The dust from BlizzCon 2010 has settled, and so we’ve decided to turn our attention to the biggest announcement of that weekend and give it the full attention that it deserves. Yes, the announcement of Tribes Universe far out-shinned anything Blizzard announced. But, like Blizzard, Hi-Rez Studios didn’t really announce all that much.
We know that the company now owns the beloved intellectual property, and that the company is working on turning the property in to an MMOFPS. But that’s about all we know. And that’s not enough for us. So we put on our thinking caps – they have light bulbs on top – dug deep for some questions and chained the CEO of Hi-Rez and Chief Designer of Tribes Universe, Erez Goren, to a computer until our questions were answered.
Lore Hound: The company recently announced that it was taking Alpha registration for Tribes Universe. How far along is the game at this point? How large is the team?
Erez Goren: The majority of the work that has gone directly into the game thus far has been in building the technical foundation to support large battles on massive, open landscapes. We are much earlier on when it comes to gameplay.
Fortunately, when we built Global Agenda, we did so in a way that left us with an amazing platform for building a Shooter/MMO on top of the Unreal Engine. This means that much of the work around adding weapons, tuning gameplay, etc, is now able to go very fast as we finish the core technical work.
LH: Speaking of the Alpha, it is currently restricted to max-level Global Agenda players. Is this to reward those who continue to support GA, or do you believe these players are the best testing group?
Erez: Testing during the Alpha stage is not necessarily a reward since it’s not designed as a ‘marketing’ function. The initial part of our Alpha program will be entirely about testing the technical foundation for large battles. Many aspects of the actual gameplay will be far from final and not fully representative or even necessarily “fun” yet.
We know that many level 50 players are a dedicated part of our community and those are usually the best players to work in Alpha in what is usually a rough start. Level 50 Global Agenda players do not expect a finished product and already know that we are capable of producing a final game that is much more polished than [what] is seen at these earlier stages.
LH: Why did Hi-Rez purchase the intellectual property instead of making its own universe again? Is it for the built-in audience or a way of paying homage to a game the designers loved?
Erez: Tribes was a perfect fit for the type of game we wanted to build.
Besides just the thrill of working on a game and a franchise we love, with the Tribes IP we get two major benefits; first we get lore and a design foundation that helps us develop the game much faster. Second, there is already a large audience that is interested in the Tribes universe, which certainly makes it easier to generate interest in the game.
LH: Global Agenda shied away from equating playtime to the power of a character. Will Tribes Universe follow the same philosophy? Can players expect Tribes Universe to have more MMOG mechanics – leveling, loot, reputation, questing, etc – than GA, or less?
Erez: Tribes Universe is designed to have even less traditional MMORPG leveling mechanics than Global Agenda. There are no MMORPG-like quests, loot, or leveling. Progression is primarily based on developing skills with additional weapons and gear that provide for specializations, but is not necessarily more powerful.
We are interested in building a more ‘EvE’-like, sandbox universe for an FPS player with certain restrictions and limitations that make it work and provide structure and importance to the battles.
LH: When we received the announcement the first question we had was whether skiing would be implemented, and if so, how? Will players be expected to perfect the bunny-hopping mechanic that’s become synonymous with the franchise?
Erez: Skiing will definitely be part of the Tribes Universe game play. We’ve been play testing a number of different possible implementations, and will continue to do a lot of play testing before we find the exact implementation that will make the most sense given the other elements of our game play.
LH: Can players expect the game in the near future – 2011, early 2012 – since the Alpha is getting underway soon?
Erez: We expect Alpha to begin early next year. We’ll make decisions on when we move on to Beta, and ultimately release, based on what we see during Alpha and where we stand against building out our vision for the game.
LH: The MMO shooter genre is getting a healthy amount of competition these days. Any concerns about over saturation by the time the game is launched?
Erez: We are simply focused on making the most compelling game we can. There are millions of shooter fans around the world, and plenty of room for several competing games.
LH: Is there a specific payment structure Tribes Universe is being designed for?
Erez: We have not finalized the payment structure at this point. Our most important consideration is which structure will provide our community with the best on-going content and support.
LH: Thanks for your time. Can’t wait to check it out.