behind SOE's upcoming spy title, The Agency, was in full force at this
year's annual Fan Faire event. I'm glad I was able to attend one of the
team's panel discussions before a nasty bug took me out for the rest of
my Vegas trip. Matt Wilson, Creative Director for The Agency, is a
force to be reckoned with in person. He's a ball of energy and
obviously full of passion for the project, so it made for an
One of the core principles of The Agency is the concept of "Fun now -
no waiting." It may sound like yet another platitude spewed forth from
the mouths of marketing gurus around the world, but from what I saw, it
was obvious the team meant it. Every system in the game should be easy
to access, easy to understand, etc. That doesn't mean players won't
have to wait for some things at different points in time, but it does
mean the team tries to eliminate the standard "hurry up and wait"
mentality we've all had to deal with in MMOG's for years.
Part of this comes into play when talking about the world. Prague and
Kiev may be interesting places to explore, but if you have to travel
between the two of them, do you want to spend your time walking, or
hopping on a jet and get there in style? Would James Bond put on his
jogging shoes and run the distance? Of course not! Not only would that
make for an unbelievably boring movie, but the same can be said for
gameplay. The team members at the SOE Seattle studio seem sincere in
their commitment to make you *feel* like a super spy.
One of the more interesting things that came up during the panel was
the discussion about finding a balance between realism and fun. For
example, if you have traveled to Prague before and then saw it within
The Agency, you'd still feel like you recognize the city. Landmarks,
architecture, and other aspects of the city would feel familiar to you.
That flower vendor you saw on the corner during your trip may be there,
but now he might also be a contact that will show you where the secret
entrance to an enemy base may be. Is that gentleman sitting across from
you actually reading that newspaper, or is he taking pictures of you
with a micro camera? So while the setting itself will be familiar, you
can never quite be sure of what's going on around you.
create a character, you'll need to decide which of two spy factions you
want to belong to: Paragon or United. Paragon is full of down and dirty
mercenary types. They like to hang out in bars, pool halls, and have a
tendency to shoot first and try to get answers from whatever is left.
They're the hands on, in your face type of players. United is more of
an upscale, high class, James Bond type of spy. They enjoy ballrooms,
museums, and living the high life. Stealth and intelligence are their
tools of trade. Surprisingly, when asked by Matt, the majority of the
room voted for Paragon when asked which one people felt they would
Speaking of spies, or James Bond in particular, Matt brought up a very
good point early in the panel, though it was posed as a humorous
question. He asked the room how many people knew who James Bond is? It
may seem like a simple thing, but in today's MMOG market, accessibility
is an important concept. As highlighted by the room I was in (though
there was little doubt), *everyone* knows who James Bond is. And while
he's not part of the game, or the name, you can instantly explain the
concept of the game to anyone, including your parents or grandparents.
That's an unbelievably powerful tool.
A system that may not be as easy to explain as James Bond, but is no
less exciting is the idea of living loot, or the operative system.
Every super spy needs their own network of helpers, right? That's where
the operative system comes in. Matt said he couldn't go into too many
details, but each operative will have their own set of skills. The
names of your operatives will also give you clues into their
usefulness. While on the surface and operative with the name of
"Butterfingers" may sound useless, they still may prove worthwhile as
cannon fodder on a mission.
Operatives are also the key to the crafting system within The Agency.
No one wants to sit at their computer and continually click your mouse
until your fingers fall off while building stuff. Fortunately for you,
operatives are there to build things for you. As an example, imagine
you want to build a golden gun. When you assign it to an operative, he
may tell you it will take five hours to complete. That's five hours of
real time, whether you're online or off. You can go do some other
missions, travel around the world, or even log off. This all goes back
to the concept of "Fun now - no waiting."
After listening to the team last weekend, I have to say, not only is it
a core principle of The Agency, but it's how I'm feeling right now.
Before this year's Fan Faire, I was only half paying attention to what
I've been hearing about the game. After Matt's presentation though, The
Agency has definitely been added to my list of hotly anticipated games.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our The Agency Game Page.