The Division: Interview with Ubisoft Massive’s Martin Hultberg

At Comic Con Gamex in Stockholm, Sweden, we had the opportunity of talking to Martin Hultberg, the Head of Communications and IP Developer at Ubisoft Massive about their upcoming title, Tom Clancy’s The Division. Find out more about everything in The Division from housing to death and beyond.


How open is The Division?

The game world itself is built as an open world, where there can be variants of instances in it. There are three different social areas: a hub, the open city, PvP. In the Hub, which is a social zone where a certain number of players can integrate with others with trade, to socialize or gather before a mission. Then there’s the big game world where you can play four players together, plus one that sits on the tablet, you can here play with friends or through a matchmaking system. Finally, we have the PvP area called Dark Zones, it’s a seamless transition to go in and out these areas from the large open world, though with clear signs that you are entering a PvP zone.

Matin Hultberg at Massive.

Martin Hultberg from Massive.

Since we have only seen players and combatant NPCs, will there be friendly NPCs?

Yes. One of our many catchwords is to create a living world, and a world is not living without its inhabitants. Using NPCs will be done in different ways to succeed with this, where some of them might be more important to you in the story while some fills the world in different aspects.


If I decide to play the game alone, will I have the opportunity to bring along NPCs to fill out a team?

No, if you play alone, you play alone.


How does the Base of Operations work?

Base of Operations is an instanced base, which is personal to you, but with the opportunity to invite friends into it. Base of Operations is also upgradable with a clear progression. And unlike housing in other games, your base is connected to the story, and by upgrading it, the city’s status will be affected. These stats are Security, Contagion, and Moral, and they all are strongly connected to your base. Then there is also the possibility to craft and use the storage in the base. See it more as a home deluxe.


There are rumors about micro-transactions with the game, how do you respond to them?

Those rumors are connected to the payment method, which we have yet to decide upon. And I think that particular rumor came from an interview with our studio manager, about how we are looking into different payment methods for the game, and how micro-transactions are one of the methods we are looking into. Information of the games payment method will of course come both clearly and in good time before the release.


How much role-play is there in The Division?

We have decided to call the game an “online open world RPG”, seeing how it is one of pur main pillars to the game, it plays a big part. We have loot driven game, with character levels, there is gear to upgrade, abilities and talents to assign.


Are there classes in the game?

No, there is no class system. You define your character after what abilities you chose to unlock and use from the ability wheel, and how you decided to upgrade them. These abilities is then changeable on the fly while playing, so you always have the possibility to respect before entering a battle, and will never have to regret any choice of progression upgrade in the game.


What is the max level in The Division?

We have thoughts about max level, but we can´t talk about it yet. We are still working on balancing the game, so there is no telling yet on what the desired amount of time and effort before hitting level cap will be.


How does the loot system work?

Like many other games, there will be a mix of different ways do attain loot. Where you can expect drops from different enemies or where you can find loot hidden in the world. The mix from getting while exploring and getting for killing someone is the most tested and it works great. Loot is also personal, so there is no need/greed system to think of.


Do you have loot in PvP? And how does it work?

We have loot in PvP, can’t tell you more than that.


Are there any clear effects when dying in the game? Or are you going the more FPS way as in Destiny where death really doesn’t matter.

We have different penalties, depending on if you die in the PvE or the PvP zone. Our goal is that you are more afraid to die in a PvP zone than in a PvE zone. Since dying is a failure, it should hurt a little when you die.


What does the endgame look like for The Divison?

Our goal is to create a game and a franchise that will live on for many years to come, which requires a strong endgame and content updates. PvP is a part of endgame, and since the loot is a big part of the game, “the quest for epic loot” is a big part of the endgame. Then we have the Base of Operations, which will continue to progress beyond hitting the level cap. While those three stands as the main attractions for the endgame, we also have a very detailed world. So even after hitting the level cap, there will be much more to discover in the world, such as digging deeper into the story or finding easter eggs. So there is something for everyone in the endgame.


How much focus is there on the story, and how does it play out?

The game and its story are very open, but there are a lot of story in it. One of the things we have looked deep into is how to create a story in an online open world game. We have all played games where there have been cut-scenes in an online game, which can split the group playing. So we are trying to avoid cut-scenes completely, which is very hard since cut-scenes are easy ways to tell a story.
The tools we are using are instead echo, which are 3d animated scenes found outside in the open world, which acts almost like a big hologram, in which you can move around in. So when you are close to one of these points, you can do an echo, which gathers information from all devices in the area, such as cameras and phones, and then giving you a 3d sketch of how it looked in this area before the collapse. Then the environments and NPC help to show you the story of the world around you, where text on the walls or other details in the environment tells you what happened here.


How is the layout for mission in the game? Is it classic kill/fetch quest or something else?

If we look harshly on it, there are only a handful of mission objectives used by games today. But some games still manage to make the missions feel fun and not repetitive, where collecting x can be made extremely repetitive, but also very unique. We have all these classic kinds of objectives, but we have different approaches to them with the hope of creating variations and none-repetitiveness. This is something we are anxious to test on people other than ourselves. And we see the release of The Divison as a starting point of something bigger, where we would like to create the game around our players and their reactions.


What drove you to create your own game engine?

We have always used our own engine at Massive, since we like to have everything in house and all expertise around the engine. As always when choosing an engine, you need to find one which works good with what you are trying to do, since no engine can do everything. Snowdrop can do what we want to focuses on, mainly the high graphical quality and the high level of environmental interaction, such as how snow, smoke, fire and other parts integrate with the world. But Snowdrop is also an easy to use engine for our developers, where smart tools are very important for us. It shouldn’t be hard to create games; it should be easy and fun to use, which hopefully will create fun games.


And finally, the big question on everyone’s mind, when is it going to be released?

During 2015, so 365 possible days.


We would like to thank Martin for taking time out of the busy convention schedule to answer these questions for us. We’re more excited now to see The Division than we ever have been!

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