Dev Q&A: Global Agenda
TOG: Please introduce yourself and give a brief description of what you do at Hi-Rez Studios and for Global Agenda specifically.
SC: I'm Stewart Chisam, Vice President of Game Operations. I manage a lot of the backend areas charged with keeping the game up and running and our players happy -- specifically our Support, Community, Server Hosting and Billing areas.
TOG: Can you give us a high level description of what Global Agenda is about and how it plays?
SC: Global Agenda is a fast-action shooter MMO set in 22nd-Century Earth in the wake of severe global disaster. We call the setting "spy-fi" because it brings together a world of elite special agents in a Sci-Fi, futuristic world.
From a game play perspective, Global Agenda melds elements of the shooter, RPG and turn-based strategy genres, all within a massive multi-player environment.
From the FPS angle, our in-mission game play is very action-oriented and the Unreal Engine 3 makes the game as fluid and fast-paced as any multiplayer online shooter. It is useful to note that Global Agenda is technically a third person shooter. Because your character jetpacks to rooftops, grapples onto ledges, engages in melee combat, and darts behind cover to evade rocket fire , we've found that the third-person camera provides players the best view of their surroundings.
We've taken inspiration from many modern shooters, but at the same time Global Agenda has elements of an RPG because your character does progress and unlock new skills and gear over time.
We offer four very distinct but broad player classes and a large set of usable device types including ranged weapons, close-combat weapons, stealth & deception devices, remote controlled robotic pets, turrets, force fields, and many, many more.
Your character earns credit with NPC factions by doing missions and acquires a more powerful and diverse collection of gear over time. However, we are definitely not an exploration-focused game, nor heavy on quest dialog, nor a game where grinding content will allow you to easily defeat those of a lower character level. To us 'playing a role' pertains to the role you carve out for yourself on your mission strike team and your player-created Agency. We do not expect the player to simply act out a role via scripted story missions. We provide the context but players drive the story.
Finally, Global Agenda has some elements of a turn-based strategy game based upon our episodic Campaigns.
Our Campaigns give agencies the opportunity to actually gain territory, construct facilities, produce or steal resources, and compete in an approximately 45 day competition to construct a protected complex for your allies before your rivals do.
Within Global Agenda some groups, the best groups, will make history by winning Campaigns. In this way, your character actions and contributions affect the outcome of a single mission (like an FPS), your character career (like an RPG), and your agency's long-term Campaign goals (like a strategy game).
SC: The cities and social spaces within Global Agenda will be the hub of the underground economy, where agents purchase and sell weapons, gear and other items, as well as meet up with other agents to plan their next mission or just unwind after a hard battle. There will also be areas within our city spaces for Agencies and players to practice strategies, hone their skills and generally unwind.
TOG: Can someone log into game and stick to mainly PvE instances, trade, crafting and still make a notable contribution to their guild/agency?
SC: We haven't revealed a lot of specifics yet about our Campaign System, so I don't want to let too much out of the bag yet. But the short answer to your question is “Yes.”
TOG: In regards to the class system, we know that there are 4 distinct classes in Global Agenda. Those being Assault, Recon, Medic and Robotics. I understand
correctly, we will be able to train our character in each class independently. Although we can not mix and match those skill sets. Is this correct?
SC: That's more or less right. The classes are distinct and you'll level up skills between each class independently.
TOG: If so, how does a player go about switching their class prior to embarking out on a mission? Is there a special item at the Players base of operations that they will use? Or, is this something that can be done on the fly at any time?
SC: Our current thought is that the Player must be at a base of operations (agency headquarters or specific location within city) to switch classes. Once in mission your class is set, but you may swap to a different equipment loadout by visiting your drop-ship on the perimeter of the mission and accessing your inventory there.
TOG: A question about the Medic class specifically. Will they play like most MMORPG healer classes where you can heal your group members actively during combat or are they more of a post battle mender?
SC: Medics play a very active role in combat, these aren't doctors at some hospital off the frontlines. And you can play them either in a classic 'Healer' role, or in a 'Tormentor' role -- yielding poisons, bio rifles and the like.
TOG: As there is an economy, how does wealth play a role in the world? Both as an individual and as an Agency?
SC: Well, in any economy, wealth plays a role because those with more money have greater access to scarce resources. And that will be the case in Global Agenda as well. Beyond that, we haven't revealed a lot about our economy yet so I can't say much more.
(Editors note: As you will see in the response below, this series of questions was bundled together to help facilitate a single response)
TOG: Does the in game economy revolve around crafting and selling of items such as turrets and other defensive/offensive equipment? If so, are we then also equipping our enemies by partaking in open trade? Is there overlap between vendor (which I presume to be NPC) bought goods and that of play crafted goods? Or, are specific types of goods only available from one or the other? Such as, handheld weapons only being attainable via NPC vendors while turrets and robotic pets are only made available from PC crafters.
Is crafting going to be a simple A+B=C formula or can a player mix in a bunch of variables to the basic equation and customize the name, appearance, stats and so on of the final item?
TOG: Some recent news coming out seems to indicate that there will be regional servers for the game. Is everyone in a specific region required to play on servers for that region or will players be able to choose from others if they so wish?
SC: Barring any unforeseen legal constraints, players will be able to choose to play on another region's servers if they wish.
TOG: The Oceanic areas were not named specifically on the regional list that I saw. Will they to be on their own servers or will they get lumped in with U.S. servers?
SC: Our intention is to run a single shard per major geographic area (such as The Americas, Europe, Asia/Pacific), meaning you will have the opportunity to play directly with and against a much larger number of players than is typical of most MMO’s that divide their population by server.
We currently have live, running data centers in both North America (Atlanta) and Europe (London), and will constantly evaluate the right timing to invest in an Oceania/PacRim data center based on market demand and our success in North America and Europe. Having data centers in each major geographic area allows us to deliver the excellent performance and low ping times expected in a fast-paced action shooter.
That said, during our Alpha phase we’ve had a good number of players from Western and Central Europe, as well as some from Oceania, that have played the game solely off our Atlanta-based servers – and most reported that the game was quite playable even despite the geographic distance. So if players in Europe, for example, want to play with their North American agency mates, we see that as quite doable.
On a much more technical level: I do prefer to use the terminology “single shard” instead of “single server” installation – as, in the background, our architecture allows us to scale out to lots of different physical servers but maintain a single, seamless game universe for our players. So, you won’t see us stuck having to buy some crazy Cray supercomputer to run the game and support all of our users. Instead, we can scale out our infrastructure as we need to. However, this scaling out is seamless to our end users, who will not have to “pick a server” on character creation that then divides the population they can play with.
TOG: 45 day episodic campaigns. Can you please explain the principle of this and what
kind of game play it will bring to the players? I am assuming that this is where the Real Time Strategy crossover play of Global Agenda comes into play.
SC: We think our Campaign Play will be one of the most compelling parts of Global Agenda. These campaigns will definitely drive forward much of the drama inside the game. We've been a little tight lipped about exactly how these campaigns will unfold as we complete some testing. But expect a big splash over the summer as we announce much more of the details.
TOG: Agencies and Alliances. With the multiple styles of play and the larger world wide episodic content as described above, large guilds and/or alliances between guild/agencies seems like a must. Quick communication and the like will be important. What kind of interface and management tools are going to be available for agencies and alliances to use in game?
SC: You're absolutely right regarding the importance of quick communication across large groups and we're doing some neat stuff in this area, both in the game and on the web. As one example, we plan to have built in voice-chat to support Agency communication and coordination. We should be able to share additional features and specifics around the time we start talking more publicly about our Campaign System.
TOG: What one aspect of Global Agenda strikes you as being the most intriguing? If you were not part of the team and reading about it like the rest of us, what would make you say “oh, that is just cool!”?
SC: I know I'll just sound like a tease because I just got through telling you that I can't tell you much about it yet. But the Campaign game play is just very intense and awesome and I think people are really going to find this compelling.
TOG: Thank you for the time in answering these questions for us. It is appreciated.
SC: Thank you. These were all excellent in the questions. I'm sorry I wasn't able to fully answer all of them yet.
To learn even more about the game, I strongly encourage everyone to visit our ANSWER CENTER at http://www.globalagendagame.com/answercenter. We've compiled scores of the most commonly asked questions about the game there -- so this is a great resource to learn.
To stay in touch as we continue to release more information, you can subscribe to our blog at http://www.globalagendagame.com/news.html.
And, of course, if you haven’t registered for it yet – do it! http://www.globalagendagame.com/beta