault) will see as a character portrait.

Then of course, there’s vehicle customization. This is where we really went to town, since again this is where you’ll be during most of the game, so your vehicle represents who you are. There are many visual options for your vehicles, including ‘Tricks’ (external embellishments like fins and cattle guards), ‘Trims’ (unique paint combinations and details,) and weapons, wheels and so on picked up as loot or earned as quest items. There will be a ton of ways to visually convey your in-game persona and stand out from the crowd.

TG: More on the characters you create.. how will the progression work? Is the game based on levels, like most MMOs? Or will it be purely based on increasing your stats?

ND: Character progression is made by gaining levels. As you gain a level, you get points you can spend for both attributes and skills. Vehicle progression is through drops, stores and missions. The combat abilities you have in the world are a mixture of the character and the vehicle.

TG: What will the leveling grind be like? Will the leveling system in the game be faster than most others, or will it take you countless hours to gain a level or stats?

ND: Our primary design mantra is to make the game fun. We are striving to make a game where you level while playing instead of playing to level. What we mean by this is that your goals should be wrapping up a story arc or looking for a new item, not watching the XP bar and doing the math after each kill to determine how long it is until you level again. To facilitate this, we have designed the game in such a way that the majority of your experience will come from completing missions as opposed to destroying mobs.

TG: What will the ingame economy be like? Will you gain money off enemies you defeat? Do you expect crafting will become a great part of the economy?

ND: The enemies you fight will drop items, resources, and in-game currency. (In Auto Assault, our currency is called clink.) Mission rewards offer items and clink, too. Players will be able to buy, sell and trade items and commodities. We expect that crafting will be a big part of the game as both a way to get better equipment and a way to make money.


Interview Continued and Conclusion

TG: Along those lines.. another thing that helps keep the player interested in hunting for hours at a time, is the hopes of finding awesome loot. Can you tell us what the loot system will be like?

ND: This is one of the biggest features of Auto Assault. All of the loot has several statistics randomly generated each time an item is dropped. Also, there is always a chance that an item will have the capacity for adding one or more enhancements, improving it even more. There should never be a best item in the game that all players are working towards. Instead players will have to weigh the pros and cons to determine what is the right set of positives for the particular vehicle they are putting together at the time. A great additional feature of this system is that, through research and development, crafted loot will also be unique, giving players a way to really differentiate themselves from other players in the game.

TG: What will the questing system be like in the game? Will there be quests that will play a big part in the game, such as one that will decide how the game takes a turn?

ND: All of the missions in Auto Assault are hand-crafted and reveal the world to the player through our master story writers. Some story arcs even end in instanced mission maps that retain the state of the map, giving players something they have wanted for a long time in MMOs, a real opportunity to change and impact their game world. For example, a mission might be given where you have to lay waste to an enemy outpost. You drive in there and literally smash it to the ground, leaving nothing but a pile of smoking rubble. The follow-up mission might be to go and rebuild that outpost for your own faction. The cool thing is when you get there, it’s just as you left it. That kind of thing happens a lot in Auto Assault.

TG: Personally, even in MMO games, I *love* to solo. Will the game support the solo’er, or will you really need to stick to a group?

ND: We have designed the game to allow the player to play most of the missions in the game either solo or in a group. We know that there are many players, like you, who,just want to be able to play on their own from time to time and we fully support that. However, we have added many features to make finding and joining a group easier than it has ever been before. Hopefully this will empower players who typically enjoy solo-play to have an opportunity to give grouping a try. Additionally, the speed and ease with which you can form a group will be a great experience for those players who really want to be in a group as often as possible.

TG: As for the actual game world.. can you give us an idea of how large it is? Also, will exploring the world be something that a player will *want* to do?

ND: We have kept the world to a size that we think is fun and challenging without being overwhelming or difficult to navigate and explore. We think that if you take the time to explore that there should be rewards for that more than just seeing some new place. There are hidden missions and other benefits for the player who likes to make sure they have covered every inch of the world.

TG: Will there be a magic system in the game, and what types of weapons can we expect to see?

ND: There is not a magic system in Auto Assault, but there are plenty of fantastic-looking abilities in the game. There are many different types of weapons, from modern military-type weaponry to futuristic, high-tech gadgets and gizmos. Some examples include machine guns, cannons, missile launchers and flamethrowers. Each race has its own special Hazard Mode, too, that can be used when the going gets tough and they need a little boost to even out the fight. Biomeks, for example, have the ability to transform their vehicles into meks, robot-like machines that can stomp opponents. A concept sketch of this can be found to the right.

TG: Will the game have Gamepad or Wheel support, or will players be confined to using the Keyboard/Mouse?

ND: Yes, we are supporting gamepads, steering wheels and joysticks as alternatives to the default mouse and keyboard controls. Re-mapping is also available to customize your controls to suit your preferences. We want the players to drive in whatever way is the most fun and comfortable for them.

TG: NCsoft has an amazing track record with MMO games.. are there any special steps you are taking to guarantee the success of the game?

ND: We’re pleased to have such a well-rounded and knowledgeable team assembled and working together on Auto Assault. Building on past experience, having a good idea of what’s worked in the past and what to avoid in the future, we are confident that the dedication and combined efforts of both NetDevil and NCsoft to offer something exciting and new to the genre will give gamers something they can really sink their teeth into and introduce MMOs to an even wider audience.

TG: When will this great game be released?!

ND: We are shooting for a release in the second half of 2005, but a pre-order package will start popping up in stores sometime during May. Presently, we’re gearing up to start our beta. Registrations are still being accepted and people can sign up here.

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I want to give a huge thanks to NetDevil for answering these questions, as well as the rockin Valerie ‘Pann’ Massey. Once Auto Assault is released, you can expect to see an in-depth review on the site. To find out more now, check the sites below, as well as the Official Site’s download page. Auto Assault looks like it’s going to be worth waiting for!

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