"Yeah, it's a huge problem," concedes Brown. "It's something that we've addressed in a number of ways. First off, we tried to make the world really bright and colourful. We've tried to keep the maps a little more condensed than they used to be, to keep you in the action a little bit more. We tried to make lots of upgrades so that you fly much faster. With all the old great space games like say Wing Commander, you hit autopilot and skip from one exciting part to the next; you can't really do that in an MMO."
NetDevil has also been anxious to ensure the game scales well on more modest PC setups, too. "We joke that it runs on a caluclator," says Brown, noting the current prevalence of laptops with fast processors and weak graphics cards. It's also about getting this modest, niche MMO in front of as many people as possible. "It's everything. Especially when you're like us," says Brown. "We need every player we can get. Frankly, there haven't been a lot of space games recently. We don't know where the players all are."
Space games are the constant reference for Jumpgate, rather than MMOs, and NetDevil is keen to stress that this isn't an RPG - there are no attributes, no dice-rolling, just you and your targeting skills. That said, you can of course expect to improve your ship's equipment - the first few missions add a second laser cannon, a faster engine, better shields and a new power unit - and, later on, upgrade to higher-level ships through a licensing system that Brown likens to Gran Turismo's. And yes, there's still an experience bar at the bottom of the screen, driving you on to grind out a few more space pirates and score the latest sweet little boost to your ship's stats. It's still pure MMO.
Indeed, Jumpgate: Evolution's feature list is a fairly straightforward trot through everything you expect of both space-faring adventure and massively multiplayer gaming. There's a crafting system based around mining, refining and manufacturing, a player-driven economy, auction house and mail systems, a number of factions to ally yourself with (or otherwise), and a mix of player-versus-environment and player-versus-player scenarios. What there isn't is a player avatar beyond a small portrait. "It's a real small team, and so we've just decided to really focus on the space flight, make that really great, and see," says Brown.
However, the extremely tight restrictions on Jumpgate: Evolution's development have also led to what might be the most interesting aspect of its design. The game features a dynamic mission system that sets you tasks based on how long you want to play for, your faction ratings with various groups, and general activity within the game's universe. "Instead of telling our story and pre-building thousands of missions that you play through, it's more about your story as a player," he says. "Small teams can make great games, but there is a limit to how much they can do. That's why you use stuff like the dynamic missions."
The idea is that the excitement in Jumpgate will be generated by the players themselves, rather than by huge swathes of scripted, crafted content. "Everything players do affects the world," says Brown. "Prices are affected by who's running what goods, and if you want to build something you might only be able to do it in a PvP area of space. So you've got to escort this big hauler out there" - cargo freighters will apparently be mostly AI controlled - "and get him out to this part of space so they can manufacture these weapons you need, and then get him back out of there."