Auto Assault Interview


posted 7/1/2004 by John Yan
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GamingNexus: How much influence has Richard Garriott had on the game?

Ryan Seabury: Who’s Richard Garriott? *ducks laser darts of disbelief from reader eyes* Just kidding! Actually, Richard has been very gracious and generous in giving us objective design feedback on our ideas in Auto Assault. Perhaps the biggest thing he’s helped us with is making sure that there is fiction behind the gameplay and visual design, which has really helped us focus our world on the post-apocalyptic feel. Since we are friendly competitors in a way with Tabula Rasa, we certainly appreciate his willingness to contribute to our project.

There are also countless other industry veterans at NCsoft who have helped to guide us in the right direction, and it really is a pleasure working with such an awesome talent pool as they have growing in Austin right now.

GamingNexus: Can you give us some detail on the background/plot of the game?

Ryan Seabury: The gist of the story goes like this: About present day, some kind of alien crafts started apparently crash landing around the planet. This created chaos worldwide, as weird mutations and toxic contaminations started to occur in all life on the planet, seemingly caused by the alien crashes. Many decades later, three factions managed to survive the disaster, which are now called the Humans, Mutants and Biomeks.

The survivors called Humans are a group who are just now reemerging from deep subterranean hiding places called Arks. Why were they hiding? Because they decided the best survival solution was to “Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” They gathered the important people (i.e. rich, powerful, scientists, etc.), built underground shelters, then proceeded to launch every weapon of mass destruction mankind possessed on the entire planet’s surface. While this cleared out a considerable number of “unwanteds,” it left the remnants of what became the other two factions none too happy.

The Mutants are the group of people who naturally adapted to the contamination spread by the alien crashes. They have evolved through a number of generations to be something not quite human anymore, but human-like in appearance. They consider themselves a chosen people, believing that divine selection is responsible for their survival, as evidenced by their bizarre mutant powers. They actually have bonded with the contaminated bio-goo that spreads from the alien crashes and can use it in very interesting ways. And naturally, their divine mission is to rid the world of the unsaved (Humans and Biomeks).

Finally, the Biomeks (short for bio-mechanicals) are the practical lot of survivors. When they got a contaminated body part, rather than chance death, they just cut it off and replace it with a cybernetic core. This tends to make them look very much like cyborgs. They no longer care for aesthetics, the environment, or sunshine for that matter. In the Biomek mind, everything should be bio-mechanized as it’s much more efficient and practical. They also represent the side of humanity that the Humans completely betrayed when they went underground, and harbor a special resentment as a result. And since the Mutants are always trying to kill them for interfering with the planet’s ascension, well, they don’t like them much either.

The aliens turned out to be some sort of autonomous terraforming devices which are still ever-present in the wastelands of the world, along with a few species of bizarre mutated wildlife. But the more common threat to the player is going to be the splintered chaotic societies of the post-apocalypse, which consists of everything from common street gangs to military sub factions to power-hungry AI robots to escaped insane asylum prisoners.

GamingNexus: In the old classic Interstate 76, you had the ability to damage certain parts of the car and focus on areas to wear it down. It was dumbed down in Interstate 82 where the car just had one damage meter. How is damage calculated in Auto Assault? Is it like I76, I82, or a combination of the two?

Ryan Seabury: We actually started out with a very complex hit system, where individual pieces of equipment could be disabled and replaced. After play testing, it quickly became obvious this was way too close to creating a simulator, rather than the fast-paced action game we were shooting for. I never got to play I-82, but I don’t like to think of the process as “dumbing down” in our case. We had a very specific idea in mind for how the pace of the gameplay would be, and having to manage 10 different health bars while you’ve got rockets, bullets, acid spray and nukes dropping on you from every direction just wasn’t fun. So you generally have one health bar to worry about, as well as heat management and power supply.

GamingNexus: Can you disable vehicles or is the user locked in the vehicle?

Ryan Seabury: Currently, the user is locked in the vehicle while outside of towns, for safety reasons. This does not mean you cannot disable vehicles, however. There are currently a few variations of status effects, skills, and traps that can temporarily disable weapons, disable movement, or both depending. I won’t comment on specifics because there’s a lot of play testing to be done before those are final.
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