They believe firmly that games stories are best told through what the player does and not what he reads, which means that while there will of course be text for the fans to read, they don't expect to hit you with a wall of backstory and then have you fetch three Jafa heads. "The mission descriptions, even if you click through them, are really, really brief," underlined Klug.
Stargate itself is a very story driven IP and their challenge is to make sure the gameplay feels like the show. Again, this is one of those areas where it's impossible to get a sense of it without playing, but their claim that the text will be minimal, while the experience tells the story is definitely saying the right things. Now they just need to deliver on the promise.
They are confident that through iteration and careful design, they have avoided the pitfalls. They have already built all their missions, they told us, and feel they'll stand up to the show and not tell test. "The only way [players] can ignore [the story] effectively is to not play," added Klug.
This approach extends beyond the actual mission wrappers and into the way players actually take them on.
Each class can be placed along the spectrum of how combat oriented they are. For example, a Soldier is going to do the vast majority of their missions with a gun in hand, as one would expect. An Archeologist may do only a very few in that way. In between fall the other classes.
What does someone do in an MMO if not kill things, one might ask? Play mini-games related to the scenario is Cheyenne's answer. For those who seek and crave explosions, life can be happy as a Soldier, but this is only a small part of each scenario. A good group will have each person approach a given scenario from their strength, so while the Soldier lobs frags at the enemy, the archeologist might have to disarm a bomb or pick a lock.
At this stage, Cheyenne wasn't ready to go into too many details on exactly how the actual mini-games will function, but Klug did throw out Bejeweled as a generic example of a comparable style of game. At launch, the game will offer a handful of different games, each scalable based on factors within the game. There obviously won't be an infinite number of games for players to play, but Cheyenne is confident what they do feature will be challenging, scalable and with enough variety to keep people engaged.
"We are allowing the archeologist to use mini-games to navigate the general gamespace," said Klug cryptically. He refused to elaborate on what the heck that might mean, save to say, "you've never seen it in an MMO before."
Of course, this is all for naught if the game doesn't look like Stargate. To build their world, they have established high profile deals with BigWorld Technologies and Epic to power their game. BigWorld runs the under the hood stuff that the average fan is hopefully never aware of, while Epic's Unreal 3 is the graphic engine of choice.
With an engine as tricked out as Unreal, especially one intended for the FPS genre, there is always the worry that for all the nice things they intend, the average fan won't actually be able to make the darn thing run on a PC not cooled by dry ice. Not the case, Cheyenne promises.
"Restricting ourselves to this high end market really doesn't make sense to anyone in the room," Chris told us. They explained that they chose Unreal because it allowed them to get up and running quickly and focus on the product. The question of how high the system requirements is really more an issue of content than engine. They've worked hard to modify the Unreal engine to suit the needs of a virtual world and the sheer development timelines of an MMO should let PCs catch up. They believe their game will have more than enough sliders to embrace a large cross section of PCs.
There remains a lot of work to be done and in general, Cheyenne remains mum on most timelines.
"The gameplay is really starting to come together and we're doing internal play testing, iteration on the worlds and so forth," Elggren said.
They did say Stargate Worlds remains on schedule for a Fall 2008 release, but did not get into public testing timelines. The target date should put it up against some stiff competition in the form of EA Mythic's Warhammer Online and potentially Blizzard's Wrath of the Lich King expansion to World of Warcraft. Nonetheless, Cheyenne doesn't seem too worried. "All you can really do is make the best game you can," Klug said.