Interviews

Interviews
Auto Assault: WarCry's Exclusive Q&A with Chris Sherland and Andrew Wagner

Dana Massey | 20 Feb 2007 18:29
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Chris Sherland and Andrew Wagner took the time to answer some questions about Auto Assault from the staff of WarCry. These questions cover everything from the next update to the health of the project.



WarCry Q&A: Auto Assault
Answers by Chris Sherland and Andrew Wagner ("Zzyn")
Questions by Dana Massey

(File Size: 41k)WarCry: Obviously, it's no secret that the sales and subscriber numbers for Auto Assault have not been altogether encouraging. Has any thought been given to scrapping the subscription model?

Andrew Wagner: NetDevil and NCSoft are committed to Auto Assault. Both teams take a lot of pride in keeping Auto Assault both fun to play, and relevant to the current market. As with any product we are continually assessing the game itself as well as its success in the market. There are currently no plans to change the existing model on Auto Assault.

WarCry: Your official literature described the game as "brutal, desolate and no place for men in tights". Obviously, you're trying to offer something different from the standard. Why should fantasy MMO gamers give AA a second look?

Chris Sherland: Auto Assault could be one of the most compelling gaming models in the market right now. In fact there is a lot to Auto Assault that is pretty ground breaking even now, but a lot of it is under the surface. The game has over 15,000 art assets and hundreds of game-play hours. Combine that content level with insane combat and action and I think there's no argument that Auto Assault has a lot to offer.

(File Size: 41k) One of the great aspects of Auto Assault is that it is easy for a player to consume the content in 'bite-sized' chunks, allowing even the casual player to advance, without the sometimes heavy time investment per session that many MMO's require.

WarCry: Can you talk to us a bit about the Auction system and why it is the headline feature of this update? What does it add to the game?

Andrew Wagner: The auction system adds a much needed means for players to easily buy and sell goods to one another even when the seller may be offline. This will help players at all levels and regardless of their play style and interests. For some it will be a way to acquire needed equipment upgrades. Others may use it to acquire resources for their crafting pursuits. The Auction House and Mail system will add a much needed additional layer of interactivity and item accessibility for all players.

(File Size: 37k) WarCry: Update 4 seems heavy on fixing things in the game. Why were major issues like the skill system, race balance and other tweaks targeted and how have these changes improved the game?

Andrew Wagner: They were targeted as a result of player feedback. Most of the items that we are focusing on now, were prioritized based on observing the player's experience, reviewing statistics from within the game, and from listening to what players have to say. We not only listen via the forums, but we also many times listen to the chatter in-game. The /suggest and /bug submissions also go a long way to telling us what they players want.

(File Size: 35k) The skill system in its initial state was a great setup. It is difficult, however, to quickly balance the system when most skills had no real 'common denominator' as far as cost vs. functionality. The new 10-rank system adds that common denominator and makes it far easier for us to make small incremental changes to skills, as needed, to further balance them. We are putting a lot of effort into making sure that this iteration is more balanced between races than ever before. We do know, however, that there will be a few items that make it through testing and to the live servers. This is just a reality with so many factors at play. We are committed to reacting attentively and thoughtfully to any such issues as they arise. This new system makes it much easier for us to react quickly.

The new 10-rank system also allows new players to more easily understand the cost of each skill and how that relates to their character's relative power. In many ways, this puts more power in the player's hands; especially the new or casual player. With an easier to understand system, we believe players will be able to wrap their heads around the 'whole picture' more quickly and build widely varying skill sets that fit their own play style.

(File Size: 59k) WarCry: Talk about the brand new tournament schedule. How will this increase the competitive drive of players in AA?

Andrew Wagner: The new tournament schedule was set up based almost wholly on player feedback. It includes tournaments in the US, EU, and Austral-Asian time zones. We also adjusted the level ranges for each Tournament set for better balance in the arena setting (e.g. no more level 61-80 Tournaments).

In addition to adjusting the schedule to be more of what the players are looking for, a new reward system will be in place. This system will allow us to pre-set rewards or reward types for each tournament. Rather than simply winning XP and clink, which the system does now, the new system will allow us to set a stack of rewards and another that the player can select from. This means that a player who wins a tournament could take home a number of Outpost tokens, perhaps a rare xeno item, etc. The intent is to expand interest in that system by expanding its accessibility and its rewards.

(File Size: 31k) WarCry: The major complaint about Auto Assault is that it's great fun for a few minutes, but gets repetitive over time. What are you doing to provide players with more variety in gameplay?

Andrew Wagner: We are always assessing what can be done to make the game more interesting and compelling. In recent updates we have added more bosses and more instances. We are currently looking at the possibility of adding even more farmable bosses. There are two new cars usable by all races and classes being adding in Update 4 as well.

Other systems and player paths are also being reviewed to determine how to better show new players what is in store if they stick with it. Many times new players don't immediately see the incredible item variance present in Auto Assault. Most items in the game are unique with their own unique stats. Even items of the same exact name will generally have varying stats. Items such as mission items and epic items are static, however. It is our hope that the Auction House helps expose the depth of item variance to players at a much earlier point in their journey through the wastelands.

WarCry: What about the new expansion are the testers/developers having the most fun with? Tell us about it.

(File Size: 41k) Andrew Wagner: There are many fun aspects of Update 4 to look forward to. The increased interest in Tournaments has the potential to foster greater participation in PvP at all level ranges. The Auction House makes it easier for players to get the specific gear they need. Ground Zero and the Outposts have been updated to be more challenging and fun. Outpost token drops and the rewards for collecting them are a driving force for many engaging the battle for supremacy.

The skill system update opens doors for players and developers alike. Players can more easily grasp the power of their skill sets and how to tweak them appropriately. The developers can more easily make changes with predictable results. These two aspects alone make it very worth while to have invested so much time in the rework. As always, we will be listening and watching very closely as players dig in to the new Update.

(File Size: 55k) WarCry: What kind of resources - in terms of manpower - are still behind Auto Assault?

Chris Sherland: NCSoft and NetDevil are both committed to the continued success of Auto Assault. The resources applied are continually assessed to make sure they are appropriate based on the product's current status and future goals.

WarCry: Beyond Update 4, what's on the agenda for Auto Assault?

Chris Sherland: Those are surprises that we'll be keeping close for now. We have some exciting items on the table for the next update, and when they are finalized, we'll let the players know.

(File Size: 61k) WarCry: Will the recent announcement of Warmonger affect the development of Auto Assault and Jumpgate?

Chris Sherland: NetDevil is growing, both in scope of work and resources, so we're not robbing one project to support another. Also the scope and trajectory of each of these projects is vastly different and as such has different resource needs, so in some cases even if we WANTED to pull resources from one to another it isn't very effective. Like I said before; NC Soft and NetDevil are still committed to supporting Auto Assault, and there are no plans to change that.


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