NetDevil Unveils Jumpgate Evolution.. and Cool New Offices!

Last night, I was happily eating, drinking and chatting at the super-cool new offices of NetDevil in Louisville, CO. I've been talking to the guys over there for a while about the new place, but I was pretty blown away at how sweet it is. I'm so damn stoked for these guys! They've done really well over the years (10th-year anniversary, btw) and I wish all the best for this terrific crew. Regardless of the commercial success of their games up to now (I'm not in a mood to discuss that stuff), the company has grown immensely and has put together a great environment for future development. They've retooled development processes (go Agile!) and gotten much better at evolving their products to be fun and engaging through the development cycle.... ooh, a segue...

NetDevil has evolved. I used to cover their first game, Jumpgate (info about the old Jumpgate ) a lot waaay back when there were barely any MMO's out in the world. I met the NetDevil folks shortly after they moved out of house basements and into the upper floor of a bank building in Louisville, CO. In that jammed, funky-shaped triangle office space, packed full of computers, books and a handful of diligent devs... I wasn't thinking about where they'd be in 10 years. Now, their office is sprawling and open and spiffy. They've evolved for sure, and so has Jumpgate.

Jumpgate Evolution looks frickin' fantastic!

That's right, Jumpgate has evolved... and it looks (and feels) downright awesome. Now, you already know I'm biased towards my fellow Colorado developers and all that, but believe me, this game is shaping up to be very, very fun. It looks incredible... did I mention that? Beautiful... and "alive". Aside from the gorgeous new graphics engine, the AI and environment is shaping up to be absolutely bustling with activity. Their demo with all AI-controlled ships and cargo freighters immediately made the game look alive... it completely looked like there were a few dozen other real players flying around the main Solrain station! During the demo, Hermann Peterscheck (Jumgate's producer) made the brilliant comment about how the game was basically alive with AI activity by noting "if the AI would just pay us $15/month, we'd be set!" It's funny, but looking at the game demo, I had a sense that many of the ships were real people, so I figure he's on to something. It has the beginnings of an almost Elder Scrolls: Oblivion type feel, where the AI is out there running their own lives, whether you're involved with them or not. Hopefully NetDevil will be able to grow this part of the game closing in on launch. As it stands now, if you logged into this world, you'd feel like it was very active... one of the most important elements to an MMO's success, I think... nobody wants to play an empty MMO.

Jumpgate is going to have a major focus on a low barrier of entry, which is very different from the earlier version of Jumpgate. Back then, their very real depiction (I think) of physics in space flight for instance, were enough to either send you into a frenzy of rage or challenge your flight-sim skills to the core. I was in the latter group. I really, really appreciated that they made the physics more like space flight and less like the Wing Commander's "enemies tied to a rope" flight model, or like many space sims that insult my science knowledge by pretending that space has an atmosphere through which ships "flew" just like on Earth... bah. Oh yeah, and you could potentially buy a new engine for your ship that took more power than your powerplant could produce! Yep, that's right, you could end up launching out into space and not have the power to turn your ship around... ouch! (I remember something like that anyway... maybe I'm slightly exaggerating.)

Aaanyway... I'm digressing every step of the way, it seems. Sorry 'bout that. :P

The point here is that it would be highly common for a player of the old Jumpgate to crash their ship within roughly a minute of leaving the station's launch tube. If you survived flying around for a while or doing whatever else you done did, you'd be a nervous wreck when you needed to land your ship back at port. The docking of spaceships in Jumpate was harrowing, to say the least. Many times I would return from an extended asteroid mining adventure full of minerals and ore.. only to crash my ship right at the entrance to the station because I over-corrected at the last second. Boom!... "AAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!" (something like that.) Oh, and that's not to mention the screaming veterans behind me in line to dock as I took an excruciatingly-long time to line my ship up just right and ease 'er in to port. "Good Lord! Could you just stop so I can fly by you?!??"... uh, sorry Mr. Super Fly-boy! Sheesh... like that's going to ease the stress.

Again, I'm digressing... maybe all for a point though. The new Jumpate Evolution has apparently removed all of that frustration from the starting game experience. That's a Good Thing. The complexities of flight will be a big part of the more advanced game, once you get involved more and get better at the game. Again, a really Good Thing. I'm a huge fan of "unveiling complexity" in a game, where you start off very simple, but complexity is revealed along the way... huge fan of that. Scott Brown (NetDevil president) and Hermann are really excited about this new approach to JG. Get players hooked immediately and let them get deeper into the game as time goes on. Me likey.

Anyway, I'll stop blabbering now. This is somewhat of a stream-of-consciousness approach to this stuff, and I likely should have sorted it out into a couple different articles, but whatevah... I'm not claiming to be a journalistic genius, ya know.

Go check out Jumpgate Evolution's screenshots at their brand new (seriously.. they launched it last night!) site at and sign up for their beta announcement & newsletter list. I'm very stoked about this game... can't wait to have a reason to break out my Saitek Cyborg EVO Force joystick!! Wheeee! :)