Interview with Bigpoint bigwigs on upcoming Battlestar Galactica Online!
On November 8th, browser based MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) company Bigpoint announced the successful launch of their Battlestar Galactica Online closed beta. I caught up with two of Bigpoint’s key representatives; chief communications officer Nils Henning and chief gaming officer Philip Reisberger to find out more about the shape that BGO is taking.
Thousands of hand-picked players from Europe and the United States are testing this massive browser game which has been hotly anticipated by fans of the franchise since it first appeared at the E3 expo. The free roaming game will be a blend of tactical space combat, exploration, and mission-based gameplay, set against a backdrop of the cult science fiction series Battlestar Galactica.
Me: Bigpoint has a huge MMOG on the horizon- Battlestar Galactica. The buzz for Battlestar is big because after running for four seasons on the SyFy channel, this is a very popular franchise in terms of cult following.
Bigpoint: That’s why we chose it!
Me: One of the reasons for such popularity is that Battlestar has been critically acclaimed for its gritty, ugly depiction of space warfare; not like the approach of softer series such as Star Trek. How well do you see that feel translating into an MMO?
Bigpoint: Well you mention Star Trek; I love all of them, I’m a big fan, but one thing you get in Star Trek is a lot of talk and not so much action. When you have 3D technology like Unity you really want to fully explore it and make use of it to provide a great gaming experience. So why should you put a lot of talking- RPG stuff- in there, which is absolutely fine, if you have the technology on hand to put some action in there? That’s why we set off with Battlestar Galactica, because compared to Star Trek, EVE online or whatever, we had an intellectual property that provides action. That’s what we really want to do: Battlestar Galactica will be an online action game.
Me: So an MMOAG! The game has been shown so far to revolve around exploration, but will there be an over arcing storyline?
Bigpoint: We are developing the game into the storyline. If you compare the storyline at release to the story that the game will have a few years down the line it will be different. There will be an action experience now and a lot more story to come; we will always be developing it. It is a loose story setting, not an RPG.
Me: I believe players can play as a human or Cylon, certainly a concept that will excite the fans, and visit the famous Galactica itself. How true to the original setting will the game be keeping?
Bigpoint: Well we had to provide a quality gaming experience. We are doing an MMO- massively multiplayer online game- but, we are not doing an RPG with a very thick storyline. We want everybody to be able to play a Starbuck, or a Cylon fighter. Suffice to say it is important to have the universe there, which is the universe that everybody knows and will recognise the minute or second that they hit play.
Me: So what kind of elements from the TV show can we expect?
Bigpoint: We have the original music, we have Adama in there and other people from the cast, we have the original ship models in there so you will be able to recognise the Vipers and the Cylons and obviously the Battlestar. We placed it between the second and third seasons so there’s still a lot of action in there. It’s important that players can build up their own characters and play in their own world, but within the loosely based storyline of Battlestar.
Me: Will there be any voice acting or just text?
Bigpoint: Whatever there is demand for in the future we will put in there. For now there is no voice as we will have it out in twenty-five to thirty different languages. However, it is something we could easily do, but we are concentrating for the time being on the release and so we have to concentrate on the mechanics and things like that.
Me: How is the feedback so far from the testing?
Bigpoint: Right now we have some die-hard fans in the closed beta having a look at the game. Feedback has been great so far, especially on the quality of the graphics for an online game with no download.
Me: Is there any potential for Battlestar Online to move to a console format?
Bigpoint: Practically speaking we are not a console company, browser is the focus of our games and it’s important to have our games online. We do have all the rights to publish Xbox, Playstation or whatever but is not the focus of our development… if you look at a game like Black Ops, or AvP or whatever, they are talking about millions of development dollars. For us it is a fraction of that. The cost of development for online games is lower and the good part about that is there is constant development in there instead. With games like Battlestar Galactica in the future, everything in there- such as the mechanics- is not the same while releasing it compared to a few years later. There is more room for development later and there will be a bigger team working on it after release than before.
Me: Thank you for your time. Are you going to continue in the same area with browser gaming in the future?
Bigpoint: Bigpoint is conquering the world! Battlestar Galactica is just one of many new games to come. The Mummy is another and even more unannounced projects are coming, staying free to play and browser based.
Big thanks to Philip and Nils who have certainly whetted my Battlestar appetite. It seems that RPG and story elements are taking a back seat, which may be a disappointment to fans who like Battlestar for its drama and grit, but the action focus is also something of great anticipation. The use of the Unity engine allows for impressive 3D graphics considering the limitation of being browser based with no download, so that should justify the bias towards combat while the overall setting grows organically in the time after release. The continual development approach is interesting and makes the most of the online format which enjoys easy global distribution.
Bigpoint will continue to increase the number of closed beta participants on a daily basis in advance of the official open beta launch, planned this December. Further information as well as beta registration can be found at the game’s website, http://battlestar-galactica.bigpoint.com/