Interview with The Agency producer, Daniel Myers

I recently got the chance to talk with producer Dan Myers about Sony Online Entertainment’s upcoming spy MMO The Agency. He was happy to answer all my questions, even in the midst of what they call a “sprint phase” – a rush to complete up to a certain point in the game’s development cycle.

In the following pages, Dan talks about The Agency’s gameplay mechanics, plot, and art style, as well as the development team’s history, PC-PS3 interaction, and his favorite spy flicks. He even reveals his identity as an international secret agent, detailing his next mission to save the world.

Ok, that last bit was a total lie; just read for yourself:



How are you doing today, Dan? How about we get started by letting our readers know just who you are.

I am doing surprisingly well for a crunch week, Eddie. Thanks.

My name is Daniel Myers and I am a producer at the Sony Online Entertainment studio in Seattle, Washington.

So, you and your team at SOE Seattle are working on a little game called The Agency. Can you give us a brief rundown of what the game is all about? What sort of things will players be doing in the game?

The idea behind The Agency is for players to lead the life of an elite agent. If you’ve ever wanted to be James Bond, Xander Cage, Jason Bourne, or even Austin Powers, then this is the game for you. Join the slick United Nations Intelligence and Tactical Experts (UNITE) or the gritty Paramilitary Global Operations Network (ParaGON) and take on subversive groups all over the world for glory, cash and much, much more.

And what is your personal role in the development of The Agency?

I herd the cats. *laugh* Actually, I oversee several teams working on different aspects of the game. At the moment, that includes weapon systems, skills, and animation. Mostly I keep the teams aware of our top needs and clear any issues that prevent them from focusing on their work.

What other titles have you and the rest of The Agency team worked on in the past?

Now that’s a tall order–I don’t think you have enough space to print every game the team has worked on. If you had a resume for the studio, you’d see everything from Asheron’s Call to Tomb Raider to Halo to Call of Duty 4.

Previous titles I’ve been involved with are Magic: The Gathering Online and The Matrix Online–I’m also the producer on MxO. Anyone who’s been involved in that community might know me by the handle “Walrus”.

From your past work, what have you been able to bring to the table and apply to this project?

My past experience is mostly in community management–being the interface between the players and the development team. The most important skill I developed working with game communities is figuring out what the most important player concerns are. Sometimes the loudest folk aren’t necessarily the ones stating the critical issues.

Are you a big MMO fan, yourself? What genres are your favorites?

I would say that I am a fan of massively multiplayer online games, although not a hardcore player. I’ve tried many different games, starting back in 1996 with Meridian 59. I am big on exploration and that is certainly something MMOs tend to offer in spades.

I will pretty much take a look at anything that comes out–it pays to stay informed. And one of the best parts of working for SOE is the stable of games we produce, including non-fantasy MMOs like Star Wars Galaxies, Planetside, The Matrix Online, and Pirates of the Burning Sea. I have played lots of fantasy MMOs and, like many players, I am looking for something to break the mold.

And how about with movies? Are you a big secret agent fan? James Bond, maybe?

Oh, absolutely. I love spy flicks. James Bond is a must, but I have to say Xander Cage is probably my favorite character. There is something about taking the jet-setting elite agent and giving him tattoos and attitude that I really enjoy. That is why I am so excited that we are starting to talk more about ParaGON.

Being that Mr. Bond is considered the epitome of the secret agent, what is your favorite Bond flick and who is the definitive 007 in your opinion?

I don’t think there is a definitive 007; more that each actor brought something different to the part. For nostalgia’s sake, I have to say Moonraker is my favorite Bond flick–it was the first I saw in a theater. And I am looking forward to seeing how Daniel Craig’s character grows in successive movies.

Getting back to the game… It seems that nowadays many MMOs are somewhat cookie-cutter reproductions (or at least approximations) of one another. A few more unique projects are coming through here and there, such as SOE and Flying Labs’ recent Pirates of the Burning Sea, but even a game like that still clings to many of the traditional MMO gameplay mechanics. It seems that The Agency may buck that trend – how does it compare to more traditional MMOs in terms of elements like classes, skills, quests, interface, combat, and the like?

The Agency blends traditional first- and third-person shooter combat with a massively-multiplayer online world; essentially, a persistent online shooter. The mission system is probably the most like a traditional MMO, although we are adding replay ability in the form of tiered achievements. For example, finishing the main mission task will earn you a bronze, but finding a number of hidden items during the mission might get you a silver or gold rating.

Combat is more like first- and third-person shooters than traditional MMOs. And since we are releasing on PlayStation 3, we want to keep the interface minimal and easy to use with a controller.

Perhaps farthest away from typical MMOs is our class system–we don’t really have one in the traditional sense. In The Agency, you are what you wear. Instead of being locked into a single role, you can choose what to play based on what your team needs or what you feel like doing that day. Want to wade into the thick of combat with guns blazing? Put on your combat specialist gear. Maybe you’d rather sneak your way into a drug lord’s hideout… Change into your special operations outfit and you’re ready to go. Or maybe your team needs someone to drop turrets to cover their backs as they assault a gang’s lair… Then it’s time for your support gear to give them some backup.

Each role has a number of specialties for players to investigate and earn experience towards. Some players will focus on being the most elite of a single specialty, but we will always give you the chance to branch out into other fields.

So the differences in play style are meant, in part, to cater to the PS3 audience?

We certainly take the PlayStation 3 into consideration when developing the game. For example, we can’t guarantee a player will have a mouse and keyboard, so our UI and communications systems take that into account.

No matter what format a player chooses, we want The Agency to be a shared experience. A PC player and a PS3 player should be able to talk about the world in terms both understand.

Does that mean there will there be direct interaction between the two groups of players – PC and PS3?

We would love there to be interaction between PC and PlayStation 3 players. We haven’t determined the feasibility yet, so we haven’t made any announcements about whether there will be or not. The deciding factor will be if we can make the game both fun and equitable between the two systems.

I have to ask, because the game has somewhat of a unique art style – what went into the decision to use those particular visuals?

From my perspective, we have put a lot of time into thinking about style, influence, and color for The Agency. For example, both UNITE and ParaGON–along with other major NPC groups–have specific color palettes they draw from. Not only just because it looks good, but it sets mood and tone and makes things easily identifiable to players.

Our non-photorealistic style also lends itself to the lighter side of the spy biz. We are not into reproducing the real world for The Agency–we already live here. We want players to log on, have some intense over-the-top moments, and log off with smiles on their faces.

And when do you suppose we can expect to be playing The Agency?

Sometime in the future. ;)

Thanks. Anything else you’d like to add before I let you go? Some top secret, previously undisclosed information, perhaps? *cheesy smile*

C’mon. You know the deal: I could tell you, but then I’d have to shoot you… ;)

As much as we love talking about The Agency, we are keeping things close as we bring things into full production. Over the next few months we will be shaking a lot of things down and tuning systems for our alpha phase. Trust me; we are too excited about the work we are doing to keep quiet for long!

Thanks again. Can’t wait to try out your game!

No problem! Thanks for the opportunity to tell folks what we are up to.


There you have it; I got shot down on the game’s release date, and then told that I would have to be shot to get any top secret info, but overall Dan helped all of us to form a clearer picture of what to expect from The Agency when it does arrive on the PC and PlayStation 3 sometime in the future. I am definitely looking forward to this one; it looks like it will be a very unique and fun experience. How about the rest of you?


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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