WC: Will JE consolidate its entire playerbase onto a single server a la the original Jumpgate and EVE Online? What are some of the benefits from this as opposed to a system with multiple servers (like more traditional MMOGs such as WoW or EQ)? What are some of the difficulties?
Hermann: Our servers are designed to handle between 2 and 3 thousand people per world, thus we will shard more like WoW or EQ. The reasons are both technical and game play. If you think about EVE, their game is built for one enormous server. The design and architecture is created to support this kind of world. Imagine WoW with 2 million people in one area waiting for a world boss to re-spawn... that doesn't sound very fun to me. Also there are issues like number of packets per player per second. In an action combat game, that is much higher than a more strategy based game and so that has to be taken into account as well. At the end of the day I don't think there is a better or worse way to handle it, it's really an issue of the kind of game.
WC: When building the game, what did you want to take from the first Jumpgate and what did you want to omit or improve?
Hermann: We really wanted to keep the core game play of flying and shooting, that's the heart of the game. We also wanted to keep the sense of exploration, team work, and a more player driven world. So I guess it's a question of the feeling of the game. Improvements are always challenging, because you don't necessarily know what constitutes improvement until you try something. Much of game design is try it and see if it works, then iterate. So we did a lot of early testing with the game to try and figure out what worked and what didn't work. Then it's just a question of exploring more options and seeing what it is people respond to.
The obvious stuff is something like a new graphics engine. People expect some level of visual quality and if you do not hit that, you turn a lot of people away. At the same time, you want to be sure that your game runs well on low and mid range hardware in order to ensure the broadest possible market is reached. The other thing we wanted to make sure is that space felt full. So early on we knew we needed a complete and dynamic AI system to achieve that.
WC: How much of the game's content are you leaving up to players? Will they be able to create and run their own institutions or will there be a more rigid framework, and if yes how will that work?
Hermann: We want to let players do as much as possible. That being said there are always limitations to what you can do in a game - some of these are practical things like time and money . Others are game design issues. Imagine if you let players make their own missions. If they get to assign experience and money rewards, you have a potential balance and exploit nightmare. Player created content is the same kind of thing. How do you deal with offensive material? How do you deal with people submitting so much stuff that game clients start to get poor performance?
Every design choice has consequences and I think it's really important for developers to consider what is best for the game, and something that is not what is the most obvious thing. Things like guilds and groups and so on are well established. "Housing" or its space counterpart is also something that has been done, so those are areas we want to get into. There are lots of ideas floating around internally so it's just a question of how many we can do, and how many of them actually work.
WC: What part of the game do you personally find the most entertaining at the moment? Why?
Hermann: Fighting big stuff. I'm not sure why. I suppose it's because that's what I like in science fiction movies. It's great to be in a quick and dirty dogfight, but nothing is more fun than taking out some giant station, watching it go boom, and then picking up the loot .
WC: Where would you like to see Jumpgate Evolution in five years?
Hermann: Running well with tons of happy players! Seriously, the goal of any MMO developer is to make a compelling game world that players enjoy for many years. Very few games actually accomplish this and so to be able to reach that goal would be very rewarding. There are also TONS of things we want to add, but I'll leave speculation for later. Right now we have to focus on what we're doing now.
WC: As you ramp up for beta, is there anything else you'd like to let readers know?
Hermann: I think we've covered a lot of it!
Thank you for your time!