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After many months of anticipation from the community, The Forge opened to Founders at the end of November. Since then, we've rolled out numerous updates to address bugs and improve optimisation issues. In those same updates, the studio has already begun to show it's commitment to fast-paced impactful updates with new features being added with every passing patch.

As The Forge becomes more established, James Thompson, our CEO, sat down to answer questions from the community covering all topics from gameplay and gunplay, character progression, future updates, and the overall direction and the objective of Mavericks: Proving Grounds. You can find the video and modified transcript below.

For the latest news regarding Mavericks: Proving Grounds be sure to keep-an-eye on the website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. We encourage Founders to feedback on the game and engage with other members of the community in our Founders Forum and Discord Channel.

AMA Transcript

Hello. Welcome to the live Q&A. I'm James Thompson; I'm the CEO here at Automaton. We're developing Mavericks and we're currently just coming off the initial launch of The Forge, which is our way of building the game with the community.
Q: When will people who signed up in June who aren't Founders get access to The Forge?

So initially we've given early access to any Founder. The first few weeks of The Forge are largely about tech testing. We're layering content in week-on-week. There will be one week during Christmas where isn't an update, but generally speaking we're doing regular weekly updates, and I think if you look at the E3 announcement that we did, we mentioned that the first hundred thousand signups will get earlier access to the game before we make it truly publicly accessible.

This is the date when we effectively email all those people and inject a load of players into the game. That will be great, obviously, both for them and also the Founders who are helping us out. These early days, obviously, are really an initial core community, and we've got some amazing feedback from them, but I'm sure all of you who are a part of that would love to see more players come with these more game mechanics.

We feel the right time to do that is early next year. It will be around the Hunter & Hunted, first core update to the game, and that's kind of the stage in which we've moved largely past the initial core technology tests. Bear in mind we're using a brand new rendering engine, brand new networking technology. We're hugely grateful to our Founders, this early on, for helping us test the game already, because obviously these components are very complicated and need to be tested live, and that's why we've gone this route.

But the right time to really inject those players is at that stage. In a few weeks' time, early next year. I haven't got an exact date about launch just yet because that should come from our production team, who will confirm the exact timeline to everyone in the near future, but expect that early next year.

Q: When will the game open up and be publicly available?

So obviously one of the benefits of being a Founder is exclusive access to the game. It's far from the only benefit; in fact, the main benefits are still to come. What we'd like to do is make sure that before we give access to the public that we've actually made sure that we've represented Founders well enough in the game. There are a number of benefits you'd expect for helping us out, supporting the game, and so first of all I'd like to mention that obviously a number of those things will go in the game first.

But beyond that, when will it be publicly available? As you know, we're in a closed NDA state right now just because what we've got in The Forge at the moment doesn't really give you that full game loop experience of Mavericks. The game mode is kind of simplified; even the initial Battle Royale events are simplified versions of that game mode, and that's because we're testing important core elements. A number of the reasons for that we've talked about in blog posts.

So when we look at how and when we want to open to the public, we all know what game Betas are kind of like now. It's kind of like when it's reached that phase of I can completely understand what this is when I hit it first time. We'll actually be kind of inviting a few players here and there after those initial hundred thousand invites early next year, and we'll be looking at the data that we get back from that to see how they're interacting with the game and whether they get it, whether they become part of the community easily enough. So it's kind of when we see that shift in the data.

Roughly speaking, I'm expecting that to be mid-next year, but it could be earlier, could be later. It really is based on that metric that we're looking at, right? The reason why we're building this game with you is to get your feedback to know when the right timings of some of these things are. Of course, you should expect the game to be filled with quite a few players, though. Before we even open it to the public, right? It doesn't mean we won't bring more players in. We're just taking a number of steps along this journey, and that's obviously a big one but there are steps to come before that.

Q: How will Battle Royale work? How will players enter the game? Will it be a thousand players from the start of the match? Will it be different for solos, duos, squads?

If you're asking about the initial play tests, which we're starting very shortly, this will be solo testing. It can be up to a thousand players; we won't necessarily really drive the messaging to get as many players as we could into these first few tests because the most important thing is we're testing the nuts and bolts before we really spam everyone to try and fill up a lot of those servers. So it may start out with fewer players initially, but yes, they do support a thousand players. We'll be running them in isolated play sessions, specific periods of time, initially, and then it'll become something that you can constantly online match make next year. So solo initially, and then we'll get duos and squads.

How players enter the game ... you'll be kind of automatically thrown in from the open world, initially, but this completely changes later on in The Forge when we institute a social hub. At this point, this will be a match make experience. You'll queue up whether you're in the open world or social hub. You will then drop in through the drop pool, and ... So this will evolve over time, so it really depends on whether you're looking at the final battleground experience or the initial last man standing play tests. One leads into the other, but you'll see very shortly how we begin testing this, and then we'll update that week on week.

Q: So what's the Founders Hall and when can we expect it in the game?

The Founders Hall is part of the social hub, so it will come with an initial version of the capital, social hub. Again, the point of that is to recognize Founders, so it will come in and obviously that's an update we would like to put in before we get open access to the game, for more people to come in and join us to test so that you can really differentiate who is the Founders. It's the area where we credit everyone who supported us through the early development of the game. So you can expect that kind of along the lines of what I said earlier, when we launch the game to be more openly playable. Which may be before the full launch, but it will be something later on in The Forge, kind of towards the end as we get close to the launch.

Q: How long will The Forge be open?

The Forge will be open certainly all through up until launch. It might actually even continue until after that because we might still be testing certain things. We're not sure about that, yet, but The Forge is something that leads up to launch, and obviously we haven't announced a launched date yet, but ... yeah. Effectively, that's the way we get to launch, so we'll be able to introduce, give you more and more info as we get to our first core update. You'll get a feeling for how quickly the game is developing and we'll get some of those metrics and we'll give you an indicated launch date.

Q: What planned updates do you have for the map? Are you planning to add new structures, levels?

So every week we update the map. I think this week there are a number of new structures in the map. The initial version that you're playing, if you're part of The Forge already, is kind of a base layer. It uses a completely new way of building the map. We're able to essentially inject whole levels which will morph into the game world. This tech's quite new. You know, we've previously, internal testing, over the course of this last year, we've built various maps to look really nice and you can do certain things on them.

What we're doing now, though, is making sure that we can do the huge world in a scalable way so that if you play it now you'll see that there's a lot of barren areas of the map. That's changing week on week. Sometimes that will be quick speed modeled areas. Sometimes we'll start layering in high-quality areas. It's really the initial days are kind of mix and match, but really this is a weekly iterative process. There isn't one update where the map's suddenly gonna change, usually. I mean, it's really gonna iterate over time. And I think you should expect to see already updates this week to that.

There is is a kind of a pivot, I suppose, that you'd really notice. It will be early next year as we add the infrastructure into the map that ties everything together, and you start to see more of it kind of being a cohesive place. We're first testing quite a lot of things, just plating a lot of stuff down, seeing how players interact with them individually, but before we get into the first core update we will be kind of setting all that stuff into the really planned out version of the map that kind of ties into the narrative of the world.

Q: How is Automaton overcoming stability issues destroying other Battle Royale games?

Well, the way we're doing that is we're launching the game very early and testing it with you. You know, this is a more complex game than any Battle Royale game out there so if they're already having stability issues then of course it's an even harder of a problem to make sure that we have a rock-solid game. Obviously we're using a lot of new technology and that solves a lot of those issues, but it does still need to be tested and that's why we're doing The Forge. So, you know, we do a mixture of testing. We have also the automated testing that we've been using, but it's a mixture of that and being able to essentially gradually, piece by piece, add more and more complexity into the game week on week, 'cause that basically lets us have the kind of full end to end testing we really need to build this kind of complex game.

Q: What servers are available now and there plans to add more?

So at the moment we have servers NA and EU. We will do that up until we open the game up to largely to the public. I mean, it's important that we have smaller initially community that we don't split it too much, but when it becomes publicly available later on during The Forge we expect to add a number of new regions. I can't give exact details yet, but obviously a number more than NA and EU, as you'd expect from a standard shooter game, really.

Q: So are there any seasonal events planned, like a blizzard?

So yes. I mean, Mavericks is in essence an MMORPG. There are going to be events regularly. It's not something we're doing immediately because we're obviously getting through the initial stage of The Forge this year, but as we get into next year and farther along in the content of the game we'll also have seasonal events.

Q: What community events are planned in the future? Will you hold tournaments, dev/community play sessions?

Yes. Not too long in the future; we haven't finalized the plans yet, but we're looking to do develop play sessions, community play sessions. That's something that does make sense actually quite early on. As a way for us interacting, getting the feedback in an even more effective way. So that's something that we'll look at very shortly. Tournaments, of course, will be more around the launch of the game.

Q: What other game modes will come in the future? Is there any plan for PVE content?

So Mavericks is all about ... has an open world, and then it will also have the session-based gameplay, the Battle Royale initially. We will support other game modes, including session-based, and the open world will be, in a way, a mixture of a number of different kinds of gameplay, and that may include some PVE content. I would say that Mavericks is a PVP-focused game. It's a PVP-focused shooter. That doesn't mean we won't have PVE content, but the focus of what Mavericks is is PVP, so with the open world I'd certainly expect a degree of PVE. Of course, when we add the wildlife systems and stuff like that, in a way that's PVE interaction with a PVP session. It will be stuff more along those lines.

We will have a number of game modes, and that really will be determined by the community. We'll try quite a lot of things out and it will both be session based and open world. The fundamental if you [inaudible 00:12:06] it's kind of this theme park of combat in a way. It kind of makes it a sport. It's not all about, necessarily, the game modes you want to play, but also being in the social hub and accumulating gear. Like, in the open world you're going to invest that back in, and there's a lot of risk reward that happens beyond one session. So because we have that open world, that's going be really intra dynamic and that game will eventually evolve and branch out quite a lot, like an MMORPG would.

Whereas with Battle Royale, it's perhaps more like what you'd expect from a session-based competitive game type. You know, they'll be leader boards. There'll be ranks, and that's basically how that would work. We can do more game modes and that will then depend on what the community's preferences are.

Q: Will there, like Fortnite, be building capabilities?

So in even our first core update, we're looking at ... which is the Hunter/Hunted update, we're looking at some destruction systems which we've tested over the course of this year, which will be let into the game. We have a load of those that we're putting in throughout The Forge, so there's certainly destruction. We haven't really looked much at building, although we have looked at reconnaissance, so you'd expect some kind of building but more in a kind of tactile way, less than the kind of cartoony build fort structures kind of way. You know, the game's not initially about that. That doesn't mean we won't explore those mechanics; we'll explore a lot in The Forge and that will be based on community feedback, and we could certainly support building, but that's not really the direction we're imagining the game will go.

Q: Will there be air drops with equipment dropping into a field or any other attractions?

Yeah, I think we're [inaudible 00:13:48] objectives, really, air drops kind of being the simplest objective, and so we certainly will try air drops and have them in the game. But we'll also have other kinds of objectives that spawn, things that are a little bit more complex, that might be to do with holding areas of the map or time limits. We're gonna try quite a lot of different objective types.

As I've mentioned in the videos I did around the time we put The Forge out a couple weeks ago, the first few weeks are about testing a lot of the core tenants of what the game will be built on, so we haven't put a lot of game play systems in yet, either in the open world, and obviously we're shortly going to test the Battle Royale. But we are gonna be layering those in, and have quite a few ideas, so we'll be testing a lot of different ones and seeing how they work.

Q: Will the game be more focused on being realistic or arcade-based? Are you gonna be sacrificing fun for realism or vice versa?

So it's a realistic game, but we're not making a game that's supposed to be all about how well-simulated it is. It's about fun more so than it is about realism, but I wouldn't push to say it's an arcade-y based game. It is realistic. I kind of sits between the middle. I guess the idea here is we want it to be realistic; that's the feeling of the game, and that's also what enables it to be intuitive to play, but if something is just more fun we will make it that way.

Q: What further movement mechanics will be added, vaulting et cetera?

So the first focus of the animation team is further refinements to the first person shooting experience. We're doing a bit more of that as a focus, still. We really want to make sure that we're the absolute top standard in that, and I think we're making very good progress in that. I believe we'll have procedural sways coming in shortly, and a number of other things that will really kind of add those last few details. We also have a brand new UI system going in soon, which is going to be very interesting.

So once we've seen those come together, the focus from animation will move onto a mixture of third person and other movement control like vaulting. So vaulting is a very priority up there. I expect to see it earlier next year, but I don't have an exact date yet. It depends on how we feel the progress of the first person shooting is, 'cause I think we'll all agree, we really want to refine that and get that to a good place. But it is a high priority and you should see it soon.

Q: What is the objective of the game and what's the story?

So I touched on this earlier, and there's a narrative on the website if you check that out. There's a story page that gives you a bit of context around the factions and the capital. We're gonna be raising up more of that as we open up the capital. The game has both an open world side to it and the session-based Battle Royale-style sessions. So the objective in the sessions is going to be much like what you'd see from a Battle Royale game today in terms of last man standing, although our focus as we get more and more into The Forge is going to be on using a lot more information and dynamic systems to be more strategic. We're also trying obviously thousand player games and other such things, so it's really just to the bigger scale and more information.

But if you look at the open world, and that's a way a very different way of approaching the game. You know, the idea is that you can drop into the open world and the session is kind of what you make of it. How much you put into the session is how much you risk, and then how long you spend in there before you extract ... so gear ... we're looking at these kinds of open world dynamics that border on kind of MMORPGs, so in a way it's harder to define exactly the Mavericks' open world. It's really kind of an experience ... it's a bit harder to put into words, but those are the two ways you can look at the Mavericks, and they use the same world. They use the same gun mechanics, it's just one is kind of a competitive session and one is an economically driven open world, and they tie together in the social hub.

Q: Is there a plan for Mavericks Proving Grounds to make it to console?

Yes, we expect it to be on console before launch.

Q: How will you maintain the skill-based elements in the game, and what are the elements you're looking at to reward skilled players?

So like I was just saying, I think in the Battle Royale, in the session-based elements, I think it's quite clear that it's a focus skill based session where you're looking at things like ranking, those kind of things, and in the open world, there is a degree of investment versus return as well as the skill, and it kind of balances it a bit more, but how we maintain that is really through, as you'd expect, from a shooter, sort of about the gun balancing, and we're getting a lot of good feedback right now, actually, even in these early stages, on the details of gun balancing and how that can work for both the more casual players and the more competitive players.

We can balance it differently depending on the game mode, although we'll tend to try and find the best unified medium depending on how that works out during The Forge. So we'll maintain the skill based elements, really, by balancing gunplay the right way. That will then also be added in as we go into our first core update, Hunter & Hunted, and how much information you can get from the environment. You'll be able to leave footprint trails, bend the grass, destroy various things. As we look at that of course that brings a new layer of strategy, and no one's really seen that before, especially on a massive scale with a lot of players. So that's something I think we're all going to learn from and iterate.

Q: What are CRT's, how do they work, and why are they beneficial?

So CRT's are some initial tokens that can give you progress throughout the early days of The Forge. They let you unlock faction gear. Essentially, we'll be using these to reward participation in the early days of The Forge. They unlock cosmetic content, and that will be recognized in the final version of the game in a way that no one will be able to get again in the future.

So far we've got a very basic initial game mode, so you essentially kill other players and deposit them, but we are in the open world. You'll also get them for winning Battle Royale, but the dynamic of how you will get these will change as we test it from gameplay over the course of The Forge, and by the time we add the economy, then at the moment we're looking at CRT's then effectively replaced by the currency system of the game.

Q: Will we be able to keep any rewards gathered during The Forge?

Oh, so I just kind of touched on that. So it's not necessarily that you'll be able to wear it again, but we'll certainly recognize all of the rewards. We wouldn't want you to feel like you invested time into the game and then we devalue that, so we'll find a way to recognize that. That may be in terms of a trophy that represents the progress for your players, your time during The Forge, and stuff along those lines. We've not finalized the exact details yet but we will recognize that progression. If it's something that needs to be replaced by something new, there will still be a way in which it's recognized in the social part of the game.

Q: Will there be creative transportation like Ring of Elysium, snowboards, snow mobiles?

Yes. There's a vehicles update; you'll see it on the timeline for The Forge. That will start with the more standard stuff, but the vehicle system we already have supports a number of different kinds of vehicles, and it certainly would support snowboards, snowmobiles, even helicopters. Obviously, we'll see what works best for the game. We have a vehicle system that we're looking forward to trying out, but we'll see. And there are obviously, the higher, mountainous areas of the map, so I would expect to see some kinds of snowmobiles up there, so we'll see how that goes.

Q: What are the core updates mentioned as milestones on the website? How long is this timeline?

So this timeline runs until, effectively, when we announce the full launch of the game, pretty much up to the full launch of the game. It's something which we haven't put dates on just yet because we want to test out and see the progress in the first few weeks of The Forge before we commit to it, but typically each core milestone, we're looking at around two months of development. It would depend on ... maybe a bit shorter, but we'll really see how it goes, so that gives you an idea if you look at the timeline, kind of what we see as a core update. And within each core update we'll have weekly updates, and we won't necessarily just wait and put it all in a core update; you might see that the next core update's content is kind of getting layered into the weekly updates in the run-up to it.

Q: What can the Founders expect in the first core update?

Ah, so it's the Hunter & Hunted update. That is one in which we're introducing some initial tracking and destruction mechanics. These are things like footprints and some more kind of destruction, grass bending. It would also come ... and the initial plan is to have some amount of initial attachments as well because there's a lot of request for that around getting a better find for the guns, but we will give you a full list very shortly, beginning of the year, so we'll let you know very soon. But that's really the theme of the update, Hunter & Hunted.

Q: What weapon attachments will be making an appearance? e.g. scopes, sights, silencers.

So all of those will be. If you look at the timeline we do have an update that's focused around attachments. It doesn't mean we won't have some sooner, as I just mentioned, but you will see all of those things.

Q: What explosives will be added? Is there any plan to add traps, e.g. mines? How will the environment respond to destruction?

So, certainly. Like, we do plan to add all kinds of destruction explosives. Some of them will come in out first core update. In fact, things like grenades and mines are all on the table. They won't all come in one batch, but throughout The Forge I expect any of those things, we will have tested.

How will the environment respond to destruction? So there are a number of different ways we can destroy things in the environment. There's even some basic destruction in the capital blockouts right now, but of course that will get further refined, and then we have systems that can dynamically destroy objects.

For example, if you shoot a tree, well, you could kind of cut across any part of the tree depending on where you shoot. Things like that. So we have a number of systems we want to layer in and this will be ... there will be a big kick off of this in the Hunter & Hunted update, but there will still be further systems added throughout the subsequent board updates.

Q: How will the economy work in Mavericks Proving Grounds? Will there be tradable items such as weapons skins or other cosmetics?

So, when we introduce the social hub into The Forge this will include an economy, so yes. The open world, in fact, will be largely based around economics in the final version of the game. The idea is that you could invest more in a session, and then you're risking more, but then you could easily get rewards, so the whole dynamic is kind of the more you bring in, the more risk it is, but you'll be kind of aiming for that higher reward and vice versa. You can begin with nothing, but then you don't loose anything if you die, and then you kind of need to extract to the social hub, and you're really accumulating wealth and gear.

As such, there's the currency of the world. Obviously you can buy guns around that. That doesn't mean ... you wouldn't be able to bring that in, necessarily, to the competitive sessions, but really there will be an economy in place and that will be a big part of the game.

Q: Why have you chosen to bring in players at this stage, in comparison to making the game more developed and bringing them in later like most AAA games?

As you may know, typically AAA games take three years to develop and we're one year into the development of Mavericks. We talked about this a lot, and we announced the Beta at E3, which we didn't end up releasing, and it came down to this: we could polish certain aspects of Mavericks and give you a game, but if we did that, then what you get from that game that's more polished, more finished, but only a slice of the experience, into everything we're gonna do with Mavericks is not so clear, you know, and that's how you kind of get stuck in a rabbit hole.

We were quite ambitious with Mavericks and we really want to deliver on the vision, and fundamentally the way we do that is by building out a lot of new platform tech and such. Because we're doing this new stuff, it fundamentally needs players in from an early stage, we did pivot our approach, and that meant there are some lessons we've learned that mean we could approach The Forge launch better, but we are confident that bringing players in early is definitely the best thing for developing these complex, new online games, fundamentally about how much we test internally. Like, we cannot really work out the dynamics of the game.

It is in a very early stage right now, but we do have a core community who are really helping us out. We've got a lot of very useful feedback. Fundamentally, when you're dealing with a complex multiplayer game like this, and there's so much new technology, while there are always, in theory, ways that you can kind of make individual tests and bring them all together, unless we have a core community and a need to rapidly iterate each week, really it's easy to lose perspective. And there are so many different ways this game can go. We're focusing entirely on the developing way infrastructure [inaudible 00:27:27] to update the game regularly and understand what players are doing in the game.

So as a result of that, we ended up with The Forge that is today. I think that if you look in a small number of weeks' time, then perhaps it would feel a little bit more like you'd expect if you were expecting more like a Beta, like we are putting in content relatively quickly, but [inaudible 00:27:45] these first few weeks are a combination of our need to kind of pivot the approach of Mavericks, and also the fact that it's much more efficient for us to ask you for the core Founders help now. We will just get the game to everyone faster.

Q: If you could summarise in a sentence what your mission is for Mavericks Proving Grounds, what would it look like in a year or two's time?

I would say really with Mavericks we've set out to build really the ultimate strategic PVP shooter. If I had to capture it, that's one way I would put it. Another way I might put it is in a sense a theme park of combat, you know? We're really building an open world community here. We see it in many ways as an MMORPG.

No game is really the extent to which we are doing combined, competitive session-based play with an open world. Perhaps another way you could look at it is kind of related to The Hunger Games in a way, and trying to both create that backdrop and meaningful world and persistence while still having competitive games that happen so that you can consume the content in both ways, so there's something to look forward to being competitive about, but then also an open world where there's far more to explore and a different kind of depth.

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