Jumpgate: flight model and the myth of choice

In February I said I was going to hope the new Jumpgate was a good game. I’m still hoping, but the more I read about the game the more I got my hopes crushed.

I could summarize what’s wrong in a quote of the producer from the last dev chat, it explains what’s wrong at the core:

Hermann: When you look at game development it’s my preference to always please everybody.

And pleasing everybody is the shortest route to please no one and make a forgettable game that enters and then exits the market within a few months, without anyone remembering it.

The “concept” that I identify with my hopes about Jumpgate is about a game with space combat, with intuitive controls and big battle with awesome dogfighting, following the tradition of X-Wing, Freespace, Wing Commander and so on. Add some warring factions and territorial control and it would become a dream of a game.

Without going through the usual missteps (game is based on experience and levelling up, PvP only exists in instanced battlegrounds), it’s the controls to be the biggest issue. Especially in the perspective of a PvP game.

As with the quote above, the devs think of pleasing everyone. Jumpgate classic had an horrid flight control. You know, the kind where the direction where your ship points IS NOT the direction where you are going. The kind where the whole game is about not blowing up when you’re trying to dock. It’s all there. Or “Newtonian physics”. I tried it in Jumpgate, it was not fun. I tried it in all those 2D top-down asteroids clone, it wasn’t fun. It’s not that it’s hard to master, but then it gets better. Nope, it’s just not fun.

Now, this new Jumpgate will have a different flight model. Ships will fly in the direction they are pointed to. You turn and the ship changes direction. But they are also trying to please everyone. So you can switch freely between one flight model and the other. It’s your choice.

Isn’t everyone happy?

No, I’m not. It’s not my fucking choice. I want dogfighting gameplay, ok? Dogfighting gameplay means that there is maneuverings. You trying to stay on the tail of your target, anticipate his moves while trying to dodge the bullets of others. This is dogfighting gameplay. I want this. Now think that I’m chasing my target, right in the center of my bulls eye. I’m about to fire when my target does a 180 spin and starts firing right at me while his ship is flying in the other direction. WHERE THE FUCK IS MY CHOICE NOW? HUH?

There isn’t any damned choice. If you allow a different flight model to exist, then it will have an effect on MY gameplay. If ships spin around freely then there isn’t any dogfighting, it’s a wholly different game. And, FOR SURE, you aren’t pleasing me.

So, as a game designer, it is your choice whether to make a game in a way or another. It isn’t written anywhere that one flight model has the right to exist, while the other hasn’t. But “giving players the choice” is a fucking joke. Is about not taking responsibility of what you are doing and destroy gameplay in every way possible.

I guess this sums up why Netdevil never made a decent game: they are unable to make choices.

The best answer was this one though:

DK_FR: Is the game going to be released in June or later?

Mike: Possibly.

Are you deaf or drunk? Possibly.

I also wanted to add this passage, because they seem to drown into really simple design quirks:

Hermann: The original game had multi-faction squads and right now we’re planning that won’t be the case. A controversial issue. The reason is that it starts to interfere with core problems. For example, if you’re in a multi-nation squad, say there are five Quantar and five Solrains, and you’re out in an open PvP scenario in the same squad capturing a beacon, do the Solrains kill the Quantars? And how do you communicate that difference to people? That also goes for instanced PvP, when you join a squad of people you plan on playing with them a lot. But if there’s any implied negative relationship between the groups then it conflicts directly against that.

It’s a core issue which can get really big as more people are added to the game. If you have a game that is separated along any kind of a line, they tend to isolate players. We don’t want to isolate people completely, but there are these natural points where it just becomes easier to separate people in some way and enforce that with gameplay rules, rather than confusing that by letting people mix as much as they want. Then having to fight the gameplay problems that come from that.

They have a problem with multi-faction groups. They want these groups to exist, so that the factions don’t isolate players, so they can group freely together. But then this can be confusing.

So, since they can’t decide for anything even here, they give up on the system and just removed multi-faction groups. They preferred isolation to confusion.

Excuse me, but why are things confusing as you say? In PvE no one cares. You shoot mobs, so you don’t care to recognize if another player is in an enemy faction or not. Besides, either you are enemy or aren’t. No?

This is a PvP problem. PvP is also only instanced. Think about it for longer than two seconds? Good, problem solved. American’s Army made everyone believe the other faction was “terrorist”, no matter of the side you were on. So will Jumpgate game designers manage, in an instanced room, to flag an enemy group as “enemy”? This must be a really hard task. In Eve-Online they use red cross for dangerous targets. In Quake they make one side “red” and the other “blue”. It seems to work quite well and it doesn’t matter if on the same faction there are giant eyes, demons or other weird things. You look at the dominant color and that’s it. You shoot.

Will Netdevil daring game designers succeed in reinventing the wheel? A controversial question.

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