The game consisted of three warring factions, the Humans, the Mutants, and the Biomek. There were four classes for each race, each with their own names but all based on the tank, rogue, healer, and summoner archetypes.
Alien crystals fall from space, obliterating much of the Earth's ecology and infrastructure. Those wealthy enough to afford it retreat to underground vaults. Those unlucky enough to become stuck in the post-impact fallout mutate, some surviving as a pariah Mutant faction. The humans send out the Biomek, cyborgs based on humans, to exterminate the Mutants; failing at that goal, and the Humans leave the Biomek out in the cold. Abandoned by their masters, the Biomek swear revenge on the Humans as well. When it is deemed safe enough, the Humans leave their vaults in armed vehicles to protect themselves from the hostile environment and the enemy, joining the ongoing battle between Biomek and Mutants and against the harsh environment. Fighting is especially focused around Ground Zero, which may hold alien secrets and the key to what happened all those years ago...
- Human: Commando
- Biomek: Terminator
- Mutant: Champion
These classes got the slowest (typically 60-70KPH) but most heavily armored vehicles, typically large APC and tank-type vehicles. They are mainly for taking damage and dealing some direct damage using their weapons.
- Human: Bounty Hunter
- Biomek: Agent
- Mutant: Avenger
These classes typically got the second fastest (Typically 90KPH) and most agile vehicles, typically buggy-style vehicles. They also could cloak, remaining unseen to enemies.
- Human: Engineer
- Biomek: Constructor
- Mutant: Shaman
These classes were typically given the second-slowest vehicles and minimal weapons but moderate armor, with similar vehicle styles to the tank classes.
- Human: Lieutenant
- Biomek: Mastermind
- Mutant: Archon
These classes were given vehicles with the fastest straight-line speeds (upwards of 120KPH), but with less agility than the rogue classes. They could summon robotic pets to aid them and their party in battle.
Vehicles were specific to each class as they determined speed, agility, and armor of a player. They had a main, turret-style mounting point for one main weapon, and typically forward-facing and rear-facing bumper weapons. There were a number of styles of vehicles, and the overall aesthetic was usually different for each race, with the Mutants having vehicles reflecting a more 1940s/50s panel truck and pickup truck look, the Biomek having a more military, blocky look, and the Humans a more sleek, futuristic look.
Crafting used scrap parts typically found by destroying shanty settlements and enemies to build nearly anything in the game. Crafting was levelled in different areas by repeatedly making parts in that area, so if one wanted to specialize in building chassis, one would need to build a great deal of them to become more skilled in chassis. Crafting typically used a great deal of resources and was usually infeasible for those not at the level cap of 50.
Accessible areas were generally flat or slightly rolling in order to avoid impeding vehicle movement. There were some areas of cliffs and mesas that could be scaled with ramps and trick jumps, but most of the time this was unnecessary. There were many hostile settlements built up of scrap metal and other items, displaying the use of Havok physics for destructible environments - one could use their car or their weapons to destroy these settlements and get crafting materials or sometimes quest items from the rubble.
Areas containing special missions or the end of a quest chain were typically instanced, often assassination missions to kill a special boss. Other players could be added to the party while instanced and they could join the same instance that way.
Towns were the only area where one would leave their vehicle and walk around as their character.
Player vs. Player
PvP was typically done in two places - arenas for lower-level opponents, where the game would match you up with a similarly levelled opponent, and Ground Zero - the center of the game world where one of the aforementioned alien crystals fell, where max-level players typically would duke it out for domination of an area that gave special items.
Auto Assault suffered from a poor and buggy launch, brought on by a forced release by NCSoft who believed the game was taking too long in development. It quickly hemorraged users, leaving a small number of dedicated players. NCSoft continued to try to gain customers by handing out boxed copies of the game for free, but not even a server unification could bring the costs down enough and the subscriber base high enough to make money on the game. Auto Assault's servers were shut down by NCsoft on August 31, 2007.
The game's developer, NetDevil, released the following statement on July 9, 2007:
NetDevil believed in Auto Assault from the start, and with any game that you've invested so much time into, it is very sad to see it discontinued. The development of every title is a learning experience and there's little question that AA took a number of risks in making a truly unique game.
A few months back, we had some negotiations with NCsoft about the property and felt that our collective experience and success self-publishing Jumpgate would translate well. We also believed that as a small publisher/developer we would find cost efficiencies and higher ROI than firms with a larger infrastructure. In the end, we could not work out a deal with NCsoft that would have given us the ability to run the game the way we felt we needed to make it great.
The team at NetDevil still fully supports its work on Auto Assault and we've received a great deal of positive feedback from a diverse fan base. We have also enjoyed a successful, long term relationship with NCsoft, and hope we have the opportunity to work with them in the future. We've folded a lot of the lessons we learned from the game back into the studio, and we are in a fortunate position where we have additional resources to complete development work on very bright, future projects, namely: Jumpgate: Evolution; Warmonger, Operation: Downtown Destruction; and LEGO Universe.
As for the current status of Auto Assault, NCsoft owns 100% of the Auto Assault IP, and anyone interested in discussing the reasons behind its closure or future licensing should talk to them directly. NetDevil, however, still retains the source code to Auto Assault, and we are always open to business partners wanting to work with us on seeing the vision of a fast-paced vehicle combat MMO continue.