Ambitious 256-player first-person shooter MAG has already split FPS fans down the middle. On one side are the doubters who say MAG is a frustrating, often boring, lag fest. On the other side are the enthusiasts who say the doubters just don't get it. At a recent hands-on event in London, we not only played the hell out of the PS3 exclusive but also quizzed senior designer Scott Rudi's thoughts on some of MAG's more unique features.
Q. Congratulations on MAG. You've just come out of open beta. Did any of the feedback surprise you, or was it all pretty much what you expected?
Scott Rudi: Always we get some surprises. With the first betas, the early closed betas, those probably had the most surprises because that was the first time we saw non development or non testers play. As developers we know this, that there's going to be unforeseen... people play very different than developers. But as each beta version came out we saw less and less real surprises, and it got to the point where we were just fine tuning and polishing and stuff like that, rather than any major changes.
Q. Would you say MAG's a hardcore shooter for hardcore shooter fans?
SR: No. Actually, one of our goals was to make it accessible for as many people as possible. We need a lot of people to be playing this game, and to rely only on the hardcore shooters is something we can't do. One of the things we've been doing throughout beta and obviously today, is we've been running accelerated entry into some of our harder game modes. When we ship, to get from level one to the point where can get into those big Domination maps, will take you a little while, and hopefully get you used to the game. A lot of the massive online games, you start out first level, you can only do a few things and as you level up you get to do more and more. We're taking the same approach, where when you first buy MAG, you get to play the training and the Suppression. You have to do that a few times to get more comfortable with the basic gameplay. And then you notice when you're in Sabotage, we introduce objectives. And then with Acquisition you've got vehicles and bunkers, and that will usually take quite a while for you to get there. Hopefully you're comfortable with the various aspects by the time you hit the more elaborate things.
Q: The open beta, which we played extensively, had only one game mode available to play for the first ten levels. It won't be like that in the final version?
SR: Right. There will be a lot more steps within that. This last beta, Acquisition wasn't available. That's a bridge, especially in complexity. We just had to ensure we could focus people where we needed them testing the most at that time.
Q: You have a rolling spawn mechanic, which is designed to make players spawn at the same time so they can tackle objectives together. But some players feel like they are waiting too long to spawn. How do you resolve that?
SR: Yes. That's a lot of what we've been honing over time, is trying to resolve those issues. Especially at first, you felt like you waited too long and then when you spawn you run too far etc. So a lot of our attention has been trying to minimise that. I'm confident when we ship it's going to be much less of an issue for a lot of people. Some of the frustration where some of our beta testers, we were pushing along too much, and before they learned that they had to use cover and teamwork and not just run out all Rambo style, they get killed and back in the queue. Where if you play a little bit more intelligently, using cover and using tactics and teamwork, you survive a lot longer and it's a lot less noticeable. The rolling spawn rate was to get more of a game balance system going in.
Q: How will the rolling spawn system be different for the final version?
SR: Speeding up a few of the little systems in there.
Q: Will it be the same as it is in the build we played today?
SR: We're re-using the latest. I'm not saying it's a radical change, but it's on the level of a little polish and fine tuning at this point.
Q: So we weren't playing the final version today?
SR: You were close to it, if this wasn't the final. Pretty close. I don't know if you'd even notice the difference at this point.
Q: So the spawn system we played with is what we'll get in final?
SR: I would call them pretty near what you'll see in ship.