Even after our E3 demonstration, we still had a few questions that we had answered at the 2009 Fan Faire. We spoke with World Designer Kevin O'Hara to gain a deeper understanding of what this game is all about.
One of the bigger surprises that we had at E3 was the playable demo that Sony Online Entertainment had for The Agency. While the demonstration restored our faith in the project, we still had a few questions that we had answered at the 2009 Fan Faire. We spoke with Senior World Designer Kevin O'Hara to gain a deeper understanding of what this game is all about.
ZAM: Can you just give us a little bit of information about the three different classes, or archetypes, that exist in the game?
Kevin O'Hara: Sure; we've got three major roles and they are combat, stealth and support. They are about the different things you want to do as a super-spy in the game. Combat is all about taking more damage and being able to deal out a good amount of damage - really getting the enemies looking at him. Next is stealth. Stealth is, of course, about sneaking around, taking on guys from a long range and getting the lay of the land for the rest of the team. And then support, of course, is about helping out as much as he can. In this case, we've got a shotgun for him so that he doesn't have to be the most accurate guy in the world, but if anyone comes up close to him, he can definitely take them down. He can help revive other characters if they go down in combat, and he's got a number of things, tactically, that he can do to keep these guys alive and keep them informed of the situation. In this case we gave him a special item called a 'Martini Bomb" that he would have gotten out in the field somewhere, or he had an operative build for him. The "Martini Bomb" is a device that, when he shakes it up (shaken, not stirred!), he can throw it and it emits this icy concoction that covers the enemy and freezes them in place. In this way, he's supporting the team by holding the enemies in place. If you've got a lot of enemies, he might be the one saying "focus on these guys first, I'll keep these guys busy."
ZAM: Now when you create your character, are you stuck to one of the different types of combat or the three different classes?
Kevin: No, absolutely not. In our game we can't to make sure that you're thinking "Parrot Gun or Knife" based on the style of character you are. But the actual roles you're playing are what you want to play at that moment. If you want to be a stealth guy, all you have to do is put on your stealth outfit and you've got all of your stealth equipment attached to it. If you switch to support, you just go back to the field office, switch your outfit, and then go back into the field and do another mission, or do the same mission again.
ZAM: So you're quite literally able to switch to what you need, or what the scenario needs, on the fly?
Kevin: Yeah, but I don't want to say "on the fly," because it's not like in the middle of the mission, you're going to change your outfit. If you go back to your home base, or your safe houses, then you can switch out. You're kind of committed to your solo missions, but, technically you can say in the middle of a mission "I'll be right back guys," and you can head back to your office, change your outfit and come back. It's not that efficient, so you should probably make sure you're the right class before you head out.
ZAM: So are there going to be any additional roles added, beside combat and stealth and stuff like that?
Kevin: Those are our main archetype roles. We're probably going to have specialties, but they're definitely different styles of roles. They accomplish different things, but the major archetypes we're probably going to stick to. Actually there's a fourth archetype called the 'Alias,' which all characters should be able to change into. You know, the fancy tuxedo to get you into the Casino so you can play that high stakes card game.
ZAM: Players and enemies will have access to things like grenades and the martini bombs that we've seen. Will the enemies have anything unique that players won't expect or that players will have to prepare themselves or be cautious about on an enemy per enemy basis?
Kevin: Initially, when you start playing, enemies will have smart AI, but will be simpler in the types of weapons and gadgets they use. As you start to progress through the game, not only will they have the same weapons you have and get skills that you have […] it's really tough when the enemy starts doing that to. We are going to have custom skills that only they have and you will never get. I don't know if we're going to have a rocket launcher, for example, as a weapon yet, but I'm pretty sure we will for an enemy if you have a boss encounter.
ZAM: One of the things we saw in the demonstrations were some of the destructible environments that exist; walls that you were shooting and they were falling down and a car that exploded. What kind of destructible environments can we expect to see? Will it be limited or is everything going to be destructible.
Kevin: We don't want to go for a fully destructible environment - mainly because we're an MMO, so you're playing with a lot of other people there. Also, there's a strategic component to it as well. We want to make sure that the things you're destroying have game play value to you. The car there was a good example because enemies were hiding behind that car and you can shoot the gas tank so it blows up and take out a bunch of enemies. Usually with a chunk of wall, we're not going to have it arbitrarily destroyed - game wise that adds a lot of complexity to our level designs which is good in some games, but we want a more cinematic 'where it's appropriate' we'll put it in sort of deal.
ZAM: What about player vehicles? Vehicles that players can ride in. What kind of things are going to exist for players?
Kevin: We haven't made any announcements yet on vehicles. Obviously vehicles are an important part of the spy genre, but at this time we're just keeping our lips shut.
ZAM: As far as PvP is concerned, obviously this is going to be a very PvP-centric game. Are there going to be any plans for large-scale PvP where you'll see hundreds of players in a battle arena, or a city fighting it out?
Kevin: The most important thing to us is frame rate. We are currently experimenting with the PS3 and the PC to see how many characters we can put on screen at once. Also, there are the types of environments that are fun to have a lot of players. I doubt that we're going to the Planetside full-scale warfare, but that's also not what spies are all about. We will have a lot more players than perhaps we will see in a standard shooter, but I don't know what our upper limit is, so I don't want to commit us to something too high, but more importantly, I think we'll do what's appropriate for the map types that we're making.
Andrew "Tamat" Beegle