Questions and answers from E3 2014 regarding Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division.
1. What exactly do you do as an agent in the game? How will players be assigned missions?
In our game, you are activated as an agent of The Division to bring New York back from chaos and find out the truth behind the pandemic. The agents are autonomous, which means they have the skills to accomplish the mission they were trained for; they can choose to investigate, explore and secure the different areas of the city. We believe the element of choice is crucial for open-world games, and this is the direction we are focusing on for Tom Clancy’s The Division.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is an RPG at its core. This means that players will need to acquire new abilities and better gear before they can take on the strongest enemies in the game or enter different areas. Depending on the immediate environment, your skills and those of your group, you will need to consider different factors before deciding what to do and where you want to go. First, you will need to assess the strength of your enemies. New York has become a hostile urban jungle and you are very likely to run into dangerous people. You have the freedom to choose whether you want to engage or avoid them depending on their capabilities and yours. Second, as the contamination level varies from one area to another, the virus will also impact your game experience. You will need to find and upgrade the proper protection to enter and survive in higher contagion areas. Finally, you can use the time of day and climate to your advantage in order to ambush and fight enemies.
2. What is the impact of the virus on the players?
The virus is the catalyst for everything in the game. It is responsible for the state of the game world and will have a massive impact on the agent’s journey to restore New York.
The virus permeates the whole city and players will have to deal with it in one way or another as the level of contamination varies from one area to the next. To move into these zones the agents will need to find, modify, and upgrade specific equipment such as a gas mask. Without the proper gear, the virus will be extremely deadly to the player.
3. What is CERA? What is the JTF? How do they impact you and how do you interact with them?
CERA is the emergency response organization in our game. At the start of the crisis, they were in charge of managing the evacuation and quarantine of New York. Now, they are trying to rescue and help civilians by providing shelter, food, water and medicine.
The JTF, Joint Task Force, is comprised of the remnants of government agencies including the National Guard, the police and CERA. As an agent, some of your missions will be to support these organizations and enable them to help civilians by clearing locations overrun by enemies or unlocking precious supplies.
4. Who was the faction that we saw in the stage demo and laying siege to the base of operations?
There are many factions players will face in The Division’s version of New York and we want to make them as authentic and believable as possible in this crisis scenario. Like you saw in the Microsoft demo, there will be areas controlled by local gangs or thugs that our agents need to deal with on their journey towards taking back NYC. In the demo, a group of thugs have taken CERA and JTF staff members hostage and are trying to take control of a building.
5. Who was the faction that we saw in the demo and the cinematic trailer, burning everything?
This group is called the Cleaners. They are a hostile faction who roams throughout New York, attracted to sectors of the city with high contagion levels. Wearing hazmat suits and wielding flamethrowers, they will burn everything to cleanse contaminated areas. They are dangerous enemies and are best left alone.
6. What is the role of civilians in the world of Tom Clancy’s The Division?
Civilians are very important in the game, not only to make the world real and immersive, but also as a constant reminder about what and who you are fighting for. The civilians are trying to survive the crisis, scared about their future or attempting to locate lost loved ones who have gone missing in the chaos.
7. How does your base-of-operations work?
The base of operations is the most tangible way through which players can bring back New York from the brink of destruction. There are different base locations throughout the city. In the world, they used to be controlled by the government to provide emergency support for civilians, but have been abandoned or taken over by enemy factions. By reclaiming these locations, the player can increase the security level of the districts, creating a safe haven for the remaining civilians as well as a strategic position through which the player can start to bring back order.
8. What skills will the gamers be able to choose from? Can you give examples?
In Tom Clancy’s The Division, we really want to empower different play styles and the synergies between them by giving players a lot of different tools to play with and skills to choose from. By not locking players into a class choice, they have the power to pick the skills and tools that best fit with their play style.
However to help players make these choices, we have skill categories that follow the RPG system and offers different tactical choices in combat. For example, players who want to take a more tactical approach and want to control the flow of the fight can pick the Strobe skill. The Strobe is a crowd-control skill that will blind enemies and expose them from cover so the group can quickly dispatch them. Another example is the Pulse skill that, when triggered, will highlight obstructed enemies and provide the player with additional combat information on their tactics. More direct skills, like the Sentry, gives players a lot of additional firepower in a fight. If used smartly, it will draw the enemy’s attention away from the player and open up flanking opportunities. Finally, we have more defensive type skills that help heal the player and his or her group, to get them out of tight situations and allow them to face tougher enemies.
9. What is the ECHO skill? How does it work?
ECHO is the acronym for the Evidence Correlation Holographic Overlay. This ability collects data from the immediate environment around the agents such as surveillance cameras, cellphone camera footage, and audio pick-ups, to render moments frozen in time. It provides the agents with an autonomous source of information that allows them to investigate past events and look for clues relating to the origin of the pandemic. It will also have an impact on more general gameplay as it can reveal hidden loot and access to certain areas.
10. How important is collaboration between team players in your game?
We have built the Division with co-op and multiplayer in mind. While we think that the game is best played with a group of friends, we want you to be able to visit the streets of New York at any time, even if this means going in alone. That’s why it’s important for us to make it easy to drop in (and out) of co-op and multiplayer at all times.
Collaboration within the group and between different play styles and skills is crucial for an exciting co-op experience; we have designed the skills and tools with this idea in mind. Someone who likes to play as a more aggressive agent will discover that those choices synergizes really well with the defensive skill choices we have, and vice versa. Players will be able to switch skills on the fly, which means that it’s easy for the group to adapt their approach and maximize the synergies within the group to fit whatever challenge they’re facing in the game.
11. Will day/night and weather impact gameplay? Will the city be more dangerous at night versus day?
For Tom Clancy’s The Division, we are creating a dynamic open-world. This means that we are creating a day-night cycle and a weather system with the objective of making them meaningful and immersive. We are trying to build the most realistic world possible, while of course taking some creative liberties to make it fun at the same time. Therefore, day-night and weather changes will impact both gameplay and your experience as an agent. Like a real city, our New York will become more dangerous at night, and the enemies that you encounter will behave differently. You can also easily imagine how you will need to adapt the way you approach enemies and which tactical setup you will choose before engaging in a fight.
12. Is the Snowdrop engine tailored more for the Xbox One and PS4 vs. PC?
The Snowdrop engine was created with the new generation of consoles in mind specifically to enable us to develop Tom Clancy’s The Division on those platforms. When we started developing Snowdrop five years ago, we tried to anticipate the potential specs of the Xbox One and the PS4 and designed it with them in mind. Snowdrop was developed to take advantage of 64 bit, multi-threading, large memory and more programmable graphics cards. The new generation consoles are extremely powerful machines and Snowdrop enables us to create the best experience on all three platforms.
13. What are some capabilities that we haven’t seen from the Snowdrop engine?
In this year’s demo you can see the effects that our day-night cycle and weather system have on the environment and gameplay. The people in our mid-crisis NYC behave differently day or night, and you as an agent will have to adapt your attack strategy whether there are clear skies or a snow storm, for example. We are also showing more of the different types of real-time destruction in our game.
We are able to customize our engine to be increasingly realistic. For example, we have updated our rendering engine to produce highly realistic lighting, with volumetric fog as well as new types of lights for our indoor areas. The advantage of having an engine that is tailor-made for a new generation game is that there is a true creative interaction between engine development and game development. If the team thinks of a feature that would be really exciting to have in the game, we evaluate whether we can implement a system in the engine that will allow us to produce that particular feature in a smart way. The capabilities of Snowdrop allow us to make those innovations possible.
We have only shown you a fraction of what Snowdrop can do, and we’re very excited to show you more!