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E308: Operatives and the in-game economy in The Agency

As part of our long talk with Matt Wilson from SOE Seattle at E3, we got more information on operatives and the plans for the player-based economy coming in The Agency. As you may recall, there was a lot of confusion on just what type of a role operatives would play, based on the talk of RMT. As such, we were glad to get a chance to get some further information on just what the plans were for the in-game economy as well as a bit more on operatives.

Will there be some type of a player-based economy?

Yes. The economy is money and items, and alternately operatives. The way all these MMOs evolve it's the rare currency, whatever that rare currency is -- like 30 iron keys in Asheron's Call -- that ends up being the thing that players find important. Money ends up usually not being the factor when it comes to in-game economies. And so operatives are what is going to drive the economy in The Agency, because that is the rare system of collection. Once I have the Black Mamba card, and you want the Black Mamba card, then that's where the value in it is for a player. It's all about getting the fun and unique items that will help you play the game better.

You've talked about how time is money in this game. What do you mean by that?

The time equals money part of the equation is through operatives, building up your agencies, specializing some of the weapons and other services and things you can trade. Like you might be a weapons specialist, so you make golden guns or you make golden ammo. Perhaps I'm a gadget person so I can fit all kinds of scopes and rocket launchers to weapons. Together we can build this really cool weapon with all the extras and sell it to someone else. We want to have that kind of economy in place, and that's all based on operatives.

Operatives are living loot -- and I use that term literally. You'll be collecting them in just like real loot in game. Some of them are extremely rare; some of them will be really hard to get; some of them might only happen for a month. All of this will drive the value up on the operatives and the things that they can do or help you make. But it all comes down to time equals money. The more you play, the more you'll collect different operatives, and the more you'll be able to do in regards to support, or playing your chosen role.

What about the players who can't always be online to play? Do you have any plans for how to make the game enjoyable for those who aren't always able to get in game?

Definitely. One of the things we've discovered in MMOs is that when people start playing an MMO, they get all excited about it and everything is great. But if they go away on vacation, or off with their real job, suddenly they come back and everybody's out-leveled them. It winds up that there's often a really negative feeling involved in returning; in feeling left behind by your friends. We really want to take advantage of more of a positive system here, allowing people to still accomplish things when they're not able to play as heavily. That's where having operatives helping while you're off-line will come in.

The cool thing about operatives is that they work for you whether you are online or off-line. They can make you a weapon while you're off-line. They can get experience for you while you're off-line, they can do investigations of other things for you while you're off-line. We really want to make it something pleasurable for you to come back to, and operatives will help there.

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