The Matrix Online Q&A

We get the chance to ask producer William Westwater about the latest details regarding The Matrix Online.

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According to The Matrix motion picture and its sequels, the Matrix is a sprawling virtual world in which human beings live, unaware that they're really participating in an elaborate simulation of reality. This setting naturally lends itself to the realm of online role-playing games, where thousands of players participate in vast, virtual fantasy worlds to escape reality. And this is where The Matrix Online comes in. This upcoming online role-playing game will allow you to participate with thousands of other players in an epic struggle for control of the Matrix. The game is set after the third movie, and you'll be able to choose from three factions: Zion (humanity), the Machines, and the Merovingian. There will be plenty of Matrix-style combat and a huge urban environment to explore. However, after the events in The Matrix Revolutions, it's understandable if you're a bit confused about the future of the Matrix. Thankfully, we had the chance recently to catch up with William Westwater, Monolith's director of development and the producer of The Matrix Online, to get the latest details about the game.

You'll have the ability to create a unique-looking character.
You'll have the ability to create a unique-looking character.

GameSpot: E3 is finally over. How was the game received at the show? And how has the new development announced at E3--that Sega would be copublishing the game with Warner Bros.--affected the game's development, if at all?

William Westwater: E3 was a blast--if very exhausting. Overall, we felt the show went well, and we met a lot of Matrix fans who were very happy to see that the game is still alive and well. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has done a terrific job insulating our team at Monolith from all the ins and outs of the publishing business. Sega's addition to Warner Bros.' strategy only added to our excitement here, and its involvement in the project has only boosted our momentum.

GS: Though we know that the game is supposed to be set after the events in the third motion picture, could you tell us about the game's setting and story? At E3, Warner Bros.' Jason Hall stated that the game would be "the fourth movie in the series." How will the game's setting live up to this claim?

WW: I think Jason Hall makes a great analogy. The Matrix Online takes the characters of the films, adds a unique twist--thousands of players--and then unleashes them together on the world of the Matrix. The characters and questions raised in the movies live on in The Matrix Online, and if you play, the future of the Matrix is literally in your hands.

GS: And prior to E3, Hall made an even more intriguing statement to the press about Warner Bros.' commitment to quality--and the company's new licensing and royalty structure. How has the team received this new policy? Has this new change impacted the game's development in any way?

WW: Prior to E3, we were furiously trying to ensure The Matrix Online ran well, played well, and looked great. After E3, we have been furiously trying to ensure The Matrix Online runs well, plays well, and looks great. Monolith believes in quality. Just grab a copy of No One Lives Forever, Aliens Versus Predator 2, No One Lives Forever 2, or Tron 2.0, and I think you'll agree. No, seriously, go get those games.

GS: Tell us about the game's three factions: the humans, the Machines, and the Merovingians. What are their motivations, and how will they affect the way the game is played?

It wouldn't be a Matrix game without a little kung fu.
It wouldn't be a Matrix game without a little kung fu.

WW: As with any good movie, you have to experience the story. However, from the movies, you know a good bit about the start of our game. Neo saves the Matrix, although only at great personal cost. Though Morpheus is wrong about the prophecies, yes, his blind faith ironically is Zion's salvation. The Oracle survives; her plan triumphs. But, equally, her enemies multiply--the frustrated Merovingian and analytical Architect both entering into a new, unexpected world. The war is over, but can the peace survive?

Dodge This

GS: Tell us about The Matrix Online's missions. We know that players will at least be able to undertake various missions in the game--on behalf of the humans--at the beginning, but they'll later be able to change sides to perform different missions. What sorts of missions will players be running at the beginning, and how will missions change over time, as players grow stronger and as they change allegiances?

And it wouldn't be a Matrix game without guns, either.
And it wouldn't be a Matrix game without guns, either.

WW: The Matrix Online uses a powerful mission system that tracks your individual achievements and alliances. The system is designed for stealth gameplay as well as traditional slash and smash--with a particular preference for double crosses and surprises.

GS: Tell us about how the game is planned to change and grow over time. Will we see full-on, team-based, player-versus-player battles between the three factions? An overarching story that will change the face of the game's landscape and be recounted in The Daily Sentinel?

WW: As you gain reputation within the Matrix, you'll also earn the right to take more and more critical missions--playing an ever-larger role in the ongoing story. At the same time, you'll have the opportunity to further your cause in other ways--by going head-to-head against the players leading the opposing organizations, for instance.

GS: Other than missions, what other activities can we expect to see new players doing in the game? Hunting random enemies? Getting started on crafting items?

WW: In The Matrix Online, players quest against terrible Exile leaders--renegade programs within the city. Players mine for the information that drives the simulation of the Matrix--but often at great risk--because the Matrix is loath to release its secrets. They code new weapons, clothes, and even entire abilities by seaming together code fragments ripped from the simulation. And they hunt their enemies wherever they can be found. In short, although the Matrix looks like your vision of America, you're not in Kansas anymore.

GS: We understand that the entire game takes place in a single, enormous city generated by the Matrix. Why was the decision made to have the game all take place in a single area? Will we see the player population separated across different game servers, or will everyone be on one server, in one world?

WW: When we designed The Matrix Online, we started with the schematics created for the films. In these, the city of the Matrix is infinite and flat. Naturally, that's a bit more than we can build, so we focused on four districts that we thought would make for great gameplay.

As for servers, The Matrix Online will be divided into separate server worlds, with the final population density determined by our feedback during beta. We want to ensure that our worlds feel rich and well-populated, while at the same time making the community focused enough that you can be a major player.

GS: Tell us about why Warner Bros. and Monolith decided to implement AOL's Instant Messenger chat program into The Matrix Online. What does this add to the game, and how do you hope players will use it?

Stop trying to hit me...and hit me.
Stop trying to hit me...and hit me.

WW: Warner Bros. and Monolith wanted to extend the community beyond the game. We wanted users to have a way of reaching each other in real time and real space. If you want to hook up with your buddies in The Matrix Online, you don't have to log into the game. You just log into AIM. This should help you coordinate with your friends and help you share stories with your buddies when you are stuck late at the office.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about The Matrix Online at this time?

WW: There is no spoon.

GS: We'll take your word for it. Thanks, William.

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