Regarding the game's title, you're urged to get over it. Dystopian as its setting may be, the game known as Huxley has next to nothing to do with Brave New World, however tempting such comparisons may be. During candid conversations, however, Webzen employees might admit to you that they had, at one point, toyed with a subtitle that referenced Huxley's novel, but decided against it lest they rouse the late author's possibly-litigious estate. What it is -- or, rather, what its designers are shooting for -- is just that much crazier: the ever-elusive MMO/FPS. A few have tried it, to some degree (Planetside, Neocron), but most will agree that no one has gotten it quite right. The up-and-coming Korean publisher intends to hit the mark, with a little help from Unreal Engine 3.
Being that Huxley is an MMO (and make no mistake: this game will bear most of the genre's trappings), a bit of back story is in order. One day, these things called Nuclearites came crashing into the Earth from space. A modern-day KT-event, except that humans didn't go extinct so much as mutate. Some of them, anyway. The cataclysmic conditions that followed, naturally, more or less obliterated what order that existed in the world. What's more, humans found a reason to hate each other infinitely more compelling than color, creed, or religion: sub-species distinction. Earth was an ugly place, needless to say, but a scientist named Dr. Huxley soon emerged as a short-lived ray of hope. Huxley discovered a way to harness the very force that wrecked the planet into a powerful energy source: Lunarites. Of course, rather than focus its energies on rebuilding its shattered world, humanity decided to bring yet more war to it.
This is the world in which Huxley takes place. It's all about the Lunarites, baby.
"How beauteous mankind is!"
At the center of Huxley's struggle are two distinct subspecies of humans-as-we-know-them-today: Sapiens, which are more or less like you and me, and Alternatives, which were more dramatically affected by the Nuclearite shower. They're at war with each other, but also with a wildcard faction known as Hybrids. As of now, we know that Sapiens and Alternatives will be playable races. As for Hybrids, well, all such inquiries to Webzen were met with coy glances, and vague comments. Make of that what you will.
Both of the playable races fall into two distinct sub-races. For the Sapiens, these are "One" and "Syn." The One are more or less identical to people like us, and according to Webzen, they will be able to make better use of equipment within the game. What does this mean? That they'll advance in weapon- or vehicle-piloting-skills faster than other races, as we understand it. The Syn, meanwhile, are the One's svelte, agile cousins. Their cold-hearted nature makes them more suited to covert operations, and given their enviable looks, you can bet that they'll be pretty popular with players.
While by no means unrecognizable as our genetic brethren, the Alternative sub-races look different enough from Sapiens. If you've been following Huxley at all, you're probably familiar with the "Altereavers." You know that big, burly dude that's in a bunch of the screenshots? He's one of them. Apparently, they specialize in heavy weapons, and are generally honorable and loyal, yet merciless at the same time. Sounds like Huxley's answer to Klingons. On the other side of the coin are the "Alternix." They have grey skin, are unnaturally sensitive, and, you guessed it, keen on infiltration and assassination.
That leaves the Hybrids, who remain an unknown at this point. Hybrids are what happens when a Sapien and an Alternative try to produce an offspring. Generally, the results are undesirable. Hybrids are the enemies you fight in the game's PvE portions, but as mentioned before, Webzen hasn't entirely ruled out the possibility that they'll be playable in some capacity. What we do know is that they'll be divided into four subcategories: epsilon, gamma, beta, and alpha, alphas being almost humanlike in appearance, and epsilons being the adorable Zergling-like guys you see running around in the movies.
There's also a subfaction called the H.L.O -- Hybrid Liberation Organization -- that will pop up, though what its role is, precisely, is yet to be determined.
Banish any thoughts of Planetside's certification system, if that's what you had in mind for Huxley's character-development. The system, believe it or not, is actually a lot more akin to what you'd find in a traditional MMO. On the surface, anyway. Huxley Studio's Producer Kijong Kang (read: the big cheese) puts it this way: "Our focus on the character development system is to make distinctive game play styles [available] as characters becomes stronger rather than enhance or increase a character's power itself." Plainly put, your characters won't get "stronger," per se, as they level up. Rather, they'll be able to do more stuff. In this way, it's not totally unlike Planetside's certification system. There just seems to be a bit more to it.
"There are two different type of character development: vertical and horizontal. Characters become more skilled through the vertical development," Kang told us. "On the other hand, they could develop various gameplay styles through horizontal development." Here's how it works: your character will have a concrete level. The cap, when the game launches, will be 50, and you gain levels by acquiring experience. You gain experience, mainly, from playing through PvE content -- the various quests or tasks available to you as a member of your faction. Apart from the sort of gratification that's oh-so-important in MMOs, levels give you access to actual skills: things like the ability to double-jump, to equip better armor and weapons, and the like.
The second prong to Huxley's approach is the concept of "rank." Rank is much like level, except that you can only advance in this area by participating in PvP. This is the "horizontal development" that Kang was speaking about. He makes Huxley Studio's stance quite clear in this area: "As developers, we are putting more importance on horizontal development." So what does it earn you? Most importantly, early on your rank puts a hard cap on how high you can advance in level. So if you're mainly interested in shooting baby Hybrids, know that you'll eventually reach a plateau if you don't intersperse this with the occasional killing of actual players. Advancing in rank also grants you benefits in regards to meta-game functionality -- stuff like being able to form teams in PvP, give orders, arrange strikes, and the like.
Ultimately, though, Huxley is an FPS above all. It's much less about your character's game-given abilities and more about your reflexes and acumen for strategy. "High level in Huxley doesn't mean increased physical strength or speed," Kang said. "It means being able to use better weapons and armor." In other words, if you're a noob with a level 50 character, be aware that a level one with skills might just send you home crying. Your l33t weapon and phat armor won't necessarily give you an edge over an opponent's killer instinct.
Welcome to PvE Son
If you remove Huxley from its MMO context, then the inclusion of "PvE" elements doesn't seem that weird. Just think of the most memorable sequences in your favorite single-player FPS levels. In an ideal world, that's what the PvE game in an MMO-FPS would be like, expect you're gaining experience and loot while you do it. Hopefully players won't be motivated to play through individual scenarios over and over again, ad nauseum, in order to "farm" treasure and resources. Instead, if executed properly, PvE elements in an MMO-FPS aren't necessarily that alien of a concept. This is precisely what Huxley Studio hopes to achieve.
Most of Huxley's PvE game will revolve around quests. You will acquire these in much the same manner as you would in a game like World of Warcraft or EverQuest II: you'll see someone in town with a "quest-giver" symbol over her head, or else receive orders from your faction's quest officer, or what have you. From there, you'll jaunt over to the quest area, which may be instanced or persistent depending on the case, fulfill the objectives, then come back and collect your rewards.
It's indisputable that "modern" MMOs like the abovementioned have brought certain refinements to the genre that could be applicable to any sort of game for favorable results. As such, it shouldn't be surprising that Huxley's quests won't be that different from what you've become accustomed to. "Players might fight against the Hybrid Liberation Organization, which is occupying old ruins of the city, to look for a mysterious legendary weapon," Kang told us, when asked what to expect from Huxley's quests. "Or maybe they'll have to traverse an underground dungeon while escorting a desperate bridegroom whose bride-to-be was kidnapped by Hybrids."
These two examples serve to highlight the two distinct brands of PvE elements in Huxley: the story quests, and the underground dungeon quests. The former will serve to further the game's narrative and immerse you in its world. These are the quests that will have a resolution, and that you won't generally replay (unless a friend of yours needs your help in completing them, anyway). The latter are more akin to WoW's instanced dungeons. They'll literally take you underground, into tunnels created by Hybrids, whom you will hunt for treasure and experience. Though there may be quest elements involved in these, their basic purpose is to provide you with warm bodies to shoot, and phat loot.
Some of the bodies that you encounter might be a little warmer than you expect, however: during some of the PvE scenarios, members of the opposing faction might be able to sneak into the play area that your party is in, and do its best to foil your efforts. Kang wasn't too clear on how this would work -- like, whether opposing players would have similar objectives in these zones, or if they could simply elect to hop in and raise some hell -- but one thing is certain: if they do this right, it can make the act of questing just that much more interesting.
In today's update, we did our best to expound Huxley's MMO elements. Frankly, it was the aspect of the game that we had the biggest questions about, so we assumed the same was true for you. Tomorrow, we will be focusing on the PvP elements, and how they tie into the world's general layout. Though it's certainly easier to imagine an FPS-style game in which your objective is to kill the other team, we're fairly confident that you'll be surprised by some of the approaches that Huxley is taking. Stay tuned.
Compliments to Gamespy For The Preview