Article by "Da Munkee" M.Burrell
When technology has become more valuable than a man's life, it isn't long before men begin dying for their secrets. Companies will need someone to protect their scientists. To learn what knowledge they possess, information theifs will have to be captured and brought back alive. This is the job of an nTrapper.
In AGD Software's forthcoming game NTrap, you take on the role of an nTrapper: essentially a modern day bounty hunter. Using the latest in futuristic weaponry and vehicles capable of operating in space, air, and even underwater atmospheres, you are responsible for protecting your clientele's interests and apprehending industrial spies. You'll be equipped with a variety of weapons including projectiles, sentinel, tractor, and force field weaponry; and since your weapons are modular, you'll be able to combine them anyway you like. The game play appears to be most comparable to the Descent games, but AGD has created its own engine (dubbed Magrathea) to give the game a beautiful and distinctive feel. Although the game's developers are keeping most of the details of the game under wraps for now, we got a chance to talk with them all (M.A.Abdurrahman, Martin Haberl, Felix Hummel, Borislav Petrov) recently and here's what they were willing to share with us about nTrap.
Starting off, what is AGD Software, who are you, what is your role in the development of nTrap and what did your team develop in the past?
AGD-Software is a rather young and very small game development company
located in Austria, Europe. We conceived and developed nTrap and the underlying Magrathea engine on our own and so far at our own expenses. This is our first project.
How long has nTrap been in development, which platforms is being developed for and have you got an estimate release date?
The nTrap design concept in its current form originates from the year 2000. The development of the engine started earlier. It has been developed as a PC title so far, running on all flavors of Windows incl. 98,ME,NT4,2K and XP. A port to X-Box might be a possibility, but the game concept is best suited for the PC.
We cannot talk about release dates before a publishing deal has been announced.
Can you introduce nTrap briefly please?
nTrap is an action game with simulation and strategy elements providing 360 degrees of flying freedom. It allows the player to fight in various outdoor and indoor environments, including outer space and planet orbit, planet's airspace and underwater worlds, inside large space structures, ground and underground installations.
We call nTrap "A thinking man's action game".
What is going to make nTrap special?
In its core, nTrap features the concept of highest weapon customizability. Instead of providing a limited number of predefined weapons, the player has the ability to combine simple modular devices into defensive and offensive systems of arbitrary complexity. This can be done without modding the game code, using a visual editor directly inside the game and even during a fight.
In other words, nTrap will let the player experiment with all his "What If" scenarios and find new solutions to old problems.
What about nTrap's dynamic environment, how far will the player be able to tweak with it?
The player will be able to interact with the environment physics, blow holes in walls, apply physical forces to objects using custom devices etc. We have a nice physical model applied to about anything in the game universe. In addition, the environments will be highly moddable for extended fun using own or other player's creations.
nTrap is based on your Magrathea engine, I guess you will be happy to share some informations and details about it.
Sure, we like technobabble, or at least our programmers do. ;o)
The engine provides a lot of things that make a (software) designer's heart beat faster.
Underneath the hood, the Magrathea engine is based on a modular system design, where extending DLL can be loaded and unloaded at runtime, with a tiny little kernel abstracting the underlying hardware and OS.
Magrathea is equipped with a powerful functional scripting language (similar to Mathematica) called HiC, which can not only let the designer control almost anything happening in the game, but also can do less practical stuff like calculating symbolic derivatives of mathematical functions. Since speed is a little bit away from languages with a concept similar to LISP there is also a compiler generating native machine code out of HiC code, written in HiC itself.
HiC is like LISP especially useful for knowledge based AI. Here is a very small excerpt of some code to get an impression of it:
Condition[Use[a:_Object], Not[InRange[a]]] :> Approach[a],
Use[a:_Object] :> Activate[a]
In the graphics department, we have features like realtime booleans of nearly arbitrary complexity; an optional realtime radiosity subsystem combined with physically-based skylight and sunlight; we have automatic level of detail for terrain and water surfaces (real 3D-waves are moving along the water surface correctly according to the wind speed...) with complete scripting control over every vertex (!) of the surface for any custom effects you could imagine. The particle systems are also highly customizable with scripting control over various aspects like forces, colors etc. of every single particle.
On the simulation side, Magrathea provides a physical engine which controls every single object in the scene. It features rigid-body dynamics, per-face collision detection, a flexible hierarchical media system defining the environment medium's properties etc. Again, with complete scripting access for custom forces, effects etc.
These engine features, especially the powerful scripting, enable us to develop nTrap with a relatively small team because the designers have a direct way to express their ideas without waiting for a dedicated programmer to implement the expected functionality.
Lastly, we intend to leave a large part of the HiC game code open to the player so interested users could play with it and enhance the nTrap universe!
Please introduce some more details about your title: enemies, vehicles, what will be the average missions? Any other gameplay feature we did not yet hit in this interview that will make nTrap peculiar?
Our main aim is to create a game environment that lives its own life and reacts to the player's actions. We want to achieve high replayability typical for simulation games paired with the dynamical experience of action games. This means that missions provide just a final goal and the player has much freedom to reach it on any possible way.
An nTrapper is a sort of hi-tech bounty hunter. Many of the mission objectives will include capturing fugitives, recovering stolen goods and information etc. But we feel that the gameplay fun itself and not the final objective should be the rewarding experience.
The game population entities (enemies, bots, etc.) will use knowledge based AI and can be manipulated for example by an Electro Magnetic Pulse to forget some knowledge or to learn wrong knowledge making them maniac. The communication of the entities is also based on learning, making the populations reaction to the players actions never be the same. The player will also be able to affect communication channels by jamming or destroying satellites etc.
We intend to give the player access to the programmable AI of computer-controlled entities (again through an in-game graphical user interface) and allow him to program such entities to perform a multitude of useful tasks.
As we mentioned, there are several strategy elements interwoven in the action gameplay.
The vehicles will offer a range from arcade to realistic flight behavior according to the players wishes and abilities... Several vehicles will be universal, able to operate in multiple environments. There will be also specialized vehicles like space craft, submarines etc.
Which multiplayer support is expected, lan and in particular internet?
Support for LAN is in progress, optimizations for Internet support has to be done, but given the data amount of nTrap and the typical bandwidth in most parts of the world (except the USA), it will surely run better in LAN.
We are currently concentrating on a strong single play though.
What do you think about companies, especially with mmorpg, asking to pay for multiplayer services?
As players, we don't applaud it. Since we don't play in this field, we cannot really comment from a developer's point of view.
What is expected to be nTrap retail price and why should the end user be glad to spend such an amount for nTrap?
As we mentioned, there is still no publisher announced so we cannot talk about such details yet. We intend to ship a large portion of the game code as source and allow anyone interested to play with it, develop own environments, ships, devices, missions etc. We hope to see a large number of free mods and a long living product that can please the creator in us all.
Any last word?
We are already nTrapped by the game and hope to see many nTrap clones in the future :o)