Hi-Rez Expo 2017: The future of Global Agenda, Global Agenda 2, and SMITE

Past, present, and future. While the totality of a game studio encompasses all three aspects, we often focus on only one or two at a time. Over the last week, we heard a great deal about Hi-Rez Studios' present during Hi-Rez Expo 2017, from the tournaments (congrats to all the winners!) to what's immediately in the works for its roster of games. But there are still the two other sides to the studio to consider. And these are the sides I explored in interviews with President Stew Chisam and VP Brian Greyson. Specifically I wanted to learn if the company had plans to connect its past with its future in regards to Global Agenda. I was also curious as to what other directions the SMITE franchise might take.

Join me as we delve into the past and the future of Hi-Rez Studios, the possibility of a Global Agenda 2, and the expansion of the SMITE universe.

The past: Global Agenda

When you get the chance to sit down with the head of Hi-Rez, you have to discuss the elephant in the portfolio: Global Agenda. Global Agenda was my introduction to Hi-Rez, and while I wasn't great at it (shooting people as a healer was a difficult thing to get used to), I loved many aspects of the game. But it dwindled into obscurity. So what happened? What is the state of the title now, and what are the plans for it since its removal from Steam?

Chisam acknowledged that the server is still running right now. He said Global Agenda was removed from Steam because the team didn't want to push new players to it who would be expecting a robust gaming experience; the community is extraordinarily small and it is difficult to get any PvP matches going. Currently, most just play co-op PvE and chat. Chisam knows this first-hand because he jumps in often and joins them. However, the team wanted players who still enjoy the game to be able to continue playing as well as allow former players the chance to join in again. Those who do want to log in just need to download the game from their Hi-Rez account page (there's also a link on Reddit).

With such a low population and no updates in the works, is it worth keeping the server up indefinitely? Chisam said that there are no immediate plans to shut the server down but that the team probably does need to start making such plans in the future. Part of that is because although most of the 35-40 man team who created Global Agenda is still with the studio, it's becoming harder and harder to remember how to get things up and running again if they break. However, he told me intends to keep the server up as long as possible.

Chisam noted that it isn't just fans who are attached to Global Agenda; he said, "We have such a high attachment to that game." So what went wrong? Chisam said that he believes the game could have done much better than it did -- given the right situation. He said the fundamental problem was that it just never got enough people to play it. To give a comparison, he stated that Paladins' first week of beta on Steam saw more players than 2010's Global Agenda ever had total.

Chisam attributed part of this to the timing of the game and its execution into the market, not the mechanics of the game itself. He said that if the game released a year or so later, it would have done much better. He explained that Global Agenda came out at the transition point in the industry when subs starting giving way to free-to-play. Chisam admitted that Hi-Rez created confusion about the model by switching ideas from buy-to-play with subscription to just B2P, then finally releasing on Steam as free-to-play (actually as the very first F2P game offered on that platform). He also noted that right at that time, players wanted more larger, open world areas and weren't used to or comfortable with smaller areas as they are now.

If there is no hope to resurrect the game at Hi-Rez, what about passing the server along to the community or selling it? Chisam answered that this isn't possible for a couple of reasons. One, the server isn't separate and so it can't just be turned over. He said if it was, the team would be open for that. Since it is not, putting it on its own server would require a great deal of work from devs. Two, the studio is not interested in selling at all because the team loves the IP and definitely wants to use it again. Besides using the IP itself, Chisam told me, "Every new game that we ever create starts in Global Agenda." He detailed how SMITE was actually created when the team was trying to develop a three-lane, base-capture PvP mode in Global Agenda, and that Paladins was intended to be the spiritual successor to their first title's PvP, starting out with characters representing Global Agenda's archetypes.

The Future: Global Agenda 2?

When faced with the fact that there is no bringing back the original Global Agenda, the obvious question is, "What about Global Agenda 2?" After all, the studio has grown and learned much since it released its first game. Surely some of that acquired knowledge would benefit a new game at this point.

The good news: It is definitely still a possibility. The bad news: There are no concrete plans for anything specific right now. Chisam stated that it is actually on his bucket list to do another game with the Global Agenda IP. "I do think there's something there in terms of a game that can be done again and still have success," he stated. He added that the team knows what they want to do, and there are folks at the studio actively exploring these ideas, so it is more than just a fantasy. The potential is most certainly there. However, there is no promise that anything will actually come of this; there is no guarantee that something will definitely make it to market. He reiterated that as much as the team loves the IP, there is no promise of anything coming to market at this time. Even so, fans can hang some hope on the fact that devs are being paid to explore the ideas!

The Future: SMITE the universe

What started as a MOBA is not staying a MOBA. This year's expo saw not only the movement of one new SMITE game into open beta but the announcement of another. Interestingly, I learned from Scott Zier, Lead Designer for SMITE Tactics, that when Hi-Rez was brainstorming ideas, the studio initially only aimed at developing a single game based on the SMITE world. However, Newbrough said that the two different ideas were both so solid that they ended up developing both! With SMITE branching out into multiple games (as well as a Dark Horse comic book that fleshed out the game's lore), I was curious whether the studio would continue its expansion into other realms and other gaming genres. Both Chisam and Greyson said that is a possibility. As Chisam put it, "Getting to play other genres that I love with these same characters that I love is thrilling."

Greyson explained that with Rivals, the team was conducting a test: "Is SMITE a lifestyle brand: Is it something that can have its own entertainment pieces and other games that are not MOBAs? Or is SMITE a brand that works because it is a MOBA?" The answer according to early results was yes, that the SMITE universe can encompass more than just the MOBA. "The SMITE world is big enough to have different kinds of games in it," he stated, "and that people want to experience their favorite gods, goddesses, and minions -- different components from that world -- in different games."

Will the company experiment with making more games in more genres? Could SMITE the MMO be in the future? Greyson said he'd love to play that, but that there are no current plans for one. Chisam said, “Everything we do at Hi-Rez I classify as a grand experiment.” Right now, however, and for the immediate future, the focus is on the current roster. Chisam emphasized the team's number one priority: Don't screw up SMITE. That said, the studio has expanded and other things are being experimented with right now. There is even one project that Chisam said he is personally really drawn to and likes, but there's no guarantee anything will make it to market. We'll all just have to wait and see.

As for expanding into other mediums like the comic books, Chisam declared, "As soon as some Hollywood executive wants to make a movie or a TV show or anything like that, we're ready! If the community can to raise enough money to do that, then I'm all in. But there's nothing on the table quite yet." So who knows: SMITE the original Netflix series could happen. Not necessarily likely, but it could.

Disclosure: In accordance with Massively OP's ethics policy, we must disclose that Hi-Rez paid for our writer's trip to and stay at this event as a member of the gaming press. Hi-Rez has neither requested nor been granted any control or influence over our coverage of the event, and the writer is paid exclusively by Massively OP for her work.
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41 comments
xania
xania

I remember playing GA way back - in fact, way back before it was even F2P - and enjoying it a lot. I particularly liked the raids or... whatever they were that showed up every hour or so. And the jetpacks were just fun. Shame it kind of stagnated and fell into limbo, but I'd definitely be interested in a GA2.

Sorenthaz
Sorenthaz

"Paladins was intended to be the spiritual successor to their first title's PvP, starting out with characters representing Global Agenda's archetypes."

Called it.  Paladins was going to be Global Assault, the spiritual successor to GA that Erez teased/spoiled back in 2015 on Reddit.  


That said, I think another Global Agenda MMO-esque game would hold up much better these days.  We've got games like The Division, Defiance, Destiny, and Grand Theft Auto Online which all have different degrees of MMO elements.  GA2 could likely become a hit if given a sandbox area to roam in.   HiRez's strengths have definitely been in PvP over PvE, but I think they could create a unique PvE experience with updates + refinements to what Global Agenda did.  

Here's hoping they do something along those lines in the future.  

VictorSudano
VictorSudano

@Sorenthaz Loved the original GA.  The PVE missions were great and quick (10-15 minutes for a run through a dungeon), and the sandbox world they added towards the end was ok too...could have been better.  The PVP was definitely entertaining, and forgiving.  you did not need counter strike reflexes to enjoy pvp.  I never did the agency style pvp.  They could have implemented this better.  Anyhow, it was a fun game...not holding my breath for a sequel tho sadly.

Sorenthaz
Sorenthaz

@VictorSudano @Sorenthaz Given how HiRez has been pumping new stuff out every year, I think it's possible we could see a Global Agenda 2 in its early stages within the next few years.  

Though I'm guessing it would be on the backburner in comparison to bringing out another Tribes game.

fangGWJ
fangGWJ

They either need to re-release Global Agenda in the vein of Paladins where players weren't split among 80 million game modes from the start.

Or they need to implement one or two of the Global Agenda PVE game modes into Paladins.  Or something like a horde mode in Paladins would be awesome. (they have it in SMITE, so why not Paladins?)

Greaterdivinity
Greaterdivinity

This makes me pretty sad, because honestly I have little to no real interest in the Smite/Paladins universes, but hot damn does Global Agenda's seem far more interesting. Not to mention it being a proper MMO universe rather than a lobby-based online game that's small in scope.

Hoping that one day they can do something with it, and that it won't just turn into another PvP game like their others.

BritoBruno
BritoBruno

@Greaterdivinity I like both scenarios, but yeah, i agree. GA's IP is way more interesting than anything Hirez can put out.

MetaDune
MetaDune

I hope Global Agenda 2 will fill in the void the Firefall left...

genghiskron
genghiskron

Funny how that works. GA dies, firefall attempted to fill the void, firefall dies, and now GA2 will attempt to fill that void.. Le sigh.. Why can't the gaming community ever provide us a good, wholesome MMO hybrid Sci Fi shooter??

dbresson
dbresson

SMITE has turned me into a huge Hi-Rez fanboy, I guess.  I just really enjoy the style and aesthetic of their games.  And the fact they don't take themselves too seriously at the same time, their size, etc.  And I'm a Tribes fan from way-back and still like Hi-Rez.  Can't wait to try out Smite Rivals, and would like to see what a new Global Agenda would be like.

UpayaCrow
UpayaCrow

@dbresson I'm a big Hi-Rez fan. While they did a lot of stumbling to find what worked for them, ever since Smite they have really been fantastic. While I'm sad about Tribes, it just didn't work the way they wanted it to.

Sorenthaz
Sorenthaz

@UpayaCrow @dbresson I had a really weird relationship with HiRez at first.  Enjoyed Global Agenda a good amount and bought the account upgrade or w/e for F2P, then got into Tribes Ascend but didn't really play it a whole lot.  SMITE was sort of always on my radar but I never really got around to trying it out until shortly before it was about to launch.  

Then I fell in love with it, started noticing all the awesome community stuff they did, and steadily grew into a big fan of HiRez.  While they've certainly made some questionable decisions, and I'm sad that folks like Bart and Kelly left, they've seriously come a long way.  Some people will always give them flak for what they did with Tribes and Global Agenda, but they did what they had to in order to keep going.  Now they're flourishing and it's cool that they're really building up the SMITE brand.  

Kind of wonder what happened to Jetpack Fighter though, as that seems to have been pretty much abandoned without word in favor of SMITE Rivals and SMITE Tactics.  

Either way, it'll be interesting to see what they do with the Tribes and Global Agenda IPs going forward.  'cause I doubt they''ll just leave those things to rot.  They tried to give Tribes Ascend another breath of life, so I imagine they're going to try and make sure that their next Tribes game hits the right mark.  

Lights_andMusic
Lights_andMusic

@dbresson "And I'm a Tribes fan from way-back and still like Hi-Rez."

I'm not sure how these two things fit together... if anything, being the former would/should make you not the latter 

IndigoSalma
IndigoSalma

I really hope they dont make Global Agenda 2 a PVP game =.=

fangGWJ
fangGWJ

@IndigoSalma I am thinking more like using Destiny or The Division as a model.  Heck I would love it if they licensed The Division's engine to make Global Agenda 2...

Skyewauker
Skyewauker

@fangGWJ @IndigoSalma Then it wouldn't be Global Agenda...  

Global Agenda has a distinct look and feel.  I really don't feel like you could put it in something like The Division's engine and make it be what Global Agenda was all about.

BritoBruno
BritoBruno

@IndigoSalma It honestly should be like Planetside 2. Huge customization, huge city maps and epic proportion fights. It should be a PvP MMO, because it is what GA was.

genghiskron
genghiskron

Basically reiterating what everyone else has said: GA was heavily rooted in PvP. I don't particularly agree with the article that timing was what killed the game was that actual addition of the whole open world zone. This addition was really to garner new players and give them a small area to do quests in and that was so far from what vets that had all lvl 30s and predominantly all purple gear with full purple mods wanted. SO FAR from that... Firefall did a much better job of the open world and we can see how stale that was for several of the newer players. We didn't want WoW with guns. We wanted a point capture objective game of 5-10 players pitted against another 5 to 10 players duking it out and moving payloads. Paladins did a relatively good job at matching the feel, (i play that very regularly and compete on a team in the competitive scene) but it hardly matches in setting and just general movement and handling are very different. Global agenda did do PvE correctly but it was through Ultra Max dungeon running with 3 other people and the addition of the 10 man raids were very welcomed by the community. Things like scanners, dynamic enemy spawns, and enemy interaction against you were really the shining aspects of the PvE as a whole. Thing is, as the game started losing community and players, HiRez completely abandoned the game for greener pastures aka Tribes which I played as well. Its sad that they dropped support like that and added maybe one new raid to the game after their waning support phase was started.

Chisam if you're reading this, PLEASE just slap updated graphics and use a modern engine like UE4 instead of 3 like paladins, improve matchmaking, add more 4 man and 10 man PvE dungeons/bosses/enemy interactions and maps, more PvP maps, more game modes (NOT moba gameplay there's enough of those already), and improve AvA to perform more like Planetside 2 even if not in real time but with several matches operating at once with an in game "tournament" system. That or just let me be creative design lead. I just made you a lot of money on this paragraph...

Jack Pipsam
Jack Pipsam

The coding thing doesn't surprise me.

Like with Asheron's Call 2, they never could figure out how to do the friends list and still error messages about Microsoft's Gaming Zone pops-up.

Only reason Age of Empires 2 HD could happen was one of the key programmers from the original game was able to go back and recode things to allow new developers work with it, otherwise the new developers would have been lost.

Back in the SOE time, Brasse once said on a panel that part of the reason Matrix wouldn't come back was (paraphrasing) "the coding wasn't very good, not easy to work with".
Vanguard suffered this for years. With Planetside's closure, on reddit one of the devs said (paraphrasing) "it would become ever harder to fix things if they went wrong".

Let's be honest part of the reason why Asheron's Call is closing is that the last couple people who know the games code left, doubt the new Turbine folk making mobile titles would understand the code.

dbresson
dbresson

@Jack Pipsam No offense meant, but I had to double-check after reading this comment to make sure I was still on the same article!

nosz
nosz

"...it's becoming harder and harder to remember how to get things up and running again if they break."


I guess, Hi-Res doesn't know what proper documentation means... o.O

nosz
nosz

@breetoplay @nosz Sure, but later when they started documenting, they should still have reports about the occasions, when they managed to fix things to keep it running!

breetoplay
breetoplay moderator

@nosz This isn't unusual at all for older games, tbh. Broadsword (and Mythic before them) has said repeatedly that with all the developer turnover from the last 20 years, every "simple tweak" breaks 20 things they didn't even know the code did.

KidWithKnife
KidWithKnife

@breetoplay @nosz Funcom have had similar problems as well, though that has as much to do with their wave of layoffs after the TSW launch as with the passing of time.  They've outright said on the TSW forums that they don't have anyone there anymore who even knows how the AoC/TSW chat system works code-wise.

nosz
nosz

@ChaosConstant @nosz @breetoplay I mean the examples of what they exactly did to fix it!

We're not talking about crashes from updating the game, but about the reasons why it can crash again and again in its current state of multiple years!

nosz
nosz

@tanek_09 Yes, that assumption comes from: "remember how to get things up and running again".

So until now they know the drill!

donweel
donweel

Programmers are notoriously lazy about documenting thier code. I know that the one project I did I had to force myself to put in comments instead of moving to the next procedure. I know if I were to go back into that code now I would not understand most of it. I also know that it is real hard to come in when someone has left a projecct and pick up what they have done. Depends on the language used, C mostly now a days which depend on library routines that people take for granted and can become black boxes, I used Forth in my brief career. Forth can really be hard to decifer by others because you are building a new language of words built from the dictionary with the final word being the program.

tanek_09
tanek_09

@nosz @ChaosConstant @breetoplay That assumes there is always a concrete fix. On an old system sometimes it is a matter of crossed fingers and a reboot.  Or it "fixes" on its own and you have no idea why.


Dev1: "We're back up! What did you do?"

Dev2: "um...went for a cup of coffee?"

...a week later...

Dev1: "We're down again!"

Dev2: "Coffee time!"

ChaosConstant
ChaosConstant

@nosz @breetoplay As a developer, that's not always as easy in practice as it is in theory. You think you took good notes and documented things well, and when you come back to it two years later you still can't figure it out. Especially if it was developed in a hurry.

UpayaCrow
UpayaCrow

@donweel It isn't even "lazy" as much as something that would slow their work to an absolute crawl. Coding isn't nearly as neat and clean as people think, and like every painter has a different style, every programmer has individual consistencies and patterns that tend to be somewhat unique to themselves, so even if there was robust documentation the process and context isn't always helpful to others due to not understanding the individual, internal logic of process.

UpayaCrow
UpayaCrow

@breetoplay @nosz It is the old coder's call:

"99 bugs in the code on the screen, 99 bugs in the coooode... take one down, patch it around... 137 bugs in the code..."

nosz
nosz

@donweel It seems the chain of arguments went back to the beginning again... :/

So again to summarize:

The game is in maintenance mode for a long time and since then the staff didn't change either.

Stating, it's "harder and harder to remember how" to keep it running, does say they remembered how, for years.

And that's my point: I'm really surprised, they missed so many opportunities to document how to even do maintenance, making it even less of an effort now. o.O

Not talking about development, not about updates, not about bugfixing, not about changes in staff, but years old, very routine maintenance mode. :)

MJ Guthrie
MJ Guthrie moderator

@nosz @tanek_09 Again refers to being up and running, not that the problem is the same thing that's been fixed before =D

realwords
realwords

I miss Global Agenda so much. That game was ahead of its time. Raiding an enemy clan's (agency) base with 20-40 other people all linked up on VOIP was unbelievable.

Skyewauker
Skyewauker

@realwords I miss AvA the most... that and the PvP matches were always a blast.  They were probably the best PvP matches in any game I've played in to date.


My worst moment in game was going against ePeen and they came with a full recon team and just nuked us to death.  You can still find the vod of it lol.

Halloween
Halloween

@Skyewauker @realwords I agree. I remember hitting max level in beta playing nothing but PvP missions. Never even touched PvE before launch.