MAG: Massive Action Game

CVG grills dev Zipper on Sony's 256-player FPS

Sony's MAG is one of the most anticipated shooters of the year - not least for its promise to house 256 players online in a single map.

We caught up with Nate Klee, lead programmer from developer Zipper, to find out just how bulletproof that concept is...

How has the Beta influenced the development of the title?
We definitely did some weapon tuning and polish after the Beta came out, and also modified some of the maps to help with balance.

We've also made a lot of small changes on top of that; little things like making it so that you can sprint a bit longer. All of these alterations add up to make the game more polished and more balanced.

We've heard there were some slight issues with the early Beta. Have these been fixed?
There were some matchmaking issues that occurred. We've spent time fixing bugs that are related to that. It didn't have anything to do with the populations or load or the infrastructure per se, but we did have some bugs that we needed to fix and we believe that we've fixed them.

So when the game comes out everything will work much better...?
We hope. Until the game's actually launched and we see how things go we can't say for sure.

Forgive the simple question, but 256-player: Does it work?
It does work. We take into account where people playing are located and pick a server that's closer to the majority of the people, so during peak times when playing in Europe the majority of servers will be hosted in Europe for those players.

Does it use dedicated servers?
Yes it does.

Do you think that 256-player games on console will become an industry standard?
I really don't know. It depends on what people are expecting. I can't say for sure.

Do you think MAG or a game like it could be done on another console?
The SPUs on the PS3 allow us to animate and render and do the ray casts and physics processing and all the things that have to happen for all these different players so we definitely couldn't have done it without that. It was a big help.

So would it be possible on 360?
We couldn't take our code base and make it run on 360. There's no way that would work.

Motion control is the talk of the year. Have you guys looked into that and considered working with the new wands?
I don't know of any plans currently to include any motion control into MAG, but it's a possibility. I think there's definitely potential there.

How well do you think it would work?
If you look at the Wii console, for example, a lot of people are using motion control for games already in a similar way. The thing that the motion controller that's been presented by Sony adds is absolute position and different degrees of freedom that allows you to do an even better job and more precise.

MAG works with all those players on a single map. Why aren't MMOs bigger on consoles already?
I think part of it is an interface issue. MMOs use the whole keyboard along with the mouse. There have been some MMOs that they've put on consoles but it's been with a very different interface. So just porting that game over isn't necessarily going to work.

Will you be supporting stereoscopic 3D with MAG when the TVs are released later this year?
I don't know anything about the technology associated with it, so I could make an educated guess but I don't know.

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