An Interview with Tribes: Ascend Todd Harris, Hi-Rez Studios Chief Operating Officer
We sat down with Mr. Harris and asked a bunch of questions related to Tribes: Ascend and future development plans.
1. Tribes Ascend, unlike most modern shooters which are based on present realistic setting, has a Sci-fi setting. I know the story is not very important for gaming experience, but would you care to bring up the back story in few sentences?
Tribes Ascend is set in the very far future of the 34th century. Humanity has discovered artificial wormholes called jumpgates and used these to travel across the stars, settling in an area called The Wilderzone. War divided humanity into a bunch of small tribes, but eventually a few major tribes emerge. Players hopping into Tribes Ascend are joining an interplanetary conflict between two of the major Tribes - the Blood Eagle and the Diamond Sword.
2. In the beta we saw that player can select to play on ranked servers. This is not a functional feature currently so can you explain how will this look and what will it bring to players?
Ranked Servers will support those who want an easy, built-in way to play competitively against others at similar skill-levels. It involves an elo-like player skill rating system and behind the scenes matchmaking.
3. Similar to previous question, what options will custom servers bring to players?
Custom Servers will allow players to rent and admin a virtual server instance and configure game rules via server flags. For example, if you want to play a certain map rotation, or perhaps disallow certain classes, or even play with Health Regen OFF, these would be example server flags. So the idea is to offer players more control over how they play and who they play with.
4. Tribes Ascend is a obviously a very skill demanding game, how do you think it will fare with free-to-play audience which will bring many casual players to the game?
League of Legends is an example of a good free-to-play game that combines a thriving competitive scene with a large casual audience. We'd think the same thing can happen with a free-to-play skill-based FPS like Tribes: Ascend.
5. Do you plan to add new match types in the final version or in later patches time as time passes by, or will the team deathmatch, capture the flag and rabbit, which we had the chance to test in beta, be the only matches type available? Will there be classical deathmach mode of play?
Yes. Before release we will be adding new maps. And over time we expect to add maps and new match types. Right now in development we are actually testing an arena-style game-mode.
6. Do you see a chance for Tribes Ascend to become a true E-sport game? It has already had it's debut in NASL Season 3 as a Promotional Title.
Definitely. The high skill ceiling helps. And competitive players are already delivering great highlight reel moments with mid-airs, and flag-passing and high-speed aerial dog-fights. Inside the studio I talk a lot about 'holy crap Michael Jordan moments'. A game that can deliver those individual hero moments, combined with required teamwork has strong e-sport potential. Tribes: Ascend has those elements.
7. In previous interviews you mentioned that more classes will be added after release, so is there a the final or a maximum number of classes that you plan to add?
With this latest Beta build we offer nine very distinct classes. And we now give players the ability to unlock new weapons and customize their class loadout. We plan to release with those nine classes. After release we will introduce new weapons very frequently and new classes much less frequently. .
8. Tribes veterans are probably very happy with the game, but what is the feedback from newer gamers, the ones that never previously played a Tribes game? Do they find their way easily in this jet pack packed action?
New players appreciate how differently the game plays compared to slower-moving tactical shooters that are more common these days. Many PC gamers have nostalgic memories around a favorite old-skool style shooters, be that Quake or Unreal. So we have found that gamers are hungry for a fast action shooter like Tribes. And of course jetpacks make everything better.
9. Any advices for the beginners ?
If you are walking around the terrain you are doing it wrong. :)
A lot of the fun in Tribes: Ascend comes from the fluid, freedom of movement that comes with skiing and jetpacking. In the latest update we added a repeatable ski course that beginners can use for practice. And we're continuing to work on systems and content to help beginners learn the game.
10. How's is the development of Tribes Universe progressing? We haven't heard any news about it in a while. Is it going to be any similar to the Tribe Ascend ?
Our Tribes development team is completely focused on Ascend right now.
11. I see the "Shazbot!" curse has found it's way into a yet another sequel of Tribes? Where did this word originated from? Is it an internal joke form the Tribes universe or a reference to something?
Hah! Shazbot was a curse on the '80s TV show Mork & Mindy. Then an Alien spoke Shazbot again in one of the very early Simpsons episodes. But Tribes deserves the credit for keeping the word relevant in pop-culture. In the earlier Tribes games there was a voice-macro system so you could quickly shout commands to your team - tactical instructions or greetings or taunts. So Tribes included Shazbot as one of those voice call-outs. In Tribes: Ascend we have the same voice system and of course we had to include Shazbot!.
12. Any chance for PS3 and/or Xbox 360, or even a Linux or iOS version?
Always a chance. But right now we are focused on a version designed and optimized for the PC.
13. Will there be any hats... uhm, I mean helmets to buy in game? :D
We will offer visual customization, but nothing of that type is available yet. Those cosmetic items will be the only things require a real-money purchase via Tribes Gold. For any item affecting gameplay like classes and weapons we'll let players unlock those thru either game-time or Gold.
14. And the most serious question of the interview... can you give us a precise release date?
15. And one last for Mech-Nuts like myself. Looking at the origin of the Tribes franchise which has it's back story based on top of Earthsiege and later Starsiege(both mech games), is there any chance we would see a pilotable mech in the game?
I feel you on the mech thing! We're very excited about mechs but we'll save those for a future game.