At a recently held preview event for Ghost Recon Breakpoint, I was able to sit down with Creative Director Eric Couzian and pick his brain on some of the gameplay design behind Breakpoint. Eric provided details on level scaling, gear progression, crafting, map size, and cross-play. And of course, I asked him about monetization and microtransactions.
This is Part One of our Ghost Recon Breakpoint coverage. Check back later in the day for my full impressions on Solo, Co-Op, PvP, and my overall thoughts on the game.
MMORPG: How would the level scaling in co-op work exactly? Say that my friend is Level 50 and I'm Level 10, how would that work if he hosted the game? Would I scale to him? It's kind of a dynamic world, so how would that work.
Eric: Actually it works like in [Ghost Recon] Wildlands. What we want is that the players are never split. Usually when you play in co-op with friends, if you play for one week and I don't play, then we cannot play together because of various levels of progression. Since Wildlands, this is something that we wanted to fix. So you can select four different levels of difficulty. You can choose one, I can choose one, and the enemies will have different levels of difficulty in the same session for you and for me.
MMORPG: So how would that work if we were both shooting the same guy?
Eric: If he targets you -- imagine you're playing at a high level of difficulty -- if he shoots at you, it's going to be very hard. And if he targets me, then he's going to be easier with me.
MMORPG: So you're dynamically scaling the AI depending on who they're targeting?
Eric: Yeah, exactly. It already works like this in Wildlands which allows a father and son to play together if they want to, or if you had different levels of progression, or even a friend who's not as good as you are.
MMORPG: That actually makes a lot of sense. Loot -- so I noticed I got some green items. Is that the same RPG loot -- white, green, blue, purple, gold -- is it the same tiers?
Eric: Actually there are variations between the gear. But there is something that is very important, a small way to show that there are weapons, that there are more values than others. You have to remember the game is a skill based game. So even if there are many different types of stats in the game -- for regular stats for weapons, regular stats for stamina, for your mobility stats, all your stealth stats because you can be more or less detected by enemies -- it remains a tactical shooter in the end in which one bullet kills. So even if you have these systems, it's more a way to engage the players in exploring the world, getting rewards, but remaining a natural action-packed and tactical game.
MMORPG: So do you just find higher-tiered colored loot as you become a higher level? Or are there only certain scenarios where you can get highest colored loot?
Eric: Actually you can always find better loot. But one thing that is important is that once you find weapons that you like, you can improve them. We don't want players to be able to be forced to change their play style. So it's a quite new system, it's not a regular system. If you like to play as a sniper, once you get your sniper rifle, you will be able to upgrade this sniper rifle so that you can always keep your sniper rifle.
MMORPG: So theoretically if I like a sniper, I can keep it for 10 levels and just upgrade it. How does the weapon upgrade system work? Can I craft my own upgrades, or do I just find scopes, barrels, and all those attachments?
Eric: It's the traditional feature in Ghost Recon called the Gunsmith. You can customize, change the barrels, change the magazines as you find pieces in the world. And you can find blueprints which allow you to upgrade the weapon.
MMORPG: Can I craft in the field, or do I have to go to a hub?
Eric: [You have to go to a] specialist. For instance, you have in the world -- there is one big place with a community with a faction. This is a very good place to manage all your equipment as well to customize your weapons.
MMORPG: How big is the map size? I know in Wildlands, it was a real country. But Auroa is a fictitious place. So how does the map size compare in relation to Bolivia?
Eric: It's quite the same physical size. Here it's different because it's made of various different biomes. There are jungles, there are deserts, there are snowy peaks -- a lot of various environments which has consequences on your tactical approaches. That's why we have chosen to have a fictional place because it was easier for us to create region by region different topologies that really impact your tactical choices.
MMORPG: That makes sense because I spent the last hour just exploring the mountains and then going back down to the coast. I wanted to get a good variety of the type of biomes. Are there any plans right now for cross-play between PC and console, or between consoles PS4 and Xbox?
Eric: We have big plans for post-launch. So there will be plenty of Episodes, a new Class, everything. Of all the subjects, this one, cross-play, is part of them. So you will get news later on this.
MMORPG: Are you able to say right now if it's cross-play between PC and console?
Eric: Not for the moment.
MMORPG: But [the news] is coming?
Eric: We will have information later.
MMORPG: This winter?
Eric: We don't know yet. (smiles)
MMORPG: Ok, I had to ask! (laughs) Are you able to talk about the economy at all in terms of -- because this is a live-service game, and right now one of the models is you release the game and have a cosmetic microtransaction store. Are there any plans to have that at launch? Post-launch? What are your plans for that, if any?
Eric: Have you play Wildlands?
MMORPG: I played Wildlands at launch for the first couple of months. I meant to get back in when the Sam Fisher [DLC] came out.
Eric: We plan to have quite the same structure to Wildlands. One thing for sure, all the cosmetic things you will get have no impact gameplay. It's really about your skill and all your tactical approaches. You will have Episodes, which means that during the year, you will be able to play Episodes and we have two Episodes already designed.
We will be able to bring new Classes, new Raids, new Weapons, new Gear exactly like we did on Wildlands. But this time, it's all part of the strategy. On Wildlands, it was more improvised. Here, even the story was designed and written with this mind so that we can expand the universe of the world, the logical consistency.
MMORPG: Just a follow-up. So is my understanding correct -- the microtransactions are going to be cosmetic only?
Eric: Yeah, like on Wildlands.
MMORPG: So a similar implementation to Wildlands. Thank you very much [for your time], I appreciate it.
Eric: Thank you.
Full Disclosure: Travel and accommodations were paid for by Ubisoft.