Recently I spoke with Todd Harris, Hi-Rez Studios Chief Operating Officer about the latest in the Tribes series, Tribes Ascend. We also have Beta Keys available for the game so if you are interested, please contact as to get yours while they last.
As an F.Y.I. I was at Sierra for Tribes 2 and was Lead QA and Tech for the game so I have a good background with the series. I am so glad you picked it up.
We’re glad as well. Those Tribes games were well ahead of their time – first game with pilotable vehicles, first game with very large maps incorporating indoor and outdoor environments, first game to introduce team-oriented shooter gameplay, and of course skiing and jetpacks! Today’s military shooters are fun but more slow-paced and cover-based. We’re excited to re-introduce the Tribes fast-paced and skill-based combat.
What is the background and setting for the game?
The Tribes franchise is set in the far future and Ascend picks up late in the 34th century. Humanity has discovered artificial wormholes called jumpgates and used these to travel and spread among the stars, settling in an area called The Wilderzone, far from Earth. War divided humanity into many small tribes, but eventually four major tribes emerge as dominant. Tribes Ascend focuses on a new conflict between two of the major Tribes – the Blood Eagle and the Diamond Sword. Other Tribes will make an appearance through cosmetic skins.
What was the process of picking up the series and how did it come about?
Our studio has always been a fan of the series and Tribes was one of the big influences behind our first game Global Agenda. We like jetpacks. We like action shooters. We like team-based multiplayer. Tribes has all three! So in the fall of 2011 we looked into acquiring the series. The Tribes series belonged to InstantAction and they were working on a web-based version of Tribes in order to advance their browser platform. We were able to work out a deal and purchase the IP outright in order to make Ascend as well as future titles related to the Tribes IP.
Any concerns since the last two games in the series did not meet expectations yet the original is such a beloved title.
No. We’ve found that there is still an active and vocal community around each of the previous games. And each of those titles had some strong elements. Our challenge has been to preserve the spirit and feel of Tribes but also evolve it forward with some new concepts. Our Beta community is providing solid feedback and we’ve been patching and updating every single week. We think that is best approach for a great game upon release.
Will the game have a solo/story mode or is it online only?
No solo story mode. We see Tribes as the original online Internet sport. And we want to release Tribes: Ascend in that spirit – with a focus on online multiplayer. We will have tutorial, map-roaming, and practice mode with very simple bot targets but any of that solo content is just training toward multiplayer.
What are some of the new weapons and locales I the game?
Most of the familiar Tribes weapons return – including multiple varieties of the popular disc-launching Spinfusor, the Chaingun, and the Mortar Launcher. But we introduce a great number of new weapons as well such as the Arx Buster that shoots timed mines and personal deployables like turrets and forcefields.
In terms of locales, all the maps are set within the conflict of Blood Eagle and Diamond Sword and include arctic, desert, tropical, and urban. Most importantly for Tribes, they all have terrain that is good for skiing.
Will the game support customizations and mods upon release if not, is this support planned?
Our first priority is to support great pub-level play through easy access to Hi-Rez managed servers. We will also offer Custom Server support for players who want to manage and customize server-side game rules through configuration flags. The Custom Server functionality should support competitive play and tournaments as well as some of the community looking for specific mod-rules. For example, if a group wants to play Capture The Flag and have the base generators be more or less important there will be server configuration flags for that. Any actual mod-tools would be later and after release.
Aside from graphics, what are some of the biggest changes and features from past versions?
The biggest gameplay changes include: 1. class-based loadouts – so there is more diversity on the battlefield vs. everyone running around with a similar weapon-set, 2. progression within the match – so players earn credits in the match and then spend those credits in the same match on base upgrades or vehicles or call-ins – that way the intensity of each battle escalates over time, and 3. character progression between matches – a skill-tree and perks give players something to unlock over time and also a way to further specialize around playstyle.
Another big change is that we are releasing the game as free-to-play or fremium. Players download the game at no charge and unlock any game-affecting item simply by playing the game. But it is fremium in that players can spend money if they want to unlock items faster or get certain cosmetic items.
What have been the biggest challenges in creating the game and the biggest rewards?
Taking on an existing franchise is always a challenge because the fan-base has very specific expectations. Our decision to go free-to-play certainly challenged some of those expectations. But going free-to-play allows a large new audience to try out the fast-paced combat and we are seeing great response. So the biggest reward has been seeing both Tribes veterans and n00bs enjoy the game enough to tell their friends they should check it out.
How many weapons will be available and how many maps at the launch?
At launch we expect at least 30 weapons and 10 playable maps. With additional content coming very frequently after launch.
What can you tell us about the A.I. in the game and how many multiplay modes?
Given multiplayer focus, our AI is really limited to turrets – although they are pretty good at predicting player movement in the air.
The marquee game mode is Capture The Flag – which behaves as you would expect except that each side also has a base with functioning generators and base defenses, inventory stations and vehicle spawns. We also offer some more casual gamemodes such as Team Deathmatch and Rabbit. And we’ll continue to introduce new game-modes after release for free.
How many players will a game support and what are some of the mega weapons you have planned?
Currently we support up to 32 players. Mega-weapons would have to include the vehicles – a two-person GravCycle option, a Beowolf tank, and a fast flying Shrike; as well as call-ins like Tactical Strikes.
Will the game appear on consoles?
For now we are focused on the PC platform.