The Division Director Talks Class Roles and Multiplayer Story Progression

We check out a new demo of The Division and talk to game director Ryan Barnard about the "holy trinity" of RPG classes and telling a story in multiplayer.

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At first glance, Ubisoft's post-apocalyptic game The Division may look like a straightforward shooter with co-operative elements. Dig a little deeper beneath the surface however, and you'll find that the game draws a lot of influence from the role-playing genre. After a 15-minute hands-off presentation of the game, we spoke with The Division director Ryan Barnard about multiplayer mechanics and story progression.

Focusing on the holy trinity of Tank-DPS-Healer

Veterans of the role-playing genre will be familiar with the formula that constitutes the holy trinity in RPGs, traditionally made up of a damage-soaking tank character, the support role, and the damage dealer. In The Division, Barnard cited the importance of class roles as something that would be a large focus in the game. "We want the concept of role importance in a group. We really want to support that," he said.

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But would the game penalize players who didn't necessarily fill out the holy trinity in their squad?

According to Barnard, it would be "totally fine" for a crew of players filling similar roles to tackle missions together. However, groups which spread out and filled a variety of roles would stand to gain more. "We also want to find challenges that not really require, but will highly reward players for creating a more varied group with the different roles represented," he said.

"You want to have content and things you do in a game that really push players to the limit. And in order to do that, you need to maximize the role that you're playing in the group," he explained. That being said, players are still able to split up across the map while in a group game, but such an approach would not be advantageous.

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"We don't actually limit the players in the game at all. [But] because the game scales the difficulty of the content by how people are in your group, we're looking at the best ways to encourage players to stay together." Barnard said.

Because of the nature of group combat in The Division, the behavior of enemies will be directed by what Barnard refers to as "sometimes called threat, sometimes called aggro" in games. "We need an aggro system or a threat system that I can effect as a player. So that I can draw the attention of an enemy or drop the attention of an enemy based on skills and where I position myself in a fight," he explained. Even the player joining in via the companion app on tablet and supporting the team in-game as a drone will not be exempt to generating threat, with enemies able to shoot them down.

How the story will work in multiplayer

While players will be progressing through the skill trees in-game by earning experience, Barnard says not to expect the traditional quest line model. That is, we should not expect to be directed where to go by a quest giver. Instead, an area referred to as the Base of Operations will serve as an anchored hub for players to return to.

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Characters who players meet as they progress through the narrative will also provide guidance through the story. "We have content that you come across as you open the map to choose, and then we also encourage the player to check out where there are narrative threats," Barnard said.

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On the topic of how story progression will work for multiple players, Barnard referred to narrative checkpoints that would dictate whether group members could progress further in the story. "They are major milestone things that have happened that you will not be able to go past if you haven't seen that event or participated in it," he explained.

The game pulls the story progress from the leader of the party, who can move the story forward on their own after the group has split up. "When you're doing a narrative story you have moments that you want every player to experience, and we have those in The Division as well," Barnard said.

But can we expect to bring New York back to its prior state, before the disaster hit?

"You're never really repairing things back to the way they were... this is a changing event that happens in the beginning when you're activated; this catastrophic virus being launched," Barnard said.

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However, that does not mean your efforts are for naught. Certain visual representations reflecting the efforts of the players will be present in the game. For example, upgrading the clinic for enhanced medical facilities, which cleans up the dead bodies strewn about on the streets. "You see the effects there, but we don't visually change New York because you're not cleaning up the city, so to speak." Barnard said.

The map shown in the presentation had three status levels: security, contagion, and morale. While players will work to raise these levels and save the streets of New York, it remains to be seen what the end-state of the game will be. The Division is in development for the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 and will be released in 2015.

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Avatar image for no1ymfan1

Wait I thought there was also integrated PvP. Because at the end of the trailer, after battling AIs, they ran into other hostile human players and then the trailer ended

Avatar image for Dilandau88

Love class roles. Bring it on.

Avatar image for depman1972

screw multiplayer, keep it single player.

Avatar image for Loki-1976

I wonder if you can play it solo? I obviously mean the story and side mission areas. They are isolated from any other players except your own group (and solo if possible). I mean the talk about the Trinity, with tank, dps and healer. How would that work if you do it solo.

I just wish that these interviews would actually talk about if you can solo the game. I hate when they ignore us solo players and only talk the Mp and Co-Op. Just fn confirm it or not .

I bet there are more potential customers that would want to play it as an SP game than co-op.

Playing co-op with randoms is just awful, there is no coherent play and you can get random asshats.

Avatar image for RedMattis


"[...] game scales the difficulty of the content by how people are in your group"

"[...] it would be 'totally fine' for a crew of players filling similar roles to tackle missions together. "

The game scales depending on how many people are in a group, and a group of people with the same role can play the game. From this I think we can gather there isn't anything for solo players to worry about. :)

Avatar image for Unfallen_Satan

When I read about the class roles, my first reaction was harsh criticism. My experience with the "holy trinity" has been limited: the tank uses Taunt or some similar skill, and the AI loses the "I" part, then we go from there. Then I realized that I never found out what tanks do in PvP. So I went to read a few articles on PvP tanking in WoW, which seems to have the most written about it. That led me to a more interesting question. Does The Division create situations where tanking is justified?

If it simply reuses the old taunt+damage mitigation trick, I don't think it's even worth discussing. What if it doesn't? Being the first one seen by hostiles should obviously draw fire for a time, at least until someone else opens fire. Being a flag bearer doesn't sound like it fits in The Division, but maybe the tank is the guy fixing the transmitter. Does the tank have tools that generate sensible threat or value, like decoy guns (or holograms?) or an ability to fake injury? I'm not expecting The Division to have these features, but after reading how others tried to make tanks work in PvP, I think they are really nice.

Avatar image for Stiler

WHY try to shove mmorpg mechanics into a game?

The "trinity" setup gets boring because it shoehorns players into specific roles usualy and makes combat into doing the same basic thing over and over

Tank get aggro

dps do dmg

healer heal tank

Players should be able to change and use different tactics and the enemy AI should be smart enough to well be smart.

Focusing a "tank" because he has "Aggro" is the sign of DUMB ai and it makes fights feel very artificial.

Why can't the game just use real world tactics, suppression, flanking, cover, etc?

I mean don't get me wrong, I think it's good to allow players to be "different" and have different skills/abilities, but I don't think it should be some "Class" restricted mmo crap shoved into it.

Avatar image for MarcJL31

People saying this is looking to be like Destiny seem to forget that this game was revealed the same time Destiny was.

This game caught my attention a lot more than Destiny did and the inclusion of the trinity is a good sign. But we will see if Ubisoft can really deliver with the final product.

Avatar image for no1ymfan1

Have you seen the gameplay? If anything it's gonna be like Ghost Recon Future Soldier

Avatar image for MarcJL31

<< LINK REMOVED >> Umm...of course I have seen the gameplay. My response, from 3 months ago, had to do with people claiming this game idea was taken from Destiny. Which I pointed out that they were revealed at the same E3.

Avatar image for jack00

Man what the fuk is up with the destiny comparasion comments. This doesn't even look remotly close to destiny ffs. I'm out of here before I get stupider by reading more comments.

Avatar image for no1ymfan1

I thought it looked exactly like Ghost Recon Future Soldier's gameplay. A lot like it

Avatar image for chieflion

If your gunna add classes add more then three, fucking destiny bullshit, also i really hope this game finds a difference between that game. I thought it was like a post apocolyptic free for all, where you and your friends might run into other douches in the city trying to scavenge what you scavenge, now it sounds like a clone.

We need more footage!

Avatar image for oflow

After watchdogs if I even buy it it will be from the used bin

Avatar image for Attitude2000

Tom Clancy RPG? sign me up!

Avatar image for RC-Sev

Well, I'm definitely not going to pre-order a Ubisoft game, will wait for reviews and gameplay on youtube.

Avatar image for ad0mas

I throught this game was supposed to be an open world mmo where you run in to other players and fight them for resources or something. Now I see ithis game is aiming to compete with Destiny... so... kinda... meh

Avatar image for oflow

No it's basically a co-op watchdogs

Avatar image for HapiJoel

<< LINK REMOVED >> Exactly what I thought :|

Avatar image for jcv1811

BTW Gamespot, when you say "We check out a new demo of The Division" I hope you show the new demo, not a repetition of an old demo we had all seen before

Avatar image for metrosdawn

Not sure if it is just me, but this looks like a mashup of Socom and Last of Us....with a sprinkle of standard MMO (Destiny rings a bell). I will pick this game up, just cause I like to give all games a chance and love gaming in general, but I can't help to think that Last Of Us and Socom had a baby.

Avatar image for BloodLine52

<< LINK REMOVED >> That's definitely a good thing. Old school Socom that is.

Avatar image for Monsterkillah

The Division could be Ubisoft biggest game thisgen

People now are kinda burnt out with AC games this game have huge potential

Avatar image for redtrevize

I smell a Destiny-like flop

Avatar image for Hurvl

@redtrevize Yes, because being the biggest new IP in history (considering revenue, which is the only thing that counts) is what's considered a flop. I don't like Destiny, because it has no offline singleplayer mode and feels too competitive and "social", but you can't deny its success. Or you could deny its success, but then you'd only look foolish.

Avatar image for oflow

Are we talking about watchdogs?

Avatar image for Hurvl

<< LINK REMOVED >> No one is talking about Wristwatch_Canines, I just meant that to call Destiny a flop is weird, considering how much revenue it has created in so small a time.

Avatar image for steaminpotatoes

Will be riddled with micro transactions and bland like ubisoft the game.

Avatar image for HapiJoel

<< LINK REMOVED >> Pleeaase don't say that, it might become true :(

Avatar image for callsignalpha

I just hope it doesn't end-up like destiny

Avatar image for rawkstar007

Classes? Tanks? Healers?! WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?!

Avatar image for HapiJoel

<< LINK REMOVED >> Moon sorcery!

Avatar image for normanislost

Yeah seems like an odd way to go with a modern day TPS