The Agency is probably the game that we’ve heard the least about over the longest period of time. What I mean by that is that after it was announced in July of 2007, the developers made a small push to talk about the game and to let the media know what they were planning. Since then, information has become more and more difficult to come by as the devs went all but dark throughout most of 2008 and 2009. Fast forward to 2010 and they seem more than ready to talk about the game, with a playable PvP demo even popping up at this year’s E3. So now, it seems, is the time that we learn the most about SOE’s spy-based MMO.
At the recent SOE Fan Faire, Agency Producer Dan Myers and Lead Game Designer Rory McGuire talked a little bit about their approach to creating both a satisfying FPS experience and an MMO.
In the panel, the developers wanted to make it clear that they were dedicated to making a core entertaining FPS experience for their players. After all, if the FPS aspects of the game weren’t good, very few people were going to care about the traditional MMORPG elements that are mixed in.
They looked at some of the key aspects of an FPS that they wanted to hit:
First, the character’s weapons needed to not only look cool and powerful, but actually feel cool and powerful. Just shooting a weapon should be, in itself, a satisfying experience.
Next, they wanted to take into account the idea that the player is a hunter. This includes encouraging certain player skills: situational awareness, accuracy, and intelligence, for example. All of these are core ideas that an FPS needs to “nail” in order to be successful.
In creating The Agency, the developers looked at the original EverQuest for their inspiration on how to create an MMO. Specifically, they looked at EverQuest’s progression and their ability to throw players a “game changer” every few levels.
Game changers, which are a hallmark of many MMOs, are new abilities that are unlocked throughout progression that completely change the way that people play their characters. Maybe it’s a sorcerer who suddenly gains the ability to root enemies, or a warrior that gains a pushback ability. In either case, the way that a player uses his or her abilities from that point forward changes in a fundamental way. This is something that The Agency developers hope to have captured in their character progression scheme.
Then, you have the idea that over time, a number of things happen in an MMORPG that will be mirrored in The Agency:
- Stats increase
- Attributes scale
- Upgrades to existing abilities
The idea of roles, a core concept within an MMORPG, is also being carried over into The Agency. There are five fundamental roles in the game, two for each faction, and one that is shared between them.
As we have known since 2007, The Agency will make use of two distinct factions: Unite: the classic bond-style spy faction and Paragon: Your standard ass-kicking mercenary group.
The roles within each of the factions break down like this:
- Recon - The smartest man in the room.
- Technician - Victory through technology. Picture a kick-ass Q from Bond.
- Assault - The man kicking in your front door
- Suppressor - The guy who locks it down
- Commander - The commander keeps you in the fight
At the event, I also had a chance to sit down and get some hands-on play time with the game. Now, I want to be clear in the fact that this was a PvP match demo only, it did not speak to the game’s wider MMO elements or to the game’s PvE elements.
As an FPS player, I have to admit that The Agency’s experience is entertaining. The roles all feel different from one another and have their place on the battlefield, and the matches require more than a zerg mentality to win. The game’s cover system, which still needs some work, is entertaining and overall the game flows well.
I will, however, reserve any far reaching judgment until I get to experience more of the game’s potential in terms of PvE and other cooperative gameplay.