WarCry met with Huxley rep Jason Wonacott at GDC 2007 to get a look at this MMO-FPS hybrid that the Korean publisher hopes to bring to the PC later this year and the Xbox 360 in 2008. Huxley remains in the running to be the first new MMO on the 360 (a competition likely to be fought with Funcom's Age of Conan) and offers a unique blend of map-based online FPS and single-player FPS in an post-cryptically MMO wrapper.
Based on interview with Jason Wonacott
Article by Dana Massey
The chaos of GDC created a number of unique interview scenarios. Webzen grabbed top billing when we fled a rainstorm and did an interview on Huxley in a crowded Starbucks while uncut gameplay videos streamed on a laptop. Huxley is an upcoming Unreal-powered MMOFPS from the Korean publisher that promises fragging fun in a persistent post-apocalyptic world.
Circumstance meant that I could not see it live, but the videos I saw were clearly not the polished trailers typically found on YouTube. There were bugs, there were missing textures and there were mistakes. This was raw gameplay in a recent build, uncut, as indicative of the game's progress as any of the dozens of developer controlled demos shown that week.
So how did it look? The art looked polished as it always has and reassured me that a game with that kind of visual depth can work. Webzen promises PvP maps that range from 1v1 to 100v100. The gameplay itself is the usual map-based FPS fare with an MMO twist, as one would expect.
In the PvP maps, they have games that fans of the genre will recognize. The key difference is that this game takes the "unlocks" of games like Battlefield 2142 to the next level. Like most MMOs, players pick a class (Enforcer, Avenger or Phantom) and then equip themselves. In more of an FPS-bent though, their typical FPS skills are linked to the equipment their character has earned. Each piece of equipment provides the character with additional ability slots, up to a maximum of five per battle. Players then must carefully select which abilities to bring in.
These can be anything from sprint, to an anti-headshot device that prevents those pesky one-shot kills. Others include things players may often take for granted in normal FPS games, like one that allows players to see how many hit-points their enemies have left.
The result is a highly specialized and interlocking experience. Players cannot do everything and need to rely on their friends to help them out. It is easy to conceive of a situation where a Phantom with stealth sneaks into position and reports back to his comrades on the movement, health and make-up of the enemy forces. The players will need to work together to be successful in Webzen and features like built in VOIP should only help.
The game world itself is separated between the two opposing races. The Sapiens (humans) live in a ruined shell of familiar human architecture. Their opposition, the Alternatives, live in a highly polished and spectacularly new environment that will be explained through backstory. The two sides cannot intermingle in their cities, although Webzen did account for the possibility that certain instanced PvP battles might take players inside the other's city.
Each city has a projected population of 2,500 players and 5,000 per server. In some ways, the game seems to want to be a hybrid between classic single-player FPS titles like Half-Life 2 and online FPS experiences like Battlefield 2. There is the single-player game in and around the cities that includes quests, NPCs to battle and MMO staples like crafting and then there are the instanced, objective based maps that include things like control points and spawning vehicles. Back in the city zones, players can buy their own more permanent vehicles to get them around town.
While it is great to see someone finally giving this a try a true hybrid, this is the type of game that will live and die off its business model. It's definitely going to be a game players need to go out and buy - given it's in development for both the PC and Xbox 360 - but will they also need to pay a monthly fee or will micropayments be the order of the day? If it's the later, I can see this game doing quite well, but if it's the former, problems may follow. Eventually, the price of an Xbox (or Windows) Live membership, a subscription fee for the game and the price of the box become too much to invest.
The game is scheduled to hit the PC market late this year with the Xbox 360 version to follow six months or more later. Webzen emphasized their desire to make a second tailored version and not a mere port. He also noted that they will likely try to keep the 360 and PC players largely separate, although some limited cross platform play is anticipated on the cooperative side. The emphasis for the PC version is clearly online PvP, while on the 360, they hope to put more detail into the single-player/cooperative aspects of the game.
The game itself is a co-production between American and Korean development teams. While Webzen is a Korean company, they noted that traditionally FPS games have been more popular in the North American market. If their choice of consoles is any indication, Huxley can definitely be classified as a game focused on the US market.
The parts I saw at GDC looked solid. The gameplay appeared to be largely derivative, with the originality and defining hooks coming more from the combination of genres than the actual experience itself. Ultimately, the tale will be told in the stitching together. If Webzen ensures that this is more than just an arena-based FPS with a graphical lobby, then this game has a good chance of success. If it feels tacked together, I cannot see the game setting the market afire. At this stage, it's impossible to tell how the game will pan out, but Webzen was saying all the right things at GDC.
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