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November 24, 2009 / Joe Osborne

GameX 2009: Hi-Rez Studios Reveals Their ‘Global Agenda’

E3_GlobalAgenda_IceGorge

Each of Global Agenda’s four player classes: Robotics, Assault, Recon and Medic (left to right).

During this year’s GameX Expo, I not only had a chance to play the PvP portion of Hi-Rez Studios’ debut title, Global Agenda, but the opportunity to speak with Hi-Rez Studios’ Associate Producer Michal Adam about some of the finer points of Global Agenda. Find out what the developer is doing to potentially break the mold of traditional MMO design in several ways after the break.

Global_Agenda_Seaside

Yes, everyone gets a jet pack.

GEEK: How long has Global Agenda been in development?

Michal Adam: Hi-Rez Studios was founded in 2005 and Global Agenda is the debut title. So, you could say it’s been in development for just about five years. Every year we have increased the rate of production as we started coming down from the 10,000-fold view of what we wanted the game to be and kind of narrowing it down to exactly what it will be.

GEEK: Would you say most of the action in Global Agenda happens in PvE (Player versus Enemy) or PvP (Player versus Player)?

Adam: Obviously in the PvP matches you have more players and are kind of a faster pace because of the different styles of PvP maps [which are] all different variations of chaos. Most of the PvE is four-person co-op style missions, which create tight quarters combat. You’ll be going up against The Commonwealth, which is the NPC enemy faction.

You’ll encounter different kinds of enemies [such as] mob enemies like androids. There are more specialized enemies like scanner bots that’ll scan and detect you and call for respondents and there are large boss fights at the end [of each mission] that lend for pretty epic battles. Especially in the final part of PvE, it gets really intense. Both are pretty action-based.

GEEK: Has creating a MMO based on skill-based combat been a challenge in the balancing process?

Adam: With Global Agenda, we set out to create the combat system first. So, actually throughout our entire alpha period we were testing and tweaking the combat system. In the game, there are several instances where a lower level character could defeat a higher-level character just based on the versatility of the equipment that he or she brings to battle and their skills with the fast action gameplay.

It’s not so much about loot although the loot that you gain certainly helps in the enhancements to your character. [They] will, depending on your gameplay style, help specialize your character, but it’s definitely more about skill.

GlobalAgendaHexPMed

Global Agenda’s AvA matches will look just like this (if you added about 40 more players).

GEEK: Some are trying to say that Global Agenda, by technicality, isn’t a MMO. Aside from Hi-Rez Studios’ recently released pricing model, in what other ways could you qualify Global Agenda as a MMO?

Adam: We’ve got a lot of feedback from the beta community; folks have said this is a really fun game, ‘I can play it just like other class based shooters.’ Global Agenda offers extended gameplay options; so, we have jet packs and a sophisticated melee system in addition to character persistence. So, your character gains experience and levels up and you can also allocate skill points through a skill tree.

We have a lot of features that MMO players are used to like [an] auction house, voice chat, crafting, player mail and most importantly, for all players in Global Agenda, they’ll be playing on servers hosted by Hi-Rez Studios so you don’t have to go hunting for a server.

GEEK: Global Agenda has been getting a lot of press because it’s so different than most persistent world MMOs. How do you feel that you’re challenging the normal design model of MMOs?

Adam: For one, Global Agenda is a very fast paced action-oriented game, which is already a little different from many MMOs. It’s also a departure from the traditional online settings of high fantasy, heavy military or outer space; Global Agenda is set on a future Earth in a sci-fi world of advanced technology. Player driven conflict is another point; the conflict in agencies is actually player created. You can kind of dictate what the grouping is.

The MMO space is very crowded [and] we wanted to be different. So, we’ve created a game with no elves. We do get a little bit of lash for being elf-haters [but] the truth is many people in the studio really enjoy fantasy, but this is a future-oriented and I don’t think an elf would fair very well against a rocket launcher.

GEEK: Global Agenda’s visuals look impressive. By the same token, it looks like it might take a pretty powerful machine to run. Have you made adjustments or added scalable settings for low-end rigs?

Adam: You can change the settings of the game and we’re also working through a lot of optimization now to make the game as friendly as possible across all PCs, but any PC that will run an Unreal based game like Unreal Tournament or Gears of War will run Global Agenda smoothly.

GEEK: Could you say a few things on what Hi-Rez Studios has done to help Global Agenda appeal to a casual audience?

Adam: We wanted to make it so that if you’ve been away and haven’t had a chance to play or if you only have twenty minutes a night to play the game, you can still continue to play with your friends who maybe have four hours a day or four hours a week to play the game. We didn’t want this to be the kind of MMO that requires all of your time. You’re not going to be left behind because your friends have excelled ten levels beyond where you are.

I think the pick-up style match made PvP system really lends to that because you could actually go on and request a mission and the back end of the game will divide the teams evenly into classes. So, you don’t end up with a team of all medics and a team with all snipers.

Commonwealth_ Prime

Concept Art of the Commonwealth cityscape.

GEEK: In a previous interview with executive producer Todd Harris, it was said that Global Agenda’s narrative would be more player driven than other games. Could you elaborate on that?

Adam: One of the rewards for winning the Alliance versus Alliance (AvA) seasonal campaign gameplay will be, beyond prestige and maybe having your agency logo splashed up on a zone, we intend to write the names of the agencies and alliances into the lore of the world and that’s forever.

GEEK: Do you feel that redefining the term ‘MMO’ is important for the future of the genre?

Adam: To me an MMO is a game played on a massive scale with a lot of people. We call ourselves an ‘action MMO’ because it’s a very fast paced action-oriented game. You can break it down according to the subscription model: is it an action multi-player shooter or is it an action multi-player persistent game? I think you have to be really huge to redefine a genre. So, maybe we’ll get there.

GEEK: Knowing that this is Hi-Rez Studios’ first title, how confident are you guys in not only Global Agenda, but also potentially redrawing the lines of how MMOs are made?

Adam: We, personally inside the studio, love the game. We’ve been playing it internally for over two years and still have a lot of fun with it. Whether this game is going to be industry changing or just a whole lot of fun is still to be seen. We’re confident in the former and hope for the latter.

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