Line of Defense Interview

Article

posted 3/5/2012 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
Platforms: PC
Derek Smart has been around the game industry for years so when we heard he was working on a new MMOFPS we dove at the change to talk to him about what he's planning in his new game Line of Defense.

Could you introduce yourself and talk about your role on the project?

I’m Derek Smart, the president of 3000AD, Inc, the company developing the upcoming Line Of Defense
project. I am the creator, designer and Jack of all things on the project.

What's the elevator pitch for "Line of Defense"?
Since the game is based on my pre-existing properties, the lore is based on my 2009 game, All Aspect
Warfare. Line Of Defense is bigger, faster, better, more tightly focused.

My target audience is the hardcore gamer who is looking for a more rewarding gaming experience in the
MMOFPS space.

Plus we’re going to kill Planetside 2. I don’t care how much money SOE puts behind it – we’re going to
nuke it straight from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. Seriously. :D


How connected to the rest of the Battlecruiser 3000AD universe is the game? How are you bringing new
players into the mythology of the universe?
It is based on that world which I created back in the mid-eighties and featured in that first game. I have spent quite a
bit of time building, promoting and improving on that IP; which is why all my games are derived from it in some regard
or the other.

To be honest, the Battlecruiser 3000AD IP is not like Star Wars, Star Trek, Mass Effect or whatever; and so only those
who are familiar with my games and their worlds will understand what LOD is about.

The only thing that new players need to know is that there are good guys and there are bad guys. Both sides have
access to advanced weapons of mass destruction and there is no negotiating with either side.

Seriously, unless you are playing an RPG or a campaign type game, does anyone really care about lore and all that
rubbish when guns and bullets are involved?

But for those who care, the FAQ will have some background information on what exactly the heck in going on and
why these Insurgents (absolute bad asses) have setup shop on Lyrius and why Galactic Command wants them outta
there right quick.

It’s rubbish really. Just hand me a full clip and a bunch of grenades. Keep the story. :)


For you, what are the key components of a great FPS game? How are you implementing those concepts in Line of Defense?
I think the components are ease of use, advancements and guns - lots and lots of guns. We’ve got all that in LOD and
then some.

The gameplay mechanics are simplistic in their design and execution. There is no re-inventing the wheel here
when it comes to mechanics. Anyone who ever played an fps game, driven a vehicle or flown an aircraft in
any game, will be able to do it in LOD under five minutes.

Even the inventory management is simplistic and you’re not going to see all the clutter you see in similar
games. Because the gameplay is fast, furious and deadly, I wanted to ensure that everything was speedy
and easily accessible without compromise.

Who do you think are your major competitors both on the market now and coming out in the near future?
How will Line of Defense set itself apart from the others in terms of gameplay?
We really don’t have any competition in the present market because I’m not competing with the run-and-gun type
FPS games out there. In the near term future, our competition is just Planetside 2 really.

Line Of Defense sets itself apart because, first and foremost, it is a Derek Smart game. Which in and of itself
means that it is nothing remotely resembling your average run-of-the-mill game.

That said, because I wanted to focus on richer environments, simplicity and ease of use, we’re going to great pains
to ensure that while it is on the hardcore side of the fence, that it still remains accessible.

We’re not catering to gamers who just want to run-and-gun, kill rabbits, resource management and all that crap. They’ve
got other games for that.

Given the wide variety of FPS experiences out in the market how do you get Line of Defense noticed by the average player? How do you retain that player against upcoming games?
The average player is not LOD's demographic. They can continue playing what they’re playing. As with all my games, I am catering to a specific hardcore demographic. And as with all my games, that demographic is likely to play the game and stick around simply because they know that it was designed for them. As a result, it remains a more intimate experience and we can fine tune it based on feedback from that group.


Have you landed on your pricing structures for the game? What factors went into your decision?
Yes – we are going to have two specific structures. One in which you buy the game client and get some nice stuff
thrown in and the other in which you download the free client but which has some limitations and restrictions
on how you can progress through the game, what items you have access to, what certifications you can achieve
etc.

Neither option has a monthly subscription. It is Free To Play for as long as you like.

I wanted to cater to both sides in terms of how players perceive games in this emerging market. You can start
off with the free client and just pay as you go along depending on what you want.

And yes, the paid client does have some advantages but that’s the choice you the player gets to make depending
on how you feel about the game.

Could you describe how players will be able to craft their characters and classes in the game? How hard has it
been to balance the different variations of classes against each other? Will players be able to swap classes/tweak their classes during a battle or not?

It is quite simple actually and it is a no-brainer.

Each side has four base classes and they each have access to the same weapons, equipment etc. What sets them apart is how they have access to certifications as well as how many experience points a particular class needs in order to obtain a specific cert.

So if you want to start off with the sniper class, though you have access to advanced weapons, it will require more EPs to get certain certs and in turn access to certain weapons, vehicles, abilities etc.

Since the game is 100% player skill base, there is no fear that you're going to be paying to win or to get a leg up on the
competition. The fact is that many an elite player with the best weapon has died at the hands of a n00b with a pistol.

There is no balancing involved because all the classes are open. Any player who starts off with a class can fine
tune that class as they see fit. So it's not as if you start with the sniper that you're locking yourself out of the
abilities and equipment only accessible to the assault class. Not the case at all.

And yes, you can tweak your character at any time. And of course you can have different character slots.


What kinds of vehicles will be in the game? How will players acquire the vehicles and will they persist between battles
(if they aren't destroyed)? Was it hard to make the vehicles powerful but not overly so?
Oh gosh, we have all kinds of vehicle assets. These range from speedy bikes all the way up to advanced gunships and fighters. We even have a massive mobile forward base for operations behind enemy lines. We also have attack gunships, troop assault gunships and shuttles.

You can acquire vehicles from the Asset Requisition Center (ARC) assuming you have enough certs to do so. You can also
buy them at any time if you don't want to wait. We do have random ones at various places in the scenes and those are
first come, first serve.

Since the game is persistent and not "session" based, so are the vehicles and assets. You can't totally destroyed assets
in the game. Our concept of destroyed is that it is unusable. But someone with the repair kit can fix it at any time. So
if you come across a burning hulk of metal, you may be able to repair and take it. Even player owned assets which are
imprinted (meaning that they belong to that player and nobody else can use or take them) are handled this way.

In the case of vehicles, there is no "powerful" one because only a few of them have weapons. In the case of aircrafts,
the same holds true and only the types of guns and missiles mounted on them determine how powerful they are.

One of the big selling points of the game is the large scale battles, could you talk about how these battles will be setup
during the game? Will players be able to drop in and out of these battles or will it be like an instanced raid in a fantasty MMO?
Instanced raid? Dude, we're talking combat, all the time, around the clock, 24-7. The servers are persistent. There is no instancing in this game. Which is the primary reason that we have 256 population caps in any of the environments. I wanted the battles to be full-on dynamic without any breaks whatsoever.

From the minute you step foot at a base, there is something going on. Whether it is a group of players defending a key
base asset to staging a full-on assault on the enemy, the plan is to always have something going on.. You just have to figure out where the action is and how you want to participate.

So yes, you will be able to drop-in, play for a few minutes or a few hours and drop-out. You can come back later and see
how things have progressed since the last time. My goal for this game was to make it such that players can engage in activities for as little or as long as they like but yet still feel that they have had fun, achieved something etc.


How are you making these large battles manageable for players? Are there choke points for combat that players will migrate to and from or something else?
Since the game is primarily base capture in which you have to compromise certain installations strewn around the base, the location of those assets (e.g. the Area Defense Shield) represent the pre-requisite choke points. So I expect that the flow of the battle will move from place to place around the base as players try to either defend or attack these components.

Large battles mean lots of players to track and lots of various connection speeds to contend with, could you talk about how you're dealing with lag in the game?
You can’t get away from lag without cheating and/or compromising the integrity of the play experience. Which is why for a game such as this, a player population cap of 256 works well because then we don’t have to jam thousands of players into one scene, then have 50% of them have a horrible time playing the game. They’ll just bitch at me.

So because we segmented the game world into “scene chunks” which consist of planetary (x4), space (x4), stations (x4), carrier (x1) for a total of 13 scenes, each allowing only 256 players at a time, we have more leeway and can better streamline the game.

Plus we’re using a custom version of Martin Piper’s ReplicaNet middleware engine. I’ve used one variation or another in several of my products and so I once again hired Martin to come up with a version suited for this game.

How persistent will the world be? If I help take back a base and then come back the next day is there a chance I'll have to help re-take that same base?
It is very persistent. There are no saved states or instancing. So yeah, if your team takes a base, there is a very good chance that by the time you come back, it would have been re-captured and you have to go back and re-take it.

The gameplay is fluid and dynamic and it is designed to ensure that every player feels like they are part of something. Which is why you have all these installations at the base which need to be compromised in order to successfully capture a base.

From what we've seen so far you've got some diverse environments including space. Is that going to be a zero-G experience or is it a land battle with different backdrops? How do the different environments change the battle?
For the planet I wanted to have different themes to each of the scenes. Especially since the game is persistent and does not support instancing. In All Aspect Warfare, I did the same thing and so I carried that design over to LOD. So on the planet, one minute you could be battling the snow in one scene and the next you’re running for life in the hot desert.

There is no zero-G experience in the game.

The space scenes are for space combat only and without the ability to exit the craft in space. You can however dock with
any of the stations or the carrier, then continue the battle on foot inside the installation.

The environments don’t affect the battle at all – the players do. So if there are good space combat players on your
team, then naturally they are going to dominate the space arena.

Is there anything we missed that you think is important?
No – I think that you covered all the important aspects of the game thus far. The most important point to remember here
is that this is not just your average run-of-the-mill cookie cutter FPS games. There are many of those out there. This
is a hardcore, highly advanced game which has multiple environments and which caters to different play styles.

We'd like to thank Derek for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Shannon for helping to coordinate the interview.
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