Codemasters Connect 08 marked the first time the general public was able to get their hands on Jumpgate Evolution. So, I got on a plane and headed for England and while I was there, I also got to speak to Producer Hermann Peterscheck about the game and what NetDevil hopes to accomplish.
I started playing the previous version of Jumpgate a couple of days after it launched in 2001. It was the MMO that led me to eventually get hired into the game industry and it's a huge sentimental favorite of mine. That's part of why I was so excited when at the OGDC (now called ION) in Seattle, NetDevil President Scott Brown showed me what they had been working on. The game did not look the same at all. The visual changes were sweeping, but the question remained: Would it still have the same player-driven, fun gameplay?
Connect 08 gave me the chance to find out for myself. After creating a Solrain character, I was treated to an opening cinematic and then the reality of flight in the new game was upon me. I was using a machine equipped with a Saitek X52, because I had been one of those hardcore flight sim guys when I played long ago. As I shifted into first-person mode, it felt familiar, but looked completely different. I was having a great time, shooting pirates and Conflux (alien NPCs) when it dawned on me that this was the game I had always wished I could see when I played the old version. The graphics are top notch and even though I didn't know the setup of the computer I was using, NetDevil assured me that they were taking their system requirements very seriously and hope to have it run on as many older machines as possible, without a large sacrifice of quality.
The controls felt good and I had heard that there were some concerns that joysticks might not be able to take full benefit of the lateral thruster mechanics, but using the left hat switch on the X52's throttle seemed to work great. For those that want to have a flight model similar to the original, you can turn off the "dampeners" that determine the amount of effect the flight physics have on your movement. Just for the record, real pilots don't need any stinking dampeners.
The game offers a very intuitive mission system and I was able to follow the instructions to achieve goals and eventually reach Level 6 and destroy a Pirate Battlestation as part of the final mission of the introductory portion of the game. Even though it was a very early, almost pre-alpha build, the first sector seemed to be quite complete. Sadly, they had PvP turned off, but given the fact that 90% of the people there to see the game were hardcore PvPers, there would have been a complete shunning of any content as we all shot each other without mercy or end.
After I realized that a couple of hours had passed, I got up and made a note to come back the next day and try the mouse/keyboard flight style. I found that to be a much easier way to control the ship as it felt more like a standard MMO, mostly due to familiarity with WASD. In this configuration, third person view was the better option for me..
The game truly impressed me, and it felt good to be able to revisit the Jumpgate universe and see a completely new game using all of the familiar and favorite parts of the old version. I am really looking forward to seeing more of what NetDevil has to offer and can't wait for my next chance to play.
After my first play session, I then sat down with Hermann Peterscheck and talked a bit about the game.
Click to Page 2 for the Q&A portion.