Tom Clancy’s The Division was announced at the Ubisoft E3 2013 press conference. The game is an open world Action RPG set for release on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next-gen console systems. Set in New York three years after a super-virus levels the city, it’s up to survivors to band together to survive. Powered by Ubisoft’s new gaming engine, Snowdrop, the game is purportedly perfectly tailored for the next-gen console generation.
At E3 2013, Associate Editors Kalvin Martinez and Ben Sheene viewed a demonstration of The Division and were granted an interview with Game Director Ryan Barnard and Producer Fred Rundqvist to talk about the game and elements shown at E3.
If you haven’t checked it out already, be sure to read the official announcement of Ubisoft’s The Division.
Kalvin: Hi this is Kalvin Martinez, Associate Editor with Gaming Illustrated. I’m here with Ben Sheene.
Ben: Right here.
Ryan Barnard: Ryan Barnard. I’m the game director on Tom Clancy’s The Division.
Fred Rundqvist: Fred Rundqvist, the producer on The Division.
Kalvin: We just saw the live demo of the companion piece for Tom Clancy’s: The Division and the live gameplay trailer that was shown at the Ubisoft press conference. It’s really impressive stuff there guys. You are doing a really ambitious project with an Open World RPG with the Tom Clancy name. How did this come about?
Ryan Barnard: Well, about a year and half ago we got the opportunity with Ubisoft and Massive to try to kind of merge Clancy with RPG. When we were looking about how we are going to do that and how is that going to work. We have Rainbow Six; we have Splinter Cell; we have Ghost Recon, so myself and Nicklas Cederström and some of the creators have been thinking about this. We really got stuck on this idea of fragility of society which tends to be actually a very modern topic right now in some of the other media, but back then we really fell in love with it. It doesn’t step on anybody else’s toes and really made sense to us. That’s kind of where it all came from with the idea. With where we are in our world now if something starts to fall apart, it is very rapidly very scary in the West I would say. I don’t know about you but I’m not a very good hunter or gatherer. If I run out of food in four days, I’m going to be one of the first ones dead. Yeah it kind of all spun from that. That first initial kind of concept, I guess.
Kalvin: Very cool. With the companion tablet, I know that’s a bigger kind of gameplay integration moving forward in the next-gen. What inspired your desire to make a drone that stayed alongside in real-time with players in The Division online?
Ryan Barnard: Well, like most of the things we do at Massive, it is very iterative in our design process. Really we worked with our design team and then also the design team in Quebec on what would kind of make sense in this world. We wanted something that was meaningful. We didn’t want an app that you could check your armory or maybe chat online with friends. We really wanted it to be something that was going to be pushing what companion gaming can be for the next-gen. This kind of grew from that the idea of it. It makes sense in the universe. It makes sense with the unit. That’s what the idea of the drone kind of came from and then we just went “Okay we need to be basically meaningful member of the group.” It is almost like a fifth member to your core group size. How does that work? You got to make sure that it is always positive. It is not ever a detriment to the people playing the main game because this will be a seamless matchmaking thing. You can play if your group is open for companion gaming, it will just get filled in your slot. We want to make sure that doesn’t hurt your experience in the main game. Also we have a progression chain for the actual drone itself, so people can get the feeling of how the game will work and get exposed to the universe of the division because it will be free to play. Millions and millions of people can check it out.
Kalvin: That’s real cool. How did you go about figuring what visual style you wanted to do with this app like, yours is kind of a top-base, almost a isometric point-of-view in the app. Compared to what’s going on in The Division, which is really a high-depth ultra-detailed first person shooter and the app, it is almost like this sort of X-Com type look.
Ryan Barnard: Well, that’s still in iteration. We still have a while before we are out, winter of 2014, but I like it personally. I think it is very clear what it is. It gives you that kind of predator drone, secret drone kind of vantage point, but I’m guaranteeing that that will go through many, many, many more evolutions to make sure that it is in line with our UI for the main game, which I think is really pushing the boundaries of more of an in-vogue very clean, very new looking UI.
Ben: How do you think Tom Clancy fans are going to react to the new RPG elements?
Fred Rundqvist: What we heard so far is that we have really good reactions. We were just interviewed by a Tom Clancy blog and they were all excited about us bringing Tom Clancy something new. The core of Clancy’s ‘Clear and Present Danger’ and and we think we bring that from what would be scary in the 80s with the Soviet Union and the cold war. We are bringing that to what’s threatening nowadays and the real threats that we are facing. I think we will get a very good response from those guys.
Ben: Same reaction with having the main character be the everyman instead of like a superspy?
Fred Rundqvist: When we looked at this we were thinking about going back to the original Clancy which is more like the reluctant hero. If you look at Jack Ryan, the history professor whatever. They are highly trained. They are pro guys. They’ve been training all their lives for this scenario but they don’t necessarily want to be in that scenario. Here in our case, the whole world is collapsing and you are basically forced to use your skills and survive in this world and then slowly help rebuild and restore society.
Ryan Barnard: I will just add to that. We also wanted an element of a role-playing game. Like you mentioned, usually a Clancy game has a hero. You know who that is and it’s really clear, but in The Division, the hero is you. You are your division agent. You have character creation, character customization and so it is a little different and again it’s how we are kind hopefully putting a very positive twist on what you’ve seen in other Clancy games.
Ben: And makes it personal unlike being the Clancy hero because I play Future Soldier, Rainbow Six, and it seems like a good blend of like the tactical combat and also sort of the technology that you are seeing like the Future Soldier game. Seems like you guys are blending that to make a unique but very comfortable and similar Clancy environment.
Ryan Barnard: Hopefully, that’s the goal you know.
Ben: Then also I saw with the UI, it is very integrated. It is very Ubisoft. You use it in lot of your games and it looks really good. Is that explained in the world? Is this a little bit like near future tech or is this more to do with aesthetics of gameplay?
Ryan Barnard: We are definitely near future. The Division agents themselves are … they have access to prototype equipment, so part of your go-back that when you start the game is the smart watch that you saw a lot if you saw the demo and then also the contact lens which is our UI HUD which will basically try to gather information around the world that you are seeing as well as be part of some of the skills like pulls. Our UI team is incredible…and we really want to push as much information into the world and have it be as clean as possible, so it won’t be this old style 2D. You are used to seeing a lot … some of those elements they work best that way but as much as we can we want to try to integrate UI into the world.
Ben: It looks great.
Fred Rundqvist: I would just say that all the stuff that’s in the game is based either stuff that has been researched or [is in] the prototype stage. We had a couple of guys on the team that are doing all of the research; hardcore military guys. They know everything that’s going on with all the research and the entire prototypes that the military is using in field now, so we are taking that but obviously a fun gameplay is always the most important thing but we wanted to stay very close to the possibility and the realism that is core to Clancy.
Kalvin: I think a lot of what I’ve seen from this E3 with the new generation of games is a lot of Open World games. It is like a persistent online world. It seems like that’s kind of what you guys were shooting for with this online RPG. Do you hope to over time evolve the scope, I know you add missions and everything. How do you see that technology especially with the cloud improving the experience over the long run?
Ryan Barnard: The way we want to develop the game, the way we are developing the game is not like a DLC plan or 123 Division. We want The Division to live on. We want to be the start of … think of it as the New York chapter possibly. We definitely want to take advantage of stuff like maybe cloud stuff in the future but we want to see more of expansions or extensions for the game versus like solid DLC content. It is the plan right now.
Fred Rundqvist: Sort of bridge the gap between later generations.
Kalvin: How did you guys keep this thing a secret?
Ryan Barnard: I have no idea. There were a couple of things that were close, posted a few times but I think it’s mostly luck. Sometimes you have to get lucky but we have been working on it a long time and it is pretty hard, so we are very happy that we made it through and it was still a surprise to most people.
Kalvin: Thank you guys for talking to us. I appreciate it. Anything that you want to say to people who are going to read this?
Ryan Barnard: Just can’t wait to see you all at New York.
Kalvin: All right guys, thank you very much. Good luck with The Division.
Ryan Barnard: Thank you very much.
Gaming Illustrated would like to thank Ryan Barnard, Fred Rundqvist and the Ubisoft PR team for making this happen from the show floor at E3 2013.