Friday, February 12, 2010

GA Follow-up with Todd Harris

, I was extremely dissatisfied with IGN's interview with Todd Harris. I criticized Cydoc and then rhetorically posed a bunch of questions from the top of my head that I, a passionate player, had about Global Agenda.

Hours later, some of my questions were indirectly addressed in a newsletter--particularly random PvP queuing and an extension to the Conquest free trial.

Several hours after that (while I was playing GA), Mr. Harris personally answered my questions. I want to thank him and Hi-Rez for taking the time and for caring about their game as much as I do.

First, thanks for the attention to Global Agenda. There are a lot of MMOs out there and we appreciate your interest in our title. Clearly you guys are investing a lot of time with the game as you form your opinions and publish them. I may not agree with them all but I can respect informed opinions. I wish all game journalists would be as well informed before they post. :)

I saw your most recent blog earlier today. And so, without further ado, are some quick written responses to the questions you guys were most interested in.

  • The servers are down or restarted almost daily. Are player numbers and activity surpassing your technical expectations?

    Global Agenda player activity has indeed been very strong - slightly ahead of our projections to the extent that we've added more capacity in Europe and are working on new servers closer to our Oceanic community. In the first days after launch we certainly had a set of restarts for tuning and application of server patches. That said, I would invite anyone to compare our 'uptime in the 2 weeks since launch' against any other MMO launch and I think we compare very favorably. In the first ten days we were perhaps overly-aggressive in bringing down the server to apply dev patches. We have moved to an approach where maintenance patches are applied during a pre-scheduled off-peak time unless it is truly a critical issue. This maintenance schedule should make things more manageable for players and still let us continue to improve the game as is our commitment.
  • Why are VOIP channels so shaky? Should we be complaining to you or to Vivox?

    Mainly us. We work closely with Vivox. So, in terms of the exceptional sound quality of our built-in voice, we'll both take some of the credit. :) Likewise, we work jointly to address any issues. We have had zero issues with the core technology Vivox delivers. And we worked hard to ensure that any voice issue would not affect the core game. However, a small set of users have definitely experienced VoIP channel stability issues within Global Agenda and we are delivering a patch later this month that we believe will address those reported issues.
  • What qualifies Global Agenda as an "MMO" while League of Legends is not?

    Each game needs to choose its own path in terms of qualifying itself. And even then we know that players bring their own expectations to the table. We've tried to be VERY candid about what Global Agenda provides and what it does not since some players assume MMO means World of Warcraft with different art. As you guys know, our website states that "Global Agenda is NOT a typical MMO in many respects and does not include: a large, seamless world to explore; quest givers; open world PvP or PvE; elves. If you consider any of these items to be must-haves within your MMO, we may not be the game for you.

    We categorize Global Agenda as an MMO because, although instance based, our game allows thousands or tens of thousands of players to all find one another, interact, and compete online within a single-shard universe. There is no segmenting of the population based on named server as you find in the typical MMO or typical online shooter. We also feel that Global Agenda's AvA gameplay delivers more persistence and consequence than the typical MMO but each player needs to make that determination for himself.

    Personally, I'm encouraged by the many hybrid games now emerging that allow thousands of players to interact online in non traditional ways. These games each trigger lots of debate about terminology but I think the innovation is exciting to see.
  • Follow-up: What makes Dome City more than a glorified lobby?

    I think Dome City hosts functionality beyond what most people would expect in a lobby. Specifically - locations for player mail, an auction house, and player crafting, in addition to the expected set of vendors. That said, Dome City could certainly be called a graphical lobby and I wouldn't debate you on it. Its primary purpose is to support our mission-focused gameplay and accessible character progression. I do think we have lots of room to add social elements and immersion elements to our city spaces over time but our priority was to deliver fun combat first.
  • Players have expressed dissatisfaction with the random PvP mission type. Why hasn't a preference system been implemented?

    A preference system for PvP will be live before the end of this month.

    Earlier today I posted the following to the GA community:

    For initial release we consolidated gametypes within a single PvP queue. With no guarantee around number of players we would have, our top priority was to ensure the players got into matches quickly and to make sure our matchmaking system had a sufficiently large population to balance out sides. That said, we've heard how much players want to specify, or eliminate, certain match types. And we do have the population to support this request. So, we will be implementing player selections per PvP gametype so you can exclude or include each type as you wish.

  • Do you plan on extending your matchmaking system to include character talent specialization?

    No current plans for that. We'll continue to monitor matchmaking and improve it but so far it is doing a very good job.

  • Are players of high TrueSkill matched with similarly skilled players, or does the system try to even out the teams by dropping in low-skill teammates?

    Matchmaking's first priority is to ensure that the average skill-level is equal between the two sides – in addition to considering other factors like keeping classes balanced and character levels balanced. Matchmaking prefers to also keep the standard deviation low within a match so similarly skilled players are together. However we balance all of that against minimizing the time players are waiting for a match. Bottom line: if the population online is fairly low you could have some lower or higher skilled teammates as long as the average skill-level is the same between the two sides.
  • Why is Conquest free until March 3rd rather than for the first 30 days of box purchase, like every other MMO?

    The MMOs that include 30 days with box purchase also shut down your access to the game entirely when you stop paying subscription. We let you play the core game in perpetuity and I think the real question is why every other MMO doesn't offer that! As an aside, we have recently extended our Conquest free offer until the end of March. The extension will allow allow more players to sample Conquest and allow us to demonstrate our commitment to delivering new content frequently.


Matt said...

Very cool guys!

Jeff said...

Wow. I am not a regular commenter on this blog, or any blog, but I had to say something about this response.

I must say I am thoroughly impressed by Todd's response. It takes honesty and dedication to face criticism so quickly and productively. And his few politicized statements were almost unnoticeable.

This really makes me respect Hi-Rez Studios and makes me want to buy GA to see how it stacks up to Planetside.