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Zipper's Ambitious Project
Whether gamers want to admit to it or not, Zipper Interactive’s upcoming first-person shooter M.A.G (Massive Action Game) will be the first foray of a unique kind of MMOFPS for the PlayStation 3. It features up to 256 simultaneous players, progressive ranking and several different mercenary factions for players to choose from.
For anyone who isn't familiar with Zipper Interactive these are the same folks who developed many first party, military shooters for PlayStation platforms. Specifically, the SOCOM series has been the benchmark of excellence coming out of the Zipper Interactive studios. While the games were never groundbreaking they were always well-received with critical acclaim and good sales figures.
During the emerging of the PS3 – and considering that they had a good track record behind them – the Zipper Interactive team was bought by Worldwide Studios who are in association with Sony Computer Entertainment. In other words, Zipper used to contractually make games for the PS platforms as an independent developer, but now they will now only be making games for the PlayStation platforms as a second-party subsidiary for Sony. Whether under new ownership or not, Zipper has continually moved forward to develop games within the FPS military-shooter spectrum, with their latest project being M.A.G.
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Military Multiplayer Combat
What makes M.A.G an interesting venture for Zipper Interactive is that the company is taking what they do best and moving that knowledge into a genre they have yet to explore; the MMO genre. Gamers who are familiar with the SOCOM games will easily identify the developer’s military savvy for interactive shooting games with M.A.G’s highly detailed weapons, firing mechanics and squad-based tactics and combat scenarios.
Nevertheless, the real question on everyone’s minds is how well this game will fare as an MMOFPS for the PlayStation 3? Also, what’s intriguing about this project is how this game will work as a stepping stone for more original MMO games to grace the likes of the PS3
The game’s primal focus is on 256 players all going at it on various, large, interactive battlefields. Unlike most shooter games, though, this one will see groups of players designated to carrying out specific tasks with three different playable factions: Raven, Valor and Sever. The developer’s approach to team combat is a lot like Insomniac’s tactic for controlling the massive 40 player battles in Resistance 2: Each of the 128 players will be broken down into teams of eight and commanding players will be put in charge of each team.
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Who Wants To Be A Commander?
Now each task for each team can actually be assigned by other players who achieve the rank of a commanding officer. Players who successfully defeat enemies, work well as a team and effectively carry out and fulfill mission parameters will be rewarded with points that go toward upgrading one’s rank. Commanding officers will have control over a total of eight soldiers as they attack assigned targets. In real time these commanders can actually change mission directives and targets on the fly, which would definitely make for intense and unpredictable gameplay.
In this way, the commander mode adds a definitive element of real-time strategy, with various players directing their teammates and instituting plans that will out-match or out-power opponents.
One element of the entire game that also adds a completely new spin on the concept of shooting at people while sitting on a sofa, half-way across the globe, is the domineering assortment of vehicles. M.A.G is jam-packed with all sorts of armored personnel carriers, short and long range attack vehicles, helicopters and tanks. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. For defending teams there are weapon emplacements to help protect vital target areas or supply depots. For instance, players can man machine-guns to lay down suppressive fire or engage ground-to-air defensive missile launchers to prevent supply drops or aircraft from getting near.
Now, the Zipper team has yet to comment on exactly how many vehicles will be present on any given map at one time. Although, based on the gameplay footage it’s quite obvious that there will be enough to keep the action flowing and the gunfire consistent.
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Standing Out From The Crowd
With all the features of this game and the massive amount of players capable of filling up the screen, it has to make you question what the next step for console MMOs will be like? While DC Universe Online and Champions Online will bring the traditional MMORPG flair to the home consoles, M.A.G is doing something a little different, insofar that there is no grinding; all the action is coordinated through objective-based missions; gamers can’t camp on a monster spawn point and rank up; and skill is entirely unfolded in real-time combat on a destructible, large-scale battlefield. Such changes in the concept of the standard-fare MMO structure are bound to make waves throughout the console development scene.
The only other console MMO that seems to come close to what M.A.G is doing is Webzen’s highly anticipated but rarely talked about, Huxley. Even then, Huxley – from what was last heard of it – only supports up to 200 players on specialized battlefields and event arenas. So it will be very interesting to see how this new structure of player-designated missions and objective-based, player-vs-player environments will work in a genre that has not been highly explored on game consoles until this generation.
Whether anyone wants to argue if Zipper Interactive’s highly ambitious project will be successful or not, functional or not, or adequately tuned to the demand of supporting 256 players all in one area at one time is a topic suited for another article. But as it stands, this game could definitely be the first step towards more unique new console MMOs, especially for the PS3. More than anything, the main hurdle that Zipper Interactive will have to overcome will be with meeting the sales margins.