Squad Wars Q&A: Learning from The Past, Preparing for The Future

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A little while back, I received work of a new space game being put together by some of the same minds behind my beloved Jumpgate, such as Scott Brown, one of Jumpgate’s creators. This new game, Squad Wars, looks to be similar in a lot of ways to Jumpgate, so of course I wanted to know more. I was therefore delighted to be given the opportunity to have a Q&A with Mr. Brown, and you can read the answers after the cut. Enjoy!

Brian: First off, I ask this as a huge Jumpgate fan. In what ways will Squad Wars be similar to Jumpgate, and in which ways will it be different?

Scott: Squad Wars will be very similar in a high level way to Jumpgate in that it is a space-combat sim. However it will be different in how we approach the specifics of almost every feature in the game. For example, we have tweaked the flight controls a bit, player progression in the form of gaining levels has been redesigned, we’ve built new types of missions, etc.

Brian: What lessons did you learn from Jumpgate that you’re using in the creation of Squad Wars?

Scott: All of them! No, really though, for us the biggest lessons to improve on from Jumpgate were that it was very difficult to get started and that there were too many situations where you would just fly in a straight line for a long time.

Brian: It looks as if the game is scenario-based rather than open world, as Jumpgate was. At least that’s the impression I get from the Kickstarter page. Could you elaborate on this notion of scenarios, please? Will these be scenarios available within an open world setting, like quests or missions, or will they be the core gameplay, for example?

Scott: The biggest difference from Jumpgate is that there will be no giant, static open world you fly through that is mostly empty most of the time. We want to force interaction between players to accomplish goals in the game. However, very similar to Jumpgate you will be trading, mining, pirating, and most importantly fighting against other players in space to achieve success. The success or failure of these missions will affect the gaming world in a meaningful way.

Brian: Could you also elaborate on the market mentioned in the Kickstarter page, and how a player would use it to craft missions?

Scott: For example, let’s say I have a large amount of a refined metal that needs to be transported to another sector to a combat squad for creation of some additional firepower they need in their attempt to conquer that sector. I would create a transport mission that players could accept to escort. Additionally a pirating mission would be created allowing a pirating opportunity for players as well. Now depending on the results of the mission will determine if any of the goods I wanted transported actually make it to the destination or not. We are still working out the details of if we still have some kind of insurance on the goods or if they are completely lost.

Brian: Could you tell us a bit about the universe in which the game takes place? Will the game have a story to it, or be just open-ended?

Scott: We will be creating the back story and setting of the world and the corporations that exist. But we will not be creating the back story of factions that players align with; instead it will be up to players to create their own story for their squads. Jumpgate had an incredibly rich player history, and we would like to continue in that tradition.

Brian: In your Kickstarter page, you talk about traders and miners — which, yay, because I LOVED mining in Jumpgate — which lends itself to an economy. Could you elaborate on how this economy works, and how much control over it the players will have?

Scott: At a very high level the economy works like this: mining creates raw materials that must be refined and the shipped to players for the creation of weaponry needed in combat. So you have users of the materials and creators creating a player driven economy.

Brian: In addition with the roles mentioned above, what other kinds of roles will be available to players? For example, I love mining and trading, but I know folks who love exploring, so will they have the option to be an explorer?

Scott: We are looking into some ideas similar to the artifact hunting system we had in Jumpgate. But the initial game needs to have as narrow a focus as possible to allow us to build something quickly for other players to get into and start testing and giving feedback. Then once that is live we can add based on player feedback and metrics showing us what players want more of.

Brian: Will there be different factions for the players to choose from, and if so, will they be different beyond aesthetics? If not, how will players ally themselves? Different races, for example?

Scott: There are no different factions or races in Squad Wars. Players may build their squads from the ships they like the best, and build out their favorite ships as they see fit.

Brian: Will there be role-playing elements as there was in Jumpgate, and if so, could you elaborate on how they work? If not, how are you handling player advancement and achievement? I ask because your Kickstarter page mentions progressions to unlocking new ships and so on.

Scott: There will still be leveling, player achievements and unlocks at both the player level and the squad level. There will be no attributes or die rolls, though, Squad Wars is a skill based game.

Brian: You also talk about territorial control on your Kickstarter page. Could you elaborate on this, for example? Is territorial control based on squads? Factions? How does one gain control over territories?

Scott: Squads gain control over systems based on completing the missions and scenarios required to gain control. Once they have control it gives certain advantages to that squad and also effects what flight lanes are open to other players through that system as well.

Brian: Moving onto combat, what kind of engine will the game be using for flight? Jumpgate used a hybrid-Newtonian engine, so will we see something like that here, for example?

Scott: Yes, the flight engine should be similar but we are adding support for more basic space type control like maneuvering thrusters that let you go side to side or up and down.

Brian: What kind of combat ships will we be able to fly in Squad Wars? Of course there will be fighters, but will we also have bombers and maybe combat support craft, for example?

Scott: The types of ships will be connected to the roles available in the missions we build. It is still not decided which of the various ship types there will be at launch because we are still working out the starting mission scenarios. For example, if the starting conquest scenario involves a cap ship attacking a space station then we would need appropriate bomber type ship roles for that. However, if it’s more of a fight based “trench run” type of feel where you are flying ships into a massive battle station than maybe a bomber role does not exist.

Brian: How will players gain access to different types of ships in Squad Wars? Will it be determined by the scenario, the players stats — if any — or some other factors?

Scott: The mission scenario will limit the classes and number of ships available. Player level and currency will be the other limiters as to which ships you have.

Brian: What’s the one thing you’re most excited about regarding Squad Wars, and why?

Scott: The pure adrenalin rush of being in a massive fight with real ramifications of winning or losing.

Brian: Finally, if you could speak directly to potential Kickstarter backers and sell them on your product using a quick elevator pitch, what would you say?

Scott: We are building the game we have been evolving for over 15 years and though it’s something that may not be appealing to the traditional gaming publishers out there, we know there are fans like us of the genre that still want this type of game to live on. Kickstarter gives us a unique chance to do something built purely by fans without the limitations of publishing or investment.

A big thanks to Mr. Brown for his answers. :) The Squad Wars Kickstarter has less than 20 days left, so if this kind of game interests you, kick ‘em something! :) Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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Comments

  1. says

    I would have liked another open world game as a competitor to EVE Online, too bad this doesn’t have one. What differentiates it from Black Prophecy or Battlestar Galactica Online? I suppose the territorial conquest might. It’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds (from another space game dev in the same neck of the woods :)

      • says

        Thanks for the warm welcome, Brian! It’s great to be amongst fellow space game nerds, er, enthusiasts!

        One other concern is the name “squad” implies a purely multiplayer team-based game. The renegade in me likes to occasionally solo MMOs as a change of pace, so hopefully that will also be possible.

        I missed out on the original Jumpgate, so definitely want to try this game when it is out. I know someone who works at End Games who used to work with us at another game company, so it’s a small world out there.

        • Brian RubinBrian Rubin says

          Yeah, it sounds like it’ll be much, much more focused this time, which might be a good thing. I’m hoping there will be a true successor to Jumpgate one day though, because that’s the closest we’ve ever gotten to a multiplayer Elite or Privateer, and SOMEONE else has to want to build that.

  2. Wild_BillWild_Bill says

    JumpGate didn’t end the way it started out either. There was NO player based economy at the start. It evolved over time and with player/dev interaction. Same for various ships and classes of ships. There were NO effective mining ships in Oct 2001. No size 5 mining lasers. No Deep Space radars to differentiate valuable ore from common ‘roids at maximum radar range. At start up there were no Storage Depots; no Mining Depots, no Science Factories, etc.

    Get the game going and bringing in players by the boatload and Squad Wars WILL develop into something much different from how it starts. The nice thing about a closed box is the ability to knock the ends off of it when you need more space.

    • Brian RubinBrian Rubin says

      God, I remember how elated was when the mining ships were finally introduced. The first time I mined in a Khamsin was a revelation. I probably spent more time in that ship than most of the others. Sigh.

  3. JLD says

    I remember the days when Jumpgate hosted more than 120 players at one time. I sense a real eagerness for this project to come on line. Build it and they will come! Work hard, work fast, make it happen!

    • Brian RubinBrian Rubin says

      120?! There were several hundred at launch, if I recall, and that lasted for a few years. Ah, those were the days. ;)

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