Absorbing damage while wielding heavy weapons like rocket launchers and miniguns, Global Agenda's Assault class players will be large and in charge on Global Agenda's battlefields when Hi-Rez's premier MMO shooter launches next year. But a host of interesting devices, off-hand weapons, and shielding technology extend this class far beyond its Rambo-esque overtones.
Executive Producer Todd Harris, who was kind enough to introduce us to Global Agenda's Recon class in October, continues our class Q&A series with part 2 - a look at Global Agenda's Assault class.
Ten Ton Hammer: It seems like the assault class fills the gaps between the classes - assaults can anchor an attack, they can draw fire away from more fragile teammates,and they have the ammo capacity, firepower, and durability to pin down enemies and hold objectives on defense. Is that an accurate assessment?
Todd Harris, Executive Producer: I would say it's accurate that he's flexible and can cover the gaps. But I'd also categorize the assault class as being all about damage - whether dishing it out or soaking it up. Recon really excels at concentrated offense (against a single target or location, typically using surprise). But the assault class is typically the class that is doing the most damage overall, and over a broad area using a lot of area of effect weapons. They're all about damage.
Ten Ton Hammer: We've seen assaults carrying rocket launchers, grenade launchers, miniguns, and various melee weapons as well. In other games, this class packs a punch but burns through ammo quickly. What kind of ammo considerations does an assault class have in Global Agenda?
Todd: All the weapons in Global Agenda draw off of the common power pool mechanic rather than using ammunition. Being that assaults are all about damage, they really do have to carefully manage their power pool to make sure they're not caught in the wrong spot at the wrong time with low power. That's something that players can spec (using the talent trees) to have either higher maximum power or faster recharge or have particular weapons draw less power. All of those are popular choices for assault players.
Ten Ton Hammer: What options does an assault class have at melee?
They wield basically a futuristic battle axe that also has the ability to set opponents on fire. So as compared to Recon, which has the more precision instrument of the katana, Assaults are definitely more brute force.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there chaining with the fire damage in melee?
Todd: No, not at this time, it's strictly single damage. There's no contagion or chaining of the fire right now. But in general, as far as characterizing the class, Assault is always very much in the middle of the action. Not many characters can survive long under direct fire, but the Assault players typically thrive on being in the middle of everything.
Ten Ton Hammer: Another popular motif with big guys wielding big weapons is the ability to catch several enemies with one swing. Is that something that's a part of the class as well?
Todd: Not as much with melee, but with the primary and off-hand weapons they're able to deal out damage to more than one player at a time, moreso than any other class.
Ten Ton Hammer: At first look, the Assault class seems pretty straightforward. How were you able to mix up the talent tree options of this class?
Todd: At the highest level, you're basically going for a tank build to soak up the damage versus an explosive build to deal out damage. Those are the two names of the class-specific trees, and then there's a balanced tree as well. You can go extreme down either of those trees or go more hybrid. The talents combined with devices really do let you spec a number of different ways. For those familiar with Team Fortress 2, you could basically spec our assault class similar to a demoman (using grenades and sticky grenades), or a soldier (using a rocket launcher), or a Heavy (using a minigun). But you could even go more exaggerated - our tank would be much more of a tank than a heavy, and you could also come up with hybrid builds.
Ten Ton Hammer: You bring up Team Fortress 2, and the TV spot highlighting the Assault class definitely bring to mind TF2. Would you say that the Heavy, the Demoman, and the Soldier were really the touchstones for the Assault class?
Todd: I would say that the explosive nature of the combat was definitely an inspiration. We're trying to allow the players to exaggerate these archetypes more, come up with more hybrids, and also we added devices which really allow players to do a lot more. Unlike Team Fortress 2, we have a selection of instant offhand abilities. A couple of my favorite ones for the Assault class would be spider grenades (which deploy into swarms of spiders which chase down opponents) and concussion grenades (used to knock opponents off of the control point, off of a high tower, or away from a turret). These are just a handful of the offhands that are only available to the Assault class. So yes, the TF2 characters were initial inspiration and then we think we've expanded player options quite a bit.
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Big without being scary, the female Assault model (right) is attractively Amazonian.
Ten Ton Hammer: We saw the female class models for the first time at PAX. The silhouette of the Assault class model is pretty huge, so was it challenging to create a female Assault model that wasn't... scary?
Todd: Assault characters are larger than the other classes, and we did make males and females the same size - it is a PvP game, and we know that players will optimize for smaller hitboxes if they can. It is true that the females are large, but the suits are definitely attractive. As far as how scary and intimidating they are, it's really up to the player as far as face customization, hair customization, and what they do with suits and dyes. But the basic suit is pretty attractive.
I do have to admit, though, that one of our level designers, John, created a female face that is quite scary. And when she walks through the city, our playtesters scream and run the other way. On the other hand, my Assault female is drop dead gorgeous.
Ten Ton Hammer: It's good to know we'll have some scary female Assault options come next Halloween. (laughter) So talking a little bit about how the Assault class soaks up damage, what are the different ways an Assault class can improve their ability to take a punch?
Todd: With the talent tree system, it's really how you improve your ability to soak up damage by increasing your resistance to different damage types. Like all the classes, there's an aesthetic choice you can make with the suit - it's purely visual. As you accomplish things in game, we use a combination of the achievements system to unlock the ability to purchase things like suits from the vendors, so that suits are a visible indication of your prowess. But they don't have stats. Stats from the devices you equip, the allocation of skills into the talent trees, and also upgrades (which are persistent buffs you loot and can apply to your character). So the Assault class has a lot of abilities packed into their talent trees to increase resistance and make choices about whether they want to be more resistant to, say, melee or ranged or area-of-effect, and specialize their damage absorption that way.
Despite appearances, the Assault class is much more than a minigun meatshield.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do Assault class players have any kind of ability to shield themselves? What other kinds of clickable abilities do Assault class players have?
Todd: They can shield themselves, it's device-based, which is how we do our weapons and abilities, basically, we boil all that down into equippable devices that are unlocked and equipped per mission. Being large and in the middle of the action, they do make big targets. All classes have an out-of-combat self-heal, but that's really typically used more in PvE since, in PvP, if you're caught using it in the wrong place, you're toast.
But Assaults definitely have the most personal shielding technology available. Again, I could choose to equip a shield to protect against ranged damage or another to protect against AoE. We even have another shield called "Perfect Target" that makes me immune to damage for a little while - it's a bubble mechanic where I can't use other devices, but I'm drawing aggro and I can move immune for a little while. So they definitely have a majority of the shielding tech.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do all or most of these shields move with you, or are they deployed in a static location?
Todd: It's essentially moving with you. Robotics has a forcefield that they use to protect an area while they're setting up a turret or medical crate, for instance. But Assault has a personal shield that moves with the character.
Ten Ton Hammer: Speaking of movement, do Assaults move slower than other classes? Does using your jetpack take a greater chunk out of your power pool than it might for other classes?
Todd: They do move slower than other classes by default and, by the way, Recon is a little quicker. They don't use a lot more power when they jet around, but many of their weapons draw more power. One of the things we balance for is the amount of damage per power unit used, and the Assault weapons do a lot of damage. So, again, Assault players really have to manage their power pools carefully.
Ten Ton Hammer: That being the case, this is a class that initially looks pretty easy and straightforward to play, but when you get into power management, you really need to be smart and pace yourself as you jump into the fray.
Todd: Definitely, it makes the first impression of being somewhat of a lumbering brute, but there's definitely a lot of player skill involved, and we see major differences between veteran Assault players and new ones. The first key is just having the player motivation to be in the middle of the action, whether that's being the first to charge at the control point in PvP or facing off against a giant robot in PvE. But beyond that basic tactic, being able to protect your medic or drawing and maintaining aggro in PvE, pacing your power consumption and making sure you take time to recover - there's a number of tactics that an experienced Assault player will employ.
Ten Ton Hammer: What are the more creative and effective tactics you've seen with the Assault class?
Several playstyles are viable for smart Assault players.
Todd: One of our artists, Rick, plays with the rocket launcher. He stays quite far from the point, but he manages to have a decent win percentage, so he's doing something right. If you can withstand all of your teammates yelling at you to get on the point, it might be an interesting way to play. (laughter) Also, they can be very effective at taking out turrets through a combination of their shields, but it's pretty tricky since you often have turrets covering other turrets covering players. But through their combination of heavy weaponry, shielding technology, and carefully managing their power pool, they can often approach turrets from a very deliberate direction. That's the opposite of just rushing on point and standing there and turning 360 clearing out opponents, which is also a valid playstyle. You've got to be really deliberate in your path towards the turret, time your shield use, watch your power use, and then you can take out turrets and make way for a different class to get on point. So that's a little bit outside convention but it's proved effective.
Ten Ton Hammer: We've talked about natural pairings between the Global Agenda classes, and obviously the medic augments Assault's capabilities. Apart from just pumping health into the Assault, are there other kinds of interactions going on there?
Todd: There are other options there. The Medic can choose to focus all their healing on the Assault and rely on the Assault to cover him or her. Or the Medic can take a bio-feedback gun, which has a right click option to heal the medic but isn't as powerful at healing in general. So if the Medic isn't feeling all that reliant on their partner, that's an option. There are other options where the Medic can actually buff the Assault's damage instead of healing, too. So those are a few variations on the pairing?
Ten Ton Hammer: Cool, thanks for giving us some insight into the Assault class. It's actually a much deeper class than I thought it would be.
Todd: Yea, it's a lot of fun to play. It's the one I recommend for beginners, but there's people that have started with it and have stuck with it because you can do a lot of different things. Especially in PvE - just dealing out the AoE damage and watching the android enemy fodder go flying just never gets old.
Ten Ton Hammer thanks Todd Harris and the Global Agenda team for this look at the Assault class. Come back next week for a look at the Medic class!
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