PAX Prime 2011: Tribes Ascend Interview with Todd Harris
By Joseph Christ on August 27th, 2011 (23 comments)
High-Rez Studios have taken upon themselves to re-introduce the Tribes franchise back into the world after almost a decade-long slumber. Will new gamers take to the lightning-fast action known in the Tribes series? And what changes can we expect High-Rez to make to this beloved series?
I had a quick chat with Todd Harris, Chief Operating Officer of High-Rez studios at PAX Prime to discuss these very important issues. Thank god for me.
JC: It's been a long time since the last game so first off, why tribes, why now, and how are contemporary gamers, who may be used to a slower mutliplayer game, taking to the Tribes experience?
TH: It's been more than 7 years since a Tribes game has been released, but we're big fans of the original game. It inspired our first game, Global Agenda, and when we started thinking about our next game we wanted to make more of a pure shooter, but still have a lot of individual skill and teamwork, and those things brought us back to Tribes. So last October we contacted the owners, at that time it was Garage Games / Instant Action, and we talked to them about acquiring the franchise. They weren't looking to get rid of it but we were able to make them an offer, and we were able to come to terms. So we're happy to be in a position to take the Franchise forward.
Since then, the team's been working on Tribes Ascend, it's a match-made, online competitive shooter. So unlike Global Agenda, it's not positioned as an MMO, just simply a very awesome online shooter. Of course, it preserves all the things people know and love in the old game, or at least the things we think of as the spirit of Tribes. Jetpacking, very fast motion, wide open maps and a lot of team play. But there are also some things we've done different in Tribes while trying to evolve it. One, we added more weapons. Ballistic weapons like SMG's, and pistols, and things that modern shooters are familiar with. Two, we've taken it in a class driven direction. Here we have 9 playable classes that we think really adds to the teamwork aspect of the game where people are specializing, and every class has strengths and weaknesses. And three, we've added progression elements. Inside the game you earn credits as you do things to help your team, like returning your flag or taking out the enemy generator, and then you can spend those credits to help your team by buying vehicles or upgrading base functions.
So those are some of the things we've done that we're pretty excited about. And to your question, I think it is a big change from modern shooters who are used to more of the cover based, slow paced, ground based, gameplay. This is high flying adrenaline gameplay.
JC: Tribes to me was always about finding the arc. Finding that point where your enemy will meet the ground and getting your shots to that point.
TH: Yeah, that's right. A lot of player-skill in aiming, the player meshes are definitely smaller, things are going faster. But so far we've been really pleased. You can see the crowed, we've got people stacked many deep waiting to play it, and that's really exciting for us to see. People are coming away with big smiles on their face.
JC: What can you say about the vehicles. I see a motorcycle type unit, an aircraft...
TH: There's actually three vehicles we're starting with in the initial release and they are all playable here at PAX. Right now someone is flying the Strike which is a single player flying vehicle that's really good for chasing down flag cappers. It does a lot of damage as well and is super fast. The other vehicle you mentioned is called the Grave Cycle which is like a hover-motorbike, and one of the changes we made is we added a passenger seat on the back so you can ride on the back if you're a light or a medium (armor), and you can use your in-hand weapon to take care of business. We also have a tank, the Beowolf Tank, which also is a two-seater so you can be a gunner or driver. We have other vehicles as well that we're already working on in the development pipeline but we're going to save those for post-release updates.
JC: How many maps is Tribes Ascend going to be shipped with?
TH: We're going to start with 4 maps, they're all playable here at PAX, from the biggest like Katabatic which is a remake of an old Tribes map, to one that’s a little tighter like Crossfire. They all support Capture the Flag gameplay, and also Rabid which is the second game mode that we're not showing here but will be in the initial release. And then we plan on adding maps, of course, after release that will go out to the entire community.
JC: Outstanding. And which platforms can we expect to see the game on?
TH: PC only.
JC: Yeah, keeping that hardcore PC crowd happy.
TH: Yeah, well when we first announced we talked about consoles, and we're still actively in conversations with the console platform makers, but we wanted to focus on the PC first and foremost so all the dates we've been communicating are for PC.
JC: Great well it looks great, thanks for taking the time out.
TH: Thanks, no problem.
Joseph Christ is the Reviews Editor and a Podcast Personality at 4Player. Specializing in reviews, editorials, drinking, and saying inappropriate things about gaming franchises that are beloved by millions, his satirical and sometimes edgy style offsets a more serious and penetrating substance lurking below the surface. He is also the host of the Cocktail Time Podcast. You'll follow his Twitter if you know what's good for you.
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