Massively Exclusive: Hi-Rez talks Tribes Universe

It's been a huge couple of days for Hi-Rez Studios, the Atlanta-based indie developer behind Global Agenda and now, the forthcoming Tribes Universe. Massively sat down with company CEO and lead designer Erez Goren for an exclusive world-first interview about the game.

Follow along after the cut for more information about the new title's development direction and time frame, as well as how it may impact Global Agenda.


Massively: Do you think that the completion of Tribes Universe (with its focus on larger maps/more players/vehicles) will lead to the demise of Global Agenda? Clearly they're targeting the same audience, but do you think demand will still exist for the smaller 10v10 action that GA features?

Erez Goren: Tribes Universe is definitely not Global Agenda 2, and we think there will be a market for both games. Each game is built to appeal to somewhat different audiences. Global Agenda, while certainly a shooter, has a lot of features meant to appeal to the traditional MMORPG player -- PvE, leveling, small battlegrounds, loot progression, crafting, etc. Tribes Universe is likely to find its core audience much more in the harder-core FPS community, and we're building the game primarily with that audience in mind.

Following on from that, do you have specific plans to differentiate Tribes Universe and Global Agenda?

Tribes Universe is more targeted to FPS players and for much larger-scale combat. It's primarily a first person view; it's based on loadouts rather than specific classes; the scale of the battles is very large; and there is a very limited amount of PvE.

Will Tribes Universe feature any traditional MMORPG elements (leveling, gear statistics that affect gameplay, item/loot accumulation, crafting, etc.)?

Tribes Universe is not a traditional MMO. All character progression is designed to give more options in gameplay (not inherently greater player strength), levels are more for reputation, and the skill system is much more similar to a game like EVE.

You mentioned in your forum announcement that alpha testing will begin in about three months. How long has the team been working on Tribes Universe?

Just to set appropriate expectations: Our very first alpha tests early next year are going to be more about testing technology than game play -- as we need to exercise early on our changes to the Unreal Engine that allow us to support much larger-size battles.

We have been working on systems to support larger game play for a long time -- which is really one of the most critical parts in this development cycle. Many of our other systems are already in place for supporting different weapons, jetpacks, vehicles, etc.

Many Tribes franchise fans abhor Tribes: Vengeance, preferring Tribes or Tribes 2. Will Tribes Universe attempt to draw from the whole of the Tribes IP or are there specific titles that have influenced the game's development?

We'll reference aspects from all of the Starsiege and Tribes titles as it make sense. Initially we are using Tribes 2 as our primary reference base.

Do you see Tribes Universe competing with Red 5's Firefall for the MMO shooter audience? Are you concerned at all about the games being similar?

We have a lot of respect for all our competition -- especially for Red 5, which has both Tribes and Global Agenda designers in it. At the same time, Firefall seems to be a somewhat different game than what we are planning for. Tribes Universe is being designed as a successor to games like Tribes 2 and Planetside while Firefall seems to be a bit more of a traditional MMO given the PvE, loot, and other elements we have seen so far. I'm sure there is room for both games and I plan to play both.

Any plans to expand the alpha testing pool beyond the level 50 Global Agenda players?

For early testing, high-level Global Agenda players will have priority since most understand some of the mechanics we are looking to test, and many have a range of experience with many games, not just GA (including Tribes, Planetside, etc). In addition, most high-level GA players have a good relationship with and understanding of the studio, which will help us during early testing especially, when many aspects of the game will be rougher and less polished. That said, we also plan to bring in long-time Tribes, Planetside, and other FPS players to round out the group and ensure a range of perspectives that fit our target audience.

You specifically mentioned "skiing" in your initial forum post. Can you talk about the implementation of such a mechanic on an MMO scale, or with the Unreal Engine? Can we expect it to replicate the fast-paced experience of the older games or will it be slowed down a bit?

We will have skiing in Tribes Universe (we have already been testing various implementations of it). There is no issue with the Unreal Engine -- it's more about how we think it's best implemented. Speed is a critical element to test and we'll rely on play testing to help us find just the right balance and pacing.

Have you considered payment models at this stage?

We have not decided on a payment model.

Any particular time frame for late beta/release? 2011? 2012?

Ideally we would like to release the game in about a year from now, although a lot has to go right for that to happen.

Thanks very much.

This article was originally published on Massively.