The Division Dev Talks Delay, Microtransactions, And Why It's Current-Gen Only
We speak with Ubisoft Massive managing director David Polfeldt about next year's much-anticipated online shooter.
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During E3 2014, we got a chance to catch up with Ubisoft Massive managing director David Polfeldt about why their upcoming open-world shooter The Division runs at 30fps. But that's not all we discussed.
We also spoke with the industry veteran about the online-focused game's delay to 2015, what types of microtransactions it might feature, and why it's not coming to past-generation hardware, among other topics.
The Division launches in 2015 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. For more on the game, be sure to check out GameSpot's impressions of a behind-closed-doors presentation earlier this month at E3.
On Making a Console Game After Spending So Many Years In the PC Space:
"We were a very, very hardcore PC gamer studio before. And we never understood the previous generation of consoles very well from a technological standpoint. But then when we saw the specs for this generation consoles... I remember we had a meeting at Massive and we just looked at each other and said 'Is this what I think it is?!' 'Is this our home turf?' Because on this hardware, we can be excellent; we can be one of the best. And as soon as we had that, we just started focusing on this generation of consoles like crazy."
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Why The Division Is Not Coming to Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3:
"The specific reason is that we built [the Snowdrop engine, which powers The Division] from scratch. And it's enormously tailored to the current generation of consoles. On the previous generation, the hardware is quite different. And they're also different from each other [PS3 vs. Xbox 360]. So in our case, it would be like having to develop the engine for two more platforms. And it's just a huge job that we could do, but were excited not to."
About The Division's Delay to 2015:
"One thing that I would really like for this industry to be able to talk about is the difficulty of predicting [release dates]. Because we often talk about dates, but the reality--and this is really coming from the trenches--is that if you have a project with say 400 people on it, you're working on a fairly new piece of hardware like the current-gen, and you're trying to be the best game ever, and you want to do 90+ [Metacritic], the reality is it's very hard to do that. It's like if I were to ask you to become a professional athlete. Yeah, you could become an athlete, but when will you be ready? It's a really hard question."
"And I wish that we could speak about that more openly in the industry. It's super difficult to manage a team that big. Any software project that is on that scale, it's incredibly hard for a producer to manage and to accurately predict what's going to happen. And then you add on top of that the discussion about the narrative, about the IP, about the main character, about the features. The real answer, and every developer knows this, is that we don't know when the game will be ready. Every date that has ever been set in this industry is arbitrary at one point, and I wish we could say that more often that it's impossible to know. The closer we get, the more accurate we will be. And I think for us, we were too optimistic when we said 2014. Because our game is ambitious and we feel that we have a fair shot at going over 90 [Metacritic]. So we're gonna keep our ambition level up and we just need the time to make sure that we get there."
On How The Division's Microtransactions Will Be 'Fair':
"What we're looking at, and this is still being developed, but what we're looking at is...we want to have a fair trade, fair transactions. So we want to offer gamers things that they actually feel have value to them. As long as they do that, and you're open with it and up front with 'this is the cost, this is what you get' then I think you can have any type of transaction in the game. What frightens me is manipulative trading, where you pretend that it's a free experience when in fact you're not being truthful because you don't intend it to be free. You're only saying that to draw people in. Your intention is to make people pay. And that's where I think there's an ethical problem with free-to-play games. Charging for content in itself is fair; I don't have any problem with that. So what we're looking at is we don't want to have pay-to-win, but we are definitely looking at things where you can gain time or comfort. Bag slots would be a thing that if you really want to have everything in your bag all of the equipment at all times. Maybe it's not practical, but it doesn't really give you an advantage over other gamers. Some things require time in the game and some people don't want to invest time; they want the shortcut. So we're looking at those types of trades."
A Tease for the Future:
"[The Division is] a very ambitious game. We are saving many of the most interesting parts for later. We have a lot of interesting things in the game that were not shown this year at E3. So there's a lot to come."