It’s not been the best of times for Scott Brown, the veteran developer who co-founded NetDevil and headed up development on Jumpgate – what was until just a few weeks ago the longest-running 3D space sim MMO.
Since leaving parent company Gazillion and a troubled Jumpgate behind in 2010 he helped set up a new studio called End Games, from which it was hoped to forge a new kind of online space action game – Squad Wars. Unfortunately, in spite of the premise, the game fell under the wheels of the Kickstarter bandwagon, a long way short of its quarter million dollar goal. However, in spite of this setback the veteran games designer appears resolute and upbeat about the future, not just for Squad Wars, but of space games in general.
PSF: Why do you think Squad Wars didn’t hit its targets. Was it just as case of not getting the word out to enough people?
Scott Brown: It’s hard to get the word out to enough people to fund even the most basic MMO. Perhaps a simpler/smaller first step might have been a better approach to Kickstarter.
PSF: What have you learnt from the Kickstarter process?
Scott Brown: We learned that Kickstarter is like any other product, you need great marketing in whatever form (ads, reviews, grass-roots, etc) . There are a lot of these [games] out there that people just don’t know about.
PSF: Dare we say it’s not been the greatest year so far, what with Jumpgate being retired a few weeks ago after 11 years of service. Even though you’ve been separate from the game for some time, it must’ve been sad to see it put an end so quietly? Was it the right time?
Scott Brown: It was really sad to see Jumpgate shut down. I think as long as there are players I would keep a game running.
PSF: How do you look back on the game? It was the first of its kind, after all – quite an achievement!
Scott Brown: We learned so much making that game and are really proud of the work we did. It was the first game to do a lot of cool things in the online space.
PSF: What do you think will be its legacy?
Scott Brown: I’m not sure that we get any votes on that, it’s up to players to decide.
PSF: What do you think of the other space MMOs out there; Vendetta, Eve, Black Prophecy…?
Scott Brown: I think gaming is not zero-sum, I’m not so sure any of these games take users from each other. They all offer a unique experience that may be what different users are looking for. I don’t think there can be too many space games.
PSF: At one time Black Prophecy was being pitched against Jumpgate Evolution, as if “there can be only one”. What happened to JGE? I played it during a press trip in 2009 and it was coming along quite well. Beta was imminent, then delayed, then nothing. Was it canned, or did LEGO Universe just take over resources?
Scott Brown: That is a question for Gazillion. I can tell you the LEGO team and the Jumpgate Evolution team were completely separate, no crossover. So one product did not adversely effect the other. Though we did share development ideas, code, etc where it made life better for one team or the other.
PSF: Which brings us back to Squad Wars: May we ask what the plan is now for the game? Surely it’s not the end of development?
Scott Brown: We are continuing development and now looking at different publishing or investment opportunities.
PSF: With Jumpgate, JGE and Squad Wars on your CV you’re obviously a space combat fan, yet it’s a genre that seems past its prime. Is it? What can be done to turn the tide against those pesky orcs and magic users?
Scott Brown: I think just making a great game is all it takes. I never bought into, “genre X is dead” as what really changes is a slow evolution of game design, controls, visuals, etc. I am pretty sure Battlestar Galactica has millions of players for example.