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The Division – Xbox One, PS4 and MMO confusion

Tuesday, 25th June 2013 13:33 GMT By Catherine Cai

Catherine Cai talks to the developers of The Division, finding the next-gen Clancy shooter a confusing proposition for PS4 and Xbox One. Is it an MMO or not?

An always-online, persistent world, third-person shooter involving multiple people lacking a linear narrative? The Division sounded like it had all the trappings of a MMO.

For the second year in a row, Ubisoft wins the award for being the publisher best able to keep a secret. If there’s anything to be said about the industry as a whole, it’s that game developers can’t keep their mouth shut. Pair that with the internet, and you have leaks no NDA can keep down.

Whatever’s in the water at Ubisoft, it works. Tom Clancy’s The Division wasn’t shown off until its designated time at E3. And it was then that I decided that, for the second year running, Ubisoft took home the award for most confusing pitch of the show.

Maybe confusing’s too harsh a word. Unclear or opaque may better suit. Even after sitting through a 25-minute demo, I still wasn’t sure what to make of it.

I talked with Massive COO and The Division producer Fredrik Rundqvist and production director Petter Mannerfelt to get a better idea of just exactly what’s going on in the game.

“There are a couple of different layers,” Rundqvist explained. “There is an overarching story line that, as one of the last functioning agencies, you need to set out to solve the mysteries behind the man-made virus. Who was behind it? Who distributed it? How can we cure it? All that stuff. And of course, to do so, you need to first of all survive in this chaos where everyone is fighting for the same resources that’s still out there. And you have all the government services shutting down one by one, because people simply don’t show up for work anymore, right? It’s both helping who is left out there and of course going after the big bad guy, you know, the mystery behind the virus.”

The narrative sounds pretty clear: find the Big Bad, maim/kill the Big Bad, find the cure, save the world, the end. But, when I asked about an ending to the series, both Rundqvist and Mannerfelt were pretty quick to shut the notion of a linear narrative down.

“The structure that we built for the game so far is that there is a story, but it’s not a linear story,” said Rundqvist. “So you need to explore the world and pick out pieces and bricks of the story everywhere. And on the way, doing that, you will also encounter other content and other dynamic encounters and missions. Obviously, if you play with other real players, that’s dynamic in itself. You never know how that will play out.

“We designed the game to be endless gameplay. It’s hundreds, if not thousands of hours of gameplay that we hope people will enjoy.”

Rundqvist even hinted at the possibility of DLC, or expansions for The Division to keep things going: “The game is based in New York now,” he said, “but if there’s demand, we’re going to keep on building.”

An always-online, persistent world, third-person shooter involving multiple people lacking a linear narrative? The Division sounded like it had all the trappings of a MMO. In fact, it sounded a lot like Trion World’s Defiance if Defiance were next-gen and set in a post-apocalyptic New York. Yet, perhaps to avoid the comparisons, Ubisoft was very careful to shy away from the word.

Even when I broached the subject with Mannerfelt and Rundqvist, they were careful to avoid the “massive” part of the term. “This game, at its core, is a multiplayer online game,” said Mannerfelt. “It’s based on online and grouping. You can play with your friends and play with a lot of other people. You can, of course, play by yourself and play all the story stuff by yourself and as I said, seamlessly with your friends and seamlessly into PvP if you feel like playing PvP. In the PvP areas you will meet many, many other players.”

“We designed the game to be endless gameplay. It’s hundreds, if not thousands of hours of gameplay that we hope people will enjoy.”

If The Division is indeed the MMO… er… schmeMMO that it shaping up to be, what about character classes and specs? Well, like most MMOs as of late that are shirking leveling complexities to draw in players, The Division doesn’t have any classes.

“When you start the game you’re actually asked to pick a background,” said Rundqvist. “The Division is an agency that’s a combination of disciplines that would be useful in this scenario – engineer, military, law enforcement, intel, medical… stuff like that. As you progress into the game world, you define your own play style so it’s not a typical class-based game. You upgrade your skills and talents and you customize your weapons, the looks of your character. And you can respec right away in the middle of the game. You can continue to develop your play style. Whatever fantasy you want to pursue, it’s up to you.”

Originally, The Division was difficult for me to pin down as a game based off of the pitch, and that’s problematic. I got the sense that the game, despite having some gameplay ready to demo, is still a little too early in production to show off to the public. Though it’s set to launch sometime next year – and that’s plenty of time for Massive to get a clearer message of what the game is about to the world – the developers still haven’t really worked out a financial model. Though I’m sure money is no problem to a publisher of Ubisoft’s size, putting together an always-online game is a rather expensive venture; one that maybe entails figuring out the financials first.

The Division will release for Xbox One and PS4 in 2014.

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22 Comments

  1. actuallyisnotafox

    the opening shot of the guys back with the taxi cab to the right and minimal snow was the most beautiful realistic shot ive seen, i couldnt tell the difference between that and a blockbuster movie :p

    #1 2 years ago
  2. CyberMarco

    As long as it doesn’t require any subscription I may lay an eye on it.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. KineticCalvaria

    This is my most anticipated game, absolutely love the look of it, can’t wait to get my hands on it!

    #3 2 years ago
  4. G1GAHURTZ

    Always online!?

    But… But… What if my internet goes down???

    #4 2 years ago
  5. KineticCalvaria

    @4, now, now…

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Kieran

    would be nice if it had a single player or offline but it does look brilliant

    #6 2 years ago
  7. karma

    I wished it had an offline SP mode, then I could give it a try.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. mistermogul

    Not sure about this one yet but I’m keeping an eye on it for sure…

    #8 2 years ago
  9. manamana

    I just hope that it wasn’t a vertical slice properly pimped for E3 a la Aliens CM …

    #9 2 years ago
  10. The_Red

    So it is NOT an MMO but a RPG shooter with always-online DRM pretending to be some “persistent world feature”. Ok, another game off of list (NEVER touch games with always online DRM).

    #10 2 years ago
  11. ivycrew707

    Was torn by this and Destiny as my most anticipated games shown for next gen…..when the guy hiding behind the cop car closed the back door for a better veiw in the demo I was sold

    #11 2 years ago
  12. OrbitMonkey

    So its not a post-apocalyptic shooter… its a shooter set during an apocalyptic event…

    Sounda good.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. stretch215

    @10 you will be missing a lot of games going forward, and you sound petty :D lol. “No internet in MY house”

    #13 2 years ago
  14. The_Red

    @13
    I don’t have a reliable internet connect and a pretty low speed (256kb) so yeah, always-online is a deal breaker and as far as I care, they can go fuck themselves with their limitations.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. spazman

    SINGLE PLAYER PLEASE IN ITS FULL ENTIRETY! If not, somebody, chiefly rockstar need to pay those dudes at snowdrop whatever they want to replicate and expand that draw dropping game engine.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. The_Red

    @15
    It DOES have a full singleplayer. It’s just that they don’t trust you to not be a pirate so you’re gonna have to be connected to their servers 24/7.

    They did the exact same shit with Assassin’s Creed 2-R on PC.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. spazman

    @ 16
    then my good sir, my money shall remain firmly in my wallet, which is a shame and a concern of the stand alone tech capabilities of next gen consoles.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. catherinecai

    @16: From what I understand, the game has single player in the sense that you can play the game by yourself. However, you’ll still be required to pair up with others at certain instances. This game is a MMO. It’s why the Internet is required.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. fearmonkey

    I can’t wait for this one.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. The_Red

    @18
    It’s not an MMO. It’s an action-RPG / 3rd person shooter with open world where players can play solo OR co-operatively. There is NO persistent world among 200-500 players. Your world is persistent for YOU. In other words, it’s like any other open world game but with pretense of a “connected experience” like Sim City and it’s justification for always-online DRM.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. LordDjinn

    I want this game. I want it more than watch dogs, and i want watch dogs..

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Bomba Luigi

    Can I play this Game alone with no other Humans anywhere on the Map, its SP with stupid DRM. Or are there always other Peoples on the Map its an MMO.

    Thats my Simple Mindset. Don’t know what is now the Case with the Division, but its clear that this is not a Game for me so I don’t need to bother with it anymore.

    #22 2 years ago

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