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Interview Hi-rez Studios

Budgetgaming asked me to do an interview with Todd Harris, Executive Producer of Hi-Rez Studios. I had already packed my bags for a trip to Atlanta, Georgia, when they told me we would do the interview Ďbudget styleí. Of course Budgetgaming has a reputation to protect, so we arranged a meeting through Skype and off we went.

Budgetgaming: Good evening, sir. Please tell us more about yourself.

Todd Harris: My name is Todd Harris, Iím 42 years old and currently living in Atlanta, Georgia. I was born in North Carolina, which is about a six hour drive from Georgia. My study in Computer Science at the University of this state was related to programming software, for example videogames. The University is most known for one of his students, the well known basketball player Michael Jordan.

Budgetgaming: Why did you decide to work in the video game industry?

Todd Harris: Iím living the dream! Playing videogames used to be one of my biggest hobbies, growing up. I even owned an original Pong arcade machine. Although I started working on programming software and was leading the teams in creating software applications, I never lost the love for playing videogames. In 2005 Erez Goren and I decided to started our own company called Hi-Rez Studios in order to create videogames.

Budgetgaming: I expect you to have a certain goal by starting to create videogames.

Todd Harris: Our goal is to create the best exceptional online game experiences that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.

Budgetgaming: Global Agenda is being published by Iceberg Interactive. This company has an office in The Netherlands. Have you ever been to the Netherlands? Is there something in particular that you like about this country?

Todd Harris: Iíve been to Amsterdam. From my experience I can tell itís very walk able and you can also go everywhere by bike. I also ate a nice herring sandwich.

After this warm-up we spoke a little more about the differences between a big country as the United States and a small one like The Netherlands. The next subject will be Hi-Rez Studios itself and in advance I asked if there were any questions that wouldnít be answered.

Todd Harris: Well, you can ask us a lot, but I canít tell anything more about new projects.

Budgetgaming: Hehe, weíll be looking forward to the moments youíll probably say: íNo comment!í

Budgetgaming: Can you please tell us something about Hi-Rez Studios and about itís employees?

Todd Harris: Hi-Rez Studios was founded in 2005. Itís an independent development studio which aims at offering great online videogame experiences. We originally started with five to ten people but weíve grown to forty-five at the moment. Some are entirely new to developing videogames, while others have been working in the industry before. Itís the mixture which works best for us.

Budgetgaming: By looking at your website, Iíd say Global Agenda is the studioís first game. Or were their projects before this one?

Todd Harris: Global Agenda is the first project for our studio indeed. So everyone was occupied with developing this videogame from the very first moment. Now that the Sandstorm update is out, the team has been split. Some people will continue to work on new downloadable content (DLC) and updates for Global Agenda, while others will be working on our new projects.

Budgetgaming: I just read the latest edition of Edge Magazine and saw this giant advertisement on Global Agenda. In what ways did you promote this videogames?

Todd Harris: Nice ad, I like it, hehe.

We promoted this game in different phases. First, we started by word of mouth. Before we launched this game we had alpha en beta tests. We knew that if people were excited they would tell their friends, so they would join us. Of course we also used social media in order to promote the game. This summer we also started to promote the game in more traditional ways by putting ads in magazines and on websites.

Budgetgaming: You already said that you canít say anything about your new projects, but for what kind of platform might we be expecting your games? Are you considering to build smaller ones for platforms like the Iphone, Xbox Live Arcade or Playstation Network?

Todd Harris: Weíre looking for platforms that can help us offer online experiences to players. Weíre considering a lot of other platforms, but I canít be more specific at the moment.

After this, weíll return to the game where everybodyís talking about: Global Agenda.

Budgetgaming: How does it feel when you release a videogame? Did the game feel complete at that time?

Todd Harris: Weíve released the game in February 2010 as a digital release only. It felt great finally releasing the videogame after working on it for a long time.

The strange thing about releasing an MMO is that the release is only the beginning. After that, you will have to find out what the community thinks about your game, adjust the parts that they didnít like and expand the parts that they did like.

Budgetgaming: Please explain to me why the love for the MMO genre is so strong.

Todd Harris: Everyone at Hi-rez Games is a big fan of playing videogames and the MMO genre was very appealing. They wanted to combine some of their favourite genres. One genre that influenced Global Agenda are shooters that are based on teamplay, for example Team Fortress 2 and Unreal Tournament. But it doesnít end there, because shooters in general lead to nothing but statistics you can brag about. The other genre is the MMO, because of the character growth and the influence of the playerís actions on the persistent world. We also played MMOís in the past. City of Heroes is one that kept us busy for quite a while.

Budgetgaming: Why didnít you decide to release another MMORPG like World of Warcraft?

Todd Harris: It would have been a mistake to try and copy World of Warcraft. Many have tried and they all failed. We chose to do something totally different and weíre proud of it.

Budgetgaming: Are there also parts of the MMO that you donít like?

Todd Harris: Of course, there is the time aspect, which makes playing the game feel like a job. You have to put in an awful lot of time to achieve something. Besides that, a lot of MMOís consist of repetitive gameplay.

Budgetgaming: Whatís the best part about the game?

Todd Harris: I like the way the game has been outbalanced and PvP has been integrated. If the combat in the game doesnít work, then people will abandon your game.

Besides that, we also have a effective policy when it comes to hackers and cheaters. You can create your account, but if you start to cheat than youíre banned from all of our servers. So people should better think twice before they act.

Budgetgaming: Does your policy also prohibit selling ingame items (gold farming)?

Todd Harris: When it comes to gold farming, I must say it happens, but not much. Thatís because a lot of items in Global Agenda are bound and can not be sold. Besides that, there are two currencies in the game, called credits and tokens. Tokens are the most valuable ones, but they canít be exchanged between players.

Budgetgaming: Were there any ideas that you wanted to put into the game, but werenít able to realise?

Todd Harris: Yes, there were many.

Budgetgaming: I sense a Ďno commentí answer.

Todd Harris: Hehe, no. We released the Sandstorm DLC, which was a response to what the players wanted. They wanted more story in this game and they also wished for more quests. And for the moment, this is what you can expect into the future. Weíll listen to our community and weíll add new areas and places to discover and give them more maps to fight each other. That way we can refresh the whole experience every time.

Budgetgaming: Can you perhaps mention some of the challenges you had to overcome during the development process?

Todd Harris: First and foremost we wanted to keep the game totally balanced, which was one of the hardest parts. Besides that, we wanted to keep the game dynamic, so the player should be continuously advancing. And of course, this game had to act like a shooter.

We also had one hard decision to make. We decided not to integrate headshots. This would disturb the balance. Otherwise it would be possible that a low level player would kill a more skilled player very easily.

Budgetgaming: One of the bigger websites on the internet, IGN.com, has rated your game with an 8,4 and on average your game earned above a 7. I expect that youíre please with this, but are you satisfied?

Todd Harris: IGN got it right, obviously, but what makes us more proud is that the user score on Metacritic.com is much higher than most of the websites. Most people that played the game, have liked it and thatís where the word to mouth cycle starts.

In general, MMO reviews are rated pretty low. This might be because people have a hard time to categorise the game and even the deadline might give reviewers a hard time. Besides that, Todd is also surprised that some MMO websites are not mentioned on the metacritic lists. It feels a bit silly, because MMOís are like wine, they become better in time.

Budgetgaming also reviewed Global Agenda: Enjoy and read it!

Budgetgaming: What can we expect from the next update and DLC?

Todd Harris: Basically, we will be raising the level cap, adding a few new maps and area the explore and to fight. After that, weíll release some new player devices, robotic pets and weíll also give some attention to Halloween.

For us, the most important thing was that the foundation of the game was good. After that, you can build and create upon this strong foundation and add new content.

Budgetgaming: Will the game be released in other countries anytime soon?

Todd Harris: The German release will be in November this year. It will come in the German language.

By the way, The United States and Europe both have their own servers and can play on each others servers, but people tend to stick to the servers nearby, because the ping levels in shooters have to be at their best. Weíll merge all the leaderboards, so everyone can see how big this community truly is.

Budgetgaming: What would be the ultimate goal to achieve for this game?

Todd Harris: World domination!

Budgetgaming: Hey, thatís our line! Budgetgaming wants to do that!

Todd Harris: Hehe. For the moment weíre very pleased if the player count keeps growing.

In order to come full circle in this interview we intented to talk to Todd Harris on a personal level again. We asked his personal opinion about some subjects and quickly found out that he doesnít care much about Achievements and that he was more into creating new IPís all the time instead of creating a bunch of sequels one year after another.

Budgetgaming: What are the benefits of being independent?

Todd Harris: The best part is the creative control and being able to make your own choices when it comes to designing a videogame. You can literally do whatever you want. You will also be able to take more risks. Besides that, you can also respond more adequate towards your community. Out of the comments we got, we decided to create a qualification in rareness of items.

Budgetgaming: And off course, what are the benefits when youíre not independent?

Todd Harris: People donít know you, so you canít get recognition before you earned it. Also, be aware of your players. They are critics, so youíll have to listen to them.

Budgetgaming: Videogames today have certain ingame targets like Achievements and Trophies. How do you feel about them? Does it enrich the game experience?

Todd Harris: It strongly depends on the player. Personally, I have no drive obtaining them all. I like it way it advances and motivates the player. You give them something to brag about. Even Global Agenda has been infected with achievements. In order to receive a special badge or helmet with a holographic front you must complete a hard quest. Thatís the way I can appreciate them. Other achievements might hurt the game, when they donít serve teamplay but demand individual skills.

Budgetgaming: This interview is almost over, but can you please tell why people should immediately stop reading and run into the shops to buy Global Agenda?

Todd Harris: Global Agenda is the ideal MMO for players who have a limited amount of time. It will give them more pleasure per minute and definitely more fun per euro. Since you only have to buy a copy of the game in order to play and thereís no monthly subscription fee, this game is great value for your money.

Budgetgaming: Hehe, thanks for your time! Good luck in the future.

Todd Harris: No problem.

Global Agenda is an MMOFPS by Hi-Rez Studios and published in the Netherlands by Iceberg Interactive. If you want to try this game, you can download a trial here.

Geplaatst door ConAir op 02-11-2010
Aantal keer bekeken: 8131

Laatste reacties

avatar van Arabyus
Arabyus ( 6602 ) 02-11-2010 22:40
Rol: Forum Moderator
Hulde aan ConAir! Ik eis dat deze man een standbeeld krijgt! :p.
avatar van Nitrorcr
Nitrorcr ( 1065   6) 03-11-2010 00:31
Gaaf interview, goed diepgaand! Hoe heb je die gast weten te strikken zeg? Ben toevallig net een paar weekjes bezig met de game, en het is erg leuk om nu ook wat van de ontwikkelaar te lezen!
avatar van ThaHobbit
ThaHobbit ( 160 ) 03-11-2010 08:18
Rol: BG Redacteur
Nice ConAir! ;) Mooi interview geworden!
avatar van Armengar
Armengar ( 72 ) 03-11-2010 10:03
leuk interview!
avatar van ConAir
ConAir ( 4473   2) 03-11-2010 18:38
Gaaf interview, goed diepgaand! Hoe heb je die gast weten te strikken zeg? Ben toevallig net een paar weekjes bezig met de game, en het is erg leuk om nu ook wat van de ontwikkelaar te lezen!

Dat heeft onze V-devil geregeld. :)

@ ThaHobbit & Armengar: Thanks!

@ Arabyus: Nu al?