Hi-Rez has a new ‘Agenda’: Tribes

* Three Tribes (factions)
* Full clan (agency) support
* First person view (third person for some vehicles)
* Full vehicle support (ground and air)
* Full persistent world with territory control (no instances)
* PvP focused
* Huge outdoor maps (about 10x the area of sonoran desert)
* Large scale fights (100+ players)
* Jetpacks, skiing, lots of weapons, etc

That’s the list of highlights from a game in the beginning stages of development by Hi-Rez Studios (the people who brought you Global Agenda).  That sounds just about like Planetside, doesn’t it?  In fact, that sounds like the game I had hoped Global Agenda would be and exactly like the game I criticized them for not making when they released Global Agenda.  However, it’s not Planetside and it’s not just a random MMO (or whatever we’re supposed to call it…) — it’s the next Tribes game.

Hi-Rez has acquired the Tribes Franchise.  I choked on my Diet Coke when I heard the news.  I’m full of mixed emotions.  I LOVE Tribes with a passion and I have wanted it to return so bad, but do I want Hi-Rez to make it?  This is the company that, in my opinion, botched their first attempt.  On the other hand, this time it appears they know right away what went wrong with Global Agenda and they’ve already listed highlights from “Tribes Universe” that appear to address everything I disliked about Global Agenda.  Then again, they’re turning it into a MMO and that’s -not- what Tribes is about — will they miss the mark again?  You can see what I mean by mixed emotions.

I feel vindicated for my harsh criticism of Global Agenda, especially after this statement found in the announcement:

“As we worked on Warzones we found too many design and programming issues to make it practical. Global Agenda was designed around 10v10 team play and there was no practical path found to scale it up in a significant way (to large scale numbers like 100 players in a single area). As a result we plan to continue releasing more Global Agenda content but only in the formats players are already familiar with. (Special Ops, Raids, Merc Missions, etc)”

I had a feeling.

Unfortunately, and this can be seen in the discussion following their announcement, Global Agenda will most definitely fall by the wayside.  I feel that few people, given the choice, would play Global Agenda over Tribes Universe because it seems to be exactly what Global Agenda is not.

Clearly Hi-Rez received all the feedback from GA and made a decision.  I think it went down like this:

Hi-Rez: “Here’s Global Agenda!”
Players: “It’s not like Tribes -OR- Planetside! What is this?!”
Hi-Rez: *Internally* “Umm what should we do? We didn’t release Tribes or Planetside and that’s sorta what we billed our game as being… I know, let’s buy Tribes and make the next installment of this beloved franchise with a blending of features from Planetside!”

As silly as that sounds, I think that’s what happened and it makes sense. It’s also smart. Additionally, they already have the basic skeleton of the game done. Global Agenda offers them a way of repackaging a lot of their engine. I’m not necessarily a fan of what I refer to as the “Cryptic Model”, but in this case I think it will work out just fine if they can fix the technological issues alluded to in their announcement.

Why is it smart?  Simply put, I had no intentions of ever giving Hi-Rez the time of day.  Now I’ve been brought back in… drawn by the name Tribes and the features of Planetside.  This will be the last chance though.  By taking upon themselves the name of Tribes they have now inherited a passionate fan-base that will gut them and leave them to die if they sully the name.  This second chance for Hi-Rez is either a new beginning or the absolute end.

P.S. The guys at Penny-Arcade know what’s up.

  • While I loved Planetside (until the crystal caves ruined it) I just never got Tribes. I guess an inability to “Ski” and an unwillingness to learn that key mechanic doomed that game for me.

    I still think Blizzard’s secret MMO has a good chance of being something in the vein of Planetside…..that would certainly kill of ventures such as this!

  • I didn’t learn to “ski” for a very long time. In fact, I didn’t learn any of the now mandatory techniques for well over a year. The game was extremely fun without them. It was just a naturally occurring thing that as the game aged there would be a skill disparity.

    Tribes was like a game of Team Fortress 2 or Battlefield. It was about joining a server and playing a game that started and ended. Nothing was persistent about it. So it’ll be interesting to see how they take on the qualities of Planetside while trying to (hopefully) keep the feel of Tribes.

  • This just seems like it’s one of those game design decisions that strikes some developer as “a really cool idea!” with no consideration of who they’re going to sell it to, or what those potential customers will actually demand. I can’t see this ending well at all.

    First and most fundamentally, Tribes – to me – means nearly unlimited speed. Unfortunately, I have zero faith that the GA engine can be reworked to support that, nor do I have confidence any MMO-type server structure, with hundreds of players in a zone, will be able handle the physics and precise shot registration that Tribes style combat entails.

    So right from the beginning I fear a game with the plodding pace of GA claiming to be Tribes because it’s using names from the IP. I mean, maybe I’m wrong here and people will be happy with it in this state? Keen’s reply to Intruder seems to indicate that maybe this feeling of speed isn’t as necessary as I believe.

    After that there’s the conceit that simply will not die: “People like FPS. And people like MMOs (or WoW anyway). I bet they’d LOVE if we make an MMO FPS!” Maybe I’m just not tapped into the right part of the market, but I’ve never seen the demand.

    The Tribes players are going to bitch about the MMO parts, and the MMO players will complain about I don’t even know what, and the whole thing just won’t make a lick of sense. I mean, the only sensible thing in TribesMMO will be to link your jetpack in some way with your item progression, right? It’s like the only logical choice from the MMO side of things; but it would be heresy from the FPS side. So now new players have to deal with the core mechanic of the game being gimped until they level? And Tribes vets get to bitch about how they need to grind for hundreds of hours to unlock “real” skiing. I just see this minefield of potentially game-killing mistakes, and very, very little safe ground to stand on for the developers.

    I wish them the best of luck. Though GA looked far to slow to ever pique my interest as a shooter fan, I’ve gotten only good impressions of the company, and in general I’d love to see a little shop like them succeed. I’m just worried that when they make those one or two inevitable “but this is MMO accepted wisdom” missteps, the Tribes and Planetside fanbases will destroy them for it.

  • Meh, late research EDIT: I see they’re using the Unreal Engine for their servers upon reading the linked article. Perhaps my main fear isn’t as big a deal after all?

    We shall see. If only there was an edit function… 🙂

  • Sisyphean – I think you are making a key error, and I hope they don’t make the same one, and that is the assumption that MMO means item progression. MMO has in too many cases become synonymous with RPG (which can be more rightly traditionally tied to levels and item progression). For example, look at World War 2 Online.

    Please HiRez, for the love of all that is holy and right in the world, leave items OUT OF THE GAME, leave levels out of the game. Give people access too 100% of the kits immediately and let the game just play out. The MMO part should be this never ending territorial war, not leveling up, not getting loot, not killing bots/monsters/AI enemies.

    Anything less and I’ll be disappointed. Keep that weak crap out of this game, its high time we had a real MMOFPS with none of RPG elements that sap the fun of playing the game for the sake of the game, in favor of stupid shit like farming for a new gun.

  • Oh, and by the way, I love my loot farming and leveling and character building in RPGs, and especially ARPGs (Diablo, etc). Just please keep it out of my FPS games.

  • personally i think this makes perfect sense for hi-rez… and i don’t see it negatively affecting GA…

    what i foresee happening is that all the fat and “massive” stuff from GA will be trimmed and they’ll be able to focus on the core aspects of the gameplay that they already do really well… we’ll end up with a TF2 with jetpacks style class based shooter in GA… and the new Tribes MMO will be what most people hoped for when GA was in development.

    i think it’ll end up benefiting both games since they won’t have 1 game trying to be all things to everyone (and alienating half the people you’re trying to appeal to in the process because you’ve got radically different people interested in the game because of the wide target market).. they can focus more on 2 different segments of the market and we’ll end up with 2 very good games for the type of player they’re trying to appeal to.

    if they can re-use some assets and cut costs then all the better… if they had to build everything from scratch then i don’t see how any company could make money from a tribes MMO… there just isn’t a large enough market to recoup your investment… but if they can re-use some stuff from GA then they might actually have a chance to make a decent game for a decent price and actually be profitable… which is a good thing for MMOs and videogames as a whole.

    basically what i’m saying is that there is no way any other company could make a tribes MMO and have a chance to be profitable… so either you get behind hi-rez and show them some support or we’ll never see the game we’ve been hoping for.

  • I agree about the possibility that GA can benefit from an ideological perspective, but I’m not sure that it will mean a brighter future. Honestly, do you see Tribes Universe coming out and suddenly people saying, “Now I want to play Global Agenda!” — I don’t.

    As for no other company being able to make a Tribes MMO, that’s just not true. There are plenty of enormous publishers/developers out there with the assets to do it. Since there hasn’t been a true MMOFPS since Planetside, we have absolutely no idea what the demographics are and whether or not people would play one.

  • actually i do see people playing tribes and then saying “Now i want to play GA!”…

    there will never be a fair fight in tribes, it’s just not possible with a persistent 3-way battle over huge territories… so if you like the combat of tribes, but get tired of the zerg, then you can play the more balanced and tactical GA.

    also if they create tribes well, it won’t be a game that you just log on and play for 20 minutes then log off… it’ll be a game where you log on, chill with your mates for a bit, then decide to go seige a territory, run/drive/fly all the way there, then proceed to spend at least a half hour securing the area… so basically to really do anything in tribes you’re going to need at least an hour of playtime… players that don’t have that but just want a quick shooter fix can play a match or 2 of GA then log off.

    what would be really nice is if they integrated the 2 games in such a way that if you went to a certain location in the tribes world, it would basically log you into GA right from tribes so you don’t have to close 1 game and open another… then when you want to leave you just head back outside and all of a sudden you’re in tribes again.

    this would make GA not just a hub for GA… but also a hub for tribes that you can pass time in while waiting for guildies to come online so you can go try and capture a new territory.

    there’s a whole lot of potential for working these 2 games together so that they compliment each other…

    especially people that have 1 game but not the other.. if they combine friend lists from both games, so you can see that your buddy is playing GA while you only own tribes, then you’re much more likely to pick up GA also.

    something like this has never really been done before in the MMO space… i just hope hi-rez is thinking outside the box with this because there are so many possibilities to be explored and as a marketer i’m really excited about the potential this represents in the videogame industry.

    if they do it right, this could be a gold mine. (not of blizzard proportions but certainly enough to more than cover the bills at hi-rez).

  • “Please HiRez, for the love of all that is holy and right in the world, leave items OUT OF THE GAME, leave levels out of the game. Give people access too 100% of the kits immediately and let the game just play out. The MMO part should be this never ending territorial war, not leveling up, not getting loot, not killing bots/monsters/AI enemies.”

    Based on what they did with GA this doesn’t seem to fit their philosophy, unfortunately. Since none of this was mentioned in their laundry list of reasons to make a new game, I had assume they’re pretty happy with how these features worked out.

    Maybe not a good assumption, but that’s what I’m working with.

  • To replace a level system, or any kind of progression system for that matter requires putting another one in place. If you’re going to take away gear and levels then you have to give something back in return. People need to feel like there would be a reason to take over these territories. Even if it’s something small. Generally, they’re not going to do it just for the sake of doing it. You have to reward them somehow and levels is the easiest way to go about it. So I doubt it will be a level-less game.

  • Shadrah – Then why do people ever play a game like TF2, or Counter Strike?

    TF2 might be a less than optimal example for me since they’ve gone all stupid with items. Counter Strike is a good one though, it continues to be one of the top 5 most played games on Steam every single day.

    People want to win if thats the point of the game. Item farming seems to win out when you put the two next to each other, so leave it out all together. Why do people play WW2Online. To win! (I know that game isn’t popular, but that has far more to do the fact that its actually a sim more than a shooter than with its territorial fighting mechanic and lack of loot).

  • Well , as someone who played Global Agenda for hours and hours this is my thoughts

    1. Tribes sounds like a sequel aka “Global Agenda 2”

    Now i personally don’t think GA 1 has such a long life to it. GA will be dead in a year, not because it is bad, but because you will get tired of it.

    Just like we are getting a Call of Duty almost every year, why can’t we get a new Global Agenda every year or two?

    2. Yes, i’d expect Tribes to replace GA, even if they still run in parallel. Just like EQ1 and EQ2 are BOTH still running……In GA you didn’t need that much time [or grind] to get high up and geared up, so it’s easy to move to another version of the game.

    3. I think the GA platform is very solid, the combat feels good, it’s not laggy, it feels snappy [just like WoW feels snappy] and polished. Using GA as a “baseline” i believe HiRez CAN actually focus on “game mechanics” instead of being hampered by the “game engine” .

    4. GA does not have a subscription, so who the hell cares how another HiRez game will influence GAs population ?

    Does ANYONE really ask this every time Call of Duty or Battlefield gets released? Do you REALLY go “but but it will kill Call of Duty 4 ” or “what about Call of Duty 1, are they gonna stop fixing bugs for it?” ….do we care?

    5. I think Hirez has shown they CAN build a solid game platform. I don’t much care how they launched GA, that is not the baseline for Tribes. Global Agenda NOW is the baseline.

    I am actually less concerned about HiRez than say Bioware. I’ve played Global Agenda, i KNOW what they can do and Tribes Universe seem to be a step up [sequel] rather than something from scratch. In contrast Bioware has not done anything in the MMO sphere and we actually have nothing concrete to go on at all…..

  • Meh. Someone just deliver a Planetside 2 or something as close to it as possible and I’ll be set. I’m looking at you Blizzard and/or SOE. We’re long overdue for a second MMOFPS.

  • @Mala: Because they’re completely different types of games. TF2 and CSS are room based shooters. They’re not MMOFPS types of games. When people think MMO, they don’t think Counter-strike. They think World of Warcraft, or Ultima Online, or DAoC, etc. All of which offer what? A progression system. Part of what gave Global Agenda such bad reviews was the feel that it was just another room based shooter. Even with the level system. So, how do you think people are going to look to an MMOFPS that is nothing but mindless killing. Because that’s all a territory capture will boil down to in the end.

    While it might be nice in theory to have a progressionless system, that’s just not what an MMO is. If there’s nothing to work towards worth having, and holding a territory just isn’t enough, then people will quickly lose interest. It was the same discussion Keen and I were having. Where holding a territory might be nice, but if all you’re getting for it is the territory then the majority won’t continue to play. You have to offer an incentive of some kind. Even a small one. Which is where progression based systems shine so well.

  • Even WW2OL had some progression 😛 Heck even Counter Strike had progression in that you earned money for kills and could buy better gear to give you the edge / play the type of game you wanted.

  • @ Shadrah

    Global Agenda didn’t get bad reviews. They’ve got a Metacritic score of 70/100 by critics and 8.3/10 by community.

    What GA didn’t do well was cater for everyone and manage expectations. The FPS community wanted more FPS and the MMO community wanted more MMO. They advertised that they were Massive, when they were really just a lobby.

    The design specs of GA was to create a combination of TF2 and WoW battlegrounds as cheaply as possible to create a core engine that they could expand upon as market demanded. They did this completely successfully, their business is in the black financially and they’re looking to expand.

    What’s the problem?

  • i’m with Mesar.

    GA was a successful game.. the only problem is that they didn’t manage expectations well and they tried to appeal to 2 completely different types of gamers.

    a Tribes MMO will allow them to create 2 games that each are better for their target markets instead of 1 game that tries to cater to 2 non-compatible playstyles.

    @ Shadra – you’re coming at this argument from an MMO only position, you have to remember that you are only half of the target market for GA and there are just as many players coming at this argument from an FPS only position… and what they want is often exactly the opposite of what you want…

    but with 2 separate games they can better cater to the 2 different playstyles and everyone wins…

  • A Tribes game with an MMO spin will give them a chance to make a game that can live up to their hype.

    A Tribes style game with MMO elements will attract a much larger FPS following than a MMO one. The MMO elements can be muted and slight, at most, and the majority will be perfectly happy with it.

  • @Bartlebe: That’s what I was sayin’, actually. But there’s no way they’ll be able to call it an MMO without having elements staple to what people see as MMOs. You know, like I said. It really only needs to be minor elements. But, honestly, if you’re just going to make it 100% tribes with no progression. Why make it massive in the first place? A game with more of a GA feel would much better suit Tribes. In my honest opinion.

    Of course, I could definitely see a Tribes MMO work. You just can’t call it an MMO without making it an actual MMO.

    @Mesar: I never said it was a bad thing. However, they did get some pretty wonky reviews at the start. I love GA. I own it. I think it’s a wonderful game, don’t get me wrong.

  • My point is that an MMO should refer to scale, not to progression. Maybe you are suggesting that an MMO simply must have progression at this point in order for it to be an MMO. If thats the case, I have no hope for a decent MMOFPS.

  • No, I’m not necessarily saying it has to have it. Simply that it’s something people will expect from an MMO. If it doesn’t have it, then they won’t feel like they believe an MMO should. All MMORPG/FPS that I know of have had them in some way. Even Planetside had a level system, and it’s arguably the best of the genre ever released.

  • Will Tribes Universe feature any traditional MMORPG elements (leveling, gear statistics that affect gameplay, item/loot accumulation, crafting, etc.)?

    Tribes Universe is not a traditional MMO. All character progression is designed to give more options in gameplay (not inherently greater player strength), levels are more for reputation, and the skill system is much more similar to a game like EVE.

  • Interesting interview. I’m happy to admit my earlier post were too hasty – they seem to have a much better philosophy here than I had first feared. However, I’m still confused a bit about what they’re going for:

    They claim their target audience is mostly hardcore FPS players, rather than MMO players. Ok, sounds good so far.

    However, the skill system is compared to EvE, which is about as far from what you want in an FPS as possible, IMO.

    Levels are for reputation, which is fine.

    However, items are in the game, but are used to expand diversity and options. That sounds great in theory (like TF2, basically), but we need more details on how you get those items and if there are things like arbitrary level restrictions on items.

    They drop Tribes 2 as their basic model, which is good enough – they understand people like the old style of play, not that miserable 3rd game.

    And this sounds wishy-washy to me:

    “We will have skiing in Tribes Universe (we have already been testing various implementations of it). There is no issue with the Unreal Engine — it’s more about how we think it’s best implemented. Speed is a critical element to test and we’ll rely on play testing to help us find just the right balance and pacing.”

    It’s a critical element to test, but there’s no talk about their philosophy. Is this being made to support “Oh, this is fast”, or “holy crap how did he just get in and out that fast?”

    It’s definitely on my radar now, though. Very interested to hear more.

  • Do not relinquish your skepticism just yet. Hi-Rez was quite clever in hiding the true nature of GA while allowing everyone to think it would be something else. Until I actually play the game I will remain skeptical. It’s healthy.

  • Oh, I agree.

    Though I always understood GA to be exactly what it wound up being – I’m somewhat confused when you and others mention how crafty Hi-Rez was in concealing the truth about the game.

    Probably it’s because I learned of GA from the GW community, and they basically described it as “guildwars with guns”, so it was always clear to me that it was going to be small instanced fights. I assume they painted a different picture in their advertising?

    Anyway, staying skeptical!

  • @Sisy: An entirely different picture, indeed. Just look at the trailer they released:


    The way they describe it is as a massive, open world. When it was far from it, to be honest. Also, it’s not very persistent like they claim. Things don’t exactly change for everyone in the world. Only for 10 people at a time who own a single territory on one small hex.

  • @Shadrah

    Seeing that trailer now, after playing GA, really makes my blood boil.

    What liars they are.

  • @Bart: I agree. It’s still a good game, but they advertised it almost 100% wrong. Which, I’m sure, is what drove a lot of people away from it. However, it’s B2P. So i don’t think it’s a bad spend. Especially if you get one of the 30% off coupons from a buddy.

  • Interesting. Thanks for the education. 🙂

    Like I said, I learned of it from early beta testers who also played Guildwars, and were very clear about the fact that it was a small-scale instanced game. It was a selling point amongst those who told me about it.

    Interesting they advertised and marketed it so very wrong… Not comforting at all.

  • My biggest dislike for GA is damage output vs healing output. Mostly due to the waves I think. Noone dies until all cooldowns have been blown. Its frustrating. It makes the pace far too slow. TF2 medic = good. GA medic = bad.