The root problem in Global Agenda’s design is that it pulls its playerbase in too many different directions.
If a skill-based game is good, it doesn’t need to have a lot of conventional content. Counterstrike didn’t have PvE and leveling. Starcraft doesn’t need fifteen modes of play. Themepark MMORPGs tack on many features and endless content because they rely on content to keep their players entertained. Themeparks don’t benefit from sufficiency skill tests and active skill ranking on a broad scale as serious RTS and TBS games inevitably do—themepark gameplay is oriented towards experiencing an event with friends, not towards ranking and measuring your skill. Global Agenda’s player vs. player shooter gameplay (not only the explicit “PvP” mode, but AvA as well), the focus of the game and the very core of the game, naturally establishes skill orientation between players. There is no other gameplay except for PvE missions which reward teams for completing them in a sufficient time with at most a certain number of deaths. Though slightly more experience- and content-oriented, PvE is also a sufficiency skill test.
Global Agenda strives with one half of its being to be a skill-focused game, and with the other half to be a content-focused game. Though games are not zero-sum compromises between skill- and content-focus, creating a skill-based game with high quantities of traditional content limits the amount of work that can be done on game balance—you can usually either work on lots of content or you can create very balanced content, not both. The skill and content tug-of-war forces players of two distinct kinds to coexist in the same game: those who are content-driven (generally MMORPG players) and those who are skill-driven (generally FPS players). There’s clearly friction here in the game’s design.
Global Agenda’s “PvP” mode relies on a matchmaking system. You queue your character (perhaps with a team of three other players at most) and the matchmaker attempts to put you in a game on a random mode and random map where each side has a 50% chance of victory. In order to do this with any degree of reliability, the matchmaker needs a baseline number of players at each skill level. But since Global Agenda is partially content-oriented, a playerbase that would barely be sufficient to keep the matchmaking for PvP supplied with players now is stretched through 7 different game modes.
- Player vs. Player
- Player vs. Environment
- Low Security
- Medium Security
- High Security
- Maximum Security
- Double Agent
- Agency vs. Agency (Conquest)
The game usually doesn’t have more than 4,000 concurrent players. Demand between these modes is not equal, though, so the problem isn’t as bad as it may initially look. Regardless, all of the other modes constantly distracting players still starves the PvP matchmaker of player diversity at all times but maybe one or two of the peak hours when most players are online. There will be two or three modes that receive the majority of the attention, and the rest will be starved.
Global Agenda has woven the player-availability problem from themepark MMORPGs into a skill-based game where more players are needed in certain modes to ensure reasonable matchmaking. As the game builds in more game modes (and we’ve been promised some kind of excuse for an open-world “zone”), this problem will get worse. The developers don’t seem to be aware of this issue—they need to pay attention because there’s no guarantee that adding more high-level game modes will draw enough players to keep all the other queues for PvE and PvP moving at a reasonable pace, let alone allowing enough players queuing for the matchmaker to do a good job. If players are subjected to long waits and too many lopsided matches, they’ll leave Global Agenda for better games; I’ve already seen hundreds of posts on the forums about matchmaking driving people out of PvP and complaints about how the matchmaker is “broken”, and the problem will only get worse from here.