The Agency: Fan Faire 2009 Report

Posted Fri, Jul 03, 2009 by Dalmarus

The team 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 entertaining hour.

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.

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