The halls of Ubisoft Singapore were swirling with rumors – and for good reason. On one side of the office, an entire team of developers were locked away in a large room for 21 months. The only info that leaked out to the rest of the group? These sequestered staffers were tirelessly toiling away on “the phantom side of ghosts.”
Scary? Yes. And not just because there was truth behind the dark whispers. Ghost would soon become a Phantom, indeed. As we just announced today, Ghost Recon Online has changed its name to Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Phantoms, and it will be released worldwide on Steam and PC on April 10.
OK, so maybe they weren’t truly locked up. And the room itself, in the South Tower of the Ubisoft Singapore offices, has a lovely view of the Singapore skyline. It was against this bright backdrop that we cornered one of our most famous Phantoms, Producer Corey Facteau, and grilled him about the origins and evolution of Ghost Recon Phantoms.
First of all, is Ghost Recon Phantoms a new game?
The end of open beta is a new start to the game. The difference between where the game started and where it is now is considerable. Our open beta phase was long – 21 months – but it enabled us to have 5 million people play the game. These guys have closely collaborated with our team, and this partnership resulted in the evolution of the DNA of Ghost Recon Online and huge improvements in some very important aspects of the game. For example, Ghost Recon Phantoms now better combines the intensity of the heated firefights found in shooters with the incredible depth of teamwork and tactics found in MOBAs.
What, exactly, does that mean?
It means that Ghost Recon Phantoms is not a run-and-gun type of shooter. If you play it the same way you play normal shooters, you will die. You need to act as a team. A team that communicates tactically through the in-game voice comm. It really feels like you are playing your weekly team sport with your friends.
Second, we have a highly developed cover system. To push the team sport comparison a bit more, you need a good field vision to excel. You need to use obstacles, you need to coordinate, and you need to progress carefully in order to stay alive.
Finally, our characters have technological abilities that are essential and complete each other; they make a difference on the battlefield. For instance, to progress in an ambush, a soldier will blind the opposing team with an active denial system weapon – a real device that shoots microwaves and burns you non-lethally – while his invisible buddy pushes on and shoots his opponents while protected by a digital camouflage. In the end, when your team plays well, Ghost Recon Phantoms will give you an incredible adrenaline rush.
But why did you change the name of the game from Ghost Recon Online to Ghost Recon Phantoms?
The name change is directly linked to the new backstory and the new geopolitical context of the game. Ghost Recon, the brand, is about showcasing a realistic depiction of tomorrow’s battlefield. The very nature of conflicts is changing. We can see it every day in the news, in Syria, Crimea or Thailand. New conflicts have a lot of gray area. They are not necessarily directly led by countries, but also by small factions, communities or cells. These new protagonists are difficult to identify and they don’t necessarily fight for ideas or values; their motives are not always very clear. Sometimes their political motives hide an appetite for cold, hard cash. The world is already a big gray zone and it will be more and more so. This rings a bell with our community. It says something about the world we live in.
So where do the Phantoms come from?
Our characters have also become gray, so to speak. On one side, there are the Ghosts. You already know them. The Ghosts are Special Forces serving the United States and a certain idea of order and freedom. The Phantoms are basically ex-Ghosts – a rogue faction who disagreed on the purpose of their fight, or just realized that by bringing enough money to the table they could lead their own war and push their own interests. Ghosts and Phantoms are not that different; they are feuding brothers – two sides of the same coin – and the border between the two is very thin.
How does the game look different?
The game has a new identity and therefore a new look. First, Ghost Recon Phantoms comes with new character designs, which look more modern and badass. We also have new device designs for all three classes. The art team took its inspiration from military system prototypes and managed to create realistic new gear. We are really delivering an experience representative of the near future’s battlefield.
We are also launching with a complete reworking of the lighting and level design on a majority of the maps. We based this redesign on statistical analysis of players’ behaviors in game.
So this isn’t only an aesthetic polish. It definitely improves the tactical aspect of the game, and we are looking forward to hearing feedback from the players!
What about new features?
The team has been preparing this launch with the community for a long time now and we are continuously working on new features. The community is currently playtesting two new features: Tactical Insertion and Smoke Grenades. Smoke Grenades allow you to create confusion to perforate enemy lines or to escape. Tactical Inserts are a device that you can use a few times in a match and allow you to spawn next to one of your teammates at a critical moment.
With the launch of the game, the Development team is also going to address the main concerns of the players. The matchmaking will now take into account both the skills and gear, which will grant a fair gaming experience to all users, both new and veterans, paying or not. The team is also going to reveal the new “Mod Master” and weapon camo systems, which will allow countless customization possibilities. The details of these changes will be shared in a community video later this week.
We have other major changes to announce soon, many of which address the concerns of those who’ve been playing the game. For example, the matchmaking now considers both the skills and the gear; this is so we can make sure players have a fair gaming experience, regardless of whether you’re new or a veteran, or whether you choose to pay or not. We also have new ways to customize the experience. We’ll share details on the weapon camo system and the new “Mod Master” – along with the other changes – in a community video we’ll be releasing soon. These are hot topics for the community, and believe me, they will be happy!
Are you going to release new maps? New guns?
Ghost Recon Phantoms is a living game. It doesn’t stop at the upcoming launch! In the following month we will release new maps. Of course, we will regularly create new guns and many more things that are still secret!
What kind of events do you have planned for the launch?
We have already started celebrating the launch with our community. In February, we launched a very generous Veteran Rewards Program for our beta players. They can earn up to $30 [US] in in-game money.
You will be soon be able to discover the people who have developed Ghost Recon Phantoms, as we will release a web-series telling the story of our project.
We also have exciting events coming up in April after the launch on steam… But I can’t say more on this, you will have to stay tuned to know more!
For more details on Ghost Recon Phantoms, take a look at these posts: