Hot on the heels of the big PC announcement and video showcasing the power and potential of the companion gaming app, The Division hosted an exclusive fan Q&A at the booth at Gamescom 2013. The event gave a select group of fans the opportunity to meet the amazing team at Massive Entertainment, see what the developers had in store before anyone else and, as an added VIP bonus, they had the chance to directly ask questions. For more than an hour the team chatted with lucky group, sharing stories of the whole development process, regaling them with tales of their now famous E3 preparation, their meeting with renowned developer Hideo Kojima, the decision to go PC and, of course, next-gen dogs… Here’s a full transcript of the wide-ranging Q&A with Game Director Ryan Barnard.
The Division is based upon Operation Dark Winter. Will we see the five days leading up to the collapse of the US, or will we only be playing through the aftermath?
There is a reason why we picked 22 days later. We wanted some time to have passed for a few reasons. Firstly we wanted to give enough time for factions to form and people to start to group together. We also wanted to ensure that there is a rich world for players to enter into. A world that is already full of content and context, so when they start playing the game they don’t quite have the full story – they have to explore, uncover and get immersed in the world in order to really progress.
In what year will The Division be set?
We don’t specify a year; the setting is the “near future.” It’s a Clancy game so it’s definitely grounded in reality, but we’re using all the wiggle room we can in order to try to create the world we want.
We know it’s set in Manhattan, but will we have to chance to explore some territories outside of the New York area?
Absolutely. Exploration is key to the game. The majority does take place in Manhattan – but, yes, you will be able to explore other areas in the game.
Will there be serious decisions that will change the overall storyline? And will there be side quests?
The content is emergent and at the heart of the game it is about the player’s choice. The stories behind how each player develops and grows will always be different, which makes this quite unique. The storyline is the storyline, but how you unravel it and how you get there is really up to you. A lot of what we were trying to do with the demo was hint at the idea of discovery; it’s hugely important to the game. We will probably never reveal in full how the game works before we release it because really at the core of the game is the idea of discovery and exploration.
Will PvP be included in the storyline?
Yes! Unfortunately we can’t get into too many details yet, other than to say PvP is incredibly important to the game. We were asked how we wanted to do it and we realized that separating it out as a multiplayer wouldn’t make sense. We looked at a range of different games and then decided we wanted to keep it ambiguous. We wanted to integrate it into the storyline and add an element of mystery, so you don’t know who is a friend and who is an enemy. To be honest, it’s the thing I’m most excited about for the game!
Will the shooting/combat system be focused on RPG features like skills, damage, statistics, and critical hits? Or will it be more a more traditional skill-based shooter?
We are an RPG first and foremost. So the emphasis for the game is definitely on skill/talent synergies along with your weapon characteristics. We are a Clancy game, we are also an open-world game but really we’re an RPG first. Gear will be important, levels will be important, modifications to weapons will be important… everything that makes a fantastic RPG will be important to the game.
What impact will the actions of the players will have on the game? For example: During the gameplay video you showed us at E3 the players cleared the police station from hostile NPCs. What will happen to this station afterward? Will there be new mission opportunities that unfold from there?
To answer it simply: Yes, your actions as a player are very important; the game world will change depending on your actions or inactions. I’ll try to give you a little more than I did at E3. We’re fixing New York, the whole quest or overarching objective of The Division is to get the “grid” back online and functioning; by grid, we mean water, power, sewerage, sanitation, etc. Your actions will change the face of your New York.
What kind of loot can we expect to see and how does it affect the skills of the player character?
The short answer is that I believe in loot-based RPGs; I think they’re fantastic and loot will be hugely important in The Division. You’ll have a range of items from gear to weapons, each of which will have various mods and things that we’ll get into later on. However, we don’t want this to become one of those loot-based RPGs where it’s all about gear and there is a ridiculous gap between old and new players; if I’ve just started playing the game but my friend has been playing for a few months, we want those guys to be able to play together. It’s a tricky balance and one that we want to try to solve.
Will we see content in the game that will require you to group up with more than four players?
For retention and the end game, “group-plus” content will be really important. I can tell you that there will be multi-group content. I can’t get into it too much, but I can say there will be at least eight-player content.
Can we customize our weapons?
Yes, absolutely, weapons are very important to the game and depending on the type there will be a range of different customizations and modifications that you can do. We’ll get into that a little more soon.
Will the companion app be exclusive to tablets, or will it work on smartphones as well?
We’re shooting for all the major mobile OS for release, including both phones and tablets, so Android, iOS and Windows. In terms of tablets compared to smartphones, there may be a slight difference between screen type and quality but overall it will be the exact same experience.
Are we able to customize or upgrade the drone?
Absolutely! At the moment we only have one in development, but this is going to increase as we continue to develop the game, it will also depend on what type of drone you want to be. Customization and socialization of the drone are really the key elements of the companion app so yes these will definitely be available.
Do dogs have any significance in the game?
Well, it’s a next-gen game so obviously it’s got to have dogs! No, dogs won’t have any special significance other than the fact that New York has over 300,000 dogs living in the city, so imagine if they are all let loose at once… You may encounter some particularly nasty ones, but no they don’t play a significant role.
What are the primary challenges faced in developing for next-gen consoles?
For me I would say making sure you set the scope of the game correctly: It has to be big but also possible, and that’s a fine line to walk. Recently we announced the game for PC, so really the way we look at it now is that we have three games. We have an Xbox One, PS4 and PC game, each of which we are developing for. We can’t just port to PC; we are building all of these games simultaneously and it’s a huge undertaking. But having said that, we have a fantastic team at Massive and we’ll be working with some other studios at Ubisoft to get the job done.