All Aspects: The Derek Smart AAW Interview

By Kieron Gillen on March 18th, 2009 at 3:53 pm.

Orange is the best of all armour types.

You suspect 3000AD’s Derek Smart is the man the phrase “outspoken developer” was coined for. He’s… oh, you have an opinion, don’t you? Whether or not you’ve played – or could even name – one of his games, everyone’s got a take on Smart. He’s also a perennial PC gaming figure which we haven’t talked to yet. With All Aspect Warfare approaching release, we thought it time to change all that. Talk about where he’s coming from, going to and – whisper it – whether he was actually right all along. Along the way, we take in the death of Space Sims, Steam’s power being over-estimated, his take on the Space MMOs, some cheery demonization of EA and… well, whether he ever regrets comment threads.

Join us.

RPS: Okay, from the top: All Aspect Warfare. Could you explain its germination? How do you think it fits in with your other games? Is it fair to say the scope is more focused this time around? Or is the focus just different?

Derek Smart: Well, apparent by the time we released our last space combat game, Echo Squad SE, that the days of space sims – as a viable business – were pretty much over. The genre is as dead as a doornail; and anyone who says any different, has maybe one or two other day jobs, lives on Ramen noodles and their monthly bills amount to a monthly grocery trip.

Seeing that we very well couldn’t make the same kinds of money over the years on the genre – short of rolling out our MMO (which is still about eighteen months away) based on our existing properties – I decided to do a game in between. A sort of stepping stone if you will. Sure it could have been KnightBlade, the space game we were planning on doing for PC/XB360. But given that no publisher in their right minds is going to sign a space combat game – let alone a console one, I decided to play it safe and put that game on ice and start a new game from scratch. Plus I wanted a break to do something else for a change.

When you have a franchise property you’ve spent decades on (in my case, twenty plus years already), you don’t just abandon it and start from scratch. Most especially not when you have a large install base. So this game, though radically different (for one thing, it is not a space game), takes places within our pre-existing game world and mythos.

The focus is 100% on planet side aerial and infantry combat. The game was designed, developed and fine tuned specifically for that. Which is why the majority of our technologies were either written from scratch or heavily revised for this game. It has been a HUGE investment. We’ll see if it pays off or not.

RPS: Is the space-combat game actually dead then? What can resurrect it? I’m interested in how older genres have been unexpectedly rejuvenated – I mean, the Adventure game finding a new home as webgames and on the Wii of all places. See an opportunity anywhere, or is it just the MMO?

Derek Smart: Yeah, its dead, Jim.

Well, you just hit it right there on the head. While adventure, war games etc are no longer mainstream – as far as retail publishing goes – there is grassroots support for it by gamers and developers alike. The way I see it, a publisher won’t bother with a game that won’t sell five copies. However, a developer (or web publisher/developer) who knows that he only needs to sell two copies for his break even, can still survive by going the alternate publishing route. More often than not, they often end up making more money than if they went with a publisher. Why? Because if you sell direct, the money goes to you directly.

If you have a traditional publisher, you have to wait to get paid. If they actually do pay.

Nevertheless, nothing beats the sheer number, volume and face time than retail gives. But that brick and mortar model is on the way out. The publishers know it. The retailers know it. It is only a matter of time before retail becomes an afterthought. Much like mainstream PC gaming.

There are so many opportunities for online distribution these days, that there is no longer an excuse to not do it. The biggest decision you’re going to be faced with is who to go with and how many. On one hand, you can sell through a lot of portals and dilute your metrics or go through a single [popular] portal and cross your fingers. That’s like selling to Walmart and not bothering with the likes of Best Buy, Target etc. If that’s how you roll.

And believe it or not Steam -even with its “Valve games powered numbers” – is not the leading online digital distribution portal. IGN’s Direct2Drive still is. Primarily due to their very diversified game portfolio, non-preferential treatment, developer friendly rules, brain dead straightforward contract, friendly and responsive sales and develop personnel etc. Gamer’s Gate is the same way. Been working these two and several other smaller portals (e.g. Digital River, BMT Micro) for many years now and have no complaints or qualms.

All of a sudden, everyone wants to get on Steam. It is easy to scream up to the rafters about hozillion subscribers. It doesn’t mean squat if a good portion of those are only on Steam specifically for the exceedingly popular Valve games. And I know for a fact that I’m right. Otherwise, you’d have already seen product specific numbers (like you do with NPD and such) from Steam already to backup those claims. Sure you’d get a sales spike there every now and then. But so what? You’d get the same sales spike if you put the game on any of the other portal and offered the same price, period and conditions. Marketing is marketing, no matter how many gimmicks you wrap around it. Selling a gamer a game he already owns, is the ultimate gimmick. That’s like selling ice to Eskimos.

The point is that even if you didn’t want to setup your own storefront, if you have a finished product – specifically a game – you can get it online rather quickly and start selling through the developer friendly portals without having to go through the same bullshit you normally would if were going with a traditional publisher. Plus, you’ll get paid – and on time. All done automatically.

Seriously, you can get a game on a good portal in under a week. Tops. In fact, the biggest delay is probably in getting the DRM scheme that they use, sorted out because the contracts themselves are just fill in the blanks simple.

There are also other upcoming ones which target a specific demographic. e.g. GoG. I mean, was that a brilliant idea or what? Its like retro bargain bin hunting. Hopefully they can get a lot more classics on there. But my guess is that the biggest hassle they’re faced with is tracking down the developers/publishers, finding out who actually owns the rights to properties etc. GameTap went through the same thing. It ain’t easy.

In many of my legacy interviews, I said – quite clearly – that MMO games and digital distribution, were the wave of the future. Those interviews are still up on my website to this day. And guess what? That’s exactly where we are today and specifically for PC games which will never be able to make their way to retail shelves.

So the way I see it, space games may be on the out, but they can be revitalized in the online distribution space. If the game is good and there are gamers out there who would rather buy than pirate (bastards) it, you can probably made a decent return on investment. But given the thinned out popularity of the genre, I wouldn’t quit my day job to develop and sell a space sim. Especially one that didn’t already have an incubated fan base. Seriously.

Just look around and see how many mainstream space combat developer from the old days are still in business today. I’m sure that if you approached Larry Holland [Totally Games, of X-Wing series fame - Ed] today about doing a space game, he’d probably (depending on the size of his bank account at the time) just laugh and saunter off in mild amusement. The same thing could be said for Egosoft. I’m sure they’re hurting – but my guess is you won’t see another X3 game for a long time because there is a point (the point I reached with the last niche space game) where you have to say enough is enough to derivative works.

There is a good reason why, for example, David Braben has been threatening to unleash Elite IV since Nixon was president and why you still haven’t seen it – and probably never will. At least not until you grow Grey hairs in places you didn’t realize could actually sprout hairs.

RPS: Your games have been… okay, let’s go with “divisive”. If you go with something as simple as a metacritic score, they’re always mixed. Yet despite that, you’re a perennial PC-developer who seems to have found an audience who appreciates your vision. Would you think this fair? If so, how does AAW fit here – both in terms of reaching new players and the pleasing old ones?

Derek Smart: Divisive huh? Well, that’s new. Usually I get sentiments ranging from mediocre to challenging…and all the way to the crap end of that particularly ecclectic opinions spectrum reserved by gamers solely for the purpose of expressing repressed emotions. You know, the kind that controlled substances, therapy or resolved Mommy issues don’t quite fix.

Seriously though, I love what I do. For me, being a sci-fi geek who grew up on all things sci-fi, getting into space games was a no-brainer. Sure I could have picked another genre (e.g. RTS) and still gone the sci-fi route, but even as a kid, I had always been fascinated by space and all its mysteries and such.

Playing games like Elite, Star Flight, Echelon etc just sold me right there and then. Once I decided to go out and make my own game instead of just sitting around playing someone else’s, I realized that life as I once knew it, was, well, over. I always felt that I could take the genre further.

My previous games – as you well know – are designed and developed for a specific group of people. I didn’t – and still don’t – care about the people outside that classification. My games, you either like them or you don’t. There is no in between, no fuzzy logic and certainly no repressed emotions. You can’t win over everybody and trying to do that is just a lesson in futility. So, I’ve always targeted like minded folks. And once that segment grew large enough to sustain my company, I decided to just keep doing it. Twenty years and thirteen (and at least two more to come) games later.

For this game, the goal is the same. While we’re not targeting the space combat fan base, I’m sure that those guys play other games too. So this is a chance to see how well (or bad) we do outside of our (space combat) comfort zone. As I’ve been telling the publishers we’ve been speaking to, if you want a cookie cutter fps game, this ain’t it. Which is why we have been providing them with the game’s docs first and foremost. Those who like what they read enough to play the game, go on to request an eval. So far, we’ve had some good responses and feedback. So I think we’re on the right track.

Apart from the fact that this is a “Thinking man’s fps”, a lot of the technologies were designed with various genres and gamers in mind. For e.g. the aerial combat aspect features proper cockpit and camera views, awesome flight dynamics and avionics. And oh yeah, a proper camera – not that rubbish those other guys are currently pushing and frustrating gamers all over. So an aerial combat flight jock is going to feel right at home, even if the only time he ever steps foot on solid ground – or fire a weapon – is when he’s searching for a fighter to jack. You start off in the ground, in fps mode. None of that “start and end in the air” crap.

As to the infantry combat aspect, it is all skills and experience based. If you don’t have the skills or the experience points to fly a fighter, you’re never – ever – going to be able to get in one. This leaves flying to jocks and the rest of the heavy lifting to the infantry guys. And even they need experience points to drive most of the vehicles in the game or man the numerous ground surface to air missile and gun units. When I designed this, I didn’t want any of the rubbish you see on other game servers where it is a free-for-all and with mostly griefers.

Oh, and – btw, IMO – Metacritic scores are the greatest injustice to the creative minds that actually work (yeah, some of us actually do that) to bring fun (and a balanced level of frustration) to gamers. Apart from the fact that it doesn’t contain “scores” from all print and on-line media reviews, its just plain wrong to use that as a yardstick for measuring excellence or failure when in fact the data sampling is hardly indicative of a true weight/ratio analysis based on the written word. But that’s a whole other interview.

RPS: Following on from the last question… do you think that makes you ahead of the curve? As in, realising you don’t need everyone to love you. There seems to be more and more people who work in PC gaming who seem to realise that actually servicing a niche of people who care about a certain approach and then making a game with a suitable budget is something that’s sustainable and worth doing – especially when you’re one of those people who want the game you’re making. You’ve been doing that for years.

Derek Smart: Well, it is only now when most of them either find themselves on the receiving end of redundancy or losing money hand over fist, that this common sense notion hits them. A lot of companies and small devs have been doing that for years. Most – if not all, like us, are still in business. Mostly it is greed and bad planning that gets some of these companies into trouble. Why spend $250K making a game and sell it to 100K people who actually want it, when you can blow $10m on a wildcard while trying to get 500K people to buy it? The mainstream economics of game development today makes absolutely no sense to me. It all boils down to bloat and mismanagement.

Plus I blame EA.

They started this bullshit about how games worth having or which are to be considered high end, would and should cost North of $30m because of the “next gen consoles”. It was retarded bullshit then. It is retarded bullshit now. And their shareholders are wondering where their money went right about now. Look no further than the likes of Eidos, Atari and every single one of them who bet big – and lost. Meanwhile, guys like us, Stardock and everyone in between and around, are still around making our low budget games for a group of people who actually enjoy them.

When I did my first game, the fact that I didn’t go straight out of business and back into the realms of obscurity is because a group of people saw what it was I was trying to do. So, they stuck around. Funny that. But since 1996 when I released my first game, the game that started it all has had no less than eleven iterations, derivatives, sequels and the like. Why? Because those small group of people keep buying the games. Some new ones come on board along the way and some get to stick around, while some get to move on. The economics is simple, if someone isn’t buying a game, why spend time, effort and money making it. So even with all the crap you see some gamers writing about games – they probably never even played – and which they claim suck, you have to wonder which planet they hail from.

The same thing here with All Aspect Warfare. Take our small budget (though this game has a higher budget than our previous games) and build a smallish game for a specific group of people.

I always joke with Sergio (one of my fellow developers) that if someone were ever (foolish enough) to give us $30m to make a game, that I was going to buy an island, disappear and leave him $2m to make the same game. :)

RPS: As everybody knows, co-op’s been one of the bigger trends of the last few years – I’m interested in how you’ve approached the issue and what the key of it for AAW is. Purely going on my own recollections, while my really early co-op memories were arcades, in terms of the late 90s/early00s, what little co-op there was seemed really quite hardcore. Like – say – Flashpoint, which is very much that realistic thinking man shooter’s sort of thing. While it lead to agreeable chaos, it was more grounded than the mental chaos which most co-op games lean towards now. What sort of pacing does AAW’s Co-op have?

Derek Smart: Well, in our game co-op is basically a multiplayer mode in which the four team members in the story mode campaign are replaced by human players.

The pacing is no different than if you were playing the scenario alongside the three NPC team members. The only difference is that you would expect your human team mates to actually make intelligent decisions and work together to achieve the objectives. But my guess is none of that (intelligent decision) is going to happen. But since voice chat will be available, you’ll be able to scream out obscenities on the fly and have them mean something.

The largest obstacle to co-op in games is the handling of NPC characters. Primarily who to attack, when and how. For us, an NPC targets list is prioritized. So its not like they’re going to attack player A who is 100m away, while ignoring player B who is standing right next to them.

No big deal really. I always wanted co-op for this game. Playing L4D just solidified my suspicions as to what it is we needed to aim for in doing it the no-frills but correct way.

RPS: Could you talk more about the experience system and multiplayer? I presume that your skills will be linked in a central server if you’re trying to make characters develop classes which they can’t easily grief. Or am I just making nonsense up out of my head again?

Derek Smart: Well as we (gamers that is) all know, Games For Windows Live is severely lacking. Since we just decided to do our own thing.

And doing our own thing means that we get to control the fate of our game, our servers, our player base, our patching etc. Our IP. Our worlds. Our rules. Nobody gets to hold us to ever shifting standards. Standards which tend to be relaxed for some (publishers) while steadfastly enforced for others. To this end, we just built ours from the ground up and tied it directly into the game. The way we did it is simple. You can play the multiplayer game using the game’s built-in server browser where you can host and/or join a game. There is no stats saving. So when you quit the server, it is all gone.

If you wanted to play on (ranked) stats saving servers, you have to use our external GameLobby app seen here. Doing so requires you to create a unique UserID (aka GamerTag) which is then stored on our servers. For your stats to be updated and tracked on the server, you have to always join a server this way. You can then look at your real-time stats and compare against others on our leaderboards over here. During multiplayer (there is no stats saving/tracking in single player), your kills, rank, Experience Points etc are tracked and updated in real-time, all the time. Since XP is tied directly into the game (e.g. you need a certain amount of XP in single and multiplayer to use certain vehicles, do certain things etc), the higher your XP, the more things you can do in the game. So there will be this on-going quest to get your XP very high.

Due to the game’s design and mechanics, you can also use XP for doing various things. e.g wantonly killing other friendly players, dying (yeah, each time you die, you lose XP when you re-spawn), failing objectives etc. So in one week, you could be at a high rank and XP, then the next – bad – week, your stats have tanked. And all of a sudden, some n00b has more XP and ranking than you do. If a player ends up griefing other players, we just ban their UserID, their IP address etc. They then will never be able to create another one, let alone join any server that is reporting to our master servers. They can still of course join a non-ranked server and play as normal and without a UserID. But even so, they can still be banned from there because all servers report to our master server – and that’s where the ban occurs.

You know me; I have zero tolerance for anti-social misfits – so I’m going to do everything in my power to keep them away from my game and off my servers.

We went all out on the multiplayer aspect of the game – to the extent of radical revisions to the multiplayer engine (e.g now it is a pure client-server architecture) – because we know that the popularity of multiplayer fps games lies in the multiplayer component and community. So, unlike our previous games where multiplayer was just another feature, this time around we focused on it as much as we would on any other feature or technology in the game.

For example, even the GameLobby has a bunch of unique features including friends list, invites, private messaging and such. As well as the ability to chat with a friend who is currently either in the lobby or on a game server, and vice versa. So if you want to locate your friend on a server, just login to the GameLobby and their UserID will tell you what server they’re playing on. Then you can send them a message directly from the lobby. e.g. while you are waiting to join a full server, you two can chat directly with each other via private messaging. Your friend never has to leave the game. We are considering extending this to sending Twitter chats, IM etc – directly from the lobby or the game. Sure, there are other third party (e.g. XFire) tools that have similar functionality, but we wanted built-in support without having to resort to yet another external app for the same functionality.

RPS: While I suspect it’s too early to talk about what you’ve planned with your MMO, what do you think of the current Space MMOs? What would you do differently?

Derek Smart: Well SWG [Star Wars Galaxies - Ed] is, well, uhm – (with no offense to the developers) – rubbish? And my guess is that the only reason it is still going is because that demographic – rabid or not – won’t touch Eve with the longest barge pole. Just wait until STO [Star Trek Online - Ed] launches and watch what happens.

And I don’t have any confidence whatsoever that Star Trek Online will be anything but. However, I am going to reserve final judgment on that until it is actually out and the gamers have spoken. From what I’ve seen, heard and can tell, they’re going with the tried – and failing – Status Quo. Its like these guys doing MMO games are stuck in a time machine. Yet, those who aren’t making it, just don’t get the message that the Status Quo doesn’t work for everyone. It is all about risk taking. Look at Eve! That, to me is the greatest risk ever undertaken by a developer. See where they are today.

Don’t like Eve. Never did. Only because it is not my kind of game. I love the genre, but there is a limit to how much love I can dole out when my idea of “fun” is being tested.

Eve – the quintessential spreadsheet in space – is popular (the stagnant subscriber base is testament to the space sim’s thinned popularity) because those guys decided what they wanted to do, did it – and stuck with it. So when the gamers jumped on board, CCP didn’t turn around and renege on what they started out with because some publisher said so. They bet that there were enough gamers out there who – spreadsheet or not – wanted that specific kind of game. And those who were first exposed to it, obviously liked it enough to stick around. CCP saw that – and thus far hasn’t done a single thing to rock the boat. So that’s how you do it. That’s the way we did it. And it has worked out pretty well so far.

If CCP had a publisher looking over their shoulder and had released Eve as the usual run-of-the-mill space combat shooter, mind blowing graphics or not, they’d be out of business by now – or at least struggling. Guaranteed.

For us, the long term goal is to get KnightBlade – our next (single player only) space combat game based on the AAW engines – out in early 2010. Then hunker down and release the Beta of our final (yes, it will in fact be our last game) space/planetary game, Galactic Command Online later that year and do a final roll out in 2011.

Since GCO uses all our established technologies, we’re just going to keep our space combat pedigree alive by going the MMO model. We don’t need gazillions of dollars to do it either. Plus, we’ve already got decades of experience in that game space – so no learning curve there for us. Plus we have the (proven) space and planetary technologies.

We have a much larger – and popular – install base than most space combat games, so I am confident that the subscribers will be sufficient for us to keep it going indefinitely. Instead of killing ourselves with a new game, sequel or derivative works every eighteen months or so, we’re just going to use that effort to provide free content to our paying subscribers year on year. Hell, we may even release the darn thing on an FTP (Free To Play) model supported by in-game ads and micro-transactions. Though we’re talking to several partners about it. I just haven’t made any final decisions yet.

In fact, doing KnightBlade is just another stepping stone and we’re doing it simply because I always wanted to do a space combat game that takes place in first person perspective inside a carrier and in a free-form universe. It is the one feature that we couldn’t do in previous games for various reasons – all related to horsepower and technologies. It is one thing to have a carrier hurtling through space at FTL speeds and clearly another to have a player running around inside said carrier in first person mode, talking to and interacting with his crew, doing combat with intruders etc – while the outside space and planetary worlds continues to go on.

And the reason that it is single player only is again due to technologies. I don’t want to spent two years doing it and dealing with the problems of multiplayer in such a game, when I can spend nine months doing a more tightly focused single player game. Especially since the price, viability or attraction won’t change whether or not it has a multiplayer component.

RPS: Why games? What was the moment where you realised that – fuck yeah! – games are amazing. And when did that germinate in a desire to make the bally things?

Derek Smart: Never in my wildest dreams. I love games. I have a library that would make Lincoln’s library proud – and that’s just the ones I have space in that room for. The decision to make games came from a part-time hobby back when I first started learning how to program in C. Once I got ahold of Lee Adams’ books, it was all over. In fact, I blame him 100% for how I ended up here. Anyone who had any of his books back in the day, knows exactly what I’m talking about. Sure he wasn’t exactly a good writer let alone a top notch programmer (at least not by today’s standards), but his books were enough to get you started and headfirst into the abyss. The fact that he wrote about four books on creating a flight sim – complete with source code, was the high point of my life back then.

Man, as I think about those (I owned ALL of them) books, I remember sitting there and manually typing in every frigging line of code and trying to get it to compile. Kids today have it easy. But I digress.

Honestly, any chance to show a cockpit screen when you're looking at your legs, I'm going to grab it

RPS: Do you ever regret your approach to comments threads, even momentarily? You’ve said before that you enjoy it a bit too much, which is why you do it… but there’s no way back. Even if you changed your tactics online, you’ve got so much history that it’d take another decade for it to sink in.

Derek Smart: The only regret I have is that I used to take it all so seriously. Once I realized that I could just as well play their own game, beating them at it while employing shock and awe tactics was just the end game. But I think I’ve mellowed out a bit. Must be old age because it certainly has nothing to do with common sense.

I am who I am. What I’m not is someone who some faceless fool out on a weekend pass is going to put under siege just because they think they can. They can pull that crap with other developers, like – oh I dunno – Denis Dyack mabye, but not me. First and foremost, I’m a gamer. So someone wants to wind me up, they’d better be ready to play.

When Jesus H. Christ said to turn the other cheek, he said nothing about a baseball bat.

As a wise man once said: “Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead …but don’t be surprised if we don’t uphold them.” . Oh right, that was Warren Marshall over at Epic Games from back in the day when we used to hang out over on Planetcrap. Those were the days.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

For more on All Aspect Warfare, you can go to the website. It’s due second Quarter of 2009.

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232 Comments »

  1. Rich_P says:

    Gamersgate, Impulse, Direct2Drive, and GOG are all client-free (Impulse’s next phase will introduce a web portal where you can download games sans the (crappy) client). That will leave only Steam with its client and half-arsed offline mode.

    As I said in the forums, Gamersgate, Impulse, and D2D could use some serious redesigns. The former informed me by email that they’re working on an improved website that won’t be bogged down with auto-play movies and obnoxious sidebar advertisements.

    At the end of the day, though, Steam has Counter-Strike, L4D, TF2, DoW II, Empire TW, etc. That obviously counts for something.

  2. Hypocee says:

    Fine, let’s see if I can rephrase less abstrusely Mr. Gillen. That wasn’t aimed specifically at Dr. Smart PhD With Lots of Monies And A Lawyer, it was a reply to the people saying ‘oh this is such a breath of fresh air we never get to talk to devs everything is corporate controlled press releases’. That’s a statement I disagree with strongly enough that I couldn’t let it pass. I gave a couple of examples from the large body of indie devs who talk straight from the hip to anyone who’ll listen. I mean, Derek Yu runs a popular indie gaming forum.

  3. Stodge says:

    Just wondering when you’re switching to the OGRE 3D engine. :)

    I admire and applaud your gumption, drive and staying power. But the graphics in your games always seem flat and plain? Not the best description I know.

  4. malkav11 says:

    That comment about Gametap makes me curious – how exactly do the people that make games make money off having them on Gametap? They have such a low monthly rate that I’ve never quite understood how the economics work.

  5. Frye says:

    I like how it looks. I’ll give it a go. Reminds me a little of Warsow and Mirror’s Edge. Both games with simple texturing aimed for effect and clarity. Personally i much rather have a lot of geometry in a game than perfectly tiled, bumpmapped textures that take artists far too much time to tweak. Speaking of which, the game does look a little empty judging by the screenshots.

  6. Hypocee says:

    Oh God graphics. Dwarf Fortress has the best graphics. Fact.

  7. the affront says:

    dsmart: Sounds all good, so far. I trust RPS will report on the test release (if they don’t, poke them for me :P), so even my lazy ass will notice – I’ll be sure to try it out.

    Concerning snipers: I don’t know what the requirements will be to use a sniper rifle, but if it’s restricted to a class you could just exempt that class from the health/xp drain.

    Although I don’t think I would go that far to discourage camping. I’d probably try by means of very limited self-healing, or ammo – think Planetside, at some time your resources to power your health- and armor repair thingies simply ran out – or NOT awarding any XP for kills made while camping (and exempting snipers from this), given that this doesn’t conflict with one’s objectives in multiplayer, say, that sometimes you simply have to camp somewhere to achieve them. Although you could then exempt those specific areas from the no-XP mechanic.
    Also make sure there are no weapons (or only very limited ones in their versatility/ammo/carrying a severe opportunity cost to lug one around with you, e.g. large inventory requirements) that significantly favor the camper over anyone else.
    That way you could still camp if tactics require, but not for very long (or rather not against very many enemies in succession, unless your skill advantage is large) and not as a way to easily farm XP.

    But I have not a single clue to which lengths you want to go to achieve this and/or how difficult/time consuming this would be as I’m not a programmer.

    But enough idle speculation for now, I’ll wait for the test :P

  8. dsmart says:

    Just wondering when you’re switching to the OGRE 3D engine. :)

    I admire and applaud your gumption, drive and staying power. But the graphics in your games always seem flat and plain? Not the best description I know.

    Engines don’t make games. Games make games.

    You can have the best engine and end up with a crappy game that nobody plays. Or you can end up with the bestest engine and a half-assed game (see Crysis) so that most just pirate so they can benchpress their rigs.

    There are HUNDREDS of good looking games with advances engines that tank at retail. Most of those who develop and/or publish them, are out of work as I type this.

    We evaluated a bunch of game engines (Unigine, Ogre3D, C4, Leadwerks) but as engines go, they tie you to a specific type of game or different method (most of them unproven) of doing things.

    e.g. The type of terrain we wanted to generate and process in real-time, is the kind of thing that ALL those engines get to dream about and will never pull off. Ever.

    In fact, the closest was Leadwerks. Josh (the developer) is a standup classy guy who will do anything to accomodate those using his engine. We went as far as drafting up specs to have him build a custom terrain engine so that we would use Leadwerks. In the end, the time that it would take – and the learning curve of bolting all our proprietary stuff into LW2.0 was just too risky for me.

    In the end after Sergio and I weighed all our options, we decided to just hunker down and do what we always do. Develop our own stuff.

    So our terrain engine – like most of our technologies – is built from the ground up for this game. And is robust enough to build entire worlds once we get around to plugging it into KnightBlade and GCO instead of using the legacy terrain engine we have in previous games.

    And I have to say this again, those trying to foolishly judge the game by a series of stills and grainy footage, have no clue what they’re talking about. Wait for the demo, THEN comment.

    Also, when you’re building a box (aka level), you can afford to go overboard and do all kinds of things. We’re not building a box. We’re building entire worlds.

    As an example, take a look at HAWX. Sure looks purdy at high altitude. With all that money, why did they spend it on licensing satellite maps and using boring rectangles with zero texturing instead of focusing on a richer experience in a smaller area? Because it takes a LOT to to do that.

    Our game engines are designed for a specific task – and it does them exceptionally well.

    If it doesn’t look like the latest Unreal copycat, thats because our texture budget and visuals take much larger spaces into account. Not closed off boxes with all sorts of viz limitations.

    Does anyone think that the graphics in GTVIV or SR2 are cutting edge? Not me. The environment – a critical aspect in those games – makes those games look like they do. When you’re staring at a hundred beautifully hand crafted buildings (e.g. in GTA-IV) and looking at one or two levels in a game, it puts it all into perspective.

    Then there’s the issue of budgeting. Sure we could hire the best modelers and have the bases be populated with a bunch of buildings. NONE of which add ANYTHING to the game since the game is not about that. But then you have a game that has its own set of limitations.

    Considering the size of the GTA-VI city, it is just a small corner of our game world. If we did that, we might as well kiss away our Mach 2 flying fighters or even our gunships. Because before you even trim your joystick, you’re already off the map.

    Sacrifices have to made in games. In my game, it has been a balancing act. I am comfortable with the games graphics and I am confident that in combination with the gameplay, that is does exactly what it was designed to do.

    Wait for the demo and see for yourself. Some will still bitch and moan because it is in their nature or because they don’t like being wrong. But in this regard, I am 100% certain that I’m right in the decisions I’ve made in this regard.

    The gameplay vs graphics vs AI is a balancing act that very developers get to do well – if at all.

    That comment about Gametap makes me curious – how exactly do the people that make games make money off having them on Gametap? They have such a low monthly rate that I’ve never quite understood how the economics work.

    There are two models. Licensing and sale. For us, we did an exclusive with them – and that was far more lucrative than the standard license (we have games there under that plan).

    Without breaching NDA, all I can say is that their licensing model is no different from anything else out there. They license your game, you get paid either a single fee or a percentage of the proceeds based on the play metrics.

    Speaking of which, the game does look a little empty judging by the screenshots.

    Yah, some of those areas weren’t fully populated yet when the shots were taken.

    Also, remember that these are military bases. Not cities. So you’re not going to find a whole helluva lot of buildings and structures.

    Heck, even games like Battlefield, TF2, HL2 etc don’t have ANYTHING other than the “closed level”.

  9. dsmart says:

    @ theaffront

    Concerning snipers: I don’t know what the requirements will be to use a sniper rifle, but if it’s restricted to a class you could just exempt that class from the health/xp drain.

    Although I don’t think I would go that far to discourage camping. I’d probably try by means of very limited self-healing, or ammo – think Planetside, at some time your resources to power your health- and armor repair thingies simply ran out – or NOT awarding any XP for kills made while camping (and exempting snipers from this), given that this doesn’t conflict with one’s objectives in multiplayer, say, that sometimes you simply have to camp somewhere to achieve them. Although you could then exempt those specific areas from the no-XP mechanic.
    Also make sure there are no weapons (or only very limited ones in their versatility/ammo/carrying a severe opportunity cost to lug one around with you, e.g. large inventory requirements) that significantly favor the camper over anyone else.
    That way you could still camp if tactics require, but not for very long (or rather not against very many enemies in succession, unless your skill advantage is large) and not as a way to easily farm XP.

    But I have not a single clue to which lengths you want to go to achieve this and/or how difficult/time consuming this would be as I’m not a programmer.

    But enough idle speculation for now, I’ll wait for the test :P

    Sniper rifles are in fact restricted to a class. Though, now that I think about it, we may have made a change in which any class can use it. I’ve made a note to check the code later today to make sure. And if in fact the other two classes have access to it, I’ll make sure to remove it again.

    Your suggestions are all very good and thats the sort of feedback that we’ll be looking forward to once the [closed] multiplayer BETA test is out.

    Since we have very little experience in the high end gameplay fps dynamics – especially the issue of campers – it is all going to end up being a learning experience in which we’re going to piss off a lot of people as we work to get it all tweaked just right. Not aiming to please everyone, so the end result is certainly not going to appeal to everyone. But thats the nature of the beast. You can’t please everyone.

    As always, we’ll do out best to keep those who like it enough, to keep playing.

  10. PC Monster says:

    Derek, we’re going in circles here.

    If someone walked up to me tomorrow and told me Valve’s sales eclipsed all other retail outlets online, and also told me this was a “substantiated fact”, how do I know that this statement is true? I’ve only got your statements to the contrary to go on. By the same token, how do I – me personally – know that what you’ve said about Gamersgate or Direct2Drive is true? I’m not going to accuse you of lying – I’m willing to take your word simply because of the experience you have in the industry – but neither am I going to fully accept it as gospel truth until I’ve seen some hard evidence of it. I fully admit I don’t know what you’ve seen. You may be right but some spreadsheet somewhere may prove you wrong. Or someone with as much experience as you may contradict you. That’s the distinction I’m trying to make. I really, honestly, genuinely don’t mean anything personal by it – it’s just how I work. I’m just…careful…when it comes to choosing what to believe, having innocently accepted things in the past and then been burned by them. That’s not difficult to understand, is it?

    “The fact that they are in business and very popular is all the metrics”

    See, the fact they are in business is indisputable – I can go to the website in 2 seconds to verify that, yes, they are accepting orders and selling games. But popular? How do I know how popular they are? Because you tell me they’re popular? Until I see how many visitors they get, and get some idea of how many sales they make among gaming populations, ‘popular’ is merely an unquantifiable opinion. You may personally know lots of people who use them – I know no-one, so popular then becomes is just a word.

    But all this is moot – I have nothing against any of these online distribution channels, barring some legacy luddite-ism. If they had a game at a good price that I couldnt get anywhere else, I would give them a go. No worries. :)

  11. dsmart says:

    Yes we are going in circles because I think you and I are talking about two different things. That is why I again quoted what you posted to make it clear what I refering to.

    Listen, don’t buy from Gamers Gate if you don’t want to, m’kay?

    I don’t work for them and I don’t care either way. This discussion – and what I responded to – had nothing to do with who you should buy from and why. Please read my post(s) again.

  12. Markoff Chaney says:

    After unpleasantness abounded in newsgroups over a series of many days long ago, I chose to keep a certain 10 foot pole between myself and Dr. Smart going forward.

    However, I see now his passion and absolute devotion to my single favorite past time clear as day and I can look beyond personal eccentricities a bit better with an increase in my own age as well. I am grateful we still have those who care so much and work so hard to keep their vision alive. All the better if it’s profitable and allows one to keep following their dream, despite detractors and, sometimes, even themselves. Good on You, Dr. Smart.

    Good on You, RPS, for encouraging and fostering this open and honest discourse. I can’t get this elsewhere. Much Gratitude.

  13. Bremze says:

    @the affront: The bit about snipers sounds really bad. That would only make all campers choose the sniper class which already happens too much in Bf2.
    I can already see AT LEAST four faults in the exp system.
    It opens up new ways of griefing – if you jump in front of a teammate while he is shooting, he will get punished for it.
    Even if exp loss on death could make players use tactics and strategy it will probably just end up with the majority of players using snipers and much camping. Lastly not only will the new players be less skilled and equipped, they will probably have to face obscenities being thrown at them the instant they join a server. Think about it this way: if the player count is the same for both teams but team B has some players that are less skilled that means that team A will kill more players from team B and that will both make team A stronger from exp and team B weaker from loss of exp. A slippery slope. Something similar happens in DOTA, a beginner will cost his team a game so its about 5 mins until he gets to know what the other players think about his mother.
    And if the exp loss is too big, none will be able to use any advanced vehicle.
    The game sounds fun but whenever I hear the word “delevel” my heart is struck with fear.

  14. dsmart says:

    @ Markoff

    heh, it has been relatively civil around here. But its not evident because most of the toxic discourse have already been deleted. And before this thread dies out, I’m sure that more will come.

    Anyway, yes, with age, everything gets put into perspective. The fact that you even utter the word “newsgroups” immediately shows our collective ages. :)

  15. Zalgo says:

    bestest engine and a half-assed game (see Crysis)

    Tut tut Dezza. You come across as petty and bitter when you make disparaging comments about other games. Crysis is a great FPS and the graphics don’t matter all that much once you start playing. It’s a better game and a better engine than you have ever made. Does have a weak ending, but ‘half-assed’ is not a valid criticism for one of the best PC shooters out there. That’s the sort of phrase that’s usually associated with one of your bug-ridden releases.

  16. the affront says:

    Bremze: Only if the sniper rifle can be used as a (one hit kill) short range gun (which is retarded game design anyway, if you ask me). If you make it basically useless at short range – maybe requiring being scoped in or needing to be set up before you fire, like a machinegun, or just not one-hit-killing anything unless you hit the head (and not having a crosshair while out of zoom) with a really low rate of fire, or only doing full damage after a certain range explained by self-propelled projectiles needing to build up velocity or whatever such contrivance – no one who not already would play a sniper anyway would use it to camp. Unless if the sniper class had a strong secondary weapon, that is.
    This obviously also requires that the maps don’t hugely favor long range over short range.

    But you’re right about the team/”feeder” aspect, didn’t think of that myself.

  17. dsmart says:

    The bit about snipers sounds really bad. That would only make all campers choose the sniper class which already happens too much in Bf2.

    Yes, yes indeed. That was part of the concern and why all classes have access to all weapons (22 in total) in this game.

    However, a change from our previous games is that there are only three playable classes: pilot, infantry marine (aka the heavy – as seen in the shots in the RPS article), elite force marine

    The machine guns were once restricted to the infantry marine, while the sniper rifles were restricted to the recon force marine – a class that is not in this game. So that that role would fall back to the elite force marine.

    The problem with class based weapons – apart from the balance issues and that which you point out – is that you then have to implement silly restrictions. e.g. why would an infantry marine come across a sniper rifle lying on the ground, and not be able to pick it up? Those are the sort of artificial restrictions that I’m not generally in favor of.

    Real restrictions such as the fact that only pilots and elite marines have access to and can use jetpacks, is much more plausible I think.

    Similarly, only pilots can fly fighters. Marines cannot. And while pilots can fly both fighters and gunships, they class that they can fly depends on XP. And the marines that can fly gunships (again base on XP) can only fly transport gunships, not the attack gunships. Stuff like that we have already and working in the game and are properly balanced with multiplayer in mind.

    Things like camping prevention, weapons use etc are much harder to justify restrictions for.

    if you jump in front of a teammate while he is shooting, he will get punished for it.

    No he will not. Because there is a timer that checks the frequency and occurence of friendly fire. The action has be constantly repeated for it to count as FF – even if the person dies as a result.

    Even if exp loss on death could make players use tactics and strategy it will probably just end up with the majority of players using snipers and much camping.

    Wrong. To assume that all players are going to want to play as snipers means that you are discounting the effectiveness and attraction of the other classes. You do not know enough about the game to make that call.

    To wit: You can’t possible imaging a server full of snipers – neither of whom can ever get a fighter or gunship off the ground. Ever.

    Lastly not only will the new players be less skilled and equipped, they will probably have to face obscenities being thrown at them the instant they join a server.

    Again, you’re making a blanket opinion that is not based on facts.

    In all games, everyone has to start somewhere. No way around that. What your comment has to do with XP eludes me. But all those with XP on the server, were n00bs to begin with.

    The game sounds fun but whenever I hear the word “delevel” my heart is struck with fear.

    Indeed. But I would ask that you not freak out just yet. :)

  18. dsmart says:

    @ Zago

    Tut tut Dezza. You come across as petty and bitter when you make disparaging comments about other games. Crysis is a great FPS and the graphics don’t matter all that much once you start playing. It’s a better game and a better engine than you have ever made. Does have a weak ending, but ‘half-assed’ is not a valid criticism for one of the best PC shooters out there. That’s the sort of phrase that’s usually associated with one of your bug-ridden releases.

    My opinion – as a gamer – is that Crysis is a half-assed run-of-the-mill shooter with zero innovation. Deal with it and lets move on, shall we?

  19. Zalgo says:

    Even if that were true it’d still be better than any of your games.

    But hey, one day maybe you’ll make a game worth playing. We can but hope.

  20. dsmart says:

    Bremze: Only if the sniper rifle can be used as a (one hit kill) short range gun (which is retarded game design anyway, if you ask me). If you make it basically useless at short range – maybe requiring being scoped in or needing to be set up before you fire,

    It is ALL those things. It needs to be scoped in to fire. It cannot be fired from the hip – and thus useless in any run and gun scenario. They also have long reload times, recoil, blowback etc.

    Head shots however – with any weapon that has enough power in the shots – are one hit kills.

    The only secondary weapon a sniper would have is pistol and a shotgun.

    This obviously also requires that the maps don’t hugely favor long range over short range.

    Which they already do.

  21. Bremze says:

    In BF2 snipers were almost like you described them. That usually didn’t keep half of my team from being snipers in pub servers.

  22. Hypocee says:

    I feel like the XP/sniper rifle bit went down a bit of a cul-de-sac. The interesting thing for me was not attempts to prevent camping – which is after all a sniper’s job – but the acknowledgment and counteraction against achievement-farmers.

  23. dsmart says:

    Then we clearly have to come up with a solution for defeating that.

    As I said before, I am open to suggestions which will work within the current game’s framework.

  24. dsmart says:

    @ Hypocee

    So how do you propose that we address that issue without making the game unfun and inaccessible?

  25. Hypocee says:

    I don’t; if you’re going to have XP-locking for other design reasons, a floating XP system is the only family of solutions I can imagine to that problem. For all I know, it could work great. I just meant that the conversation had been veering more towards minutiae of sniper rifles and camping and classes and blah blah blah that every shooter developer has to deal with, when all that could well be moot in the face of your broader, and more interesting, strategic initiative against grind and grief.

  26. antonymous says:

    I didn’t follow the discussion but sniper rifles in a spaceships game sounds like a terrible idea :)

    Also, calling EVE a spreadsheet betrays a truly terrible narrow-mindedness. Why don’t you have one of the most advanced servers in the industry, if CCP and yourself did the same things, Mr.Smart?

    Oh Smart One, space games are about the endless possibilities of wide open space and the love you might find drifting in the radiation you discovered.. it’s not even a “genre”, no self-respecting artist would use that expression unless he’s able to add something new or bust up the definition…

    Very worrying how much you like the censoring of untoward opinions, too.

  27. dsmart says:

    Please stop with the personal attacks. Can’t you ladies make a point with out such?

    I am not the only person who calls Eve a spreadsheet in space. It is a known fact and is commonly used to describe it. And what exactly is wrong with that? Nothing. You just want to latch on to some inconsequential nonsense to engage in the same behavior that derails threads and causes posts to be deleted.

    Do grow up. If you don’t have anything to post, don’t post. You’re not the only one in this thread and most here want information nor this needless and foolish diatribe you guys are trying hard to inject into it. All the reason that devs don’t even bother these days because life’s too short to be subjected to this bullshit at every turn.

  28. Funky Badger says:

    Great thread, but I do miss killfiles. *sniffs*

  29. Doone says:

    I have a fairly pointless question about explosions.
    Is it a fixed radius regardless of environment. So, say, if I cause an explosion in a corridor, will it travel down it at all; or keep the same radius it would have if was out in the open?

    I only remember one FPS doing this. But I’m sure some of the more sim-type must have it too.

  30. dsmart says:

    It is a fixed radius. The size is determined by the type of grenade.

    When one detonates, anything and everyone inside it the proximity zone will take damage depending on their distance to the center of the explosion.

    So if you are low on body armor or health and are close to the center of an explosion (grenade or not btw), you will take damage and possibly die instantly.

    This is one of the reasons why we have an assist animation sequence so that you can drag and injured colleague out to safety if in fact he becomes impaired and unable to move at any time in the game. So if your buddy is down, you just target him, press a key and start moving. He will be dragged along with you. Either one of you can cancel the assist mode at any time.

  31. dan l says:


    I am not the only person who calls Eve a spreadsheet in space. It is a known fact and is commonly used to describe it.

    Which is the ‘known fact’, Doc? That eve is a spreadsheet? Or that a lot of people call eve a spreadsheet?

  32. Hypocee says:

    Antonymous: Strawman – the game under discussion isn’t a ‘space game’, it’s a large-scale sci-fi shooter. That’s a major point of Smart’s piece.
    Doone – Leaving aside the question of whether it’s a good or bad gameplay idea, most explosive weapons do their damage by ballistic shrapnel which expands spherically, rather than actual expanding gas. You could argue that some corridor materials should encourage Flakker-style ricochet fronts (which could be awesome!), but in general distance=distance.

  33. Mort says:

    I´m all for innovation in the world of PC gaming. Innovation was the thing that identified the golden age of PC games. While I was playing System Shock 2 and the like, I thought that by today, games would have broken the barrier of “scenarios” or “missions” in favor of huge game worlds and freedom of movement, complex AI and whatnot.

    In today´s world, things are very different. Gaming concepts have become stagnant. Console games repeat the main formulas with minor changes every time. PC games are just ports of console games or designed with the limitations of console controls in mind (I´m aware of the exceptions, just stating a general trend with the bigger companies).

    In an extreme example, I am utterly shocked (not to say disgusted) when I see that we´re sometimes back to pressing arbitrary sequences of keys to do something like we did with Dragon´s Lair decades ago.

    I say all that because, for all the flaws he may have in the Public Relations field (like many here, I didn´t care much for the general tone during the interview), Derek has the balls to keep innovating like in the old days, and has had the wits to make a living of it, and I respect that. He´s making games that no one else is making, completly unnapologetic about the fact that complexity keeps some players away, and I´m glad he and his company is there making them.

    The “uglyness” of the cockpit is a price to pay to have somewhat “realistic” cockpits. I´m sure a F22′s cockpit is not much prettier. I like it, so long as it´s useful and not
    completly hostile as well.

    And Derek (this is kinda Off Topic but I have to say it):
    A game where you are truly the captain of a huge ship (not just the pilot as in every space sim!) and get to actually BE in the ship and experience it´s massivness has been my dream forever. I bought BattleCruiser 3000AD because with lots of imagination it was close to that. Independence War was a fairly good attempt, but you still were mainly a pilot. Bridge Commander was sorta fun for a while, but too lighthearted (and you were kinda stuck on the captain´s chair). I was surprised to no limits to read just moments ago that You are saying you can make this very dream come true. I had almost given up hope on it. As your games
    certainly don´t lack depth, I´m going to trust you on that, and I beg you, for the sake of everyone with a similar dream, make it a great game.

  34. dan l says:


    for all the flaws he may have in the Public Relations field (like many here, I didn´t care much for the general tone during the interview), Derek has the balls to keep innovating like in the old days, and has had the wits to make a living of it, and I respect that. He´s making games that no one else is making, completly unnapologetic about the fact that complexity keeps some players away, and I´m glad he and his company is there making them.

    I’ts not that. I think the issue is that Derek Smart is the loudest mouth arm chair quarterback in history. Look, his company has been promising this awesome games for years and one right after the other sucks. Meanwhile, ol’ DS won’t just admit that he pushes crap product that really nobody plays.

    Oh I’m sorry. That’s except for the mysterious niche userbase of enthusiasts, of which, nobody has ever met.

    Meanwhile, he sits there and blabs his big opinions about why Eve sucks, Jumpgate sucks or why X sucks, and why their developers are stupid and have crappy business models meanwhile his offices are located in a Kinkos somewhere in a mall parking lot.

    Don’t hope too much Mort. You have a better chance of me pooping out the next great space game.

  35. dsmart says:

    @ Mort

    A game where you are truly the captain of a huge ship (not just the pilot as in every space sim!) and get to actually BE in the ship and experience it´s massivness has been my dream forever. I bought BattleCruiser 3000AD because with lots of imagination it was close to that. Independence War was a fairly good attempt, but you still were mainly a pilot. Bridge Commander was sorta fun for a while, but too lighthearted (and you were kinda stuck on the captain´s chair). I was surprised to no limits to read just moments ago that You are saying you can make this very dream come true. I had almost given up hope on it. As your games
    certainly don´t lack depth, I´m going to trust you on that, and I beg you, for the sake of everyone with a similar dream, make it a great game.

    Oh we have every intentions of doing it. We have the technology. We just to find a game to stick it in. ;) It is an integral part – and the primary selling point – of that KnightBlade game.

    As to complexity, I wouldn’t worry about that if I were you because most of that complexity has been streamlined over the years (even Echo Squad SE was brain-dead simple to play). My goal for KnightBlade is not to create yet another Battlecruiser/Universal Combat game but with that missing feature. It is to create a more accessible (not as in casual, brain dead accessible of course) game in which most of the stuff you were tinkering with in BC/UC games are either automated or handled by the NPC crew. You will be commanding a starship – in full fps mode – with 100% freedom inside the ship.

    Here are some of the early [un-lit] levels from a very Alpha of some of the areas inside the KnightBlade – the carrier you’ll be commanding.

    08-03-18
    08-03-27
    08-04-21

    It may not be your idea (or anyone else’s for that matter) of a great game, but my goal with my games is always to give whatever it is I do, my best shot.

  36. JonFitt says:

    I will definitely give this a go if I get the opportunity. I am glad to hear that the bombing run video is not representative of the terrain in the finished product. Vast expanses of flat desert are for aircraft only.
    FUEL is currently looking like the kind of terrain expanse I’d like to play a battlefield (lowercase b) game on.

  37. dan l says:

    LOL here we go again. They let Dr. Smart rip eve as a “spreadsheet”, but you can’t point out that his most recent graphical offering is……well…..not good.

  38. DK says:

    Will the player numbers (32 in the doc?) be sufficient for the sheer size of the map? Or is most if the space simply for dogfighting purposes while the ground/gunship will be concentrated on a relatively small zone (by virtue of objectives of course, not artificial limits).

  39. David says:

    Derek Smart is everything we love about PC gaming. Think about it.

  40. Tei says:

    David: Your lover cover a small part of the PC world, because there are things out here, that in no ways can be represented by Derek.

  41. Jim Rossignol says:

    Pointless flaming comments get deleted. That is how we operate, and it will not change.

  42. Bob says:

    Sorry to derail the thread a bit to an earlier post where you mentioned some mmo space sims/games.

    Have you tried playing or at least have any opinions on the vendetta online space mmorpg?

    I have played a bit with the free trial and done the tutorial missions, it seems interesting but I would like an “expert” opinion before I go ahead and spend too much time on it.

  43. Kieron Gillen says:

    Also: we moderate. We decide what’s funny.

    KG

  44. dsmart says:

    Will the player numbers (32 in the doc?) be sufficient for the sheer size of the map? Or is most if the space simply for dogfighting purposes while the ground/gunship will be concentrated on a relatively small zone (by virtue of objectives of course, not artificial limits).

    The game supports 64 player on the PC. For the XB360 we’re targeting 16-32, but I have not yet made a final decision on that.

    As to the size of the map. Think about this.

    It is 400 sq. km (it could have been as large as I wanted but I picked this number because it seemed like a good compromise).

    Most fighters are all capable of Mach 2.2 or 2700 km/h (Mach 2.2 @ 10k ft AGL)

    Most gunships are all capable of 175 m/s or 630 km/h

    Do the math and see how fast you run off the map and start getting warnings to turn back or be destroyed (radiation beyond the map limits).

    So the map had to be designed in such as way that there was a compromise that gave all players enough room to play. This is not Battlefield where aircraft are just simulated fps controllers in the air and before you even throttle up, you’re off the map.

    We have advanced avionics, flight dynamics, physics etc. Why? Because I wanted to ensure that those who did want to fly around, get the full experience without it being just an afterthought.

    My guess is that a lot of gamers who are looking for – and love – air combat, will love the compromises made to accomodate them. The air combat aspect in terms of dynamics, avionics, cockpit (full 3D cockpits in all crafts), target acquisition, weapons delivery etc are all done with air combat – not fps – in mind.

    Then we come to the infantry. Now there’s a 400 sq. km map with 64 players. So what happens if you only have a few people on the server?

    They won’t even notice that they’re on a massive map.

    Why? Because…

    In the air, most of the action takes place BVR (Beyond Visual Range) – unless you run out of missiles of course.

    On the ground, because all the action is concentrated in bases (where the objectives are), they won’t notice either.

    There is nothing stopping infantry from taking vehicles out in open terrain. In fact the bases were designed (several parts joined together) to promote and support that. And in open terrain, you will still have firefights erupting when a convoy comes under attack and the guy with the rocket launcher is the one designated to take out aircrafts and such.

    There are lots of vehicles and units. Players with high enough XP can build what they want/need as well. Stuff gets repaired when they blow up etc since we don’t have any “spawning” units.

    So infantry moving long distances within the map can drive around, jetpack around etc. For those times when using gunships or shuttles to encroach on an enemy base, there are Dynamic Jump Pads which link all the bases. Infantry – with vehicles as well – can just hop from base to base at will. You never really have to fly there if you don’t want to.

    There are lots of tactics which can be employed. Some which I haven’t even considered, but which I’m sure smart gamers will figure out. e.g. why would infantry – with or without vehicles – keep using the same DJP to enter an enemy base if the enemy has the exit DJP camped out by snipers? Even though you are invulnerable a few seconds after you emerge, there is still danger there. So for a full on assault, you would have low flying attack gunships cover the exit point and ensure that there are no snipers camping the DJP. You can lay suppressive fire (all attack gunships have auto-targeting FMGs (Forward Mounted Guns) using gunships and/or fighters to keep the snipers busy and distracted while the ground team makes the assault.

    As for as co-ordination, thats what voice chat is for.

    As I already mentioned, this game was not designed to be or play anything like Battlefield or similar (e.g. COD4) games. While I love those games, the only thing they have in common with AAW in terms of gameplay and such, is the premise.

    We didn’t set out to make another Battlefield, Frontlines or similar game. We didn’t set out to make cookie cutter space combat games either.

    We are looking to attract the higher echelon of gamers who just want more in their tactical games and who – after looking at our record – realize that we will continue to support them, fix things, improve things, add things etc for as long as they are commited to the game. Its not – by any means – going to be perfect, but it will be as good as we can make it. The rest will come with experience.

    There is a reason why games like Warbirds, Aces, WW2OL (did anyone seriously expect this to be around today?), ArMa etc – despite their problems – still have a large dedicated fan base. Once you commit to doing something, it is just a matter of sticking with it until you find the sweet spot.

  45. dsmart says:

    *correction

    Most fighters are all capable of 750ms or 2700 km/h (Mach 2.2 @ 10k ft AGL)

  46. Bob says:

    Hi dsmart. I have a second (more on topic) question for you since my last one (still waiting for a response to that) was a bit off topic.

    Since you are going for a more realistic shooter how are you going to prevent the jets from completely dominating the fighting without the jets being too artificially limited?

    For example in a real battle a jet in the air is worth hundreds of infantry on the ground, yet your game will only have 30 to 60 people in it, making the infantry to jet ratio artificially low. Are you going to make it unrealistically easy to shoot jets down?

    If you have already mentioned this then sorry for missing it.

  47. JonFitt says:

    @Bob It’s true. Even with games trying to balance airpower + armour versus infantry if you want to pay even lip service to reality the combat vehicles are going to be more dangerous than the infantry. Countries spend billions on advanced vehicles for a reason.
    So the reasoning goes if kills are your marker and jet > infantry, why would I choose to be infantry?
    Put it another way, if we’re playing Star Trek, who wants to be the Enterprise, and who wants to be a shuttle? They both have roles, but if kills are points the Enterprise wins.

  48. Nick says:

    Vehicles and aircraft should of course be more dangerous than infantry, but they also can’t be all powerful. The jets were capable of ruining batlefield 2 because they had no counter but other pilots, all you had to do was fly and bomb over and over without fear of reprisal and you were topping the scoreboard with ease and removing a lot of fun from those who were ground pounding it, vehicles and infantry alike. The reason was that AA defences were useless against them and even the AA vehicles were useless against them. They fixed the AA in one patch and it was glorious.. no longer could jets STRAFE AA EMPLACEMENTS THAT WERE LOCKED ONTO THEM without dying.. so the flyboys whined and it got reverted. Basically.. there need to be viable counters to go with the increasd power or it just kinda sucks.

  49. dsmart says:

    Well, again, you guys need to stop comparing jets in BF and other games to ours.

    First of all, there are no cluster bombs in the game. Period. So jets and gunships do NOT have the capability to carpet bomb the ground and take out everyone standing around having tea and crumpets.

    Each missile in a jet requires a target lock on. Without a lock on, the missile flies dead ahead in dumb-fire mode and self-destructs if doesn’t hit something solid.

    The Surface To Air Lasers (SALs aka AA) are very deadly and highly accurate. Unless a jet is equipped with adequate Air-To-Surface missiles, they’re going to get shot down – probably even before they can get a lock on the target.

    Flying a jet – in our game – takes a fair amount of skill. This is the PRIMARY reason why only a SINGLE class (pilots) can fly them.

    There is absolutely NO point-and-shoot here. At all.

    And using a jet’s guns to take out ground or ever air targets? I dare anyone to try that and see how many times they get to re-spawn.

    The jets and gunships in our game do NOT have the capibility to dominate the battlefield. Good players will keep their CAP or even BARCAP sorties to the areas surrounding their base and pick off intruders who encroach on the base
    air space. Those brave enough to do SAD or even the suicidal SEAD sorties have to be really – really – good to even get anywhere near a hit, let alone dominance.

    Anyone who has an inkling what those terms even mean or who knows what NOE flying is – or LOS target acquisition – will be right at home in a jet. All others need not even bother applying.

    Apart from having automated AI controlled SAM and SAL emplacements, infantry can also enter these units and use them manually. So if you don’t like a strategic SAM silo’s own target priority, a brave soul – with enough XP to do it – can enter it and manually pick out targets.

    Sure jets have jammers, but most SAM missiles will burn through them. And with jammers on, you can’t do any target acquisition. If you have your jammers on at ANY time in this game, then it means you’re on the defensive. Not a good place to be in a jet.

    Infantry, by way of personal rocket launchers, small arms (e.g. machine guns can take out low flying gunships), as well as guns mounted on vehicles and also manual gun turrets, have a distinct defense and offense against jets and gunships.

    The only way a jet is going to be able to take out ANY infantry person on the ground either by using guns or missiles, is if the fool happens to be standing next to something that got hit and it goes boom. The proximity damage is what will get you. With sufficient body armor and health, you might survive.

    Yes, we’ve done this ALL before and know exactly the [very valid] concerns that you guys are citing. So we’ve had much time to plan and implement these safeguards.

    As I said before, my concern atm is getting people playing – I have absolutely NO concern about the gameplay aspects because I am confident that the game plays fine. Balancing will of course come later psot-release.

  50. dsmart says:

    @ Bob

    I did reply to your Vendetta online query but I was distracted by something else and FF auto-refeshed the page and I lost what I had posted by hadn’t commited.

    I looked at Vendetta a while back and stopped following it when I realize that it was just another shooter. Sure there is probably a market for it but IMO with all the other offering that offer so much more, why bother?

    At the end of the day it is going to be a matter of choice. Since it is an MMO, you might as well try it for as long as it takes for you to determine if in fact it is worthy of the long term investment. Thats what I would do.