GED Unity Interview

I got an interview back today that I had recently sent off to CC Douglas over at Purplexd Designs. CC is the project leader for Unity, their currently planned Free Massive Multi-player RPG.

CC informed me that this is the first official interview they have given regarding Unity and are anxious for some feedback regarding some of the things they have planned. Feel free to check out the Unity Forums if you wish them some feedback on Unity.

[GamersEd]: One of the major things you seem to be emphasizing about Unity is that it is going to be a Free Massive Multi-Player game. How are you going to offer a free MMPOG? I mean, where are the funds going to come from to pay for all the over-head, like bandwidth, servers, routine maintenance and everything else.

[CC]: We have several ideas on how to handle server costs. I have a few connections, some possible sponsors, some personal income sources, etc. As the development progresses, we’ll keep everyone informed. And of course we’ll take players input on the subject, as we feel players need to make more decisions in a game’s development, especially when it could involve their money!

[GamersEd]: Unity is slated to be a Science-Fiction RPG, and since Sci-Fi is a pretty broad term, can you give us some more details as to what Unity really is, and possibly tell us about some of the things we might encounter while playing it?

[CC]: We are working hard to build a world that is not just set in the future, but is realistic. The game will begin on Unity Station, but we will expand throughout the Solar System. This is our goal right now, as it seems totally realistic that we will settle out this system before attempting to travel to another. The focus of the game will be on human interaction, and how unchanged the people of the future are compared to today.

[GamersEd]: From what I’ve read in your FAQ, you plan on releasing Unity a piece at a time starting with the Unity Station, will players be required to download each and every addition as they come out to continue to play? What kind of download sizes are we talking about here?

[CC]: We are roughly talking about a basic install size of 20-30 megs including the core engine, avatar setup and character creation and the first Unity model. Additional packages are hard to be determined just yet as it depends on how fast the Unity universe will expand and how much input we’ll get from the community. But we’ll keep it as painless as possible, be sure…

[GamersEd]: Rumor has it your using your own in-house engine to power Unity, can you give us some details on this engine, what it can do and what all api’s it supports?

[CC]: Rumor is exactly right although we’ll probably use some freely licensed sound technology. supported APIs will be OpenGL, Direct 3D IM, and Glide. Part of the supported features are dependant on hardware compatibility research as cards dating back to the Matrox Mystique or the Voodoo 1 deal quite different with things than today’s second generation graphics accelerators. But from the design goals’ point of view the following might get an impression of what is planned:

General rendering:
– trilinear filtered mip-mapping
– particle systems
– colored lightning
– colored fog
– radiosity lightning
– lens flares
– dynamic shadows
– alpha blending (transparent surfaces)
– dynamic reflections
– Dynamic LOD
General geometry:
– multipart objects
– nearly complete dynamic geometry and texturing
– realtime line of sight graph correction
– physical subsystems
– Dynamic LOD meshing

Avatars:
– Multipart models with path and joint based relative animation
– Customizable skinning
– Clothing (multitexturing)

Landscapes:
– Generative environmental detail

scripting:
– multiple behaviors
– in-game scripting through two-layer script engine design
– template based object stores

security:
– per-session ID-IP matching
– local and online object base CRC checking
– seed based communications encryption
– … and some more I sure won’t tell you about

Naturally, I can’t say exactly what will prove useful and what can be done under certain hardware configurations. Modern hardware accelerators provide much help with some of the more costly features like dynamic shadows that are not absolutely necessary to provide good gameplay. Thus those will be made options for both the developers and the players and although they sure will be added in the end it might take some more time to find those in Unity than the basic output features.

[GamersEd]: How detailed will we be able to get when creating our characters? What are some of the stats/skills will we have to choose from?

[CC]: Skills and stats gets into the freeform system. 🙂 In terms of avatar design there’s a quite elaborate explanation on the forum so for more details please go there– but in a nutshell you’ll be able to decide for a sex, general physical build and body characteristics, then detail the single parts of the hierarchical model, add a pixel-level customizable skin and the add clothing and equipment limited by your character’s physical abilities.

[GamersEd]: Unity is planned to be a Freeform RPG, can you give us some more details as to what a Freeform RPG is, and tell us what kind of incentives there will be for players to take on the less appealing roles within Unity? I mean come on… no matter what kind of glorious title you give a bathroom attendant… he’s still just a Bathroom Attendant. Unless he’s working the women’s room, or getting some big tips slipped his way, that’s just not something I would really want to do.

[CC]: And that’s exactly part of the problem! Imagine this: I create a character in Unity. He has some basic stats based on strength(depends on his body type), speed(again body type), and possibly a few others (not Intelligence–you use your own, imagine that!).

I then enter the game, and can decide whether or not to join a faction. I decide not to. Instead, I travel around, and meet people, and decide I’d like to make some money, cause sleeping in the station streets is real uncomfortable. So I go to a bar, and talk the owner into hiring me. I work as a bathroom attendant for a while, and the tips are not bad (ok, we may not have bathrooms in Unity, but bare with me!). One day, I decide to quit my job (just don’t go), and become a bounty hunter. I buy a gun (in freeform you can buy any weapon you can afford), and check the CIS(Central Information System) to see who’s WANTED…

I work as a Bounty Hunter for a while, then get the urge to go into the Security Force. i join the Security faction for a while. Well, then I decide to become a shopkeeper. i can start my own shop as long as I can afford to…I can change jobs at will, going from hacker to athlete, to scientist, to MED. In any order at any time.

You might notice something missing through all this. There are no set classes, no set skills, so set rules…anything you want to do in Unity, you can. We are creating a freeform game. No longer will players be tied down to the same ole stats and skills that got started with some old Paper & Pencil game. Skeptical? Think about it a second. in the real world, have you ever found that you can’t pick up a knife because you don’t have the skill points? Couldn’t ride a bike because of class restrictions? I hope not! 🙂

My question isn’t why freeform? But is this: “Why haven’t other games done it?”

[GamersEd]: Are there going to be things to fight like monsters and aliens and stuff of that nature? What about Player vs. Player combat, what is the current stance on that?

[CC]: Monsters–might possibly be a few new life forms on say, Jupiter’s moons, or some genetically engineered mistakes. But we mostly encourage player interaction. Aliens–we are discussing some options. Aliens are a possibility for a future event, that could forever change the Unity Universe, but don’t expect aliens to be around at game’s launch.

PvP–of course! we have several ways to handle PK. first off, Area’s where drawn weapons are illegal and punishable by incarceration. Second, Area’s that are not under any security control and are free-for-all. these areas are controlled by terrorists,but of course player terrorist factions could take control, or security forces could take it back. up to the players (can we say Freeform enough? LOL) Third, we have arenas. These can be used for personal duels or for gaming. Players may place bets on the outcome of an arena fight, and league tournaments are also being considered.

[GamersEd]: How far along are you in the development of Unity? Should we be expecting an alpha or beta test soon?

[CC]: No, you should not expect a test soon. Unity is an ambitious and challenging project and many of the features to be built in it are pure R&D. although we’ll for sure release graphical demos to let people see what’s happening and to influence the ongoing development, it is not likely that there’ll be a sufficient alpha state any time in the next half year or so.

[GamersEd]: How big of a role will factions play in Unity?

[CC]: Factions can be a big part. We have several pre-developed factions existing that will eventually be run completely by players, plus players can always start their own. Currently planned factions include Security, MERLIN, MED, Merchants Union, and various terrorist orgs. Detailed background stories and NPC’s are being developed for each existing faction.

but of course you don’t have to join any faction at all…

[GamersEd]: Can you give is a quick list of features Unity will have, or things we might expect to see once the game has been released?

[CC]: Upon initial release, expect to see: the fully developed Unity Station, the personal CIS (handles chat, Unity news, wanted lists, health info, etc), Factions and a Player created faction system, homes on the station for rent and sale, nightclubs with original music(and possibly matching animated band), Arena play, NPC’s, original economic system, and much, much more! We hope to get the gameplay ironed out completely, so that additions to the playable universe will be simple to add.