As part of our ongoing series of discussions with NetDevil, creators of massively-multiplayer vehicular-combat game Auto Assault, we talk to president Scott Brown about the developer's attempts to incorporate the genre's traditional elements of social interaction. Auto Assault is due out in Europe and the USA simultaneously later this year. You can read more about it on the game's European website.
Eurogamer: How important is social interaction within Auto Assault?
Scott Brown: We have built Auto Assault from the ground up to allow for solo and group play. That being said there are many aspects of Auto Assault that can be more fun with a group of players, or a convoy as we refer to it. While in a convoy, for example, the killing spree bonus is convoy-wide so any convoy member can keep this bonus high. People are already trading items for crafting and vehicle customisation in towns as well. We also have a complete clan system allowing players to compete as a clan and win fame through the arena system.
Eurogamer: What sort of things does Auto Assault do to help facilitate interaction between players?
Scott Brown: Different players have different abilities so playing together gives players a wider possibility of how to deal with different threats. Also, since the game's loot system is so dynamic, it will be common for another player to find something with the statistical enhancements that you are looking for; item trade will be a big part of Auto Assault. Additionally, since the pacing of combat is so fast, typing text can be difficult so we have included full voice chat support any time you convoy up to play.
Eurogamer: Was it more difficult to create an environment that supports the kind of interaction familiar to massively-multiplayer game fans given your more action-oriented approach with Auto Assault?
Scott Brown: Certainly with faster paced gameplay comes less down time, and that is the time in other MMOs where players tend to talk more. Functions of gameplay like long travelling distances are instant in Auto Assault. It is an interesting problem to solve but we have already done some work to improve this and with the beta going now are learning more ways to help facilitate this in the future.
Eurogamer: How important is this aspect of the game to you as developers, and how much work goes into getting it right?
Scott Brown: The most important factor of any game should be to make it as fun as possible, one of the most important parts to having fun of any online game is playing with your friends. We take this very seriously and it is a large part of what we are working on now.
Eurogamer: There seems to be a trend among massively-multiplayer game developers moving away from pre-planned strategies and toward real-time gameplay. Do you think that this kind of behaviour coupled with the increased prevalence of in-game voice communications may eventually lead to the death of the in-game chat window?
Scott Brown: I don't think so because text is better than voice in some ways. You can read or re-read text whenever you want, for example. You can also chat more effectively on different channels at the same time with text. Think about a trade channel; people just using voice to say WTB such and such would not work very well, but does its job fine with text chat.
I do think however that voice chat is going to become more and more popular with games. As RPG games go through the same transition to real-time that strategy games went through, voice will become a requirement not an option.
Check back in around fortnight for the third part of our extended Q&A. More details on Auto Assault can be found on the game's European website.