Global Agenda is fortunate to have a very active community around the game, including a boisterous forum base, some great fan sites (as listed on our official blog), pretty darn talented video makers, and a fantastic collection of agencies (our version of guilds) and agency leaders.
We find that our fans and beta testers often have the most insightful questions about the game. So this week, we invited one of our community fan sites, HexAgenda, to quiz Executive Producer Todd Harris on Player vs Environment (PvE) content inside Global Agenda. We hope to have future similar Q&A’s with other members of our fan community.
HexAgenda was one of the winners of our fan site contest earlier in the year. They are also technology innovators within the Global Agenda Community, launching such features as the Global Agenda Feed Aggregator, and the Global Agenda Dev Tracker. They are also leading the pack in helping us test the Global Agenda Stats API, which will allow fan sites, guild sites and other interested parties to develop custom applications from Global Agenda data.
In discussing PvE inside Global Agenda, HexAgenda focused on how PvE and PvP interplay inside Global Agenda, and how Hi-Rez intends to keep the content engaging over the long haul.
PvE Q&A with HexAgenda
1. Many MMOs are considered to focus more heavily on either PvP or PvE, with the other element being somewhat of a supplement to whichever takes center stage. What role do you see PvE playing in Global Agenda, which clearly has a strong PvP component? How extensive a role do you envision that being?
With Global Agenda, our 'center stage' focus has always been the AvA Campaign - the massive, persistent world conflict between player-driven groups over territory and resources. So, we really intend for the Campaign to provide the overall game context and then allow players to contribute to the Campaign and level up their own agent character via either PvP or PvE as they choose.
From a balance perspective we started with PvP for combat, classes, and devices. Once that felt fun and balanced we introduced PvE enemies and missions that were compatible and balanced against the core player gear and abilities. In this way we can continue to develop additional PvE enemies and content and give PvE a very rich role without watering down the PvP one bit.
2. Hi-Rez has stated that the goal for the game is to be "a minute to learn, a lifetime to master." How might this play into the design of the PvE side of the game?
One simple example is our implementation of tiered difficulty levels for PvE missions. So, when my team is playing the Rookie level difficulty we are facing NPCs that are fairly basic in their behavior and have relatively low levels of health and damage output. At the harder difficulties the bots do scale up in their stats, but we also introduce entirely new enemy types now protecting that same mission location. So, instead of just facing Commonwealth androids I might now be dealing with an Elite Assassin coming out of the shadows or a Hunter that targets and relentlessly pursues one specific member of my team.
3. How extensively do you plan to tie in a continuous storyline to the PvE (and possibly even PvP?) portion of the game? Should we expect something along the lines of Guild Wars' campaign-long story arcs, or instead something closer to the free-form universe of EVE Online?
Global Agenda definitely presents a free-form universe closer to Eve Online rather than a scripted story arc, but at the same time we plan to provide narration around key world events and happenings. So, our continuous story-line is based upon the major in-game actions of players and player groups. Basically we intend to deliver an audio newscast summarizing the major conflicts and accomplishments across the persistent world
4. A common complaint among players of PvE content in many games is that the available content inevitably becomes boring since players can experience content far faster than developers can produce more interesting content to be experienced. What plans might Hi-Rez have to tackle this issue in Global Agenda and keep the content fun and interesting in the long term?
Well there is no escaping the fact that it does take a lot longer for us to develop new content than it takes players to go thru that content!
There’s really no silver-bullet solution, but we do have plans and tools that help with this challenge. First we have developed a fairly efficient PvE production pipeline thanks to our experience with the Unreal 3 engine and some additional homegrown tools. So, we can actually produce PvE content fairly quickly.
But, ultimately we are going for quality over quantity and that involves designing our mission spaces to have a high degree of replay-ability. A single environment supports multiple difficulty levels as we discussed earlier. And, even within the same difficulty level, the missions also have a degree of randomness in terms of which enemies spawn and even the distribution of cover objects. So you can revisit the same mission location multiple times and have very different experiences.
Finally, another defense against boredom comes with the nature of our shooter oriented combat. You really cannot auto-macro your way thru our combat since you have to target the reticule on your enemies and move your character to avoid enemy fire. You will be quite active in mission regardless of what class you are playing and this tends to keep our PvE very engaging rather than feeling like a grind.
5. What would you consider one of the "coolest" aspects you've implemented so far for Global Agenda's PvE?
We have a bunch of cool new NPCs and encounters planned; but of the content currently playable in Beta I really like the Scanner. This hovering droid patrols Commonwealth areas and casts a rotating detection beam that players need to avoid or risk the Scanner calling in a wave of reinforcements. It is a cool mechanic and one that reinforces how our PvE involves managing environment aspects like cover in addition to the enemy bots themselves.
In terms of systems, we are also getting positive early feedback on the PvE auto-grouping support we recently added. Our PvE is built for 4-man squads and players can certainly pre-form their entire team, or use chat or Agent Search functionality to LFG. However, solo players and partial teams now have the option of selecting the mission type they are interested in and then be automatically matched with other PvE players. Grouping for PvE can be a hassle in some games and auto-grouping helps players find one another and quickly get into the action.