In early 2005 Sony Online Entertainment announced it had bought a previously unknown game developer called FireAnt in the Seattle area. The team, composed mostly of former Microsoft Games Studios employees who worked on the canceled MMO Mythica, got an unexpected job a few months later as it acquired the MMO The Matrix Online from its former developer Monolith. However the team, now called SOE Seattle, was working on their own original title at the same time. At Sony Online's Gamers Day event in New York City last month we finally got the first word on their new game, a action-based title called The Agency. While the game itself was not playable at the event, we did get to see a lengthy in-game movie and also talked with some of the game's developers and today we can finally reveal what we learned so far.
As the name of the game implies, The Agency is not going to be your typical fantasy themed title but one based (sort of) in the real world. The setting, however, is one in which the super spy organizations of movies like the James Bond flicks (pre-Daniel Craig) or TV shows like Alias exist. That means highly exaggerated characters, both on the hero and villain side, along with armed sports cars and exotic locales. The Agency will definitely not be in the same vein as UbiSoft's Splinter Cell series but will be filled with lots of over-the-top action and situations. In fact it looks like The Agency will actually mix spy action movies with the more hard hitting films of the Die Hard variety due to the two organizations that players can join in the game. One is the Bondian style group UNITE; they have the cool cars, the best clothes and a general smooth look to them. The other organization you can join is ParaGON; this is the place where the Bruce Willis types of "shoot first and never ask questions" can be happy to just blow away the bad guys and not worry about looking cool.
The Agency looks like it will be less of a hard core game than any of the company's current offerings; there's lots of campy humor in the various characters and situations and having the game take place in the hyper-real world of the movie spy genre in theory will make the game appeal to to a wider audience. SOE Seattle also plans to make the game easy to play from the start; the plans is to eliminate the whole "killing rats" style of leveling up when a new player begins with The Agency; they plan to put players in the middle of a spy operation fright from the start. Of course you start out as a rather low level field agent but the developers have put in a rather interesting gameplay addition; while working for either organization you can actually build up your own operatives that work with you; the NPC helpers are the equivalent of James Bond's Q branch. They will help you get info on missions and bring you the high tech weapons and items you can request. SOE Seattle developers told us at the press event that these operatives will continue to work for your needs even if you aren't actually playing the game. Say you put in a request for a modified sports car with machine guns and oil slicks. You can give that assignment to one of your operatives. The next day, you get a call on your cell phone in the real world; it's your NPC operative letting you know that you car is ready to go when you sign onto the game again. Missions will have themes like assassinations, drug smuggling and the like. There will also be mini-games like car chases and even a way to play casino games (always a theme in nearly every James Bond movie). Skills are honed while on missions (there is no real class system in this game like in other MMOs) and even the clothing you wear can influence gameplay as each mission will require a different set of fashion accessories.