E308: A glimpse into The Agency's guilds and classes

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E308: A glimpse into The Agency's guilds and classes
In our recent talk with Matt Wilson at E3, we were given a lot of really illuminating information about classes and guilds in the upcoming SOE title, The Agency. It would seem that the Agency crew is doing a very good job of listening to many of the frustrations of MMOG players, while taking the time to study popular games like Team Fortress 2. If you've been wondering about the different classes and abilities, as well as social structure in this upcoming MMOFPS, then you'll be interested to hear what's in the works.

Massively: What are the classes or archetypal roles in The Agency?

Matt Wilson: Our four primary classes are basically Combat, which is the ability to have weapons and have high defenses. Stealth, which is more of a high-DPS, sniper rifles and other things that you take into battle, [Undercover] Stealth which is very important, which is sneaking around and distractions. And finally, there's the Support classes like your Medics and Field Techs. Field Techs are about defense, turrets, other cool things like that. Medics are more about supporting the team, being able to support med stations while you're out in the field, heals, that kind of thing. Those are the general archetypes. Then we have specialties that fall out of those, allowing players to specialize further in each class.

In the Medic field, do they have firepower, or are they purely a support class?

Everybody has firepower. I think one of the interesting things about Team Fortress 2 is how all roles can be effective even with what I'd call crappy weapons. Obviously, you're going to be most effective if you're playing your role, but it shouldn't stop you from being viable on your own. If you're going out and playing turrets in a support class, you're going to be most effective. But who doesn't like going off into a corner, hiding, then whacking somebody with a wrench? [laughs]

We do want that kind of a system in place; where players are not left defenseless. Again, skills shouldn't restrict you if you want to mix it up. But again, if you're into support, laying back, you can definitely do that. I think that TF2 has a good system -- one of the better systems to come out. Of course, a lot of people choose the warrior type class first. Why? Because it makes sense. It makes it easier for players while they learn the game. But we are making sure to support all the classes equally.

Is it a class-based system or a skill based system?

Honestly, it's a class-based, skill-based system. [laughs] In the typical sense it is really a class system. You can be a Field Medic, which is a class, and you can say "I want to switch over and be a Spec Ops person, or switch over and be Combat." If you're playing those positions, the more experience you get in whatever role you're in, then you can specialize those roles further. As players switch between roles, they will need to gain more experience to unlock new skills for each different role.

So essentially experience spreads between the different classes, somewhat like the Jobs system in FFXI, depending on what role you are playing at the time.

Skill still plays an important factor in our game. For example, if I never play my Field Medic -- or only play it every now and then -- and you say "we need a field medic," I should be able to flip over and still be viable if I'm a good shooter player. There should never be a situation where players are forced to say "oh crap, we're in trouble because we need to go back to that mission in the beginning so the field medic can ramp up their skills." You should be able to go in and be scored by your teammates if you're a good player, allowing you to advance as you play.

Really, the status will come from the way you play. Are you going to be hardcore and play all the roles to all the specialties, or are you going to be more casual? Perhaps you say "every Sunday I'm going to get in for an hour and play this one role" instead of focusing on leveling the whole system up. Whatever way players want to go, they should still be able to get in and have fun with their friends. In the end, a headshot is a headshot is a headshot, which is the most important part.

How are you looking to set up guilds?

We have agencies, which are specific to the player, and then we have joint agencies, which are like guilds. The really cool thing about joint agencies is that they allow players to combine their operatives. A beginning player may only have an agency with one operative working on a task. As they play the game and rank up they will get up to five or or ten agents to work on a task at a given time. With guilds, when players get into joint agencies, they can perform larger tasks that may take up to 50 operatives. This gives players more of an incentive to get into guilds and combine resources to accomplish bigger things.

Guilds will also offer more political intrigue into the game play. As a guild leader, I could say to one person, 'give me two operatives' and if they wanted to keep them for whatever they were working on, I could then give them the option of recruiting two new people to the guild who will give me an operative each. This helps the guild as well as the players. Operatives also offer the ability for a guild to accomplish things when players are off-line, just like they do for solo players. If you're out, you can log into the web client and switch the tasks your operatives are on.

Is there a potential for players to have their own headquarters?

We will not be launching with that initially, but it is something we can add. It's not difficult. We'd need to instance that out and build it so that guilds can have access to some combination of the systems. So it's nothing we're planning right off the bat, but it's something we can certainly address post-launch.

How about a guild insignia so players can indicate which joint agencies they belong to?

We haven't quite determined what it will be, but we definitely want players to be able to identify themselves as part of a particular agency. We're not wanting to go with capes for everyone, but we definitely want to support the idea of some form of identification. We just aren't sure how best to approach it currently. As for me, I want the Hello Kitty symbol with girls in go-go boots and miniskirts. Of course, the whole guild has to wear that, by the way! [laughs]
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