A Minute To Learn, A Lifetime To Master
Todd Harris, Executive Producer
In early 2005, when we first opened the doors of Hi-Rez Studios, we were asked to describe our team's philosophy in making games. Our answer was "a minute to learn, a lifetime to master".
Erez (our company founder & Lead Designer) and I grew up in the coin-op arcade era, where if the game did not grab your attention and give you a taste of victory within the first 5 minutes it wouldn't earn another quarter from you. Yet the best games also managed to engage & challenge the best players for hours, and sometimes on that same quarter!
Easy to learn, hard to master seems like a great, common-sense approach, yet it is not uncommon for titles to take a seemingly opposite approach - overly complicated/confusing/difficult from the start; or not remaining fun/interesting/meaningful over time. With Global Agenda our intent is to offer multiple 'tiers' of game-play such that players can engage and master each of those at their own pace. Particular players may progress at different speeds based on their prior gaming experience and player skill but the game should remain challenging and engaging for a very long time.
Specifically, the major tiers of gameplay within GA include:
1. Action/Shooter mechanics and reflexes
3. Team Tactics and Cooperation - Per Mission Instance
4. Domination Strategy & Coordination - Per Alliance vs. Alliance Campaign
Each of these could actually be subdivided in more detail but the general point is that each tier builds upon the one before it.
When first starting out, a player has a limited number of devices so he/she can become familiar with the basic WASD+mouse, jumping, crouching, grappling & jetpacking involved with player control in Global Agenda. Players that come from FPS/action backgrounds will master this tier quickly; and those players that have high situational awareness and learn the specific map layouts will likely progress even faster. But for those players coming from more traditional fantasy MMOs that do not play FPS games there will be some new player skills to learn and master.
As players accumulate new skills and devices for their character, they make a different set of decisions quite independent from their twitch skills or map-knowledge. Some of these decisions are made at skill-point allocation time, some are made at mission equip time, while others are within the middle of fast-paced combat. We have the concept of different attack types (melee, aoe, range) and different damage types (physical, fire, poison, & energy) per device. And we have various passive and active protections against those different attack types and damage types. So, this layer adds the 'stats' element to the core action element. My devices matter; but it also matters what devices my enemy has and which he is wielding at that moment. And, this is the layer of gameplay that is more familiar to traditional MMORPG players ("I designed the leet build... take a look"); but may be less familiar to some action/FPS players.
3. Team Tactics & Coordination - Per Mission Instance
Our intent is for team-work to make a huge difference within mission, and with more variety and role options than just the traditional Tank+DPS+Healer combo. Indeed, the value of teamwork is consistently demonstrated within our playtest sessions where we see coordinated teams beating a collection of high-scoring individuals. The distinct roles of our classes, map layouts, and gameplay mechanics such as the HERMES teleport beacon, are designed to reward teams that are coordinated.
4. Strategy - Per Alliance vs. Alliance Campaign
Finally, with Alliance v. Alliance conflict, we provide a territory-oriented Campaign that is winnable in the way a sports season is winnable. A more strategic set of decisions are introduced at this tier in terms of which other organizations to ally with, which to target, how to allocate resources, and how to best construct and defend your own facilities toward dominating a region or accomplishing other agency goals.
So, how are we doing with these goals?
- Well, our dev team has been playing the game every single day for three years and things haven't gotten stale yet! It is always bittersweet when we have to stop playing Global Agenda in order to keep developing Global Agenda and that is a good sign.
- Also, for months we have playing alongside our 1000ish Alpha users. We have not yet exposed the Campaign to Alpha but the community has been very enthusiastic about tiers #1, #2, and #3 based on their experience to date. Thanks to this active, passionate Alpha community we feel very good about these elements.
- For us, the next step is rolling out the Campaign and group vs. group territory control elements with a larger test community. That will happen sometime within our Closed Beta phase which we are fast approaching. We're very excited about the potential and invite interested others to join us!