Territory control might not be new to MMOs
or FPSs, but control on a
grand scale by agencies and alliances is fairly unique (the only other
example that comes to mind is Perfect
). I saw an early version of the territory control
hex map that shows who owns what and what remains to be conquered.
You’ll make a territory yours by running missions as an
agency and gathering enough resources to build your own domed base and
later by capturing the area from other agents. The more territories you
have, the faster you’ll gain resources through the facilities
your agency builds, and the more territory you can conquer. Or maybe
you turtle up and pour those resources into defense.
Assuming all goes
as planned, it’s grand strategy meets MMO levels of player
organization meets FPS, just like the Total War series fused grand
strategy and the RTS. But like any domination game, there’s a tipping point after
which it’s only a matter of time before one alliance becomes
unstoppable. I asked Todd what Hi Rez was doing to mitigate this or at
least make sure that tipping point doesn’t come too soon.
This was the leading thing that Hi Rez wanted to get right before going
into closed beta, Todd said. As far as a little bit of a balancing
factor, different “open” hours are associated with
certain territories. A newbie agency might want to go after a zone with
fewer open hours and less resources, for example. There is a win
condition, and Todd explained that if one agency does dominate,
they’ll enter the actual lore, get a host of bonuses, the
peasants rejoice at having a new protected area to colonize free of
Commonwealth rule, and the fight moves into new areas. In alpha, this
usually results in the winning agency having a target on their head on
the next go-round.
To gear up for some PvE action next, I went with a better jet pack and
mines, hoping to use a common sniper strategy of going vertical to
deal death from above while protecting my back with mines. My weapons
required no ammo, drawing energy from the same pool as the jetpack.
Todd explained that, as an alternative to my strategy, I could deploy a decoy,
go stealth, and find myself a good ambush position. I was soloing an instance designed for a group, so naturally I didn’t last too long. The game
uses a projectile-based damage system (unlike many online shooters, which only check if the enemy is in your reticule when you click to cause damage)
and learning to “lead” enemies when sniping was a
The map had a fair amount of verticality to it; you drop down on new
encounters like the final boss and had better be ready. Two mechanics
worthy of note: a “rest” mechanic that allows you
to heal faster but with less defense, and a time-wide
“boost” that comes from killing lots of enemies
without getting yourself killed. For recon, this boost allowed me to
run faster and see enemies behind walls. And while GA is a skill-based
game, you gain experience and level your combat skills by killing
enemies and completing missions, not by repetitively using skills. Todd
noted that Hi Rez is considering a skill based system for crafting,
which only makes sense in the repetitive gristmill that is tradeskills.
We were on the attack in the Metal Arms PvP instance, set in the
Himalayas. It was a pretty straightforward capture point-style
instance. and enemies were displayed with a faint red outline making
them easy to spot. The map was an excellent size for the team sizes; the push and pull of capture-point combat easily rivaled what
I’ve experienced in
Team Fortress 2
, and the ubiquitous jetpacks add a new
dimension (pun intended) to standard shooter gameplay.
Bottom line: we played several in-development persistent world shooters
at E3 2009, and GA seemed to offer the best mix of originality and
pacing for players that reside more on the MMORPG side of the gaming
spectrum. Unlike many of today’s shooters, gore and
gut-wrenching displays aren’t a part of GA, and this is an
MMO you can definitely play without worrying about the "wandering kid"
factor. When I had to run to my next appointment, I certainly
wasn’t finished playing. Todd anticipates that Global Agenda
be in closed beta this summer, and after getting a taste of the game, I can barely wait.