Global Agenda: interview

PhotobucketNow subscription free, jetpacks, futuristic weaponry… the idea of Global Agenda gets us surprisingly excited for an MMO. After grinding to level 18 by repeatedly slapping passers by in the face, we hunted down Hi Rez Studios’ executive producer Todd Harris and forced him to answer our questions at minigunpoint.

CG: Why make Global Agenda an MMO, rather than a traditional shooter?

Todd Harris: We were inspired by the great team shooter mechanics of games like Tribes and Team Fortress 2, but wanted to offer much deeper character progression, gear variation thru loot and crafting, and a grand scale end game to control territory. So we decided to make an MMO but one with shooter based combat.

CG: What did you set out to achieve when you first started work on Global Agenda?

Todd Harris: We wanted to deliver very intense and balanced combat – really to set a new standard for MMOs as compared to the typical point and click, tab-targeting style combat that is so prevalent. Beyond that we hoped to see the game community grow post-launch. And, fortunately we have seen that growth thanks to very positive user reviews.

CG: The character designs are much more striking than the aesthetics of the world itself, which results in the characters being the stand out visual element. Was this intentional?

Todd Harris: That was very intentional. Our game-play is very fast paced and as a player you have to process a lot of information very rapidly. Where are my team-mates? Where are the enemies and what classes are they? Which buffs and debufs are active? And at the same time you are freely aiming the reticule and having to hit your target while he maneuvers using a jetpack across an expansive 3D environment. It is that challenging blend of FPS and RPG combat mechanics that our players find refreshing and addictive. But to support that frenetic pace we made some very deliberate and important visual decisions – characters are designed to be easily seen compared to the environment which lays more in the background, each class has a specific silhouette so it can be quickly recognized, and friends and enemies are color-coded so they can be easily differentiated.

PhotobucketCG: Why drop the optional subscription fee, and why do so when you did?

Todd Harris: In a set of surveys to our existing players and prospective buyers we asked what payment model they thought was most appropriate for Global Agenda and the responses overwhelmingly asked for the Buy To Play model. So, we dropped any subscription requirement for the AvA end game. Players who buy the game have access to all existing content with no monthly fees required. Future expansion content will be charged for separately.

CG: Have you seen sales of the game increase noticeably since you dropped the subscription?

Todd Harris: We launched the game digitally back in February and we’ve been fortunate to remain Steam’s top selling MMO even now seven months later. I think the announcement of no monthly fees certainly helped maintain sales as did overall strong word of mouth.

CG: Why such a gap between the digital and retail releases in the UK? Why release an MMO at retail at all?

Todd Harris: The retail release includes six months of post-launch content that has been packaged in a first, very signficant free expansion called Sandstorm. With the addition of these Sandstorm features and content, Iceberg Interactive saw great potential for Global Agenda at retail. So, we’re pleased to now have a box version of Global Agenda available to retailers across the United Kingdom, with plans to continue to grow our European player community.

PhotobucketCG: How many MMOs do you think the market can comfortably support at one time, and why do you think Global Agenda will succeed?

Todd Harris: The market clearly can’t support too many clones of World of Warcraft. But there IS room for non-fantasy MMOs as well as MMOs with different combat styles and game mechanics. If you are a fan of both shooters and MMOs Global Agenda is really worth taking a look at because in a single package you get your character progression along with a chance to blow stuff up and use your jetpack!

Our alternate payment model also helps Global Agenda succeed in a crowded marketplace. We have many players for which Global Agenda is their secondary MMO. The mission structure allows players to level up by playing 15 minute PvP or PvE missions on their own schedule. So they enjoy the game in smaller doses, but also without having to pay a subscription, and everyone wins.

CG: How much of a role does player feedback have in the fixes, patches, and updates that you develop?

Todd Harris: Player feedback is incredibly important to us. At the same time we are careful to not overvalue any single source of feedback. So we take a look at forum posts, survey responses, and metrics from the game itself to see what users are actually doing. Then when we get clear, consistent feedback in an area we are very quick to respond. Our pricing model and much of the Sandstorm feature list and content was a direct result of player feedback. And we continue to monitor player feedback in setting development priorities

CG: Are you considering any console versions?

Todd Harris: Not at the current time. I think our combat would be great fun on a console. However, we pride ourselves on being quick to deliver updates based on all that valuable player feedback. Unfortunately at the current time a console version would be severely restricted in terms of how quickly we could respond via patches because of the console certification process and some technical constraints. For now we’re all about enhancing the PC-based Global Agenda experience for our players.

The UK retail release hits shelves today. For digital purchases, or more information on the game, visit

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Written by Patrick G

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