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The Repopulation: Upperpad Interview

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Hello everyone, I managed to score an interview with Joshua and the team, it has just been published (a bit later than intended, but anyway) here: http://www.upperpad.com/articoli/5869/Upperpad-intervista-il-team-di-The-Repopulation.aspx

 

I will provide you the original English text right here, but please click the link to support those who provided you the interview.

 

Also, let me thank once again Joshua & Above and Beyond for being so nice.

 

 

 

Thanks for joining us in this interview. Can you explain to our readers what is your goal with The Repopulation?

 

Our goal is to create the best MMO in our power to create. The Repopulation is a sandbox MMO, first and foremost, but we also took a look at the things that worked in modern theme park games and asked ourselves how we could incorporate those features into a sandbox environment.

 

 

The Repopulation uses Hero Engine. Many users have been burned by SWTOR's experience, thus often referring negatively to Hero Engine (even though SWTOR only used aprototype, heavily modified by Bioware during the development). Can you assure the players that there are major differences with the newest Hero Engine release, especially when considering performance when players crowd are formed? How many players do you think you can handle during sieges?

 

It's a misunderstanding of end users as to what an engine does. End users know that games with Unreal Engine generally have good graphics. They assume Hero Engine is a graphics engine. While it does provide a fully functional renderer, the real strength of Hero Engine is in it's collaborative design tools, realtime editing, network code, seamless areas, etc. TOR made significant changes to the renderer, and to other areas. But then Hero Engine was blamed when TOR struggled to support large numbers of players in Ilum.

 

The reality is that you need to make compromises in development. TOR has higher polygon counts than most other MMOs, and a ton of visual differential between their characters. Unlike games 5 years ago, it uses normal and specular mapping on those characters, which more than doubles texture usage, but looks a lot better. More variety + larger textures + higher polygon counts all add up. But for most people the game ran perfectly fine in most situations. Where it struggled was in places like Ilum when you had 30 or more players in a small space. It gets criticized the most for how it performs in a certain situation. Had TOR been designed as a PvP game it would have likely used lower polygon counts or an aggressive LOD scheme. It may not have looked as good as cinematics, but that would have been the compromise they made. That was a design decision.

 

I think it's important to remember that any engine is just a core. Hero Engine provides you with a very good base to start with. But all of your games mechanics, how you optimize it, etc is up to the developer. The engine doesn't determine if a game is a sandbox or theme park, an RPG or an FPS. The core features of Hero Engine are fantastic, and they really up your productivity.

 

 

With the skill system, you're opting to avoid any skillcap. This raised some early alarms, since Darkfall Online (but not only that game) showed what an imbalanced system with no skillcaps can do: kill the differentiation of roles. How will you avoid that? I feel, and I know I'm not alone, that even though a character can be "maxed" in everything there still needs to bea limit in what he can do in a fight, based on what he chooses before, much like in many newer games the player is limited by a relatively small number of skill available at any given time.

 

This question has been asked a lot, and I think the first thing that needs to be mentioned is that our mechanics are very different than those other games. We have 75 different skills, and each of those trees is a long process. Our system was developed so that combat skills are tied to your current weapon. Each weapon has a different specialty. For example: Sniper Rifles are for long range, high damage, abilities that generally require you to be kneeling or lying prone. Shotguns are shorter range but have a small radius on impact. Axes are short range and focused on offense and Area of Effect abilities, etc. Combat healing abilities require you to use a held device. There will be a penalty associated with switching weapons during combat. The penalty will be worked out and tweaked during testing, but we're looking at something like a 6-8 second penalty when you switch weapons, which causes you to lose quite a few rounds of combat any time you switch roles.

 

Fittings play a large role in your combat effectiveness, as well. Each piece of armor and each weapon can take 5 fittings. These fittings allow you to customize your character to your playing style. While you could go with balanced fittings that aid many roles, you won't be gaining maximum effectiveness from any of them. Your choice of fittings will generally be balanced around the role you wish to play.

 

So while you can master many lines, you can only perform one role at a time. Due to the penalties, it's more efficient to play defined roles than to try to keep switching during battles. It's along grind to max a single skill line. Some players will set out to master everything, but it's a process that will take years, and will not provide much of a gain in power. It's also fairly easy for us to simply raise the cap at any time, which makes it much harder to catch up to the more skills you are trying to master.

 

The second common question on that system is crafting. Some people have speculated that with many crafting masteries you have less dependence on others. It's our contention that this is already the case in every other game in the market. Typically players max level, get bored and create an alt with a different class and crafting profession. They use game mail or shared banking to transfer results amongst themselves. This is a good mechanic for games because it allows them to reuse older content. The problem with this system is the loss of your persona. Every time you create a new alt, the time you invested on your old character is lost. So you tell everyone you come across, "this is soandso's alt" but that only goes so far. Your character is your connection to the game, it's how your known. While we feel players should be free to make alts, we don't want to force them into doing so.

 

Our system basically allows you to embed your alts into your primary character. You never need to have more than one character. But at the same time we don't envision players just mastering everything. In crafting for example we have a recipe mastery which is like a mini-level for each recipe type. This helps you to create the highest quality results. This is in addition to your normal skills for that tree, and the purpose of it is to reward specialty crafters. While players can master all recipes in all trees, it created an additional bottleneck to make that tougher. New abilities are recipes are learned by training manuals or cards, and must be obtained. Crafting is limited by resources, which run dry from overuse. Some players will set out to master everything, and we don't really want to discourage that. If that's what drives them, that's fine. But it's our job as developers to ensure that they don't have a significant advantage over players who have only mastered one line. The balance for us is by giving them choice, rather than power.

 

 

You're taking a big risk in enabling two different combat modes, in that long standing shooter fans might feel repelled by the fakeness of the "action mode". However, you didn't say alot about RPG mode: is there some kind of twist to it or is that still tab targeting? What about a dodge/block button, which many MMOs are implementing?

 

I don't see it as any risk at all. Both modes are 100% identical on the server side. All of the differences are client side. Players can switch modes at any time. We're just allowing players to choose their preference, rather than being forced into our choices.

 

RPG Mode doesn't require a lot of explanation, as it's similar to combat in most MMORPGs. We of course have our own wrinkles like Openings, Momentum, Energy Shields, Species Mastery, etc. But the system performs how you'd expect an RPG to perform. Many players prefer this style, and it's better suited for those with families or who perform other activities while playing.

 

Action Mode allows you to control the game like you would a first person shooter. Your sight moves when your mouse moves. You interact or fire at NPCs by clicking your action buttons. By default the Left Mouse Button do a normal interaction or attack, the Right Mouse Button does a Momentum based ability, and the CTRL Key acts as a modifier which changes your Action to a Defensive Action (such as Blocks, Dodges, Parries, Buffs, etc). We track how fast you clicked the mouse, what objects you hit, what objects you were near hitting, where your mouse moved, what location on their body, the weapon you were using, openings, etc. That all goes into a calculation client side which then determines which ability to use. You still must have those abilities to use them. Action Mode uses a fallback system meaning it first tries to make the best determination of what you intended to do. If you do not have an ability that supports that, or if it's on a refresh timer, it goes down to the next most suitable ability. The timers are set up in a way that players should be able to just aim and shoot and action mode will mix up all of their abilities. This means that they play each weapon in the same way, but the abilities on each weapon will be different.

 

 

Engagements are uncommon in sandbox games, although that system is spreading a lot in theme parks. Many players will probably be familiar with the implementation of Guild Wars 2, which seems kind similar to yours. Can you point us some differences, if there any? For example, is it possible that engagements specifically target player cities?

 

We're pretty similar to the system in Guild Wars 2. Engagements are like Mutating forms of Public Quests. They encourage player interaction and are found throughout the world. I think one difference between ourselves and Guild Wars 2 is that some of our engagements are a bit more random. Basically we mark grids or areas on the map and each area can have a small chance of spawning any number of different engagements. Once one has activated it will advance and can spread (affecting child or parent engagement regions) based on how players respond to it. These can significantly alter areas. Changing visual appearance, adding or removing new mission and NPC opportunities, as well as changing the spawns and feel of an area. They can be PvP based with an opposite side of the engagement, and can affect how the opposite side responds to a success or failure.

 

The siege systems are not yet functional, but the plan is to create engagements for both the attackers and defenders with specific goals that can reward them for participation in sieges. For example defenders may receive engagements to bring supplies to repair structures or to defeat attackers, where the attackers may receive a goal to destroy the control center.

 

 

Your game's design is innovative in many ways, but perhaps the brightest highlight is that of Nations, your ambitious take on guilds that seems to borrow many elements from strategic games. A huge factor in this is clearly the ability for Nations to build player-created cities and structures, but in a fully 3D world there is always a concern with ruining immersion due to masses of structures cramped together in order to fit all the players. How much of the landmass will be really available for Nations to build? Also, on a separate note, aren't you worried that many Nations will gravitate towards being affiliated with the game's main factions (OWON and FPR) due to their inherent benefits?

 

We don't have a specific number on how much land mass will be available. Once you leave OWON and FPR territory though it will be a reasonable percentage of the overall land. I don't want to give you a number and be held to it. The world will support a large number of cities though.

 

I wouldn't consider people gravitating towards the factions as an issue. All players start as OWON or FPR. That helps provide them with an instant sense of unity. The role of Rogue Nations is geared more towards the large achiever type nations. It does allow them to have more fine control over their friends or enemies. Some will prefer that, and others will prefer the safety of the major factions.

 

 

In The Repopulation, players will be able to avoid combat most of the times and choose a different role, like that of a merchant if you will. However, personally I always found the whole crafting process utterly boring in most games; your "event system" sounds promising though, requiring people to pay attention during the process. Can you shed some light on how that works? It sounds like a mini-game.

 

 

Our crafting process is multi-step. You choose your ingredients and then you burn agents multiple times to refine your result. This helps produce higher quality results or better variations. Each of those steps can have a random event occur. Players will be able to respond in multiple ways to those events. And the choices they make can have positive or negative affects on their end result.

 

 

Vehicles are going to be a factor for both transportation and combat. But how does exactly fighting against a vehicle work for players on foot? Is the vehicle invulnerable or are there some weapons (like rocket-launchers) which can bring them down? Will it be possible to kill players by simply colliding with them at a certain speed with a vehicle?

 

 

We haven't spoken much on vehicles, as we only have a shell prototype system in place right now with a small number of the features working. So I don't plan on going into too many details here. But vehicles can be damaged, and some vehicles can be outfitted with weapons. We'll save the rest for the vehicle announcement when we have all of the details 100% ironed out. We don't like making statements about features that are subject to change.

 

 

You confirmed raids for your game. However, I didn't spot the word "instance" anywhere, so I'm still wondering if those encounters will happen in the open world or in instances?

 

We aren't an instance heavy game. We do have support for instancing, but after your initial tutorials there aren't many cases where we use instancing. Instead what we tried to do was look at the benefits of instancing and ask ourselves how we could duplicate that in the open world with dynamic content and engagements.

 

In the case or raids, there are random world bosses that will spawn throughout locations. These are available in both raid and group variations. There are also bosses which spawn through engagements. One of the interesting wrinkles in our boss system is that special abilities are generated per spawn on boss mobs. They choose random specials from a pool of available abilities for their species and tier. This forces players to make tactical adjustments on the fly.

 

 

Death Penalty. I fully agree with your choice to split those who want a most pure sandbox experiences with full loot from the others who seek a more casual PvP experience. However, I think that if there is one thing that Darkfall Online did right, it was definitely the fact that you were forced to respawn away from the dying spot, which instantly gave much more thrill and consequence to all fights. I looked at your current plan and while it could be good for PvE, I think that many PvP players would be disappointed if the player whom they just killed returned right there with just a few penalties to account for. One possible choice could be to go with Guild Wars 2's way, in which you can stay on the ground while "defeated" waiting for a good allied soul to bring you up, or just ress at a waypoint of your choosing. Would you consider adding something like this if there was enough player feedback for it?

 

 

You don't auto-release when you die. Instead you lie on the ground, and have an option to respawn at a nearby cloning center. Or you can sit and wait for someone to revive you. If you choose to respawn you are unable to attack or be attacked by players for a short period of time.

 

 

Bonus question: Well, there is a lot to talk about The Repopulation and we barely scratched the surface of it, but hopefully your answers will have helped clearing some questions in player minds. Closing in, would you summarize briefly why our readers should choose to support The Repopulation?

 

 

Kickstarter is really doing some good things for indie studios. If you take a game like Repop, we've been pouring whatever money we could into the game for several years now. We're asmall team, who has been working for free on this title for several years now. Kickstarter helps us get some extra money in there which allows us to get things done more quickly and witha higher level of polish, and that really benefits everyone involved. Our player base wants the game to get to market. We want to deliver them with the most polished experience possible. We have a solid core foundation, that needs more content and polish. Kickstarter helps us to achieve that. Alpha testing begins next week, it's an exciting time.

 

 

 

Hopefully you will find useful information here :)

 

Originally posted here.

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