Nanos JC3:MP – A New Just Cause Multiplayer Experience

With the recent debacle caused by the latest Just Cause 3 patch it’s no doubt that the modding scene will continue to face trials and tribulations. Against the odds, the community continues to push on and contribute more content to our library, and for that we cannot thank every one of you – modders and players alike – enough. As the steadfast community continues to gradually repair the inadvertent but unfortunate damage done by the patch, nothing is more inspirational than the nanos development team – a group of specialists who are moving ever closer to bringing more multiplayer to a franchise whose desire for shared game worlds is only matched by that of its community, which has been seeking to enjoy Rico’s chaotic rampages with a friend or two…or ten…or a thousand.
That all depends, however, on whether the nanos team can top the work of rival programming gurus from the JC2-MP team which, as you might expect, brought us Just Cause 2’s fan-made multiplayer component which saw an official Steam release in early 2013. We’re all ears but so far it’s been little more than radio silence from JC2-MP vets on their own JC3-MP project; this prolonged inactivity likely accentuated by the hiring of JC2-MP lead developer Cameron “Trix” Foote onto team Avalanche. It’s unknown if the project has been silently canceled or continues to be developed in secret. Nevertheless, eyes have turned to the nanos team which has been actively updating their fans on progress and even caught the attention of some higherups, having been graced with the blessing of both Avalanche and Square to move forward with the project. This is a sharp contrast to the troubled past the team went through – their GTA V multiplayer project was famously shut down by Rockstar midway through development – all this and more in the interview below.
This interview was conducted by Draconio and features nanos CTO Alexander Güttler.

D: What is the Nanos framework?

AG: The nanos multiplayer framework is a backend for creating multiplayer modifications or easily implementing multiplayer functionality in your (indie) game. It provides all the tools and libraries needed so the developer can focus on what’s really important: gameplay. Creating a stable framework requires a lot of practical use for testing which is why we were building GTA:MP upon it and are now continuing to do so with nanos Just Cause 3 Multiplayer.

D: What does Nanos team hope to achieve in developing this framework?

AG: We are convinced that the success of upcoming video games is measured above all by the multiplayer and coop experience. This includes the possibility to be able to modify the game players  imagine. People don’t want to play their games alone at all, they want to share the experience and go through feelings with friends together. nanos pursues this concept since its found in 2011 and will provide a possibility for all developers to achieve this goal with an all-in-one framework, whether or not the developer is an indie or an established game studio. Our vision is to set new benchmarks in multiplayer experience and to make community’s imaginations possible to influence the game in a way game developers never had an eye on.

D: What happened between the Nanos team and Rockstar Games that prompted the shutdown of your GTA:Multiplayer V project?

AG: To be honest nothing: Nothing at all. We were in good terms with R*, were in contact with their developers and thought to be on the safe side by not only building our modification from the ground up (instead of using GTA:Online components) and not touching anti-piracy measures at all. Both of this reasons were named when the developers of another multiplayer modification, FiveM, were banned weeks earlier from R* Social Club.
AG: It was the 9th November 2015, we had a meeting scheduled on discussing an earlier scripting roll-out for big SA-MP and MTA communities the next day, when the FiveM developer, Martin (a co-developer at nanos) and myself were visited by private investigators on our own doorstep. After a discussion with the Take2 headquarters via phone we were told to stop developing our modification, as we would be a threat to Take2’s business (supposedly ingame-money they sell on GTA:Online) – no negotiations possible. We shut down our services on the same day, as a legal fight would have probably had a very big impact on our own private life.

D: What made you guys choose Just Cause 3 after the disheartening termination of your GTA V project?

AG: After we recovered from the events around our forced shutdown we sat down together and discussed if we want to work on a new project and if yes, what our main goals would be. We knew that we wanted to continue working on a new project as the development of GTA:MP was, apart from the sudden development end, overall a really great experience. Our vision was always to make a next-generation multiplayer sandbox such as Garry’s Mod, SA-MP or MTA, which led us internally to 3 alternatives: Using Just Cause 3 as a base for our new modification, building upon Far Cry 4 or making our new game. Together with our community, which was involved in our consideration process by a public vote, our decision fell on JC3 – A decision we certainly did not regret so far.

D: There are currently two multiplayer mods for Just Cause 3 being developed by different teams: one by yours and the other by the JC2-MP guys. Do you view this situation as friendly completion or a SA-MP/MTA-esque rivalry?

AG: Competition is always something that keeps you pushing forward, that encourages you to keep developing. We are trying to keep our competition on as friendly terms as possible and will encourage our community to not “hate” the other mod. Fanboyism as we currently have in SA-MP and MTA is something that does not help any of those two and is something we want to prevent at all.

D: It’s widely agreed upon that completion is ultimately beneficial to the community and healthy for the quality of both end products. Do you view the coinciding developments of the two projects in this light, or do you side with neigh-sayers who view the situation as leading to an unhealthy divide in the playerbase?

AG: As said before, from our point of view competition is generally something good. That the playerbase will be divided is a fact when there is a choice available. Only future can tell however, how the playerbase will exactly divide between the two modifications. I personally expect one mod having a major advantage on player counts due to being more stable and providing more features – something we, and I guess the other team as well, are trying to achieve. 😉

D: Has Just Cause 3’s supposedly uncrackable Denuvo anti-tamper solution been an obstacle for the team? What other technical issues have you encountered if any?

AG: It sure has been in the first weeks. It made analysing and reverse-engineering the game very hard but we have overcome most of those issues.

D: Has Just Cause 3’s unparalleled versatility proven beneficial during your attempts to synchronize the actions of players despite the game’s verticality and freedom of movement? In GTA and Mafia the capabilities of your character and his animation set aren’t too far off from those of in-game NPCs, but in Just Cause Rico is a physics defying god who can do endlessly more than any NPC; there must be new challenges for your team on that front.

AG: So far synchronising characters and vehicles in Just Cause 3 has been a lot easier than in GTA V and Mafia II – the hardest and most time consuming parts were actually preparing the synchronisation (e.g. spawning & deleting a vehicle or network player). In the past weeks we had shifted from using NPC characters to copied versions of Rico so we then could directly copy and apply all states (e.g. running, shooting, …) directly to the remote players. The current challenge is to also apply all those things to other character models while still making the game believe it’s a copied Rico. We are currently researching and evaluating different approaches to achieve that.

D: Toward the end of the JC2-MP mod’s development, the team ran large-scale public beta tests to test advancements in scripting progress. Can we expect to see similar tests for Nanos JC3-MP at some point in the future?

AG: In one of our last weekly development blog we have already announced that we will be shipping a so called “Script Test Preview” to every interested gamemode developer consisting of a limited client and server prior to our first release. Bigger public tests will be of course also necessary to ensure the mod being stable, but our main priority is getting a stable and extensive scripting API out there instead. Supporting thousands of players sounds great at first but will  actually never be required by server owners when looking at JC2-MP, SA-MP and MTA player counts.

D: The final question is a request from the community: what do we call your mod? The JC2-MP team has claimed the numeric edit of their legacy title; do you wish for your mod to be referred to as “JC3-MP” as well? To reduce confusion people are calling it “Nanos JC3-MP”, do your support this gesture?

AG: We are officially referring to our mod as “nanos JC3:MP” to avoid any confusion as of now. It must be still said though, that when we were first talking about our modification as “Just Cause 3 Multiplayer” the former JC2-MP team did not yet announce their “JC3-MP” modification yet.

D: Thank you, Alex, for participating in this interview.

AG: You’re welcome, thank you very much for your questions and support.

You can learn more about the nanos team and its various projects at nanos.io. Be sure to check out the nanos JC3:MP dev blog to follow the development of the mod.