For the second year in a row, The Division had a stunning showing at E3 2014. This year, Massive Entertainment unveiled a heart-wrenching cinematic trailer that sets the stage for the events in the game, along with an enticing slice of new gameplay. After seeing the videos and demos for both, we still had a handful of pressing questions, so we cornered Game Director Ryan Barnard to get some answers.
Echoes of the Past
Those high-tech watches worn by the Division agents? They can do so much more than display holographic maps and change load-outs. Newly unveiled in the latest gameplay demo is the ECHO function, which was first shown early in the new gameplay demo when one agent triggered a 3D pointillistic display of orange dots whist in the subway station. The agents were not only able to wander through this display but they were also able to retrieve new information that helped them in the game.
So how does it work? “It’s part of our agents’ tech set,” Barnard says. “In certain areas, it can basically accumulate all the digital data that’s available.” This includes everything from closed-circuit cameras to telephone conversations and more. All this info comes together to form a frozen three-dimensional moment, sometimes with audio attached. Agents can wander through these ECHOs, interacting with the image to find important elements that reveal valuable intel about your immediate surroundings, provide insights into the larger mystery of the pandemic that devastated New York, even nab some hidden loot.
ECHOs will be found throughout New York. “They’re in places that would have information that could be relevant or important,” Barnard says.
The Full Story
Speaking of uncovering mysteries… the cinematic trailer hints at the larger mystery behind the Black Friday pandemic while creating a very human connection to The Division’s New York. But when asked about any insights into what that mystery actually is, Barnard remains tight-lipped. Well, mostly.
“You have to wait until the game comes out,” Barnard says, “but obviously, we have a catalyst. We have a situation with a virus. There’s a story there. There’s a story of what’s happening in New York.” As recently activated agents embedded in mid-crisis New York, you have two tasks. First and foremost: deal with the situation. “You’re on the cusp of things falling completely apart, so you need to take back New York from the factions like the Cleaners that you saw in the demo.”
Next, you’ll need to find out what happened. Who exactly is behind this pandemic? And why? More than this, though, Barnard isn’t willing to share. He wants to let the player experience the story first-hand when the game comes out. After all, as he says, narrative is “an important facet to RPGs, and it’s an important facet to our game.”
The factions Barnard just mentioned? Those are groups of likeminded adversaries in the PvE campaign. Or, in plainer words, enemies and NPCs. “There are many throughout New York, and we want to make sure they’re grounded, that they make sense, that they’re interesting,” Barnard says.
Take the Cleaners, which were spotted at the end of the Take Back New York cinematic trailer. “They’re attracted to areas of high contamination,” Barnard says. “They’re very, very dangerous.” True to their name, the Cleaners want to remove the contagion from New York – by any means necessary. In terms of gameplay, they’re a group-focused roaming faction that can withstand the perils of the Dark Zones thanks to their immunity to contamination. And, as they carry their own makeshift, homemade flamethrowers, they are also strong against fire-based attacks.
“We are an RPG game that needs to have a variety of enemy types,” Barnard says. “We use what we call archetypes, so that they have behaviors that will present interesting gameplay challenges for the players.”
At the end of the E3 2014 gameplay demo, the team unlocks a Base of Operations. In The Division, New York is divided into areas called districts. As you play, you’ll eventually be able to unlock a various bases in the districts. Each base has upgradeable modules and functions that will benefit players.
In the demo that you saw, we were unlocking Megan’s Base of Operations,” Barnard explains. “But it’s at base level, without a lot of functionality. Then by doing more activities in the area, you start to improve your base.”
If you’re teamed up and one person unlocks a base, then it’s unlocked for everyone in that group and they all share the benefits. But if another player unlocks or upgrades a base without you, then you don’t share those benefits. “Anything we do together, we both benefit from,” Barnard says.
“There’ll be many bases of operations,” Barnard adds. “So if you think of our New York as kind of an urban wilderness, these are kind of like footholds in those areas – like base camps.”
For more about The Division and other E3 news, head to the UbiBlog E3 2014 hub and check out these features: