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Understanding The Division Marketing

June 11, 2014

The Division E3 2014

There was unsurprisingly, some disappointment voiced as regards The Division videos at E3 2014. I think it is the result of misunderstanding the intent of the developers, and also a lack of attention to what was actually revealed. First, in a video interview last autumn, one of the creators (directors?) made it very clear that Massive didn’t want reveal too much before the game launched. They want to keep as much a secret as possible so that gamers can experience the game “unspoiled”. Therefore, expect every reveal henceforth to be similarly disappointing as regards content and probably even gameplay. Second, for those who patiently watched with an inquisitive mindset, there was, in fact, a bunch of new information released in those videos.

Hit the jump for my impressions of the two videos (long).

From the gameplay video:

The world is not only above ground but below: subways and tunnels are navigable.

Past events are displayed holographically imposed on environments in the present.

These holographs provide possible mission starting points (1:34 11 days ago – train, little girl 2000XP)

They will be making extensive use of mise en scene a la the stuff on the walls in Bioshock and Left 4 Dead to tell background stories. Every environment is stuffed with litter (which we saw in the first game), full body bags, etc. etc. and also graffiti on the walls. (1:56)

Megan “invites” Bronson to join her while she is navigating the environment (is that a game invite or a mission invite within the game) – she never stops moving and he (and Chris) suddenly appear at the top of the stairs. People are playing on the same map/server but not in a squad (?). (2:15)

(2:16) Bronson: “Let’s go open up the area ahead” Megan: “We’re about to unlock my base” so this tells us that people have their own version/progression of the world. Bronson and Chris entered Megan’s world once they accepted her invite(?).

(2:33) The game appears to have a lot of similarity to BioShock in that the AI creates the illusion that it is autonomous, organic, and alive – in action even if not being observed (or triggered).

(2:46) At E3 2013, we were shown doors that could be closed, cover that could be taken, and tires that could be shot out. Here we are shown that much (all) of the environment can be mounted, vaulted, traversed, and there is literally sliding into cover (3:46). Surprisingly, that is not yet a given in this age of games. ::cough:: L4D ::cough::

(2:49) The pull-up weapon menu has changed. It is obviously a work in progress. Perhaps this is the “short” list culled from a longer inventory list.

(2:51 – 3:40)There is an “electrocution” ‘nade and a hover flash bang, flame thrower sentry (4:10) melee weapons wielded by the AI, different AI reactions – one runs away, the other charges.

(3:50) Containers have contents! Paint in cans splatters and bursts – That is a huge difference between this and anything else I have ever seen in game.
Finally, as shown in the screenshot – The menus indicate:

Supply Line:
Power Level:
Travel Connections
-MidTown North
-Dark Zone Low

Medical: Operational

Armor: Operational

Security Level: 3.8?
Morale: 2.6
Contamination: 4.0
Progression Level 10?

This is probably more meaningful to those who have have played MMOs, but I think there is probably some significant information in these categories and numbers.

As for the cinematic video, again, there were many things shown that were not explained but alluded to depth in story, possible factions (flame thrower garbage men), street hoods, and what are the footprints in the snow – 2:23-2:41?!

The videos don’t give us specific gameplay answers, but it is an iterative work in progress, and Massive is wise not to reinforce their promises from last year if there is even a slight chance that stuff will get cut. Zos is justified in having doubts and concerns because there are many devs that promised the world and gave the backyard. I don’t know what The Division is going to end up being. I do think, however, that they revealed quite a bit at E3. (Yet admittedly, without explanation, it almost raises more questions than it answers.)

As regards the beauty of the game, there comes a point when “beauty” becomes, or creates the gameplay. Just as so many movie and game directors often brag “the environment/the city is a character”. The attention to details, animations, interactions, interactivity, materials, particles, textures, AI, weather, and light is of such high quality, that it becomes “gameplay”. The world is so comprehensive that simply navigating around in it is “game”. Enough said. I have never played an MMO, so I have zero expectations in that regard, and nothing that Massive offers will be a compromise or imitation of something I have played before, so I am lucky in that regard.

OT Rainbow Six Siege looks awesome. I am not very good at timed games, nor can I be counted on to make multiple stealth headshots should that be needed. But if being a team player, and communicating well can make up for those shortcomings, then I am your huckleberry. Having said that, I will also be all over the “arcady” cops and robbers game of Hardline. The more I watch that video, the fresher and more enjoyable it looks. Again, like The Division, the beauty of the game, including the animations, and constant flood of “cinematic moments” isn’t just pleasing on the eyes, it IS the gameplay.

  1. Blankman permalink*
    June 11, 2014 11:53 am

    Thanks for the break down analysis of what was shown in the latest demo trailer, Suns. Ryan Bernard, The Division’s lead designer, is definitely sticking to his guns on not divulging much info. Not only does he not want to spoil the experience for the gamers, he may be doing that to keep the trade secrets of the game under wraps because Massive doesn’t want other developers beating them to the punch. Since this game is such a huge undertaking, it would take less time for others to copy something innovative and put it into their games. Thus, stealing Massive’s secret sauce.

    BTW: Did you guys notice the bullet deformation in the metal of the bus stand that the player was using as cover? Wow, that’s attention to detail!

  2. June 11, 2014 2:59 pm

    I want to respond to this fully, and agree with part of what you are saying. So I will re-vist this later tonight.

    Off Topic:

    After Bungie confirmed the new Microsoft SDK allowed them to reach on Xbone the same resolution / framerate as PS4 (1080p/30FPS). It has been confirmed that Battlefield Hardline will run at 1080p native, 60 FPS on Xbox One (same as PS4).

    • Blankman permalink*
      June 12, 2014 4:52 pm

      And yet, a lot of journalists who had hands-on time with Destiny have commented that they were underwhelmed. In fact, Aisha Tyler just stated that she would boycott the game because it looked like “Halo & Halo 4 had a baby. It looks like Halo, only in next-gen.” Activision is going to lose their purported $500 mil on this foolish escapade. When you drop that kind of coin on an untested IP, you deserve to get your ass smoked.

    • FrenkoFrenik permalink
      June 14, 2014 12:59 pm

      They lifted the embargo on being able to talk about Destiny Alpha so there are tons of videos and reviews out there now. I will say this there will be a lot of hate on Destiny because of the similarities with Halo, but the main difference is that at is heart Destiny is an MMO/RPG and what they showed in Alpha hinted at the tip of an iceberg in terms of what else could be on in the rest of the world.

      It all depends on what they are able to deliver, but from what I saw there was a potential for a deep MMO/RPG thats customizable and that shoots like Halo with much better graphics.

      If they put the same attention to detail in the MP with the ability to create gametypes and Custom Maps, with a open world and for me thats a game that can last a long time.

      To me the game was closer to Borderlands 2 with a serious tone and Multiplayer.

  3. June 11, 2014 4:07 pm

    Thanks for reading, guys.

    Kenny, I mentioned the footprints in the snow in the cinematic video. Did you notice them? After the invisible guy is thrown to the ground and slides on the street, he crawls away, but there are these HUGE three-toe footprints that follow him (on either side of him) until he suddenly appears all roughed up in front of the protagonist. Am I just imagining things, or is there a slight possibility that there will be mutants/monsters in this game? (I don’t even know if that would be desirable.)

    Yes, I am just imagining things. I rewatched and it looks like it must be his hands in the snow. The only problem is that his body doesn’t drag along between hand/foot prints. Weird film making.

  4. June 11, 2014 9:36 pm

    Apparently, there is another demo video out there:

    The second demo takes place well before this base of operation is captured, and showcases a very different scenario for the players in the same setting. When the map is pulled up players get readings for an area’s security level, contamination level, citizen morale, and whether or not the base of operations has been captured. In this instance, morale and security are low, and the contagion level is very high. To enter this region the team needs to equip gas masks.

    This mission takes place at night, which is a much more dangerous time to be roaming the streets. Aided by a person controlling a drone via a tablet device, the group decides to investigate a nearby warehouse, which is a good location to find the types of upgrades that will be critical to your progression. Moving toward the building, the drone spots and marks a virus cleaning crew, which is using flamethrowers to purge everything in the vicinity.

    Before engaging the enemies, the team stops to tweak their loadouts via their watches. The upgrade system in The Division looks versatile, with many gadgets and abilities that can be altered to fit the battle scenario. In this instance, the player set the seeker mine to stun so it would expose one of the elite enemies, which have much higher constitutions and absorb many more bullets than the typical enemies. Once the enemies are cleared out, the players grab the loot left on their corpses. The new backpack can hold more supplies and ammo than the one previously equipped.

    After the team turns on the power generator in the warehouse, the player opens the map again, which now shows an improved security level for the region. New York City still has a long road to salvation, but if you rack up enough of these minor victories the city will slowly emerge from its decrepit state.

  5. June 12, 2014 1:21 pm

    Off Topic:

    Phil Spencer confirmed that back in April, one of the “cloud demos” they did included an “early build” of Crackdown.

    This demonstrates how destructibility can be increased with the use of the cloud for processing tasks. Looking at Crackdown’s E3 trailer, it ends with a building crashing down and getting destroyed.

    next gen.

  6. July 15, 2014 3:54 am

    I didn’t see this until today, but it actually has some interesting info on features shown off in the 2014 E3 footage.

    • Blankman permalink*
      July 15, 2014 4:13 pm

      The info in the dev vid was already divulged at this year’s E3. No new info has been released since then except that console graphics will NOT be downgraded from what ran on a supped up PC rig at E3. The uproar from the Watchdogs PC vs. console visuals has forced Ubisoft to address their approach on demoing upcoming/in-development games.

      BTW: While we’re on Ubisoft, Rainbow Six Siege MP is going to be livestreamed on Twitch this Thursday, July 17 at 11 PST.

      EDIT: The Division’s console graphics won’t be downgraded due to the robust Snowdrop engine according to Ryan Barnard, The Division’s lead designer.

    • July 15, 2014 6:17 pm

      But, they did the same thing with The Division. So, from this point on, is that what you mean? And did that come from Ubisoft, or is that just what they should be doing?

      Thanks for the heads-up on the Twitch stream. Hopefully they archive it for those who can’t watch it live.

    • Blankman permalink*
      July 15, 2014 8:26 pm

      Sorry, I edited the post to reflect that Barnard stated that the visuals will not be downgraded from what was already shown using a PC. Only Sledgehammer Games who is developing the upcoming CoD: Advanced Warfare has gone on record that they won’t mislead consumers on each console versions’ graphics. Also, the Rainbow Six Siege MP stream will be archived according to Ubisoft.

    • July 15, 2014 11:44 pm

      Kenny, that was what impressed me about the Snowdrop engine. I was confident that what we had seen last year was going to be what we are getting. This is an excellent confirmation because no small part of my anticipation for this game is the “pretty”.

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