Interview: The Repopulation’s lead dev on its new engine and survival spin-off Fragmented

Following Above & Beyond Technologies’ January announcement that it was solving The Repopulation’s HeroEngine crisis by getting the heck away from HeroEngine, we spoke to studio rep JC Smith all about the MMO’s impending move to Unreal Engine and the birth of survival sandbox spin-off game, Fragmented, which is meant as an appetizer in the interim. Read on for our interview!

Massively OP: One thing I’ve seen commenters worry about is that Fragmented could become The Repopulation’s Landmark, and the comparison seems fair — a lot of the effort going into Landmark should be applicable to EQ Next too, theoretically, but that game is dragging on seemingly forever without public development. Are you concerned that the length of time it takes to rebuild The Repopulation will age it out of the market by the time it’s ready?

JC Smith: The hardest part about making this change for us was mainly the time frame. We kept hoping something we could find a way to get the Hero Engine version of the game to market, because the last thing we wanted to do was to set the game’s time frame back by a significant amount of time. After the situation had stretched out for a while though we realized that an engine switch was our best option, despite the set back in time frame. It is something that we took very seriously though.

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The Repopulation remains skeptical about HeroEngine’s latest announcement

HeroEngine owner Idea Fabrik announced yesterday that it has made “several positive adjustments” in regard to its ongoing financial situation – namely, “reducing server costs, finish[ing] R&D and [its]development plan, complet[ing] some very important testing and code review, and continu[ing] to work on several other special things behind the scenes.” These new changes apparently include the resumption of HeroCloud subscription sales (“[w]e will be completing a special Thank You to our community, then normal sales will return on 31 January”), a new website design, DirectX 11 support, and a new “market” to vend assets.

Idea Fabrik did not allude to The Repopulation’s Above and Beyond, which it had obliquely and seemingly unjustly accused of failing to pay royalties last month, except to say, “Not all of these have been resolved and the primary cause of the partial shutdown is still being worked on.” The concomitant financial issues and server outages drove The Repopulation offline in December and caused serious concerns about its future.

The Repopulation’s JC Smith told forumgoers that HeroEngine’s announcement had “nothing to do with” A&B’s.

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The Repopulation rejects blame for Hero Engine’s financial struggles

The Repopulation’s struggles with the money-troubled Hero Engine service have led to game delays, server downtime, and suspended development, and the drama continues today.

Earlier this week, an Idea Fabrik Hero Engine rep seemingly defied confidentiality agreements by telling its community that its revenue problems are the result of a single client refusing to pay royalties for two months.

“Starting in September 2015, one of our clients has refused to pay our royalties amounting to 30% of their revenues. Idea Fabrik/IFS is a small company, and our funding relies on those royalties and our VC’s. After two months of not getting our royalties paid, we were faced with difficult decisions. And after additional two months without being able to find a solution, we had to shut down their live game servers. Please note that we still hope for a positive outcome for all the players and fans of the game – that’s why their development servers have always been and are still up and running, so they can continue to work on their game.”

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The Repopulation: ‘The risk of downtime is very real’

Throughout November, we’ve been covering The Repopulation’s troubles with Idea Fabrik, the company that runs Hero Engine, on which The Repopulation was built. Idea Fabrik admitted to its community that its funding was at issue and that it was expecting service blackouts as a result. Above and Beyond halted The Repopulation’s updates while it worked with Hero Engine to keep the game’s hosting up, saying it was in a “holding pattern” but “still [had] outs” in the event of catastrophe.

Might one of those “outs” be a new engine? New comments from A&B’s J.C. Smith lean against it. On the game’s official forums, he wrote,

“We’d prefer to get Repop out, finish up things (15.10.1 and 15.10.2 are huge updates in terms of stability and features) and ship the game rather than starting completely fresh in a new engine (though you can never say never). Because if we went to a new engine we’d basically be rebuilding the game from scratch code wise, though some things would convert over (art, data). There are options if they fold or if they do not fold but hosting is no longer viable. Neither is particularly attractive, and the latter would require us to seek outside investment or partnerships. But there are quite a few different possibilities depending on how things play out.”

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