Massively OP Podcast Episode 33: Ascent's James Hicks

On today's show we have a very special guest: the creator of Ascent: The Space Game, James Hicks. Hicks has been crafting an ambitious space sandbox and opens up to us on the show about the technical challenges and how this gives him insight into what else might be going on in the industry (Star Citizen, anyone?).

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Show notes:

Other info:

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

LEAVE A COMMENT

29 Comments on "Massively OP Podcast Episode 33: Ascent's James Hicks"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

Floradine_S Enikuo Daybreak has been stringing everyone along on EQN for a very long time. They can call it going dark for crunch if they want. Doesn't mean anyone has to believe them, and it won't stop us from complaining that they are still dawdling. Regardless of the reason they give for what they are doing, what they are doing does not engender hope or confidence in EQN.

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

wontgrowup breetoplay Hey, you're right. I don't think I meant literal bailout. State subsidy and insane incentives, definitely.

wontgrowup
Guest
wontgrowup

breetoplay 
In the podcast you make a comment about 38 Studios getting a bailout, but I don't think that is true. 
RI enticed 38 to go there with a big loan and then 38 mismanaged and/or misrepresented themselves into oblivion. Funcom could use some bailout action but but I think they are subsidized by the state; either through incentives or loans. Not for sure on that but I remember something like that coming up when they were having those financial issues awhile back.

I wish that 38 had gotten some more cash so they could finish Copernicus. Kingdoms of Amalur was cool and I would like to have seen an MMO in that world.

Enikuo
Guest
Enikuo

Floradine_S Enikuo This is a podcast for an entertainment blog, so it's not "news reporting." Even if it was one of their news articles, they are not a mouthpiece for developers. They report what developers say when it's news, but they're not obligated to believe it. It's reasonable for them to discuss what the news really means in their opinion pieces or on their podcast.
If your expectation is that Massively OP writers will only ever meekly regurgitate whatever developers say and toe the company PR line, you will be really disappointed. However, if you're just having a hard time parsing what's being presented as news vs. opinion - you can filter the site to only see news articles by clicking News in the the top left-hand side of the page.

flatline4400
Guest
flatline4400

Syppi rioinsignia Enikuo Just say "Groovy" or something next week, let us be the judge!

Celestia
Guest
Celestia

I listened to this on my flight back from Dallas this morning.  Enjoyed the interview and news greatly.  Thanks!

Enikuo
Guest
Enikuo

rioinsignia Enikuo That's fair and very true.

rioinsignia
Guest
rioinsignia

Serrenity To be fair, I think he was saying that he agreed with The Long Trolls assessment that this is a crazy project in terms of scope.  But that's about it. I don't think anyone can deny that.  HOWEVER, that's not to say that "The Long Troll" has a point in regards to any other narcisstic crap he spouts. 
The simple fact that unless someone is part of the dev team, then all anyone can do is speculate.   I believe that's basically what James is doing.   "The Long Troll" however does what all trolls do:   try to make their opinions regarding whether or not CIG can pull it off sound like foregone conclusions.

rioinsignia
Guest
rioinsignia

tobascodagama  Actually that's not the case.  I believe Terra, which has been in development for longest of all the zones they've been working on, may very well be bigger.  I can't remember.
The thing that James doesn't seem to realise is that they are building the "style blocks" for the planetside zones.  Then the procedural stuff gets switched on and it then attempts to generate the zones for them.  Of course, then someone will have to go into those zones to tweak stuff.  But hopefully the intention is to get a lot of the "donkey work" done procedurally. God knows how well that will work.

rioinsignia
Guest
rioinsignia

Enikuo Maybe you're right.  and maybe he did so to sound knowledgable and thus help to plug his game.  However, given that he seemed more "reasonable" than certain other "developers", I'm not going to hold it against him...this time. Of course, if he starts pulling the old "I know I'm right even though I'm not part of the development team" crap....then that changes matters XD

Floradine_S
Guest
Floradine_S

Enikuo About EQN: The devs have explained many times on Twitter and the Landmark Live show that they will go dark this year to create the underlying systems for the MMO that one day will become EQN and some of those systems may be put into Landmark.

You all (and first and foremost the journalists running this site) either never really followed the devs communication or are a little oblivious.

Hearing on the podcast "I am really concerned about EQN" only shows one thing: The journalist has done no real research about EQN to profoundly speak about it, or he is not really interested about it. Or both.

Really guys, watch the Landmark Live shows and count how many times they have told the world about their plans. Or go through Dave Georgeson's and Terry Michaels Tweets from 2014.

I am really concerned about the quality of the reporting on this website. If the quality I get in Star Citizen and Landmark reports is any indication I don't have much faith in what is said here about any game.

Floradine_S
Guest
Floradine_S

Yay, after listening to Derek Smart who has never created anything enjoyable and can at most be considered an F-prom wanna-be games dev / self declared Internet Warlord you get the next best guy in front of a microphone who tells you he knows it all about games development and let him talk cluelessly about something he has no understanding of. It is quite the same to ask Mr. Hicks what he would do with $90M like it was to ask you what you would do with the grand prize money of the state lottery. Oh boy, quality journalism at it's best.

Asking a one-man-show -as good as Hicks is (and there is no doubt about it that he pulled off something quite amazing with his game)- about a AAA production of a proportion he cannot even phantasize about is as if you ask a fly about intercontinental travelling.

There is at least one really good podcast about all this latest stupid stuff in Germany here: http://www.spieleveteranen.de/archives/1887 - of course only for those who understand German. There is someone in that episode who has worked on many AAA titles such as Assasin's Creed Black Flag. Maybe you ask this guy, he knows something first-hand about even bigger budget titles than SC. And make sure you get Heinrich Lenhard ( https://twitter.com/hlenhardt ) and Jörg Langer from Gamersglobal.de on the cast too and have these guys talk about SC on your cast. They all speak English very well.

But be warned: They probably will refrain from speculating with the hint "we are no insiders and we don't have the necessary insight about SC and RSI" and call indulging in speculations, rumours and gossip "Yellow Press level".

All this Star Citizen Derek Smart Crap has become a farce and is abused by self-declared games-journalist websites like this one and now declined to serve as a welcomed way to create nothing but click bait traffic.

tobascodagama
Guest
tobascodagama

rioinsignia Yeah, I thought he was fairly careful to couch his opinions with a heavy dose of "based on what we know". And it does seem like he missed some stuff. The hand-crafted planets are basically just the main inner systems with hangars. CIG does plan to have something like 100 of those, last I checked, so it's not an insignificant amount of work by any means... But that's offset a bit by the fact that the main planets all use auto-landing systems, so there won't be free-flight in those areas, at least in the initial release.

I believe the city that's in the Social Module right now is actually the biggest one planned. The rest will be of similar or smaller scale. So, it's still a ton of work, but not the same amount of work as totally hand-crafting every square mile of 100 planets.

Enikuo
Guest
Enikuo

rioinsignia Enikuo Around 20:20, Justin says - "One of the reasons we wanted to talk to you today was that you said you might be able to give us a unique perspective on everything that's been going on with Star Citizen. And, especially some of the fears and some of the concerns of this enormous amount of money, is this game feasible that's being made, what's going on perhaps behind the scenes. You said you might have a little insight into that."
I caught it the second time I listened to the podcast. It sounded like he's the one that brought it up and offered to talk about it.

Syppi
Guest
Syppi

rioinsignia Enikuo Bwahaha don't I *wish*.

Detton
Guest
Detton

rioinsignia Enikuo I was hesitant about him when I pre-read the comments and heard that he made comments regarding Derek Smart.  However, upon listening to him, I found his comments very neutral and reasonable.  Yes, D.S. is correct that it is a huge technical challenge - nobody would argue against that, even Chris Roberts.   And his answers regarding their finances were right - they would be in trouble at those points.  
However, it was a case of "if this is true, than X", and not so much "This is definitely true, they're in trouble" so I was pleased to hear his side of things after all, and I remain liking this guy and his game :)

rioinsignia
Guest
rioinsignia

Enikuo To be fair, he was asked for his opinion.  So we can't really pull him for giving it.  Of course, that's not to say he's 100% correct either.  After all, even he admits he has no idea about the inner workings of the project. Unlike the "long troll" who tries to make his opinions sound like irrefutable facts.
As for Daybreaks situation, they're damned if they are honest.  And damned if they're not.  They're in a tough spot right now.  And so is Funcom.    If they doom things too much then that could end up making things even worse than they currently area.   To me, "The Park" is a hail mary for some short term cash influx.
I agree though, not a bad podcast
P.S. Anyone else think Justin Olivetti sounds like Bruce Campbell?  Or is that just me?

Enikuo
Guest
Enikuo

The Ascent guy's Star Citizen comments all seemed to be light criticism or damning with faint praise. For example, they're in a lot of trouble at $8 million and a little trouble at $50 million? The implication is that no matter what, they're in trouble? The fact that he offered to talk about Star Citizen in the first place makes it seem like he might just be glomming on to Star Citizen's notoriety to advertise his own game, just like someone else we know. I don't know, maybe he's a perfectly nice and reasonable guy. It just came off as tacky. 
That said, I don't know that an indie developer, who happens to have a game in the same genre, is necessarily the best person to ask for insight into the development of AAA project. Someone that has headed up big, successful projects would probably have more relevant insight, regardless of genre.
For the Daybreak portion, it's got to be tough for them. They can't say that they're not working on Everquest Next. Yet, it might not make financial sense to get their house in order first by putting more effort into H1Z1 or Landmark at this point. I just worry that they are not in good enough shape to make the version of Everquest Next that people actually want to play.
The Funcom news is depressing, especially because of The Secret World. I don't play it, but I feel like it's important to the genre. Maybe bankruptcy wouldn't be the worst thing ever - businesses can sometimes restructure their debt and stay in business. The Park seems really well-timed and in a pretty good niche. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter did well and The Park seems similar. I can't think of many games that are in that space.
So, good podcast as always, but what a bunch of depressing news. Bleh.

rioinsignia
Guest
rioinsignia

Just listened to the podcast, and it seems that James has got a few issues regarding SC wrong.
Contrary to what he thinks, CIG *ARE* using precedural tech for their universe generation. 
Also, they originally said it wasn't an MMO because they didn't want it associated with WoW style gameplay.
Is it an MMO?  Well, that depends on what defintion you want to use.

Rumm
Guest
Rumm

Derek Smart is now claiming that CIG execs have ties to the Swedish mafia. I can't....I don't even...

It says a lot to me about James Hicks when he values that man's opinion.

Serrenity
Guest
Serrenity

Oh man ... This leaves me really torn.  For better or worse (I might be a terrible person), I was all ready to go and by Ascent, but after he said that Smart was someone he would pay attention to about technical things ... I ... I don't know if I can.  Its beyond me why you would defer to someone's technical knowledge who has no successful games, and who games often launch as a buggy, defect ridden mess.  That more than anything else makes me pretty strongly disagree with the "I trust Smart's perspective."  Additionally, none of Smart's critique talks anything about how it *might* be done.  He flat out says it can't be done and leaves it at that.  
Working with developers, if they say something can't be done, the first words out of my mouth are always "Ok, so tell me what you think it would take to get this done.  Help me understand." And they start to spec it out for me.  Developers have done amazing things with far, far less than what Star Citizen has. To say it's impossible because you can't fathom it, I don't care who you, is very short sighted. 
It sucks to think that I'm taking what's largely an ethical stand against Ascent because of his tacit condoning of Smart.  But I think that's where I'm at.

Esoteric Coyote
Guest
Esoteric Coyote

I refuse to wear pants!

BalsBigBrother
Guest
BalsBigBrother

Just listened to the podcast and that was a great interview.  Good to hear a outside perspective from someone who has some technical knowledge on the whole Star Citizen drama / development process to back up his view point.

Zulika_Mi_Nam
Guest
Zulika_Mi_Nam

In next week's news, Smeds buys Funcom in an attempt to have some political pull in a Scandinavian country hoping it will help him have better luck in getting hackers charged for their crimes.
The next day TSW announces it will be transitioning to a open world PVP zombie survival sandbox and will be supported by micro-transactions of ticket purchases for supply drops by The Orochi Corporation.  The game will be taken back to running under a beta label with a well-known intent to never again be in a "released" status and be redubbed S1W1.

Two days later, Age of Conan will announce a totally new sequel called AoC-Next.....and nothing will ever be said about it again.  Anyone on staff that mentions its name again will be let go.
Three days later, the Anarchy Online team puts out a news release that says we are a space game and stuff...SWG players, you can come home now.

tobascodagama
Guest
tobascodagama

I cheated and listened on my way home. Great guest! I hope you guys get a chance to have more guests on in the future.

Nanulak
Guest
Nanulak

Very good pod cast.  Was very interesting to hear James Hicks perspectives.  As always there is something for everyone.  Keep up the good work.

agemyth
Guest
agemyth

Just started the 'cast, but I had to pause it to find this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y897tozJeg8

Serrenity
Guest
Serrenity

10 minutes till I start my evening commute :D

tobascodagama
Guest
tobascodagama

Cool! Can't wait to give this a listen on my morning commute.

wpDiscuz