The Repopulation Q&A with Jennifer Chesnes

Thursday, September 26, 2013 | 23

Because population didn't work the first time...

Okay, I'm not sure if that's the premise behind The Repopulation, but I can't really be expected to do too much research if I am to retain my charming impartiality. I can only assume that Associate Creative Director Jennifer Chesnes found out that an IHM interview is tax deductible (charity) and decided to answer a some questions for me. If you've been living under a bridge for the last few years, you can check The Repopulation out here

Why their homepage is on HTTPS, I haven't the foggiest...

Miguelito: So you're an Associate Creative Director for The Repopulation. I'm not sure I have any idea what that means. Can you start by providing a brief description of your job for aspiring Associate Creative Directors?

Jennifer: If there are any aspiring Associate Creative Directors out there, I want to meet them, because I'm pretty sure the guys made up my position. Basically, I get to do all the fun stuff, like designing systems, rulesets, and liaising with guilds, and all the creative stuff like crafting, missions, and lore, but without the actual work part.
This sounds a lot like what 8 year olds think making games is all about! Best job ever?

Miguelito: I've heard for what seems like years that The Repopulation is where numerous disenfranchised Star Wars Galaxies veterans are placing their hopes and dreams. What is it about The Repopulation that you feel attracts these weirdos interesting folks?

Jennifer: I haven't been able to pin the answer to that down, but I've narrowed the choices down to one of two things. Either it's our nostalgia inducing feature list (animal handlers, hidden skills, player cities, housing, etc) set in sci-fi, or it's that free Bantha with every purchase poster that was going around for a while... that we had absolutely nothing to do with.

Miguelito: As a person who basically grew up on Ultima Online, I find faction systems to be somewhat stifling to the open world spirit. What is it about the two faction + rogue system that makes you think you can win me over?

Jennifer: The fact that it's entirely arbitrary if you come play with the cool kids on the hardcore server.

If that isn't enough to win you over, perhaps knowing that you can, in essence, opt out of factions altogether by going rogue. Rogue player nations choose their own alignments with all other organizations, including other rogues, so if you want it to be you vs. the server, you can have it.
Despite best intentions, I'm always skeptical about attrition on 'hardcore' rulesets. Then again, Seige Perilous still exists, despite only having ~12 active players.

Miguelito: Is The Repopulation a true sandbox in the sense that structures can be built arbitrarily, or is there some type of invisible home-owners association that determines exactly how high I can hang my Texas flag?

Jennifer: It's a little known fact, but every time someone dropped a building in a ridiculous location in SWG, raptor Jesus ate a unicorn. And given the number of ridiculous housing swaths in SWG, it's no wonder you never see any unicorns! So we opted for pre-set placement for cities and housing to avoid another extinction event.

Set locations, however, does not translate to pre-fab cities. Once you claim a plot you can hang that sexy star flag where you want and how you want.
As long as it isn't a novelty instance shitpipe, we're cool. I'll be repping the Fightin' Texas Aggies flag!

Miguelito: When I think of generated missions, it's impossible to not draw an immediate parallel with Anarchy Online. Is this fair? Being that programming a truly random experience is impossible, how do you avoid the types of pitfalls that Anarchy fell into with generated missions often feeling like small revisions of the same basic experiences?

Jennifer: I think the way to avoid that pitfall twofold:

1. Make lots of generated content focusing on making the missions as deep and varied as possible; and

2. Don't let that be the only kind of missions that exist. And we're doing both of these things. So, while you can end up getting sent the same generated mission, with tons of them out there, and lots of other missions to do, that delivery mission you did an hour into the game will be forgotten by the time you see it again 25 hours into the game. In addition, our system allows for options to be added to missions based on player progressions (achievements, skills, etc), so you may get the same mission and suddenly have new options for completion.
In the end, missions don't make a MMORPG massive. If people play missions all day, they're probably missing out on the random human encounters. Isn't that really the whole point of online gaming, anyhow?

Miguelito: Philosophically, do you feel like it's more important for a game to be truly balanced in terms of competition, or for players to have a unique and interesting experience on all types of characters?

Jennifer: I think measures of both are equally important. You can't have a heavily imbalanced system, or everyone who wants to compete will have the same exact characters, but you also can't have a bland, perfectly balanced system or you might as well tell people to go play Wow.

I think the best road is the middle ground. Each skill should have strengths and weaknesses - a rock, paper, scissors kind of balance. This makes everything viable situationally while encouraging experimentation and individuality. Without this kind of system you will never see dual sword elf wizard beating a staff centaur barb. Sorry, wrong genre, but the point remains valid.
This might be the first "Fuck off to WoW" response i've ever gotten from an Associate Creative Director.

Miguelito: Most people associate the typical grind of a MMO with a level system, but games like Darkfall and Eve Online have proven that skill systems can be extremely cumbersome in their own right. Is it more important to allow players to enjoy the game early on, or to reward long-term players for proving that they have no friends?

Jennifer: It's a sad testament to the state of the genre when a question like this even needs to be asked.

I think we need to rethink MMOs, progression, and the newbie vs. veteran question altogether. You should be able to log in to a game and have fun immediately, no cumbersome 6 weeks of grinding needed. But sacrificing real human contact shouldn't be necessary for long term competition either. The problem with those two things, and why MMOs are in the state they're in is the issue of progression.

People need carrots dangled in front of them in order to continue playing. Character progression is the ultimate carrot and always has been. The first carrot you're given in most game is 'max level' or 'acceptable skill level'. For Wow and Rift and games of that ilk, they get a month or two in payment out of most players before those players ever get to end game, for skill based games it's macro to minimally acceptable levels before playing or, in Eve's case, log in for 10 seconds to hit train and log back out for 2 days.

A fresh take of progression and comparative strength is what we need. Instead of bigger numbers, we're focusing on flexibility. Giving players the ability to aim for and achieve goals that make their characters better, by increasing their situational viability, instead of by gaining numbers. You can log in, get some gear from friends, and go pvp at hour one and actually have a positive impact, but even at hour 400 you will never, ever one shot another player.
I'm always conflicted on the one-shot argument because I played a LOT of Counterstrike back in the day. Maybe network technology some day will allow a MMORPG to implement true FPS speed and combat decisions will be important again. My ideal combat system would be closer to the pacing of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare where a fight could last 1 hit to 50 hits depending on a player's ability. I'm not sure this would even be possible with all the prediction that has to happen on a massive scale.

Miguelito:The fitting system sounds like a good way to allow players to establish a visual identity without hurting their actual combat readiness. Since the only thing more fun than victory in combat is victory dressed in pink, exactly how silly are we going to be able to get with our costumes on a scale of one to City of Heroes?

Jennifer: We've taken a novel approach to gear and actually have players dressed in armor, as if you're really on a hostile, alien planet in the middle of a humanity-ending civil war. Even that armor is highly customizable though, with a full color tinting palette, and lots of styles ranging from light, minimalist looks to 'I'm wearing three-quarters of a mech' super heavy suits.

In addition to the armor, we have lots of street clothes, but they won't do you much good in a fight. If you lay waste to your enemies and want to change into a neon pink tutu for the obligatory photo op, that's something you'll be able to do. We're trying to provide a large range of non-combat clothing, so silly is definitely in, but I don't think we have enough spandex and outside of clothing underwear to rate CoH silly.
Sounds a little role-playery. I'm striking for a combat pimp-hat.

Miguelito: What are some of your favorite games? Why?

Jennifer: Hands down my favorite MMO ever is Shadowbane. You can blah blah about rose-colored glasses and nostalgia all day long, but Shadowbane handed a world to the players and said, 'Here, go have fun.' Yes, it was a red-headed bastard stepchild, bug ridden mess, but the level of player control and politics was something I have not seen since. Top that off with their FC events and let's just say it left a lasting impression on me.

Outside of MMOs, my favorite games are things like Battlefield 1942, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (no, not just because knives were insanely overpowered and I was built for melee speed), Pharaoh (hey, don't judge), and the entire Saints Row series. I love these games for entirely different reasons than I love MMOs. Battlefield and CoD are excellent games for teamwork on a small scale, and every match is different, forcing me to adapt constantly. I love being challenged. Pharaoh is the game I play when I want to drown out everything else; watching my little pixel people build monuments or get washed away by the Nile flooding when I forget to build enough granaries takes all my troubles away. And if I have to explain why Saints Row is listed, then you wouldn't understand anyway.
I played Shadowbane during beta, and for a while after when it seemed like beta. Good for the time-period, for sure. Okay, so how does Saints Row keep getting better, despite their entire narrative being more ridiculous with each installment? Call of Duty 2 sucks, but riot shields and throwing knives do not.

Miguelito: What games inspired The Repopulation?

Jennifer: We have a very eclectic team that draws from all over: UO, Shadowbane, SWG, Vanguard. I can directly trace back philosophies or design basics to all of those games. There are plenty of other games that inspired us in a completely different fashion, such as SWTOR, GW2, or any of the 5,000 Asian grindfests. Those games are superb examples of how not to make an MMO, and we've taken their lessons to heart as well.
This bums me out because while these terrible games keep getting released, all they're doing is making boat-loads of cash-money while bringing nothing to the genre. Maybe the player-base in these games is fabricated like Barrack Obama's twitter following! We can only hope...

Thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to answer the tough questions. This game is definitely on my radar. As usual, if you have anything to say I encourage you to do so below.


  1. Awesome interview! I love the answer to the last question too. Hope we actually get to see this game someday.

  2. I'm still holding out until I can make myself look like a flamboyant rock-star without losing any combat readiness.

  3. God damn you, Devil bless you! But grammar is the most important thing in the world: "I hope you're all as excited as I am!" not "... as me!"

  4. You're breaking my balls. I'm typically better than that.

  5. ^^ Kinda gay apparently.

    We have a niche.

  6. Just don't tell me wife and daughter. It would break their hearts.

  7. "Honey, I have to tell you something difficult..... I've been a less aggressive than average man on the internet. Now, now, I still love you! I don't want to be a nice gamer forever, it's just a phase!"

  8. "Oh, and also... You're a noob... and I love you."

  9. <-- I am NOT an R-tard..... But how do you tame a horse in MineCraft? (aware of the different episodes)

    Seriously, I don't suck though. My husband has me fix his AA for him.... But really more telling than that my guildies do too. I guess we all suck so bad that the fragile female really sets the bar.

    ^^Obligatory butthurt comeback. You have little enough traffic, don't eliminate half of living humans. : P

  10. You mean the two girls alive who play games and are interested in ironic reviews? Also, little traffic? Rude.

  11. Lolz, <-- success. Sorry about your abysmal online traffic. I mean don't beat yourself up, ANY LIVING HUMAN can probably access your blog once in a while so that's not that wide of an audience.

    And me and my sister are two girls who play games, there are probably a couple others. So probably more than two. I mean non-psychological games.

  12. Don't let the fact that I reply to commenters on posts from over two years ago throw you. I'm an extremely important and influential niche blogger for a site literally twelves of people know about. :D

  13. Lol. I would be ROFL but that never really happens.

  14. Also, if female gamers get stuff handed to them, where the fuck are the virgin guys? Where the shit is my free STUFF? I can /strut with the best of them.... And I'm an actual emotionally disturbed female, AND I don't suck, AND I'm not fat? Come on. I need malignonian horns.

    I play EQ2 on Nagafen, about once a month when feeling masochistic, and drinking heavily. Find me, virgins, find me. (Katydidd/katydiddit/katysheals) And fuck you, it's the same name I had when I was 9, it's a tribute to my EQ toons.

  15. At least I don't script a website devoted solely to my psychosis :P I just READ the crap resulting from someone else's psychosis between classes/work.

    Much less psycho.

    Also seriously, someone give me free stuff.

  16. If you aren't getting free stuff, it's because you're not doing it right.

  17. it's wierd for anyone. men, just accept we are broke.

  18. WoW has rock paper scissors balance...IMO, what will set The Repop apart in terms of class diversity is the ability to mix and max professions. If the game pushes you to min-max too much and makes hybrid builds impossible, then PvP from a competitive gaming perspective will be bland regardless of the systems you use.

  19. Then again, if you give a gamer too much rope, they often hang them self with it.

  20. Asian grindfests examples of how not to make an mmo? This mentality is just wrooong! F**k that! Every single mmorpg nowadays is about questing. Sooo many games have those little maps, or huge maps split into smaller parts where you enter the area, grab all the quests kill and gather all the sht u need to, fnish them, and baaam you`re ready to repeat all that in an area with a different name and monsters with a higher number near their names! VERY FUN ! MUCH ENJOY! WOW! Grindfests are a lot better. If grinding forces people to team up, they will communicate and have fun. Bam you got a winner mmorpg. Questing is lame! you do it solo it sucks. if you need do it in a team, you must find one first.and in many game that is a real issue. They all say that it`s not like everyone can no-life and grind for days, well if you cant, play a racing game or w/e.. Everybody who`s starting to play an mmorpg, wants to be the strongest. To stand out of the crowd, to be that one guy in the middle of the city with the cooolest armor and weapon. To be able to kill another player with one shot. That`s the point. And well if you want that you have to pay in teffort and time TOO!. If you want to be better than others in a game, because of your skills, because you can click, or aim super fast or drift or whtever then why play an mmoRPG????

    I`m not a writer or anything so sorry for the mistakes etc.
    What i`m trying to say is that all my favourite mmorpgs were the ones where i didnt need to quests!There were some but only a few hidden-ish were worth it. Those were hard but really worth it.
    Also for those who have 30 minutes of gamingtime a day and STILL INSIST on playing an mmorpg there are very few(and there should be much more) games which have mazes for different levels like 30-45 etcetc where they can be the best.. between players on their own level.
    Doubt anybody shares my vision but i`ve been looking for a new game lately and i`m really disappointed in many of them, and i just couldn`t hold this back anymore! cheers

  21. i know some girl gamer that play guy character they are just rare found one in ddo she had voice chat and had a lv 26 fighter.


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