Like all things in life, the first impression can be the make or break of any relationship.
Being involved in a Beta has given me a look and has left me an impression on Sony’s Massive Action Game by Zipper Interactive.
Please note, the time I spent on MAG was limited to two weeks, Monday to Friday from 6pm to 9pm (GMT). This is not a preview nor would my experience be universal to other beta players.
I also did not take any footage or photos. At the time of the beta I was not sure if I was allowed to discuss the experience. If I am still involved in future betas, I will take photos and add to this piece and future pieces.
This is the third and final installment.
This post, Game Design, will aim to explain what MAG is about and how it works.
For those who might be interested in what I think click below
MAG’s game design targets sheer size over innovation. On the beta I took part in, we played in matches of 32 vs. 32 and for those who have played the Resistance franchise, I’m sure these numbers will not make you jump.
The concept is simple, three factions- Valor, Raven and SVER – warring against each other for resources.
The factions are important if you intend to play with your friends as you must all join the same group.
Valor is modeled on the U.S marines, Raven is a high tech military outfit based in Europe and SVER are a rag tag group of mercenaries.
Each faction is equipped with different weapons. But the standard category of Assault (rifles), Ranged (sniper), Heavy (Light Machine Guns) is available to all though each group had different weapons under the three categories. I believe SVER have a wider range of weapons to unlock but I did not have enough time to confirm this.
The game modes on offer looked pretty standard but I can only comment on the three made available to play: Domination, Sabotage and Acquisition.
With all game modes, you are divided into two groups: Attackers and Defenders.
MAG’s use of a frontline was like a tug of war. The two teams either moved forward or backwards depending if the attackers destroyed enough key targets (pushing frontline forward) or if the defenders were able to reclaim/repair lost objectives (thus restoring the frontline to its default position).
For example, on Sabotage, you are required to knock out two points (A and B) simultaneously. Upon achieving the goal, the frontline would push further into the defenders spawn point and their final target (C). Airborne spawn points would emerge thus allowing you to drop closer to the final target. This option would not be available unless A and B were destroyed.
On other game modes, these frontlines and disabling certain ‘targets’ did have a greater impact on the success of a team.
In Acquisition (capture the flag), if the attacking team disabled the AA guns, their team leaders could call on air strikes. By disabling an enemy bunker, the defending faction would spawn further back from the action and closer to the “flag”, thus pushing them back to defend the flag against the advancing forces who draw closer to their acquisition target (and vice versa as the defending team reclaims objectives by repairing them).
There are three classes you could specialize in (or a combination of). In order to develop your character, Zipper Interactive gives you an allowance of 3400 points.
Each weapon and gadget you equip would cost points. For example, loading you character with a bazooka would cost you 400 points. Basic armour would cost you 200 points, grenades would cost you 600 points etc. You could pretty much equip yourself with a combination of items as long as it did not exceed the maximum quota.
The medic class, repair class or stealth class also required you to spend load out points. To be a medic that could heal your characters, you need to equip the medic kit (costing 1000 points) as opposed to the medic gun (400 points). The difference was simple; you could heal others with the medic kit.
As you complete each mission (fail or win doesn’t matter) you gain experience. After leveling up you are rewarded skill points. Skill points are than spent to upgrade your character with either permanent perks (such as fast reload, damage resistance etc) or unlocking further upgrades for your weapons or gadgets.
If you want to be a field medic than you would need to spend points upgrading your medic gun to a medic kit.
First tier (heal yourself) – everyone has this, all you need to do is add medic gun to your load out.
Second tier (heal yourself and comrades still standing)
Third tier (heal yourself and a ‘downed’ player)
Fourth tier (like third tier but ‘downed’ players are revived with full health)
This is the same with other perks, such as quicker repair, quicker bomb disarm, better radar/cloak etc
In this area, you can also unlock weapon upgrades but to attach them to your weapon, you need to spend load out points (example – attach a silencer to an assault rifle costs you 200 points).
Ultimately, Zipper Interactive allowed you to create a mixture of different load outs with different abilities. They used a tier system which you unlocked by adding points into certain fields i.e. support to advance your medic capabilities, explosives to improve you effect with RPGS, enhance grenade damage and bomb disarm/planting.
Health, Damage and respawn:
Overall, there is an arcade feel to the fracas found in MAG. Several shots are required before a player goes down and getting hit by grenade doesn’t always equal instant death.
As for the health, you don’t have regeneration, but you do have the option to carry a medic gun (to heal yourself) or a medic Kit (to heal yourself and others).
You have the option to equip your player with armour but I don’t think it adds much to damage resistance. It just makes your player move slower than a less armoured individual. In a game where movement is vital, I’d opt for speed over a split second of extra time prior to death.
The game design is good, but not unique or outstanding in any way. The maps are well designed and allows the player to approach in at least three different angles to any particular objective.
You can use the environment to ‘camouflage’ your approach or as cover from enemy fire; but it’s a secondary thought rather than primary game design.
I never felt – at anytime – too far from the action, the only gripe would be respawn time. It could last up to 17 or so seconds or within a second after ‘bleeding out’ (death).
Overall, the game design (for a beta) was quite solid.
Did the whole experience rock my socks off? Not quite but it is a beta and I guess subtle changes here and there can make a big difference.
In the end, the whole 256 player experience has yet to be delivered. Who knows, maybe bigger is better when it comes to what we already know.