Ghost Recon Online – The Open Beta Experience
Questions by Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
Answers by Theo Sanders, Lead Producer Ubisoft Singapore
Now launching into open beta, Ghost Recon Online is set to bring a new winter-based expansion called the “Artic Pack” which includes new weapons, new equipment and a brand new map, all created with the community’s suggestions and assistance.
I got another chance to speak with the lead producer of GRO to get some insight on the game’s current status and the new Artic Pack update.
OnRPG: Hello again! This is Michael Sagoe, journalist for OnRPG.com. I’m sure you remember me from the last interview we had, but for those that are not aware: Could you introduce yourself for our readers?
Hi, I’m Theo Sanders, the lead producer of Ghost Recon Online at Ubisoft Singapore.
OnRPG: For those that haven’t played GRO yet or have never even played a Ghost Recon game before: Could you give a small summary of what the game and the series is all about?
Ghost Recon has always occupied a different part of the shooter space from the many run ‘n’ gun games out there. Tactical gameplay in a grim – but plausible – near-future has defined the series. Ghost Recon Online is the latest addition to this franchise, and takes it in a new direction, inviting players to participate in the community and directly influence the game’s evolution.
OnRPG: What is introduced in the new Arctic Pack?
The Arctic Pack is our first major patch, just a month after we launched Open Beta. Its highlight feature is a new, symmetrical map called Tomsk-9 set in a nuclear de-commissioning plant in the Russian arctic. We’ve launched 6 limited-edition Arctic weapon variants in addition to cold-weather armor for each class. The Arctic Pack addresses hundreds of balance tweaks, bugs, and improvements – most of which were driven by the community.
OnRPG: It’s mentioned that GRO development is completely community-driven. How exactly did your development team gather data from player feedback in order to create the new Tomsk- 9 map?
Primarily, we listen to what players say. Our GM and community teams interact with players daily and formally sit down with the development team weekly to review the topics players are talking about. As developers, we also spend a huge amount of time playing ourselves on the live service. Finally we also pay attention to what players do – using data to help us analyze things like map balance.
OnRPG: What other changes did GRO go through during its transition from closed beta to open beta based on player feedback?
There have been a ton of improvements, mainly driven by what we heard from players in the closed beta. For example, a common complaint on the Korolyov Towers map was that players dropping down to attack the A and B points were too vulnerable. We added an entirely new drop-down route at A, and several new covers to clear out any defenders below.
OnRPG: So one concern I had from my previous experience with GRO was with communication. The VOIP system and CrossCom UI feature works great, but for those that want to give orders to teammates without using microphone can only communicate using basic text messages.Are there any plans to introduce some kind of macro or quick chat function into GRO?
We have already put in place some things that help communication between teammates. For example, we noticed only very experienced players had a strong situational awareness of nearby teammates using their class devices. We’ve added a ton of feedback into the HUD and mini-map that makes it a lot clearer when they do. There’s been a noticeable difference with players, for example, advancing together with a teammates’ Aegis Shield. We’re still evaluating other features too, like the ones you describe.
OnRPG: Another personal concern that I had with GRO was regarding matchmaking/balance: If one play ends up leaving a match or (for the lack of a better term) “ragequits”, the match can end up a bit one-sided since the match making system does not seem replace dropped players or re-balance. Now it’s been awhile since I last played GRO, but has this issue been resolved or planning to be resolved?
There’s always been a hot-join feature that replaces players who drop out, but how quickly it can react is a function of how many players are actively searching for a match. With a bigger player population now in Open Beta, it works more quickly. That much said, we are planning to do more. The cost of quitting at the moment – not earning your RP and XP – is too subtle. We’re looking at other solutions like players spending some time in the “sin bin” before they can re-queue for a new match.
OnRPG: Has there been any issues from players regarding the balance of RP (Requisition Points) and GC (Ghost Coins) for purchasing items in GRO? How is GRO able to sustain itself by offering several permanent items with RP (in comparison to other F2P shooters that usually offer timed times and/or permanent items that can only be bought with real money?)
We’re very happy with how the in-game economy has worked out, and frequently get great feedback from the community that GRO has “done it right.” I think that reflects on a basic design belief we hold to that a players’ time invested in the game needs to be respected. It’s why we have permanent items, give players the opportunity to earn any item in the game just by playing, and don’t allow other players to “cheapen” time invested by skipping the need to progress by paying. I feel strongly that a respectful business model and a great user experience are very good foundations for a sustainable business.
OnRPG: Where does the future lie ahead for GRO?
We’re in this for the long haul, and plan to keep supporting GRO for years. There are some key features we’re working on in the near-term, like support for clans, but how the game continues to grow, improve, and evolve in the future is going to be a combination of cool ideas the development team has and where GRO players want to see the game go.
OnRPG: Any other comments?
Hopefully I’ll see some of you online (just go to GhostReconOnline.com to sign up). Feel free to look me up in GRO so we can group for a fireteam. I’m Temasek on the North American server and Squirk on the European server (I play on both).
OnRPG: Thank you for your time!