Global Agenda Mission Types Interview with Exec. Producer Todd Harris
With a little less than a month until launch, gameplay details and features of the initial release of Global Agenda are beginning to take shape. It's an exciting time for fans and onlookers hoping for both MMORPG players looking for solid territorial PvP and shooter fans hoping for a little more persistence than simply ranks, an infinitely towering leaderboard, and a handful of unlockable weapons.
We spoke with Todd Harris, Executive Producer of Global Agenda, regarding the core of the game's PvP - the match formats or "mission types," and maps. At launch, Global Agenda will boast a total of five mission types for Mercenary PvP (the free-to-play matchmade PvP) and one match type for Conquest PvP (in which agencies vie for control of territory and resources). Here's a quick rundown of the five Mercenary mission types, many of which will be familiar to online shooter fans.
- Control - The typical objective control map, in this one the two teams will fight to control three points. Unlike an attack or defend style control map, all three points can be captured at any time by either team throughout the match. The more points a team controls, the faster it gains "tickets", and 800 tickets wins the match.
- Payload - Another fairly well known map type, Payload is an asymmetrical map where the attacking team escorts a container full of explosives along a predefined path into the enemy team's base, and the defenders must prevent them from doing so while there's still time on the clock. Escorting the container past each of three checkpoints adds additional time to the clock for the attackers.
- Demolition - Global Agenda's take on capture the flag, in Demolition (known to beta players as "capture the robot") each team has a mech that any player can get into and drive. The mech can be healed partially by the Medic class players and partially by the Robotics class players, and is tasked with carrying a bomb into the enemy team's base. Three successful escorts are required to win.
- Scramble - A variation on the control point map. there are many possible control point locations, but only one is active at a time. The first team to capture and hold three points wins.
- Breach - Another type of control point match, 3 control points are laid out in fairly linear fashion. The attacking team must capture these points in order before time runs out, with each successful point capture adding time to the clock. Breach is also the sole match type of Conquest PvP at initial release, which fits the attack / defend nature and territory control focus of the subscription game.
All maps are 10v10, and the maximum team size that can join a map in Mercenary is 4 people. That meaning that, due to the matchmaking mechanic, there's always a degree of randomization; a good chance your group will always have some new teammates to work with. Players can choose their Mercenary map type or "mission" within the game's social hub, Dome City, but may not know which map is in rotation, exactly, and will have a progressively unlocked selection of mission types from level 5 to level 30.
Ice Flow is one of Global Agenda's Payload maps.
As you can see, Global Agenda won't sport any kind of team deathmatch, though Todd noted that this is really the function of the training area. "If players want to go in there and rack up kills without consequences, that's the place to do it," Todd explained. "It's something we might consider in the future, but we wanted all the current competitive ones to be location and objective based versus kill-based.
That focus on team gameplay means dueling is another casualty of the launch crunch, but team-based dueling may not remain on the back burner for long. "We actually have a few maps in development that we play that are smaller - not really one on one because the classes really haven't been balanced for that - but are 4v4 and are a lot of fun. But, again, that's not planned for initial release."
Does a specific mix of classes make for more success among certain map types? For example, would you want a number of medic / assault class combos when attacking in Breach, while defenders would favor more turret-building Robotics class players? "Our intent is to make all the map types compelling regardless of what class you play." Todd noted. "In the asymmetrical maps, basically Payload and Breach, we will sometimes see players shifting their equipment based on whether they're attacking or defending."
Todd also explained that things like map biases and success numbers are factored into matchmaking, which can even out many of the advantages and disadvantages found especially in the asymmetrical maps such as Breach and Payload. In the end, success in Global Agenda really comes down to player skill. "I would say it's much more about learning the map than make any blanket statement about game types that favor any particular class."
While Mercenary (or matchmade) PvP and PvE is all about individual advancement (more levels, more devices and upgrades, i.e. persistent buffs), Conquest (or "AvA" - Agency vs. Agency) gameplay is geared entirely towards Agency advancement and is well considered Global Agenda's endgame. But at level 30, when players have unlocked all of their skills and devices, Todd explained that Mercenary gameplay is still useful to unlock better or more specific upgrades that suit a player's gameplay style.
Hi-Rez also made a few concessions to the more PUGish nature of Mercenary matches. Todd noted that infinite respawn beacons and progressive spawns in the Payload map, for instance, make the loss of a respawn beacon much less of a punishing blow than in Conquest PvP. Conquest maps, in contrast, are much larger, so the travel time to get into the action when a poorly constructed and defended respawn beacon is destroyed can be very significant.
Data Farm (left) is a Control map, while Ice Gorge (right) is a Breach map and a format that AvA players will get to know quite well.
Conquest (unlike Mercenary PvP) affords both the attacking and defending teams the chance to select their own 10v10 teams, but Todd noted that the defending agency's team, unless extremely well organized, may be a somewhat ad hoc assortment from the agency and allied agencies. To help, agency leaders have a number of tools to sort out whose best suited for the task, the most important of which is a player's "combat rating", which is a measure of his or her success at Conquest PvP. Combat rating goes a long way toward determining combat prowess, according to Todd. "In beta, we've seen that skilled players tend to do well regardless of map type and, somewhat, regardless of class as well."
The actual map used in the AvA match depends on what kind of facility the defending team has built. "If you have built a lab level 2 facility, and that's the one that I choose to attack, we'll be playing on a particular map that is a medium-sized lab. If I attack Stew's map and he has a mine level 3, then the map we're playing will match a large mine." And while Breach will be the only Conquest match type at launch, Hi-Rez plans to introduce "resource stealing " missions in the future.
That (or any) particular facility may be won or lost with a match, but Todd explained that in Conquest gameplay, each side might expend different levels of resources and crafted items (such as respawn beacons) in the attempt. These items are carried into the battle on the attacking team's "cargo ship" and once expended, cannot be replenished in-game. Choosing what you bring to the fight in Conquest play can sway the battle in your favor, but what you bring may not be available in time elsewhere on the map if your production can't meet the demands of combat. All this means that agency leaders must be both good combat leaders with plenty of strategic vision, but also skilled at logistics so their agency's reach doesn't exceed its grasp. We look forward to learning more about AvA play from Todd in the coming weeks.
The promise of Global Agenda is an MMOG that has both the story and comfort level to convert shooter-averse MMORPG fans into territory conquering PvPers, yet has enough grit to appeal to hardcore shooter fans. While the maps mission types may seem familiar, interesting twists such as jetpacks and movable, destructible respawn beacons may change the contours of now conventional online shooter gameplay. That Global Agenda ties all this and more into a full, persistent, large-scale PvP oriented package makes this title one to watch in early 2010.
We like to thank Todd, Michal, and the Global Agenda team for putting together this interview us during a busy holiday season, and look forward to learning more about Conquest gameplay in the weeks to come.