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Sandstorm Interview

By William Murphy on April 14, 2010 | Interviews | Comments

Sandstorm Interview

Global Agenda is going into its 3rd month of official release, and already you've put out two sizeable updates to the game. How about we start by talking a bit about the changes that have been made to the game since Open Beta, for those who haven't been following Global Agenda since launch?

Todd Harris:

Sure. I think we've been as busy post-launch as we were pre-launch. Some studios ramp down post-release. But strong sales have allowed us to keep our entire studio focused on enhancing Global Agenda, and we're actually continuing to add new developers.

With that team in place, we've been able to introduce 2 major updates in 2 months. Those updates introduced new PvP and AvA (Agency vs. Agency) game-types, seven new playable maps, runtime performance enhancements as well as a bunch of features. Just last week we introduced a Trial version of the game for those who want to sample it to level 15 for free.

And next on our plate is our first real major expansion called Sandstorm.


Version 1.3, Sandstorm, is the next big update and is being called the biggest milestone in the game's short existence. What is Sandstorm and for those who aren't up to speed, why is it such a big deal?

Todd Harris:

Well, we're often categorized as a hybrid between a third-person action game and an MMO. But with our next release we continue to grow in the MMO direction. Sandstorm takes our existing class-based action gameplay and extends many of the MMO aspects. We're increasing the character level cap, adding new player devices associated with that progression, adding device variation and more loot, enhancing the AvA territory gameplay, and introducing a few new areas called Open Zones that will each support a larger number of players and host mission content.

It is a very big expansion for us that involves new game features, new content development, and new server code to support a larger player count.

The decision to move the game a little closer to an Open World experience with 1.3 couldn't have been an easy one. What were the driving factors to take the game in this direction?

Todd Harris:

One main driving factor - feedback from our customers!

What we've heard is: the combat is fun and generally balanced and a nice alternative to the typical tab-targeting MMO, but more content is needed and there's a desire for some of that content to be in larger, open areas. Sandstorm is our response to that feedback.

It is great to be in a position where the core classes and combat are solid and we can incrementally add more content on top of that foundation.


Are the open zones a harbinger of the end to the more match-made content in Global Agenda, or are they more of a supplemental feature to help entice players to keep playing?

Todd Harris:

We'll continue to develop match-made content and Sandstorm does include some new match-made content. Players do enjoy the convenience, and we take pride in the fact that GA launched with the ability for a player to easily join instances that are match-made across server boundaries; Certain other large fantasy MMOs have recently evolved in that same direction.

So open zones do not replace match-made instanced content. Rather it is an alternate type of content - designed to establish a greater sense of place, host some solo missions, and support more ad-hock encounters between players.

These new zones that are coming with Sandstorm are more along the lines of what players of traditional MMORPGs might be used to correct? As such, are they only going to be available to subscribers and will the subscriptions finally begin with the launch of Sandstorm?

Todd Harris:

At Hi-Rez we really do intend to earn any subscription. To date we've felt that charging a subscription would be premature based upon the features and content we've delivered. But given the current scope of this first expansion we plan to implement subscriber options associated with the launch of Sandstorm. Sandstorm is a big investment for us and is also an enabler for lots of future expansion content that will continue to be free to subscribers.

As I understand, there's a lot of new items and gear coming to the game with Sandstorm as well. Could you tell us a bit about the Token System that is used to earn these new weapons and items?

Todd Harris:

Tokens are simply a secondary currency type within the game that players earn by playing and succeeding across different parts of the game. There are a maximum number of tokens that can be earned each day but these Tokens can be saved and eventually spent at a vendor for access to the new weapons and items we introduce.

How is the team making sure that the new additions don't sway the game too much into the realm of "gear means more than skill"? In a competitive shooter (or any game really), it's always such a hot topic.

Todd Harris:

Because our combat is based on shooter mechanics, experienced GA players will attest to the fact that success definitely depends upon player skill. With Sandstorm we add success based rewards that continue to expand the player's options. Our character advancement is still fundamentally more about variety and prestige rather than overwhelming power discrepancy.


What changes are coming to Conquest with 1.3, if any? Will the Open Zones factor in somehow?

Todd Harris:

AvA continues to be our main offering for pre-made groups who want to compete against other groups with persistent consequences. But in 1.3 we will be improving two key areas:

  1. 1. Better short-term goals and rewards associated with AvA.
  2. More flexibility for each individual player and agency group about how many hours and days they dedicate to AvA.

In general the community seems extremely excited about the changes coming with Sandstorm. If it is indeed received as well as you hope, can we expect more open zones in the future to go right along with the game's original match-made content?

Todd Harris:
Definitely. With Sandstorm players will be able to choose between open zone PvE, our raid style co-op PvE, matchmade PvP, arena style PvP, battlegound style PvP with larger number of players, and territory-based AvA. Once these game types are established players can expect additional content across all these areas in future expansions.
William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.
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