Ground Zero Developer Diary
In the development of Auto Assault we just didn't want PvP to be a place where players go and fight outside of the normal game world. For those that want to do that and take place in a ladder system, we do have that kind of PvP gameplay with the Arenas, but we wanted something that put the players into the much larger conflict between the three races. That's where Ground Zero comes in.
In our fictional backdrop of Auto Assault, Ground Zero is where an alien craft crashed into the Earth - and where a large portion of the wreckage still exists. In fact if you travel near the impact crater, which is about a mile in diameter (in-game), you can still see it. If you survive, that is. Because of the nature of the Contamination and the proximity of alien wreckage and technology, the place is literally crawling with Contaminated plants and animals, big, boss creatures and all other sorts of nastiness we'd rather let the players discover themselves. The three races consider the Ground Zero area to be particularly valuable: the advanced technology of the alien races is readily available and the heavily Contaminated ecology is a pure haven for those that embrace it. If there was a place where all three races would fight a war over, this would be it.
Players get to Ground Zero after continually progressing through their respective regions in the Central Wastelands. Ground Zero itself is located in a central position in the wastelands, and the construction of the regions naturally, but gently, siphons players to this area. Consequently, Ground Zero is a high-level area; by the time players get there they should be around Level 60-65 at the very least, with the ability to progress to Level 80. They'll need every single level of experience to survive.
We will have a variety of gameplay for players who enjoy all different aspects of Auto Assault. We have a lot of normal PvE content in the forms of new enemies, new factions and all sorts of weird things in this region. Each race has several small bases and other facilities scattered throughout the map so the player won't be thrust into combat immediately. Convoys and clans will become very important as there is a lot of high-level content to contend with. Ground Zero is not for the meek. Near the crash site itself there's quite a bit of convoy and raid content that's excessively difficult and we'll be very interested to see how players cope with it.
We have put an emphasis on PvP gameplay and it is where we believe Ground Zero really takes off. With Ground Zero being the current centerpoint of the racial conflict, there has to be areas to fight over, places to triumph over the enemy and missions to accomplish. We've populated the Ground Zero region with 15 Outposts and 9 Obelisks, important facilities for players to capture and control.
Now the Outposts, in Auto Assault fiction, are essentially old ancient pre-apocalypse military bases, built to help keep the Contamination from spreading beyond this area. They were not built by any of the three races; in fact the Outposts were discovered during their initial incursions into this area. The Outposts are essentially big open forts, with some defensive walls and a cluster of buildings near the middle (with a captureable computer terminal), along with an array of defensive turrets as well as a set of repair pads. If the Outpost is uncaptured (basically "neutral") they will fire on anything in the area, so players must first destroy them (or otherwise distract them) before capture can take place. Once captured, the race controls that Outpost and its defensive turrets. The Outpost can also spawn groups of friendly infantry and give the host other benefits.
Obelisks are a bit different - they are strange devices, probably alien artifacts, imbedded into the ground and captureable with a certain kit. The real purpose or internal workings of the Obelisks are still a mystery, but once captured they provide a defensive boost for all of the race's Outposts in Ground Zero (the defensive turrets and infantry are nastier). The more Obelisks a race has, the harder it'll be to capture any of that race's Outposts.
Players can easily get to the Obelisks and Outposts, they are marked by waypoints on the in-game map of the region. So gameplay will quickly center on capturing these Outposts and Obelisks and preventing their capture. The AI won't be running these skirmishes and battles, the players will.
One advantage of keeping these Outposts is that they help control the race's influence into the region - there's more friendly territory to work with and fallback positions are much closer. Otherwise it's a long trip from an outlying Human base to down into the Ground Zero crater. If the Humans captured a series of Outposts that led to the crater, they'd be a lot better off venturing into the crater - instead of running one long gauntlet from the edge of the map to the center, there will be friendly spots along the way.
We've added a few other respites for players as well; INC, the guys that run the AirLifts, have a couple of facilities in the map. These are rest stops basically, with repair pads and even a bar where players can stretch their legs and hang out in.
Obviously there are a lot of things we can do with Ground Zero, and as more players reach it we'll be implementing new ideas, concepts and all kinds of other goodies into Auto Assault that'll make you want to stay.