Hi-Rez also managed to successfully change the game's business model in 2010 and ultimately ended up molding Global Agenda into one of our favorite MMOs. Suit up, grab your crescent jetpacks, and fly past the cut for a few reasons why as well as a look at the game's evolution to date. There's even an interview with Hi-Rez's Todd Harris on page two!
For you rookies, Global Agenda is a far-future science fiction shooter focused on the exploits of player-controlled super agents equipped with all manner of tools for subjugating baddies in both PvE and PvP. The game is played entirely from a third-person perspective, and players are tasked with choosing one of four classes (Assault, Medic, Recon, or Robotics) upon initial character creation. The classes function as you might expect: Assaults make great tanks (though a good many PUGs feature offensive assaults as well), Medics keep the party alive (or poison people to death), Recons are masters of DPS and stealth, and Robotics agents are jacks-of-all-trades thanks to their various pets, buffs, and mobile equipment.
The game's storyline, which no one but your humble author apparently pays much attention to, is actually quite intriguing and fully fleshed out via the collection of materials included with retail copies of the game as well as various web entries. If you're interested, your super agent is a contract mercenary employed by resistance groups looking to overthrow a nanny-state world government known as the Commonwealth, and this presents limitless opportunity for conflict with other agents as well as the game's array of PvE mobs.
Global Agenda's launch was met with relatively little fanfare in MMO circles as its beta testers and intended audience were decidedly more twitch-oriented than your average RPGer. In fact, it's debatable whether Global Agenda was an MMO at all in its early incarnations, but the various progression-focused patches and gameplay tweaks Hi-Rez has made over the past year (as well as the persistent territory control features) place the title firmly within the bounds of the massively multiplayer space.
These tweaks started soon after the February 1st release, as the game's 1.1 patch brought MMO staples like a friends list, repair functionality, mission queue options, and subtle crafting additions to the table in March of 2010.
The 1.2 patch
Hi-Rez was hard at work on the 1.2 patch almost immediately, as it went live on the test server mere days after the live release of 1.1. The 1.2 update was the game's first major AvA tweak (the A in AvA stands for agency, or Global Agenda's version of a guild). New maps, theft missions, territory expansion options, and defense facilities were the order of the day, and 1.2 also brought about the 4v4 arena queue that allows pre-made teams to compete in specially designed maps.
Finally, 1.2 added the Dome City chat channel, Global Agenda's version of, well, global chat, and though the content of said channel usually makes well-adjusted players long for the days of 1.1, it goes without saying that some form of all-encompassing public chat is a necessity in an MMO.
The 1.3 patch (Sandstorm Phase 1)
Global Agenda officially made the leap from online shooter to MMO with the first part of the massive Sandstorm patch that dropped on June 3rd, 2010. Among the highlights were a new gear acquisition system based on loot and token collecting, new solo PvE missions, new Ultra-Max group PvE missions, new PvP maps, and the conversion of the AvA battlefield to a single world map.
The first phase of Sandstorm also brought social features including additional chat channels and the ability to inspect players (as well as various chat-linked emotes), but the update's meat and potatoes were undoubtedly the sweeping gear changes. Weapons were adjusted to feature common, uncommon, rare, and epic quality levels, and automatically acquiring weapons upon leveling was removed in favor of loot drops and NPC vendors. Weapons also degraded with use, and they eventually require repair kits to maintain optimum statistical levels.
Armor was also overhauled with a similarly tiered quality system, and the previous equipment upgrade mechanic was scrapped in favor of craftable modifications that boost weapon/armor stats and require various looted components to produce.
Global Agenda joined the ranks of free-to-play conversion MMOs on June 25th, 2010, dropping all subscription fees and offering unlimited access to the game's content for customers who purchase either a digital download or retail box version of the game.
Hi-Rez is currently offering various flavors of booster packs in the game's online store, each of which grants players a substantially higher progression rate over a period of time. For example, a $14.99 booster pack gets you double XP, token gain, and mission loot for a period of 30 days on all of your characters. Tokens are account-wide items that players exchange for rare stat gear and appearance items.
The 1.35 patch (Sandstorm Phase 2)
Sandstorm part deux made its way onto the live servers in July of 2010 and brought another round of MMO-centric additions to Global Agenda. This time the 800-pound gorilla was the huge Sonoran Desert PvE zone, an expansive area located outside of Dome City and featuring mission story arcs designed primarily for levels 5 - 15.
The patch also brought high-level raiding to Global Agenda in the form of 10-man defense missions in a variety of zone locales around Dome City. The nefarious Recursive Colony faction is engaged in a series of all-out assaults on the Dome, and the level 30-plus defense missions can be joined in pre-made teams or via a solo/small group queue.
Finally, 1.35 introduced craftable consumable items slottable on an agent's main hot bar. Everything from insta-heals to temporary DPS upgrades were made available, and the consumables are created via components acquired through the equipment salvaging system (also new in 1.35).
1.39 and beyond
Global Agenda's current version boasts a few noteworthy additions since the summer Sandstorm extravaganza, including new Mercenary PvP maps, a /challenge function that allows for pre-made matches (and makes the resulting statistics available for third-party APIs), and a load of new achievements and seasonal appearance item options ("flair" in Global Agenda-speak). The good news for Global Agenda fans is that even more content is coming, according to a late-2010 interview we conducted with Hi-Rez producer Todd Harris as well as a recent teaser announcement on Facebook and our newest Hi-Rez interview found on this article's second page.
The even better news is that the current version of Global Agenda is a decidedly different MMO with a ton of replay (and expansion) potential. That, combined with the unique sci-fi setting and buy-to-play/free-to-play payment model, makes for a fun alternative if you're tired of the typical progression grinds or RNG combat mechanics that characterize traditional MMOs.