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ION Look at The Agency

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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ION Look at The Agency

MMORPG.com's Carolyn Koh recently attended an Open House for Sony Online Entertainment's Seattle offices where they are busily building the spy-based MMORPG, The Agency. Today, Koh brings us up-to-date on the game, its rating and more.

SoE took advantage of the 2008 ION Games Conference this year and had a media open house for The Agency at their Seattle offices.  The Open House started at 7:00pm and the last panel ended at 6:00pm, so a few of us hoped that there would be food.  There was.  Food, drink and a couple of booth babes, representing the U.N.I.T.E. and ParaGon agents.  I looked around for burly Duncan but was doomed to disappointment.  The presentation though, was no disappointment despite their showing the same trailer from CES 08. 

Media and friends were treated to a display of the concept art of The Agency, a small tour of the studio, many artists and devs to speak to, many whom sported a temporary ParaGon tattoo for the night and of course, the presentation by Lead Designer, Hal Milton. The Agency is a fast action spy thriller game in a world of espionage and intrigue.  A world where spies and operatives are ubiquitous and their covers and fronts, merely a nod to tradition.  Two factions oppose each other in friendly competition, and faction selection is a stylistic choice.  “The U.N.I.T.E. agent is your suave, sophisticated James Bond type, while your typical ParaGon agent is less Grey Goose, more Jack Daniels.” Said Hal as he ran us through the character creation screen. We saw a bit of a concept build earlier, where a female agent put on an alias – a slinky little black number and flirted her way past the bouncer into a night club with pole dancers.  “This is probably going to be an M rated game,” quipped John Smedley to the laughter of his audience.  The art is unabashedly “beautiful people.”  At character creation, players do not have the ability to customize facial features but may select faces, hair, body types and height in keeping with the themed “look” created for The Agency - It’s unashamedly T and A and big guns.

Clothes make the man and in The Agency, this is very true.  Outfits are associated with roles and players change roles by changing outfits.  After all, you couldn’t jolly well “stealth” your way into a party wearing body armor and packing an Uzi.  You’re more likely to be able to do it wearing party clothes and concealing a gun on your body. There are three basic roles in game that you can play: Combat:   

The Tactical Specialist is your basic tank.  Good defense.  Able to take a few hits. The Weapons Specialist needs little further description. Stealth: Special Ops will have better offensive abilities such as defusing bombs and cracking safes. Psy Ops have the ability to reduce AI effectiveness and has good manipulation and hacking skills.  “These are not the droids you seek.” Support: The Field Medic will be able to get a wounded or disabled party back on their feet and into action with a quick jab. The Field Tech handles defenses, such as laying mines, repairing armor in the field and drop turrets. Operatives are “living loot” and operate behind the scenes as well as infield.  They all have their own personalities and may go off on little side jaunts and be unavailable to you at critical times.  Operatives also gain xp and levels as you use them.  They extend the story, as they can go everywhere you can’t.  Operatives can be sent on intelligence missions and you can lose them if they get captured or killed.  Hal warned that they can be duds.

“If you have a demolitions expert nicknamed Butterfingers, I wouldn’t be too confident about his abilities.  However, there may be missions which are suicide missions and you won’t want to send your best operative, but in order to advance in this mission and open up others, you have to send a sacrificial lamb.  Now’s the time to use Butterfingers. Operatives have all the same roles as players do, with an additional Social role.  This role is basically used for intelligence gathering.  Where they make friends and influence people.  They go where you can’t and if successful, they report back to you.  If unsuccessful, you may find them missing or perhaps in the harbor with concrete shoes.  You may even receive a ransom note for them.  Now you have to decide whether to let them live or die.

The final number of operatives a player can have on his roster has not been determined as yet, but numbers of 50 to 100 have been tossed around.  In reference to Operative personalities, they will have advantages and disadvantages, akin to the old RPG system of Pros and Cons.  For example, your best infield operative that you want to deploy on a mission may be deathly afraid of rats and you have to go through an underground tunnel.  He or she may well balk and refuse to go, or get distracted so badly, he cannot properly assist you.  One operative may also refuse to work with another, or two could hook up and take off for a week together. To start, a pool of 500 different operatives that a player could potentially obtain will be available.  Some may only work for one faction and not the other, and they are also uniques who may join you on a temporary basis – perhaps for a mission or two, then they will fade back into the woodwork. The Agency will also have PvP play and this is strictly consensual, and is accessed via a lobby in game. “This is Lord of the Flies,” Hal quipped. “And the Devs’ jobs are to keep Piggy from getting his head bashed in with a rock.” Players may elect to go into casual PvP space and play against friends and rivals, or joined ranked matches where players are evenly matched.  Just remember.  No matter how high or skilled you are, a headshot is still a headshot.  Bang.  Dead. So that’s the new information on the Agency, and it was back to partying and my getting people to lick the big ice sculpture of a gun.  That’s Art Director Cory Dangel.


Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.