GDC09: Massively previews Huxley, a hybrid sci-fi MMO and FPS

Huxley: The Dystopia is a massively multiplayer online first-person shooter (MMOFPS) in development at NHN USA. We haven't heard much about the title since mid-2008, so we were happy that NHN USA was willing to sit down with us at GDC 2009. We spoke with Andy Hong, Huxley's Project Manager, who showed us some of the basic concepts behind the game.

Huxley is a persistent world built upon Unreal Engine 3 foundations and is a game that differs from many of the MMOs we cover at Massively. Like other titles entering the market such as Global Agenda, Huxley is a marriage of the twitch combat of a first person shooter with classes, skills, trading, banking, and player housing we associate with MMOs. "At the core of the gameplay in Huxley, at its heart, it's an FPS," says Hong. But the depth of the rest of Huxley's gameplay, not limited to its quest and crafting systems, makes it a title quite unlike any pure FPS.
%Gallery-48874% The lore and setting of Huxley

The futuristic setting for Huxley is one where the world is sparsely populated by survivors of a cataclysmic, near extinction-level event on Earth. Irradiated fragments of the moon shower the planet, wiping out society as we know it. Some human beings survive and mutate to adapt to a world now suffused with high concentrations of radiation. Humanity as we once knew it now exists as three separate races. The Sapiens are outwardly human, but live in conflict with Alternatives, humans who evolved into mutants. A mysterious third race called Hybrids exists as well. As a new player, you enter the world of Huxley as a rookie aligned with your own playable race, be it Sapiens or Alternative.

The Sapiens and Alternatives each have their own city from which they wage war on their rival breed.The Sapiens city is called Nostalonia, and was built to be reminiscent of old world Europe. The Alternatives, long since having cast off their 'human' ancestry, live in a technologically sophisticated city called Eska which has a look that fits the game's futuristic point in the timeline.

Each server (essentially, a city) can handle up to 5000 concurrent users. Once the servers open up to players, there will be active town squares where players can socialize, trade items, or conduct their market transactions at the auction house or the mall -- more Ammu-nation than Banana Republic, Hong jokes. Much of what's bought and sold will be weaponry and armor, he says. The game is centered around large scale first person shooter battles, after all, and Huxley maintains a clear focus on PvP.

Players who want to go beyond simply buying their gear will be able to delve into Huxley's crafting system. Hong says that the title has a two part crafting system. Items and materials gained through quests can be used with recipes to create merchandise. Alternately, lunarites (moon rocks left from the cataclysm) can be used as an energy source that tunes up the performance of your weapons and armor.

Classes and combat

Huxley has three playable classes: an Enforcer dons heavy armor and uses short range weapons; an Avenger wears medium armor and carries medium range weapons, while a Phantom uses light armor and employs long range weaponry. "Each of those classes has a unique primary weapon that only they can use, so each of them has unique armor and socket skills," inherent to that class, Hong says.

These "socket skills" allow for different types of abilities that complement the playstyle of a given class, and are used in conjunction with weapons and armor. Enforcers can tank and deal extra damage, Avengers can gain improved mobility, and Phantoms -- true to their name -- can cloak.

Hong says, "Phantoms have a socket skill that allows them to become invisible. That becomes very useful in combat and PvP." The counter for a Phantom's cloaking ability is an opposed socket skill possessed by another class. In a scenario Hong showed us, an Avenger used a thermal imaging socket skill to detect a cloaked Phantom. A similar socket skill used by Avengers allows a player to assess the HP of an enemy.

Each class chooses a primary weapon when going out into combat. The Phantom carries a sniper rifle but a sub-weapon called the Regulator can alternately regenerate the shields of allies or take down the shields of opponents. In addition, Phantoms also have the potential to create decoys of themselves to draw NPC enemy fire, while the player snipes from a safe distance.

Huxley allows players to command 4-person squads, utilizing squad tactics and specialized skills to take on opponents. A squad will collectively have five respawns they can call upon in a quest but once those five are burned up, whether through inept play by one individual or a collective failure, the quest has to begin anew.

Fighting as part of a group also brings "license points" into play. "License points are Huxley's version of a skill tree," Hong says. Licenses can be allocated as the player chooses to unlock certain abilities, like squad benefits (buffs) for instance, which give an increased rate of health regeneration for those closest to the character.

"Every time you level up you gain a license point. You take that license point and you place it in the area you want to focus on. With the weapons, you could become a machine gun specialist and do more damage with it, or with a rocket launcher, or an optical rifle. You also have the ability to carry the weapons of other classes, but not the primary or best weapons of another class," says Hong. Players can also acquire licenses to drive different types of vehicles as they progress in the game.

Once you've got a handle on the core game mechanics and are ready to head out into battle, the game allows for some flexibility in gameplay. Players can stay in first person shooter mode for solo play, or they can go into quest mode which allows players to interact and group up.

This article was originally published on Massively.