Preview - Auto Assault

Auto Assault

Developer: NetDevil
Publisher: NCSoft

Release Date: TBA


Setting: post-apoco

At GenCon SoCal 2005, I had the opportunity to talk to producer Steve Snow from NCSoft for the up and coming MMO Auto Assault. He took me through what the game had to offer so far. At first blush Auto Assault has a lot to offer and will be one of the most unique persistent worlds created for the MMO market.

Auto Assault is set in the far flung future on the planet Earth (you may have heard of it) after some nasty aliens have come along to conquer us poor helpless humans by terraforming our world. Now the world has been reduced to a waste land and three distinct factions of humanity have risen from the ashes: Humans - the last surviving members of the human race; Mutants - humans who have been mutated; and BioMeks - cybernetically enhanced humans who like to take captives, wipe their minds and bring them into the fold (very much like the Borg from Star Trek).

During character creation you first select your Faction, or race, and then select your specialty, or profession. Each Faction has four unique specialties to choose from that will give them special skills and abilities that they can use within the game. You will also have an opportunity to create a bi-ped avatar for your character that has quite a few options available currently, and the possibility of even more to come by launch.

Characters have four basic statistics that help to define them within the world:

  • Combat: modifies accuracy and driving ability.
  • Tech: modifies repair skills and hit points.
  • Theory: modifies your power pool.
  • Perception: modifies your defense and detection ability as well as affecting critical percentage.

    These stats and abilities will be used by the character to develop new technology and enhancements to the vehicles as well as affect your ability to drive and fire mounted weapons.

    Though you are creating a character that is human, or mutant or biomek, your character is not really the person, it is the car. Each Faction/Specialty combination has specific and unique vehicles that they can use and develop. And since you rarely leave the vehicle (at this time there are no missions that allow for you to exit your vehicle) effectively, your character IS the vehicle.

    The starting vehicle is very basic with a single turret-mounted autogun. As you gain in experience and skills and funds, you will have the ability to upgrade different aspects of your vehicle. Powerplants, tires, armor, weapons all have upgrade options as well as research and development possibilities. Just think of it as if your warrior in your favorite fantasy game got himself some magic boots of speed, new platemail and a flaming sword - now he's all tricked out to go and kill ogres. Well, in Auto Assault its all about the vehicle and what you can do to make it better both to smack down your opponents and just simply survive until tomorrow on the highways and byways of future Earth.

    The R&D aspect of the game is interesting in the way that it is being presented. As you attempt to work on new developments and equipment for your vehicle some specialties have the ability to create new and unique modifications to existing technology. My understanding of the system is that you basically take a shot at creating something new and based on your skill levels will receive a specific mod to the piece of technology you are working on. For example the ability to create military grade weapons or armor. So, it is possible for you to end up with the ability to make something that very few others can, which could get you a lot of business should you be into being a production source for others.

    Game play is a blast, literally. When you first come into the world you enter a training area that is instanced. This way you don't have to worry about other players griefing you right from the start and you have the opportunity to learn how to maneuver your vehicle and play the game at your own pace. You are given a number of short tasks that will challenge you to drive, shoot, drive and shoot, and learn the basic layout of the game. You get an introduction to the UI and an opportunity to face enemies that range from slow heavy hitters to fast stingers as well as a number of bi-ped threats (which don't appreciate being run over by the way). When you have completed the basic skills training you will be thrust out into the world and you're on your own from there on.

    Once in the world specific missions are instanced so that you will have the chance to complete them, again without more experienced players interfering. And each player will have their own record of what missions they have completed. This way if you are having trouble with a mission, you can ask someone who has completed it to come in and help you. Though the first person to enter the instance sets the parameters, so if you go in first it will be a new environment, if the other person who has completed it enters first then the instance will reflect that person's status in regards to the mission.

    There are also communal highways where players can encounter other players, mini-highways will allow around 25 players at a time. Major highways will allow up to 130 or so players at a time. This will allow for you to see others in action and have an opportunity to interact and meet new people, or just hang with your posse.

    Don't be concerned about PvP and having strangers drive up to you and blow you into the next zip code. PvP is completely consensual, meaning you have to go to a PvP area before you can start shooting at each other. So, while it is an option in the game, but only if you want to participate.

    Death is also not a major issue. There is no death penalty, other than being sent back to a faction base and having to drive back to where you died. No experience loss, no equipment or loot loss, no slap on the wheels. The developers want the players to just have fun and blow stuff up and not have to worry about the consequences of being riddled full of bullets.

    The world is a series of highways that you will drive up down and sideways as you go from mission to mission advancing your skills and upgrading your wheels. Pretty much the entire environment is destructible and quite a bit of it makes for really big flashy explosions.

    Auto Assault is all about fast and furious combat and driving really really fast. It's a visually stunning game that gives you your reward by walking, or in this case, driving away victorious over your opponents with a flash and a bang. And from what I had the chance to see at GenCon, it's a game where you can play for a few minutes or hours at a time as your play style allows.

    And as Steve says "Don't be gentle", this is not a game of fluffy bunnies and flower filled fields. It's a game of combat on wheels and heart pumping action. Thanks much to Steve Snow for taking the time to run me through the basics. Keep up the great work!!

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    About the Author, Carl Pabst, Jr. (A.K.A DemiUrgoss)

    I've been gaming since the days of the original TSR D&D and have grown up playing just about every PnP RPG created. Eventually with the age of computers, I started getting into RTS and military strategy games. And then came the MMORPG Asherons Call which changed my computer gaming forever. These days when i'm not gaming I'm working with the Los Padre's Council BSA and my son's Cub Pack - when not conquering the virtual world.