Sony Online Entertainment is one of, if not the most experienced company in MMOs. It scored one of the genre's breakthrough successes with the first EverQuest, and to this day it operates the widest range of MMOs under a single roof anywhere, including Star Wars Galaxies, PlanetSide, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Vanguard, EverQuest and its sequel. In recent years, however, it has been overshadowed - not just by World of Warcraft, but also by the succession of eager, over-hyped pretenders that have attempted to grab WOW's coat-tails as Blizzard did EverQuest's.
Visit Sony Online Entertainment's Seattle offices, which house the team making its stylish espionage MMO The Agency for PC and PS3, and you get buried alive: in ideas, in raw information, in words. Most of these things are fired out of the mouth of lead designer Hal Milton at machine-gun rate and you're left frantically scribbling away to keep up, not to mention thrown by the propensity of Milton and the rest of the team to answer questions on almost any facet of the gameplay in great detail, rather than with a "we're not talking about that today".
Yesterday, we previewed this promising and extremely inventive MMO shooter for PS3 and PC from Sony Online Entertainment's Seattle studio. We also had a chance to interview lead designer Hal Milton - an endearingly enthusiastic crackpot genius, half George McFly, half Doc Brown - and director of development Matt Wilson about where they're trying to take the game, and MMOs in general. Read on for the results.
As we sit and discuss The Agency with lead designer Hal Milton in the discreet offices of Sony Online Entertainment's Seattle studio, he hits upon a definition of what MMO games should deliver that's quite brilliant in its simplicity. We might have been talking about any number of the innovative, open-ended features of the espionage-themed massively multiplayer shooter when he nails it: the collectible operatives who play the game when you don't, the role system that's assigned to gear rather than characters, the multiple character progression threads, the encounters that scale to either solo or group play, the alias system of disguises - to be honest, we can't remember which.
The Agency is one of our most-wanted MMOs at the moment, and not just because it's coming to PS3 as well as PC. The spy-themed massively multiplayer shooter from Sony Online Entertainment - creators of early hit EverQuest, and Star Wars Galaxies - looks like it will be one of the first major MMOs to offer a convincing alternative to the epic fantasy RPG grind. Players will enter a sharply-drawn, stylish, but none too serious world of intrigue as either a UNITE super-spy or ParaGON mercenary.