Saturday, June 12, 2010

Global Agenda Won’t Dare to be Different

HiRez is normalizing Global Agenda to MMORPG standards and this will kill the game. In a few crucial ways, this normalization is half-baked and has no hope of capturing the MMORPG crowd.

A summary of the game’s concessions to the MMORPG normal:

  • A per-item loot system instead of a whole-character upgrade system.
  • A randomized loot system instead of craft or AH purchase-based gear acquisition.
  • Maxed gear is now much more difficult to get—you used to be able to get maxed gear for one build in a month or two of 60 minutes per night play. Now you may never get it.
  • Open-world “zones” (instances with higher player caps than 20) will be added in later phases of 1.3.
  • Solo missions were added and open-world solo missions will be tacked on in a later phase.
  • Token-purchased “wellfare epics” were added to the game.

HiRez doesn’t understand how these additions appeal to the players they are meant to draw. They’ve missed the point of doing what they’re doing.

  • The loot system is boring, linear progression. Loot needs to be cool-looking, powerful, and very diverse to keep MMORPG players interested.
  • You can’t trade loot, which means that you are forced to keep crappy drops without hope of trading them for something better. The “advancement at all costs” mindset that makes MMORPGs so addictive relies on trading up through the loot ladder by harnessing the value of past loot. With all equipment being bind on pick-up, an economy that is already a joke has no hope of maturing.
  • Solo missions appeal to players because they allow for advancement alongside others, but not having to work together. Global Agenda’s solo missions are instanced so the player is entirely alone versus legions of enemies. The missions are so difficult once you get to a respectable level that none but the more hardcore players—given some practice over several failed runs—can hope to succeed.
  • The open-world zones will just be instances that allow more players on the same map. The largest number of players on any playable map in GA right now is 20, so the number of playres allowed in the open world zones can’t possibly be much larger. The UT engine also does not tend to support large numbers of players (over 64, I think). This will be by no means “massive”.

Let’s look at the real problems with the game as it exists even after the first phase of the messiah patch 1.3.

  • The loot system is boring. Loot doesn’t do much to differentiate you aside from making you flat out more powerful. But you can’t even become that much more powerful. It’s 4% gains. Flat, small gains do not make for an exciting loot system. It’s just an excuse for a grind.
  • The economy is a joke. There aren’t enough interesting items to trade with other players. Everything’s too locked down and confined to being used by specific characters. Goods can’t be traded freely enough for the economy to take on the kind of full-bodied nature that makes World of Warcraft’s economy remotely interesting. Global Agenda has not been doing anything to improve the viability of the economy in new patches, either.
  • There aren’t enough PvP maps. We have had maybe 3 or 4 PvP maps added in five months. Existing maps are slightly altered as an excuse for “more maps”—this is transparent bullcrap, laziness, and it’s lame. Make maps for your players to play; make good, thoughtfully designed maps that look like you actually gave them some effort.
  • There aren’t enough tilesets—the maps all look surprisingly similar. Crates, metal floors, metal walls, open doors, mainframes, invincible glass barriers—that’s all these maps consist of. The new maps recently added look like they came from an entirely different game. All of the other maps need to be overhauled to reach this standard of design and art.
  • There aren’t enough (innovative/unique) modes. There are six PvP modes. No new ones have been added since release. The existing modes are all point-based and most of them are rehashes of modes we’ve seen in other games, like Team Fortress 2.
  • The story is not integrated into the gameplay. The only story you see is in the tutorial. After that, the game does absolutely nothing to get you into any story whatsoever. Global Agenda is transparent through to the game mechanics.
  • Alliance vs. Alliance is a failure as a competitive mode. The US zones were not competitive before 1.3’s release because all the good players piled into one agency/alliance. The competition was too fragmented to provide much of a fight on a scale broader than a few individual battles. Because there is no reward for finishing anywhere but in first place, there’s no reason to compete—just join the best faction and get your shiny helmet.
  • Half the devices in the game do not have a role to play for anyway—they are not viable in any build for any reason. And there have been little-to-no balance adjustments since the game’s release. This is inexcusable.
  • PvE is boring. The maps are linear. Tactical variety doesn’t exist. The AI is bad, though it has seen limited improvement recently.
  • PvE’s difficulty is primarily due to increased enemy damage, health and increased spawn rates of elites. Hirez did the cheapest possible thing that would increase the difficulty of PvE. They could’ve improved the maps, AI, and added new PvE objectives. They did not.

Global Agenda will not fail because it’s not enough like MMORPGs—it’ll fail because it tries to be like an MMORPG yet doesn’t have the one critical aspect of such games covered: content. Global Agenda has nowhere near enough content to keep a PvE player satisfied—it barely has enough content to keep PvP players playing.

In a market full of much more polished addictive MMORPGs executed significantly better, Global Agenda doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Global Agenda needs to innovate in order to succeed. As events unfold, it’s clear that HiRez does not understand this. They’re satisfied mainstreaming the game right out of its niche and into a market where it cannot compete.

Global Agenda’s lack of vision and direction will kill it. I’ve finally, after playing since release day and earlier, left the game because of the clear disdain for innovation and interest in appealing to a kind of player that cannot be satisfied with a Global Agenda that I would like to play.


Anonymous said...

Great Work,

Your comment is smart and interesting, you analasyed very carefully the game. All my best regards.

I just bought the game after trying out the free trial. It lets you go to level 13 and makes you think that there is still a lot to do.
But once you buy the game, there are only 4 - 5 quests remaining to do until you go from level 18 to 50 with PvP only.

They seriously need More PvE(Quest, Open-zones, Dungeon/Instances, more Maps/Worlds) As well as better Market system, a good improvement is needed.
They also need to spend at less 1 month on Bug correction

Anonymous said...

You do know this game's team is only about six people right??

Unknown said...

I understand this is an old issue but I have to point this out. The team may be only six people and yes GA will fail due to all the insightful comments posted here. But I have no problem with it failing. It deserves to for all these reason. The biggest punch in the face is that these people got a hold of the tribes franchise and are currently slaughtering it. I'm participating in the beta and they've turned it into a GA 2 gameplay absolutely killing the tribes part :(