"We created a separate AI server that handles all the behaviors of all the opponents in the game," Peterscheck said. "It's a way for us to make the world more engaging."
"Advanced AI" is a tagline most every game ever launched has thrown on the box, so what does it really mean for Jumpgate Evolution? Peterscheck explained how they did simple things. For example, if one station is low on a particular product, it calls out for it and then other stations send cargo ships, loaded with the stuff. These ships must physically fly from station to station and that fact does more than just make the world seem alive, it created content for players.
To one player, that ship can represent an easy mark for piracy. To another, it might be vital that the resource reach his home station and he defends it. And what if that pirate decided to take a shot? Well, the hauler certainly cannot fight him off, so off goes a distress call. Support, real or virtual speeds that way and an impromptu dogfight is underway.
Peterscheck noted that the most advanced AI has to have the simplest of rules. The more they define things, the more "A" and the less "I" there is. As such, they have created many of these simple little frills, but each with an eye towards the depth of the player experience.
As advanced as AI can be, Jumpgate Evolution still has a significant reliance on player vs. player. While they no longer feature completely free for all PvP - Peterscheck noted that was one of the hurdles to the original's accessibility - they do continue to emphasize the importance of PVP.
Now the game features safe and dangerous areas of space, like so many other MMOs. However, they hope to create a situation where players feel free to explore both options equally. Too often, he believes, PvP is a kind of fork in the road. In Jumpgate, both PvE and PvP are viable forms of advancement and pose their own unique challenges. He provided the example of scale.
"The original Jumpgate was very much a single pilot vs. single pilot scenario," he noted. In Jumpgate Evolution, players can expect epic encounters. They made it a goal to ensure players could live out the epic battles of science-fiction literature and film in their game. That means, in PvE, players can expect epic raids, while in PvP, fleet battles are in order.
Visually, the original Jumpgate was never really a looker. NetDevil has learned their lesson and hopes to create a product that is visually inspiring, but also technologically realistic. Their goal is to craft a world people want to live in.
"Nothing breaks immersion like a game that doesn't work," he said. For this reason, Peterscheck quite honestly admitted that they had simply copied World of Warcraft's minimum system requirements. It's an industry standard and he believes they achieved a good balance of technical accessibility and visual quality. He hopes Jumpgate Evolution can do the same.
"All games with bad frame-rates are bad games," he added. It has to work and for them it's much easier to make a game that works on low-end machines, but can be dialed up, then to make a game for high end machines then try to dial it back down.
The emphasis on low system requirements does not mean it's ugly. The advantage of a space game is that there is no horizon, no trees to render and no grass to draw. With few environmental concerns, the ships take the day and to date their screenshots show an attractive game that can compare to EVE Online.
Jumpgate Evolution is a game about the experience of a pilot in space, but that doesn't mean that the economy and management aspects were ignored.
"We want to create a floating economy, so trade is a much bigger part of it," he said. There is a much bigger emphasis on loot, items, collection and trade. These factors were largely marginalized in their first attempt, but are an important part of the genre they now embrace.
For NetDevil, a remake of a commercially mixed game seems like a risk, but Peterscheck was unfazed by the challenge.
"If you're risk adverse, you shouldn't be in the gaming industry," he said bluntly. "At the end of the day, you have to do the game that you want to make."
Jumpgate Evolution is currently in early Alpha and NetDevil hopes to launch the finished product in the second half of 2008.