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Interviews: Spying on The Agency at E3

By Carolyn Koh on July 17, 2008

Spying on The Agency at E3

At this time, The Agency needs little introduction.  It is a Secret Agent / Spy action-based MMORPG.  Lead Designer Hal Milton and Studio Manager Matt Wilson were on hand to talk about the game, and the game's key concepts were reiterated.  “You are what you wear.”  and “A Head shot is still a head shot.”

As I had seen the demos before, I chatted with Hal to see what other information I could get out of him.  He was excited about the current progress of the game, “We'll be in Alpha in summer and that means locking down the future set.  Of course completing Alpha means that we've met exit criteria of Alpha and we're ready for Beta.”

He could, however, speak more on the roles that he had let slip at the Press day held in May.  “You are what you wear.”  is how the roles are defined.  What this phrase really means is that in this game, you create a character, and the role you take is dependent on the outfit you wear.  Careers aren't about classes and skill trees.  Instead, its about outfits and roles.  James Bond didn't wear a wet-suit to a pool party or a speedo to penetrate an armed fortress, neither will you.  

There are three main roles available to you; Combat, Support and Stealth, as well as aliases, and each main role can be sub-divided into two separate specialties.  The Combat role is straightforward.  There's the Tactical Specialist that's your typical tank, able to absorb a great deal of damage, and the Weapons Specialist that has a variety of weapon skills and able to put out a lot of damage or specialized damage as necessary.

The Support Role has a Field Medic, again a pretty typical role, he is able to revive and heal; and the Field Technician which is a defensive role. The Technician is able to set custom check points (re-spawn points) and lay mines and set up field turrets for defensive fire, as well as do things like disable electrical or security systems.

The Stealth Role has Special Ops with the ability to sneak, cloak, pick locks, defuse explosives and take out point objects like a security camera without triggering the defense system.  The other role is Psy(chological) Ops, and is akin to your “mezzer” as he can manipulate AI (NPCs) and hack computer systems.

The Support and Stealth roles are not as clear-cut and defined as the Combat role, Hal revealed.  “Some skills are not set in stone yet.”  He said.  Depending on what the game play shows in Alpha, some skills like laying mines and defusing explosives may move from one role to another.  Of course, players do not have to play every role there is available.  A player could stick to a single role because that's the role he enjoys, but the others are always there for use as well.

“This head shot thing,” I asked, “How often is it going to happen?”  This is the one thing that players are going to totally hate.  I drew a parallel to the bane of spell casters, the spell fizzle.

“It's actually harder to make the AI less accurate and still be believable,” laughed Hal.  “A bullet to the head is still a bullet to the head.  It will happen.  It doesn't matter how good you are or what level you are.  So if you are on a mission and your Support member is setting a bomb, you might want to protect him!”

The higher level you get, the more lethal the AI becomes and Hal promises that it will challenge folks out there.  Not to worry, there will be gadgets and accessories that will help you be more effective in game.  A “rear view mirror” type skill gadget in game literally brings up a rear view mirror – like a camera attached to a weapon on head piece – that will show you a view of what's behind you.  Useful in PvP or solo missions, that's for sure.

A trailer made for E3 contained some new game footage and we were treated to our first sight of ParaGON headquarters, which had a burned out hulk of a helicopter as ceiling decoration, and a mechanical bull as a mini-game, compared to the pristine floors and Q*bert available at UNITE HQ.  We were also treated to the sight of an Operative by name of Roundup, riding that mechanical bull.

“A number of Operatives are actually interactive,” said Hal “and not just represented by a trading card.  Roundup is one of them.” To gain her as an Operative, a ParaGON player has to beat or impress Roundup enough on riding the mechanical bull.  That is, to have a high enough score on the mini-game.  “What's better is that she is actually a Social Operative,” said Hal with glee, enjoying the subtle humor, one that performs intelligence gathering assignments by interacting with NPCs.

By the way, all Agents perform Missions, I was told.  All Operatives perform Assignments.  A bit of intel to tuck away, I gather, from Hal's serious tone as he told me that he was a big stickler for language.  Intel gathering is The Agency's equivalent to collecting things that “might” become useful in a tradeskill sometime in other games.

Missions are the prime objective in this game and the missions have quite a bit of replay ability.  Every mission has a Primary and Secondary objective, and some have bonus objectives as well.  This allows the completion of a mission to be rated Bronze, Silver and Gold, and each carries its own rewards.  The missions we have seen have triggered Agency Moments, and attaining this moment is the only way to reach the Gold level.  The Moment doesn't hang about waiting for you, but only lasts ten seconds.

“The Agency Moment gives a huge bonus that might get you to Silver if you complete it, even if you've not made all your Mission objectives.” said Hal, “Besides which, it's a lot of fun to complete!”

So, that's The Agency this E3.  We get a little more information, we're shown a little more game content and game play and it looks better and better each time I see it.


Follow the link for more news, features, and information on The Agency

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn has been writing for 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.