"It was better to start early, work through with our user base about what people want to see and how and then market it ... "
It seems some people are worried that Global Agenda has low player activity and may be on its last legs. When asked about that, Erez gave some useful statistics from the deployment of Sandstorm Phase 1 that suggest they're definitely on the right track. "User rate has increased by like 70-80% over what it was before," he said, "we saw a huge spike and it's actually maintaining itself very well." The majority of the additional players are those of a higher level, indicating that there was not enough content later in the game. New gear and content for higher levels seems to be addressing that issue.
"We're only starting our marketing now," Erez told us, adding that "It was better to start early, work through with our user base about what people want to see and how and then market it and push it out." Not deterred by doom-sayers, he suggested that "as long as there's enough people to play with, it's OK" and affirmed his belief that Global Agenda couldn't drop below that level.
Erez immediately went on to discuss new innovations in Global Agenda's game mechanics that have him excited for the future of the game. In addition to reworking the user interface, a completely new crafting system is on the way. "There's crafting for AVA," he said, "and there's new consumable crafting that's coming in." Consumables are a new addition to the game that will be mostly used to borrow an ability from another class that you wouldn't normally have access to. To support consumable crafting, materials can be gathered from items you don't need using a new salvage option.
Since players always get loot items they can use, they're likely to end up with more than one of the same item or to get an item they already have as loot from PvP or PvE. Having a salvage option is a handy way to make use of any unwanted duplicate items. In addition to some nice new customisation options, including new haircuts and more colour options, Sandstorm Phase 2 brings with it a brand-new achievements system. This allows you to "gain achievements and specialise as a player," and to show off those achievements to other players. Your achievements list can be sorted by rarity to show off the fact that you did something rare that few other players in the world have done.
Shifting focus to PvE?
"... the content for PvP needs to be introduced at a much slower pace than the content for PvE."
Within the flood of reader questions for the Global Agenda team we received here at Massively, one common theme seemed to pop up constantly. A lot of our readers following the game were worried that PvP was being put to the side and forgotten about as Hi-Rez began to focus on PvE. Erez responded with some key insights into the development strategies used on Global Agenda. "With PvP you have to be careful because the content for PvP needs to be introduced at a much slower pace than the content for PvE," said Erez, explaining that "it takes a little while for people to learn new maps, acclimate themselves to them." Hi-Rez plans to still accommodate both PvE and PvP, having recently run the stats and discovered that about 60% of players did primarily PvE and 40% PvP.
The PvP instance system is being augmented with a new "Tournament" system. Every hour there'll be a tournament going on and players can sign up as individuals or in teams. Hi-Rez plans to "extend PvP in several different directions so there's more ways to play it," with plans to add more vehicles and game modes to keep things interesting. Erez used the opportunity to talk about the rationale behind their recent focus on PvE content. "Most people don't realise that we put a tremendous amount of effort into our PvE system before we launched it," he said, pointing out that the game's downfall in PvE was a lack of launch content rather than poor game mechanics or game systems.
Looking to the future
Hi-Rez plans to introduce new elements to PvE to keep it interesting. Giving a glimpse into this promising future development, Erez stated his intention "to have PvE gameplay that gives you a different experience and not just a different looking enemy." With its robust AI system, Global Agenda promises to deliver different types of enemies that will engage you in different ways. The future is looking bright for Global Agenda as Sandstorm Phase 2 makes yet another huge leap in the game's development.