Dan Myers is the Community Relations Manager for the Matrix Online. This move tie-in MMORPG was aquired by Sony last year after a less than spectacular launch. Now that it has had some time to get its feet under it, we thought it good to catch up with the folks behind the game and see how it is coming along.
How has The Matrix Online been performing in the current expanding MMORPG market?
Anyone who tells you they wouldn’t like more subscribers is lying. However, we are fortunate in that The Matrix Online is one of the few nontraditional MMOs on the market. Ever since we launched, we have most often been compared to City of Heroes, and we’re not really doing the same thing.
Between the fact that we deliver on continuing the experience of The Matrix movies and the style/interactive nature of our combat system and the unique setting of our game – we’re still in a class all our own. It doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. So we’re going into our first anniversary without a direct competitor, which is nice.
Recently you issued an apology over a mass suspension of accounts due to a “policy [that] was not clearly stated to players”. Can you explain what happened and the ultimate resolution on your end?
Yeah, that was an unfortunate convergence of events—several different things happened at the same time.
In The Matrix Online, there is a Discipline called Data Miner, which allows players to find hidden Data Nodes and tap them for $Information and experience points. We received reports that some of these nodes didn’t ever seem to disappear, which would be an exploitable bug. We were in the midst of investigating this, but hadn’t made it a high priority as these nodes move around with each server restart.
Now, at the same time, some players had made a game out of hunting these nodes down for “eradication”. This generally turned into a little party where players hung out, macro’ing the Data Mining functions and chatting with other players.
Unfortunately, while there’s not a rule against using a macro to tap nodes, there is a rule against automating a function that gains you currency or XP in Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) games, in general. During the investigation of these broken nodes, the CS team came across a group of players who were apparently running data mining macros in absentia, which resulted in having their accounts suspended.
Our team had told players that it was okay to macro the data mining commands, as data nodes are supposed to disappear after a few taps. However, the combination of these broken nodes and some internal miscommunication resulted in players getting suspended for doing something they thought was okay.
After we figured out exactly what had happened, the players’ accounts were reactivated, although those who had been “AFK” (away from keyboard) mining lost the $Info they had gained from that activity that was in their characters’ accounts.
Where is the story-line of the game going for players, are there any ultimate goals?
The current storyline hasn’t coalesced into anything easily explainable, yet. Several new characters have been introduced—Cryptos, the General, and another character we haven’t named outright yet (although players have their assumptions)—and what their roles are is still being defined. Cryptos seems to be preaching the Cypherite line—that all redpills should return to their dreamlike bluepill existence. The General, who many assume is a bad guy, is suddenly lending his commando troops to Niobe. The plot is going to take some twists, turns, and the occasional nosedive in the coming months.
As for an ultimate goal? Well, the team’s ultimate goal is to continue providing an interesting and involving storyline on an episodic basis. It’s still more art than science, but things get better with every iteration. If there’s a storyline ultimate goal, it’s safely locked away inside Paul Chadwick’s head.
Live Events are a growing part of MMORPGs. What events do you offer to players in a live format?
Our designers spend time each week in-game meeting with players as storyline characters. Players enjoy impromptu appearances and we love their reactions.
We opened the Live Events Special Interest Group (LESIG) at the end of 2005. Players now can not only provide feedback on our in-game events but help us with implementing them, as well. The LESIG players have taken that bull by the horns and are now regular participants in our designers’designers’ appearances.
We’re also in regular contact with the folks running events in other SOE games. While we haven’t actually run events with them in MxO yet, we’re hoping to use them sometime in the future.
In the Matrix movies and in the game the combination between ranged combat and hand-to hand combat remains fast paced and exciting. How can characters build and customize these two ability sets?
Once we release Combat Revision 2.0, there will be two critical factors in developing any Disciplines: Stats and Abilities.
Player Stats (Belief, Vitality, Focus, Perception, and Reason) will have specific Influences associated with them. Influences are bonuses that apply to Ability Attributes, such as Ballistic Damage, Melee Accuracy, and Force Combat. The Stats you increase when you level will determine what type of character you have. For example, one Martial Artist may have high Melee Damage and Ballistic Accuracy (Focus), but maybe low Melee Accuracy and Resistance (Belief). A character with the same skills may have completely different strengths and weaknesses based on Stat scores.
Abilities define exactly what you can do in combat. Both the Martial Artist (MA) and Ranged branches of the Operative tree split into subcategories. As an MA, you can specialize in Karate, Kung Fu, or Aikido. For Ranged combat, you can choose Pistols, Rifles, or SMGs (Submachine Guns). (Farther down you can go Dual Pistol or Dual SMG, as well.)
The great thing about our Discipline system is that you’re never locked into a single “class”. If you want to switch between hand-to-hand and ranged, just go to the nearest hardline and swap out your Ability codes. The only limit is how much memory capacity you have, which is based on level. That means high-level characters can load up multiple branches if they want.
Can you talk a little about the Hacker and Viral Program skill sets that characters have access too.
The easiest way to define Hackers in MMO terms is to call them the Matrix version of wizards. Their Abilities manipulate code to spectacular effect; causing damage, healing, stunning, buffing, and debuffing. Their Interlock combat capabilities suffer as a result, but you sure don’t want to get caught in the wake of a Devastation Field.
There are a large number of attributes for a player to build. Will characters be able to gain more abilities in this way?
The reconfigurable Ability system is one of the strongest aspects of The Matrix Online. Never being locked into a role and always having something to develop is a nice change from most MMOs. Along with the new emphasis on choosing Stats to increase while leveling makes characters more individual and customizable.
Our designers are always thinking of new ways to add Abilities into the game and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.