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E3 2009: Sony Conference – MAG Demonstration For PS3

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Socom developers Zipper Interactive were on hand at the Sony Conference and brought with them a mammoth 256 player demonstration of forthcoming online FPS MAG. A first for console shooters; never before has 256 players been present in a simultaneous ongoing battle.

The demonstration that was shown by Zipper, ably illustrated the chaos on offer by MAG, but thankfully, the maps to fit in all of these 256 players are quite simply freaking huge. One of the twelve maps due to be included in the final game was shown off at the demonstration and represented a 1km square area, including many different types of buildings, slums, industrial complexes and many more for players to use and subsequently defile.

In terms of overall objectives, the demonstration played out very much like a conquest game of Battlefield. The primary objective is for attackers to capture territory and waypoints, whereas the defenders have to defend said waypoints and territories. Also similar to Battlefield is the manner in which respawn points work. Should you capture a waypoint and then die, you can respawn at the waypoint you just captured. Conversely, if you should capture a waypoint, lose it and then die, then you will respawn at the last point you held previously.

As is pretty much standard for any online shooter these days, MAG effectively facilitates weapon, equipment and armour upgrades through an experience system which is based around kills, waypoint captures and of course, battle victories. Where MAG shines however is that the 256 player limit does more than simply make things more frenetic, having 128 players per side allows the creation of battalions, squads and sub squads all under the command of sub-leaders and higher ranking generals (all player controlled), creating a command hierarchy not seen in any online FPS to date.

Zipper Interactive should also be applauded for eschewing the ‘class’ system that is so often a mainstay feature in contemporary online FPS titles, as previous class ‘jobs’ such as medic and engineer have to skill points put in them before you can use them. Similarly welcome is the fact that no weapons have to be unlocked per se’, just have to actually earn them here. Ranking up and gaining experience points are revealed to have another use too; they can unlock what is known as ‘leadership abilities’. These abilities allow anything from airstrikes to carpet bombings to be utilised alongside other more less forceful tactics such as recon of a particular area to reveal enemy positions.

Squad leader commands which can be unlocked allow a player to effectively delegate orders down to his comrades. A pointless feature you may think as presumably people could just ignore the orders and go charging in regardless. Well, they can if they wish, but in a clever move by Zipper Interactive, obeying squad leader orders from a player gives that a player a large amount of experience points for doing so, so the incentive is definitely there to conform to the hierarchal structure that MAG strives to sustain on the battlefield.

No online FPS would be complete without vehicles and thankfully the demo showed that MAG will deliver in spades in that regard. Everything from two different kinds of troop carrying APC’s, to tanks, attack helicopters and transport helicopters (often used as a way for players to reach respawn areas) were present and accounted for in the demo.

At this stage the only two reservations I have about MAG are that it requires some definite visual polish; the framerate was consistently smooth, but the models and environments seemed a tad simplistic and garish, and the spectre of lag, which could quite conceivably rear its ugly head given the sheer amount of crazy shit going on at any one given time.

MAG impressed me a great deal more than I thought it would after its announcement last year and has rose very quickly up my ‘most wanted’ list for games this year.

Sony have a great thing going with MAG here, I hope they can follow through with it when the title launches in late 2009.

Written by bitsnark

June 10, 2009 at 11:25 am

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