Hands-On With Global Agenda

By Phill Cameron on November 4th, 2009 at 11:56 am.


Via the Eurogamer Expo, we got some time with Global Agenda. Here’s the hands-on experience, complete with some input from the developers themselves.

Global Agenda is a game straddling two worlds. It has two different payment schemes, and two different games within itself, almost. It’s a multiplayer third person shooter, with a class based system and jetpacks. But it’s also a huge sprawling PvE/PvP MMO, with the PvP driven by player Agencies that can form and break alliances on the fly in a bitter battle for territorial zones that grant bonuses and benefits. It’s also got some instanced dungeons thrown in there, for the uncompetitive among us.

There are obvious inspirations scattered throughout the game, from Team Fortress 2, to Tribes, to EVE, to World of Warcraft. It might seem unfair to claim they were just cherry picking the best ideas from each game, but there’s nothing wrong with that; cross-pollination of ideas is what keeps games evolving. It’s wonderful to see each class have a distinctive silhouette design that Team Fortress 2 so championed, that not only helps differentiate from one class from another, but also puts you in mind of what that class does. The Assault class is a huge lumbering armoured beast of a man, the Recon is hunched, every movement furtive and suspicious. And the robotics class, of course, has a giant great mechanical arm coming out of its back.

The actual mechanics of the game are simple enough; you have three weapons, one melee and two ranged, usually one of which is far more class specific than the others. As a medic I had my healing gun and my poisoning gun. You then shoot the enemies until they fall over, and you get to progress further. Jetpacks facilitate respawning with the minimum of fuss, taking you out of the fight just long enough to make death a penalty, but never long enough to frustrate. The game certainly favours team play, with almost all of your class specific abilities, made to function in a complimentary way with your other team mates. So the robotics guy will lay down a shield so the medic guy can be relatively safe while healing the assault guy, who takes the aggro while the recon guy racks up the big damage on the enemies. Something like that, anyway.


There will be two ways to play; stand alone or subscription. The stand alone concept is just having Global Agenda as a straight forward multiplayer shooter, with you playing the inconsequential deathmatch sort of game, where each game is contained within itself. You can still earn money and experience, able to be on a similar plane as those with the subscription game, and you can even play with them and join agencies, but you’re cut off from the really interesting stuff. They obviously want you paying for the subscription model.

And it’s there that stuff gets really exciting. Having a subscription grants you access to the persistent world part of Global Agenda, which seems to draw inspiration heavily from EVE’s 0.0 space, where everything is player controlled and fought for. It’s telling that the game is shipping with the single faction or race; everyone is the same. What matters is who you make friends with, and who you fight against. They’re providing the players with the bare skeleton of the experience; it’s up to you, and everyone you play with, to flesh it out and create something exciting and involving.

Speaking to me about the game, Vice President of Hi-Rez Studios Stewart Chisam stated that “It’s all player created. Player created agencies and player created alliances. Drawing from EVE we’re letting that be very bottom up. There’s no game made factions, we want players to create the drama. I can create an agency, form an alliance with you and then at the opportune moment break that alliance.” It’s back to that cherry picking concept of game development, and learning from what works and what doesn’t. The concept of providing the players with the toys to fight their battles, but keeping what they’re fighting for and who they’re fighting for entirely in their hands is still a novel concept; far too often an MMO will try to tailor the experience too much, which is fun the first time, but beyond that it is just more of the same, just with different people. Maybe.


That they’re trying to make it as casual as possible while allowing the game to draw you in is promising, too. The game comes with the standard month free of the subscriber content, but even if you burn out on the persistent world stuff or don’t have the time for it, Global Agenda just reverts back into being the multiplayer shooter you get out of the box. You can still play with your guildmates, and even some of the free content you got as a subscriber stays with you. As Stewart puts it, “when you cancel your subscription, you’re not cancelled out of the game.”

All of this is just so much talk unless the game is actually fun though, which is where the real test will lie. While at the Eurogamer Expo, I was able to take part in one of the co-operative missions against the computer, which involved four of us, one of each class, moving through a robot factory before having a climatic battle against a final boss. The presence of jetpacks makes everything instantly more fun, and while they’ve restricted them more to a movement aid than an actual combat advantage, they’re still responsive and have enough juice to get you over some pretty hefty gaps. The power is shared across everything, including ammo, which means that if you run out of bullets you only have to wait a few moments for your power to charge back up, avoiding the problems of having to make sure you’re stocked before heading out.

It also means that you have to think tactically about your energy use. Playing Medic, I had two versions of my healing ray. The first healed a single target, the second chained off my target, meaning if my team stuck together I could heal them all at once. This latter used twice as much energy, though, so unless I could get the most out of it, it was more efficient to heal each person individually. Similarly, I can imagine trying to drop in on enemies after an extended jet pack flight could be difficult, as it all draws from the same energy reserves.


Being truly real time, there are certain expectations on the way the game handles, and while Global Agenda is a hybrid, they’re making sure to get the basics right. “It’s a very fluid shooter mechanic, it’s not tab targetting. Stats get involved in your weapons, but it’s not a dice roll when you shoot, you have to hit the guy. So it’s definitely aim-based, skill-based.” And once you’re inside the game, it becomes obvious this is the case. Cover is important, if only to recharge your power or let the medic heal you, and making good use of each class’ strengths is essential to success in some of the more difficult parts. The Robotics class can place turrets and shields, providing cover where there is none, while the Recon class can lay down mines and the like, preparing the area for the coming battle. And the Assault class just shoots really big guns at anything it can.

There is a levelling mechanic too, but it seems to be more about allowing you more diversity of how to play your class rather than just making you x amount more powerful than y level. As Stewart puts it; “I’d rather play with a skilled level 15 player than an incompetent level 30.” While incompetent players are never fun to play with, his point still stands; the levels are less important than they may seem. Even the game’s matchmaking reflects this; it’s using a variant of the True-Skill system, taking into account both levels and the skill the player has demonstrated, to get the best match.

This even transfers over to how they want people to play. There’ll be eight different character slots per account, but they’ll all show up under a single account, to provide you with every opportunity to switch out to another class to help your Agency with whatever class deficit they have, while not sacrificing the recognition of your name. It seems they’re doing everything they can to make playing together easy, and taking up the most of your time.


Which is why Hi-Rez have been looking at how to get the players interested in the persistent zones, and while I didn’t see it in action, what they are promising sounds exciting. “The unique mechanic that unfolds in our territory framework is you have a base raid set up with takes organised teams of 60 versus 60 which is kind of the maximum size. We’re actually using some technical tricks to do that, to run in multiple linked instances.” So you’ll have multiple instances of ten on ten all influencing each other’s games based on the objectives they complete. So you have six strike teams, all with different missions. “One is ‘go, take down the generators’, so each one of the six teams has a mission. And they interconnect, so once the generator is down, the turrets go down over the whole base, which helps everyone else.”

By providing a far more engrossing experience in the persistent side of the game, Global Agenda seems to be moving well on the way to becoming the first truly hybrid MMO. It’s a big show of confidence that they consider the actual mechanics of their game solid enough to support a multiplayer shooter, especially considering the competition they face on the PC, most of whom they cite as influences. The impression of having such a thriving world just a subscription away could sway people to taking the plunge, and having them interact with the subscribers is a similarly clever move.

While there are a few negative things you can take away from the game in it’s current state, like the fact there are no headshots, so it’s much more about how you play as a team rather than how good you individually are as a twitch gamer, the bigger worries come in how much reliance they’re placing on the players to make the game good. With the somewhat mixed success of games such as Warhammer Online as a pvp game, where the lower levels are no deserted, there is the threat of the same happening here. And if the players don’t embrace the Agency territory play, there’ll be little to entice players away from the stand alone game to pay the subscription.

Most importantly, it’s treading uncharted waters. By being an action-based shooter with MMO mechanics, Global Agenda is far more under threat of being misunderstood than anything else. Perhaps people looking for the safety of a min-max grind will be confused when they’re asked to shoot that robot that’s coming to kill them YES RIGHT NOW IN THE FACE! Similarly, the hardcore shooter fans might be frustrated by the relatively lite nature of the mechanics, instead preferring to stick to their Counter-Strikes and Unreal Tournaments.

Regardless, though, what I’ve seen of Global Agenda is enormously promising. It seems to blend the two genres almost effortlessly, and by toning down some areas they’ve boosted others, and if the subscription content is as promising as it sounds, perhaps we’ll have a game that’s far more easy to get into than EVE, but scratches a similar itch.

Global Agenda is currently in closed beta. Expect some info on release soon!

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54 Comments »

  1. TotalBiscuit says:

    Well this is on my radar now, that looks really interesting. My biggest beef with the current crop of MMOs is that very few of them make combat feel hands-on and fun. DDO does, since you play it like a hack-and-slash crossed with Dungeons and Dragons, it works and it’s fun to fight in that game. It also helps that it’s challenging. Borderlands, while not an MMO, works wonderfully because while the killing is repetitive, it’s a twitch-based FPS and the shooting itself is fun enough to keep the game interesting. Planetside is… well Planetside and without peer.

    In short, I will willingly do you stupid ‘collect 20 bear asses’ PvE quests as long as the combat is actually enjoyable and I feel like I have direct control over my character instead of simply telling it to ‘cast fireball now!’ over and over again with the chance of missing, hitting or critting entirely determined by stats. The PvP aspect sounds great and I particularly like that for once, you’re buying a box that does not simply stop you from playing if you stop paying the monthly fee. That’s a very good move indeed.

  2. Scalene says:

    Sorry, brief question: The fact that there are no headshots?
    I love FPS games that don't rely on the almighty headshot. Is this one of them, or something they should remove? Can't quite tell.

  3. Phill Cameron says:

    @Scalene There’s a single hitbox on each player/enemy. That means so long as you’re pointing somewhere on their body, you’ll hit.

  4. Dominic White says:

    The PvE combat sounds a LOT like the co-op mode in Resistance 2 on the PS3. The gameplay videos released so far support this theory. This is a good thing, as despite people whining about how it wasn’t identical to the first game (although it was reviewed better and sold better than the first, too), it had a really fantastic co-op mode that is still well populated online to this day.

  5. nemolom says:

    Finally. I’ve been waiting for this kind of hybrid to happen. If they can deliver enough content carrots to keep the achiever types in there – and otherwise being technically stable enough at launch, I think we’ll have the next step in MMOs here. APB is the other interesting hybrid coming soon.

  6. Sobric says:

    I am looking forward to this as well. Although it wont give the same large-scale combat kicks that Planetside did, I’m attracted to the persistent shooty world thing.

    My only worry, and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, is that the game looks a bit bland. Not that the graphics are bad (my computer is so shit it wont matter anyway), but the art style seems a little… boring. The player characters look good, but it’s the environments that are a bit ‘meh’.

    Oh my god, I just criticised an otherwise promising game for the graphics. I feel so dirty.

  7. gulag says:

    You’re not alone. I can’t help feeling this game needs some serious welly introduced to it’s art department.

    The premise is very interesting, and it sounds like they are really learning the lessons of the previous 5 years of MMO/FPS markets, but it looks incredibly generic. The shots above would be all to easy to confuse with Section 8 or Unreal. It’s almost enough to make me not want to play.

    • CMaster says:

      The art style actually put me most into mind of City Of Heroes. Bright colours, bland environments and quirky, brightly coloured robots as enemies.

      It’s not bad, but it’s far from inspiring. The level design of the bit we DMed in before the coop mission start was erm, like a bad UT map too. Big piles of crates and simple corridors.

    • jonfitt says:

      It might look better in movement, but I could not see on earth where Phill was coming from when he said:
      it’s wonderful to see each class have a distinctive silhouette design that Team Fortress 2 so championed, that not only helps differentiate from one class from another, but also puts you in mind of what that class does.
      Perhaps if you stare at generic space marines enough you can see differences, but they all look basically the same to me; and I’ve stared at my share of space marines.

  8. CMaster says:

    Also played this at Eurogamer, one of the few games that went from being “meh, not interested” to “I’d really like to play that”.

    The general gameplay was pretty “meh” – a very console/arcadey feeling TPS, although a lot of guns had scopes so you could go into first person for aiming.
    However, when they booted up a coop mission vs NPCs, the game really started to shine. A string of objectives to acheive, with some unannounced sub objectives (don’t set off the alarm) along the way. Characters that are fairly obvious how they should go together. Uses becoming really apparent for all those extra items you can add to your loadout.
    How the planet-sidey (but much smaller scale) instanced PvP will pan out and whether it’s worth a subscription fee remains to be seen. But the PvE side sure looked promisingly interesting.

  9. ThePinkNinja says:

    Looks fun. I’m not sure how well Meele will work but that’s not that important.

    Also neat how thery seem to be bags of stuff (Like deployable shields).

    My only major cocern is they’ll break it with in appropriate updates.

  10. nayon says:

    Is there one big overworld or small instanced zones?

    • CMaster says:

      Pretty much entirley instanced I think.
      It’s Unreal Engine 3, so it can’t really handle many many players.

      Didn’t get to see how you actually end up in a game at Eurogamer – we started out in a DM-like arena, before using the menu system to go off to a mission. Anyway, it looks to be nore more an MMO than say, guild wars was and probably less than that.

    • Ansem says:

      I don’t understand how Guild Wars fails to meet the criteria for MMO. It was massively multiplayer and online… Am I missing something? Do instanced areas make a world incomplete? The main continent was quite large, even if that was somewhat trivialized by instant teleports.

    • CMaster says:

      My understanding of Guild Wars (haven’t played, so can’t be sure) is that you never interact with any significant number of players, certainly not while taking part in any actual gameplay. What you have is more to the effect of a 3D server/lobby browser.

      (Though MMOs as a whole seem to be trending more and more to the majority of gameplay in controlled instances).

    • MadMatty says:

      errr Cmaster -> im currently testing the MMO Mortal Online which uses the Unreal 3 engine- it can handle both vast outdoor locations and a tons of players as long as they modify it a bit.. every engine can in theory, theres no limits, they just supply you with a basic proven 3d engine, that the companys can develop to their own tastes really.

    • MadMatty says:

      And i got Guildwars. You basically meet players in town, then when you go outside to do missions, its entirely instanced, meaning you never bump into players outside, which is a shame. You also can´t jump, or traverse down hills which is super annoying. Other than that the gameplay is decent, but i´d rather play something entirely without instances.

    • Vinraith says:

      I adore instancing, it’s one reason Guild Wars is the only MMO-like game I’ve ever really gotten into. No respawning enemies, no kill stealing, no world filled with retarded 14 year olds, just me and the people I actually want to play with enjoying the game.

  11. Inigo says:

    For some reason I keep confusing Global Agenda with The Agency. I could say it’s because both titles have second words that begin with “a”, but I always thought I was better than that.

  12. Clovis says:

    Hey, how about a TF2 MMO?

  13. Flobulon says:

    I also had a play on this at the Eurogamer Expo, and have to say I really enjoyed, was probably the highlight of the expo for me. I’d never even heard of it before then, dismissing it as a generic space marine shooter.

  14. Catastrophe says:

    Theres 3 weapons per class and 4 classes? That sounds like it could get old pretty quickly, is it only me with this line of thought?

    • Primar says:

      From what I understand of the game, he means you can /carry/ 3 weapons which you can swap out for other things, not that there’s 3 weapons in total to choose from.

      Unless I’m wrong. Which is entirely possible!

    • Phill Cameron says:

      Yeah, it seemed to me from what I got to play that you had three slots, one for melee, and the other two varied per class. I’m not sure if effects will change, or just damage and stats, but I doubt you’ll be hugely limited.

    • CMaster says:

      I played recon, and in one of the weapon slots you could pick between a scoped SMG, a sniper or a DOT (damage over Time) sniper. Other classes have similar options I believe, and there may be more choices available than that as you levelup/buy them. In addition, there was also a choice of two special abilites, different jetpacks and a whack of additional equipment (grenades and drugs basically) that you could also choose to carry with you in varying amounts.

  15. MadMatty says:

    i want Planetside 2.

  16. Flatline says:

    How many players the engine can handle is completely up to the developers isn’t it? It’s not like it’s a locked down piece of code they cannot tweak as they want to.

  17. Marcin says:

    Ten on ten? And it’s all instanced? That doesn’t sound worth paying for to me. Well, unless it’s 5 a month or so. There’s a ton of games out there that do the same thing with more players, *and* provide pseudo-leveling perks as well (TF2, CoD). I’m not sure that I can buy the concept of a persistent, PvP-based world when there isn’t actually a world, just different colors on a map … somewhere.

    Ever since I started playing the excellent (and free) DDO, I got a better appreciation of what I can get for my dollars in terms of things like persistence, leveling, grouping, etc. :)

    • jonfitt says:

      It’s worth noting that Battlefied 2 was doing persistent stats, leveling, and unlocks before TF2, and Cod, and it’s 32v32.
      Also groups have been arranging persistent game wars fought across weeks and months for years.

  18. Hug_dealer says:

    dont know what it is exactly but all i see from the pictures is blah, and the design of the gameplay just adds even more blah to the factor.

    Nothing jumps out for me in this game. Everytime i read something more about it, i get less interested.

  19. We Fly Spitfires says:

    Nice write up. I’m quite excited by Global Agenda actually because I like the idea of diversifying the MMO genre a bit. Hopefully the game will be decent and prove to be a success thus showing developers that they don’t just need to stick to the predictable WoW model.

  20. LoopyDood says:

    In the bottom right of the third image:
    40k Space Marine?

  21. LionsPhil says:

    “Most importantly, it’s treading uncharted waters. By being an action-based shooter with MMO mechanics, Global Agenda is far more under threat of being misunderstood than anything else.”

    For fuck’s sake, PC game journalists have “unimaginative rehashing of the same ground to appease publishers with safe, profitable franchises” as one of their pet hates to trumpet about, usually in the form of a massive loveletter to the indie scene, then you write this as if it were a bad thing.

  22. Tialian says:

    Excellent read, although I’m a little baffled by the few negative points they pointed out at the end of the article…

    Quote:
    While there are a few negative things you can take away from the game in it’s current state, like the fact there are no headshots, so it’s much more about how you play as a team rather than how good you individually are as a twitch gamer

    Wow this is a negative point really? Like we need more of the same FPS that just has a bunch of rambos running around.

    Quote:
    the bigger worries come in how much reliance they’re placing on the players to make the game good.

    Works fine with EVE, why not GA?

    Quote:
    With the somewhat mixed success of games such as Warhammer Online as a pvp game, where the lower levels are no deserted, there is the threat of the same happening here.

    You can’t compare Warhammer to GA, they are completely different in how the levels matter. It would be more appropriate to compare GA to PlanetSide where more levels gets you more tools.

    Quote:
    And if the players don’t embrace the Agency territory play, there’ll be little to entice players away from the stand alone game to pay the subscription.

    At least if that were to happen, unlike other games, you can still play the game without a subscription instead of being forced to pay if you want to play at all.

    Quote:
    Most importantly, it’s treading uncharted waters. By being an action-based shooter with MMO mechanics, Global Agenda is far more under threat of being misunderstood than anything else. Perhaps people looking for the safety of a min-max grind will be confused when they’re asked to shoot that robot that’s coming to kill them YES RIGHT NOW IN THE FACE! Similarly, the hardcore shooter fans might be frustrated by the relatively lite nature of the mechanics, instead preferring to stick to their Counter-Strikes and Unreal Tournaments.

    Uncharted waters? Hello PlanetSide?

    If people who like CS or UT don’t like GA it won’t break my heart, those games require little team play because its so easy to kill that people tend to want to spread out rather than stick together. You also get a number of campers because people are afraid to be out in the open because a lucky shot means game over.

  23. Kreeper says:

    If you don’t feel like paying a monthly fee you can always just buy the game and play it, as Hi-Rez recently announced how the pricing structure works within the game. Despite the game having instances for the AVA stuff each teams progress will affect another teams progress from one instance to the next.

    Example :
    60vs60 = 6 groups of 10 in seperate instances.

    Group #1 – Destroys power generator.
    Group #2 – Because #1 destroyed power generator #2 no longer needs to worry about getting by the shield that those power generators supported.

    Hopefully that gives you some insight.

  24. Spy Here says:

    So it’s sort of like Borderlands crossed with Team Fortress 2 but in MMO format.

    Not saying that’s a bad thing, I loves me some Borderlands and TF2, I would jump at the chance to play an MMO version of it with more character customisation options besides name and clothing colouration. Definitely getting the ‘RPG Shooter’ vibe from this.

  25. ObsceneZen says:

    Despite people talking about TF2 and the like, I’d say much more of the inspiration comes from the Tribes games, which likely influenced TF2. Given the jetpack, the stealth/melee combination (cloak pack + shocklance, anyone?), the armor looks, etc., this definitely looks like they’re pulling much more heavily from Tribes 1 and 2 than TF2. Way, way excited about this game. Tribes 2 is the single game that gets me all nostalgic, and with any luck, this game will resurrect the spirit of that game to a degree.

  26. ObsceneZen says:

    Oh, and for all saying that the game looks bland, the packs and offhand weapons that this game has will likely make it INCREDIBLE for anyone who doesn’t just want to blow stuff up as rapidly as possible. What really made Tribes shine was the flexibility and creativity involved in gameplay. They gave you a bunch of weapons, packs, and vehicles to choose from and said “go.” You made up the rest based on the environment. A good application of skill and tactics went a lot further in Tribes than it does in most shooters since then, and I see a lot of similarities here.

  27. Knifeparty says:

    You guys should think about the game as a whole. They have said it will be hosted on a single shard server, with thousands of players on it….now if you really think about it, it would be pretty hard to make a game such as this with highly intense graphical detail, along side fast paced and adrenaline pumping shooter style gameplay. I think it would be pretty difficult to support thousands of individual players on the one server, and have no latency issues at all. So maybe they have their reasons for toning down the environment detail so they can improve the quality of the gaming experience as it is (making it run smoother, faster and giving it an edge that no other game has). Even in this article, it was stated that they toned down other areas of the game so that they could maximize the potential of other parts of the game, for example: their whole concept. The MMORPTPSG(massively multiplayer online role playing third person shooter) game style. Also in my opinion, with a decent computer you should be able to run this game with full settings. If you look at some of the more detailed pictures of the game, and even some Youtube videos(recommending the Jaxser montage). You can get a really clear idea of what their whole idea is, and how they are trying to maximize the performance of the shooter gameplay with the toned down Environment detail…

    Knifeparty

  28. Knifeparty says:

    You guys should think about the game as a whole. They have said it will be hosted on a single shard server, with thousands of players on it….now if you really think about it, it would be pretty hard to make a game such as this with highly intense graphical detail, along side fast paced and adrenaline pumping shooter style gameplay. I think it would be pretty difficult to support thousands of individual players on the one server, and have no latency issues at all. So maybe they have their reasons for toning down the environment detail so they can improve the quality of the gaming experience as it is (making it run smoother, faster and giving it an edge that no other game has). Even in this article, it was stated that they toned down other areas of the game so that they could maximize the potential of other parts of the game, for example: their whole concept. The MMORPTPSG(massively multiplayer online role playing third person shooter) game style. Also in my opinion, with a decent computer you should be able to run this game with full settings. If you look at some of the more detailed pictures of the game, and even some Youtube videos(recommending the Jaxser montage). You can get a really clear idea of what their whole idea is, and how they are trying to maximize the performance of the shooter gameplay with the toned down Environment detail…

  29. nom nom says:

    Yeah the detail in this game is aite, i get where your coming from and all but tbh it still looks better than most mmos graphically…as if wow looks any more detailed that some of the capture point room in GA?

    This game could have great success, but yeah i guess it all counts on how it runs with all those people on the 1 server?

  30. JuanXo says:

    No headshots.

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