Jagex are the largest independent developer and publisher of online games currently operational in the whole of the United Kingdom. In 2001 they launched the world’s largest free MMORPG and this summer they’re launching a brand new massively online tactical action game set in the Transformers Universe. We recently got a chance to sit down with Josh Tarrant, senior community manager on Transformers Universe and he revealed some interesting facts about what gamers can expect from the studio’s brand new IP.
ATE: I wonder if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself to our readers and telling us a little bit about what exactly the senior community manager for Transformers Universe is responsible for?
JT: Okay yeah my name is Josh Tarrant and I’m the senior community manager on Transformers Universe. My responsibilities include looking after everything from the internal community which lives on our forums and our social networks to our external community which includes sites like Twitch and YouTube.
ATE: Excellent, please forgive me for the direct nature of my first question, but what exactly is Transformers Universe; so far we know it’s a MOTA and we know it’s coming, “summer 2014,” but what can you actually tell us about the game?
JT: So we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from games that are really popular at the moment, but we’re not just making RuneScape with robots; were making a game for now and more importantly a game for the future. We’re looking at games like League of Legends and World of Tanks and we’re trying to build our own session based gaming structure. MOTA stands for massively online tactical action game and TU is all about exactly that, it’s about you becoming a commander building up your squad of Transformers and then taking them into battle.
ATE: So how do you differentiate yourself from games like League of Legends and World of Tanks?
JT: Well to start with we’ve got this fantastic IP in Transformers, that’s the key difference. We’ve got all this fantastic lore that’s been running for the last 30 years and on top of that there’s the transforming. Transforming plays a big part in how you approach certain different scenarios within the game, so not only can you transform into a car and drive around, but you can also tactically transform in combat so that you can quickly get behind your enemy and gain the advantage.
ATE: So will I be driving around a massive persistent world dropping in and out of combat as and when I please?
JT: No what we have is different areas, it’s not like this big living breathing world where you can just drive around and be a Transformer; it’s not an MMORPG. We have your social hub were you will spend your time getting ready and prepping for battle, where you can meet up with friends and just generally hang out. We have a range of different maps, some larger than others where there will be a greater emphasis on moving around. Maybe you can hide if you’re running out of health or you can slip away from the battle and kind of regen your heath somewhere away from the action. Transportation is a big part of the game, but not in a massive open world.
ATE: Has developing Transformers Universe been limited by the power of browser based gaming?
JT: No not at all, we’re using the Unity game engine and that has been from my personal experience fantastic to work with, we’ve got it up and running in the office and were testing it in various locations all around the world and its running smoothly. Obviously there are always going to be restrictions no matter what engine or console you use, but for me, for a free-to-play title that runs directly in your browser it looks fantastic and it runs really smooth and we’re really proud of that.
ATE: No I totally agree, it really does look fantastic, actually something I was really impressed with in the #TestYourMetal trailer was the sound design, it felt so authentically Transformers.
JT: Yeah we really spent a lot of time working on the sound design, it’s not just about making sure that the game looks good it also needs to sound great and we want it to be perfect. We’re all massive Transformers fans here so we’re trying to make a game that we all want to play.
ATE: Well you say that you’re trying to make a game that you all want to play, but over 390,000 people have signed up for the beta so clearly you’ve made something that a lot of people want to play. What was it like seeing the game in people’s hands for the first time after working so tirelessly on creating it.
JT: Oh it’s been great so the last two weekends have been spent at events, we’ve been at the gadget show and last weekend we were at INSOMNIA51 and to actually get the game into the hands of the fans was fantastic. At INSOMNIA we had people that were literally coming straight out of the game and then getting straight back into line for like, three hours―seeing that is just so rewarding because you work on a game for three years and you sit here in the office going yeah it’s great, but now that we’ve got it out there and people are playing it; it’s just fantastic.
ATE: When do you expect to move into open beta?
JT: So we’re in closed beta right now and we have been for the last four or five weeks, were sending out more invites twice weekly so were slowly getting more and more people into the game. We haven’t announced a release date for our open beta as of yet.
ATE: So here’s my theory. Transformers: Age of Extinction is coming to theatres June 25, Transformers Universe has a summer 2014 release window attached to it. You see where I’m going here? Are we going to see a day in day release shared between the film and your game?
JT: It’s such a great year to be a Transformers fan, it’s the 30th anniversary, there’s a new film coming out and on top of that you’ve got our game which is separate from the film so it’s got its own unique timeline. It really is such a great time to be a Transformers fan and if people are talking about Transformers then it certainly helps us; we are very close to launch, but we’re not ready to announce a release date―summer 2014 is all I can say.
ATE: Okay last question. Jagex is a studio that established itself developing the world largest free MMORPG Runescape. Runescape has been running for nearly 14 years now, does the success of one game influence the ambition of another? Have you been looking at Transformers Universe with similar long term goals in mind or has it been a matter of focusing on the task at hand?
JT: So of course we’ve got a long term plan, TU isn’t just something we release this summer and then move on and forget about. We’ve got a long term plan for this I mean come on, as the name suggest were building a universe here so what we have at launch is only just the beginning!