Tribes: Ascend – One Month Later with Todd Harris (Interview)

Posted by on May 11, 2012 - 7 Comments »

On April 12, 2012, Hi-Rez Studios delivered on its promise to rejuvenate the Tribes franchise when it launched the fast-paced, skill-based Tribes: Ascend. Just shy of a month since release, we caught up with Todd  Harris, COO of Hi-Rez Studios, to discuss the launch process, the future of the game and to facilitate a little industry jabbing.

LoreHound: First of all, congratulations on the launch of Tribes: Ascend. Did the team do anything special to celebrate the milestone? Besides praying to the server gods for a smooth launch, that is.

Todd Harris: Team T-shirts, cake and booze!

LH: Overall, the transition from beta to live has seemed relatively smooth. Yet many developers tend to have issues between last-minute patches and server stability. How did Hi-Rez prepare for the changeover?

TH: The long beta was helpful in flushing out most of the major bugs and polishing gameplay before launch.  In terms of servers, the programming team built a great technology platform that allows us to add servers very easily.  So, even with the huge influx of players we’ve generally able to add servers fast enough to keep up.

LH: Fans want to know: What happened to the Lance?

TH: We’ll see.  We’ve been doing updates every 2-3 weeks so we need to save some cool weapon ideas for consideration in future updates.

LH: A large draw to earlier franchise installments was user-created maps. Is there anything in the works on that front?

TH: Nothing in the works right now.  As you know we just rolled out Custom Servers with a bunch of user-managed gameplay settings and admin features.  So we are currently monitoring how players are using Custom Servers and want to make sure they work well for different communities.

LH: Any word on female models and voices?

TH: We have some concept art for females now.  But no timelines to announce.

LH: Did the F2P model have much impact on game design? For the most part, the current model is a typical F2P store. Can players expect Hi-Rez to put a Tribes slant on the offerings in the future?

TH: We’ve been discussing a few new microtransaction types with a Tribes slant – including the idea of custom voice packs.

LH: You mentioned that many publishers snubbed Tribes: Ascend claiming a fast-paced and skill-based shooter wouldn’t work. At what point does Hi-Rez feel comfortable dropping an “I told you so!”?

TH: Now seems good.  I told you so!  :)

Actually we’ve been very flattered by the critical acclaim.  We knew there was a PC gamer audience wanting Tribes to return.  But we weren’t sure how Tribes: Ascend was going to be received by professional game reviewers since it isn’t your typical military shooter.  In theory those external reviews shouldn’t matter, but in reality, they do.  After so much time and energy and passion it does feel good to get those positive reviews.

LH: Industry jabs aside, is Hi-Rez Studios experimenting with all-new game modes tailored specifically to the core nature of Tribes: Ascend. Not adapting common FPS game modes, but innovating for this style of gameplay alone.

TH: Yes.  We’ll continue to experiment with other game-modes.  However we suspect that Capture The Flag will remain the marquee and most popular mode.

LH: We have a fistful of Tribes: Ascend currency codes that we…uhh…requisitioned from the PAX East booth. Can you tell your community that anyone that retweets the article’s link or posts it on their Facebook wall will earn a code while supplies last?

TH:  I was wondering where those PAX codes disappeared to.  :)  You share the codes and we’ll spread the word.

LH: Thanks for your time. All the best in the future.