The Agency
SOE Confirms Studio Closures, Death of The Agency

UPDATE: SOE has officially announced that "it will eliminate 205 positions and close its Denver, Seattle and Tucson studios." The company is discontinuing production of The Agency so it can "focus development resources on delivering two new MMOs based on its renowned PlanetSide and EverQuest properties." Its current portfolio of games will not be affected. Check out the full announcement after the jump.

According to Kotaku, Sony Online Entertainment has closed three studios and will lay off nearly one third of its workforce. While SOE hasn't released an official statement, Kotaku says they confirmed through "a source familiar with the matter" that the closures affect the Seattle, Tucson and Denver offices. In addition, the source stated that numerous employees in the Austin and San Diego offices have also been let go from their positions.

The rumor began spreading last night when Goerge Broussard of Duke Nukem fame tweeted, "Word that Sony Online Entertainment Seattle is having layoffs and that studio closure is possible." He quickly followed that by saying, "To be more clear, the layoffs may be SOE wide and not just limited to Seattle. So, Austin, San Diego, etc..."

Broussard's latest tweet on the matter, which was posted 12 hours ago, said "SOE Seattle and other studios (Denver is rumored) will be closed tomorrow. Good luck to all impacted."

Planetside
Smedley: PlanetSide Next Planned for Q1/Q2 Release

Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley has shed some light on the release schedule for the company's upcoming games. In an interview with Eurogamer, Smedley said that that the game codenamed PlanetSide Next doesn't have an announced release date tied to it yet, but SOE is "looking at late first-quarter, early second-quarter [2011]."

Smedley stated in his blog last month that SOE will make announcement about the PlanetSide sequel early this year, followed by a beta. He also apparently let it slip to the Escapist's Greg Tito last month that the game may be coming out in March 2011.

Smedley goes on to confirm to Eurogamer that The Agency is still expected to come out late this year, but declined to give a specific date since SOE wants "to make sure it's as good as it can be." He also said that he expects Free Realms to arrive on the PlayStation 3 next month in North America and in March in Europe. He emphasized that those time frames are only a guess and have not been confirmed.

Smedley ended the interview by hinting that SOE has "a lot" of unannounced projects in the works. "We're constantly in development on things. We are a company that wants to make new experiences for players so needless to say that we're working on that hard," he said.

The Agency
Smedley: The Agency is Delayed Until Late 2011

News regarding The Agency, Sony Online Entertainment's upcoming spy-themed MMO, has been sparse as of late. The most recent bit of information we've heard about the game came from Skunkworks' Nathan Pearce at GDC Online in October, and he didn't have much to say aside that the team is hard at work on the game. Before that, we were treated to a short trailer at E3 in June. That's pretty much it.

Well, it turns out there's a reason for the lack of news. In an interview with Kotaku, SOE President John Smedley said that The Agency has been delayed until the second half of 2011 because it needed a lot of work:

"There was a moment in time in our company where we looked at our own stuff with a clear eye and saw we have to do better," he said of the delay. "DC Universe was held for a year-and-a-half from when we wanted to launch it and now I'm very happy with it."

So there you have it. It looks like we may hear some more Agency news next year. What are your thoughts on the game?

General News
Nathan Pearce Talks EverQuest Next, DCUO, and More

As part of GameBreaker TV's GDC Online coverage, host Gary Gannon had the opportunity to to talk with Nathan Pearce, the director of Skunkworks at Sony Online Entertainment, about numerous topics. Pearce acts as an internal consultant that keeps information flowing between the SOE studios. They talked about all sorts of SOE games, including DC Universe Online, The Agency, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, and EverQuest Next. Yes, that's right. EverQuest Next.

General News
The Final Day of ZAM's E3 2010 Awards

We saw more than 20 MMOs at the recent E3 2010 convention in Los Angeles. We participated in the spectacle by attending parties, touring booths and watching the booths babes ... and the games, of course. So that is why each year, we honor the best of the best from each show. Over the next few days, we'll unveil our winners. Here is the schedule:

Today:

  • Best Real Life Game
  • Best Fantasy Game
  • Best Sci-Fi Game
  • Best in Show

Day 1:

  • Best Party
  • Best Booth
  • Best Family Game

Day 2:

  • Best Trailer
  • Biggest Surprise
  • Best Demo

So stay with us all three days as we unveil the winners. In case you missed our coverage, you can check out the E3 index page.

The Agency
Bullets galore in SOE's E3 trailer of The Agency!

More and more E3 coverage on the way! This time it's Sony Online Entertainment's PS3-oriented, spy-themed MMORPG, dubbed "The Agency." It's interesting, actually, that a game that seems to focus on spy activitiy just happens to have a lot of explosions and crazy shootouts as the focal point of their latest E3 trailer. Perhaps this is an indication of the direction that SOE wants to push The Agency towards? Either way, The Agency does promise to be the first spy-themed FPS-oriented MMORPG of its kind to launch on the PS3, so that makes the trailer worth checking out on its own. It's just up to you to decide if The Agency revebrates with that James Bond type of spy activity - and even then, is it Daniel Craig James Bond, or the Pierce Brosnan style? Check it out for yourself!

The Agency
Amazon: The Agency to Launch Dec. 31, 2010?

If you're looking forward to playing The Agency, it looks like Amazon has posted a tentative release date: Dec. 31, 2010. The site has the same date set for both the PC and PlayStation 3 versions of the spy-themed MMO shooter. Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley stated in his keynote at GDC 2009 that both The Agency and DC Universe Online are coming in 2010, so this date certainly fits that target.

To be fair, readers should take Amazon's date with a huge grain of salt. New Year's Eve seems like an odd day to release a game, and it's most likely simply a placeholder since SOE wants to get the game out in 2010. Regardless, it's still fun to speculate when the shooter will launch. Do you think the Dec. 31 date is accurate?

For more information on The Agency, check out our interview with Senior World Designer Kevin O'Hara at Fan Faire and the gameplay footage we saw at E3.

General News
SOE Launches Art Portal Web Site

Are you a fan of the art from Sony Online Entertainment games? Well, the company has opened a new Art Portal site that targets an audience comprised of students and professionals in the art world, as well as players who appreciate the concept illustrations and graphics tied to SOE games.

The first thing you'll notice when you visit SOE Art Portal is a series of illustrations that were recognized in international juried digital art annuals and shows. There's numerous pieces of art from Legends of Norrath, as well as pieces from EverQuest, EverQuest II, Free Realms and The Agency.

There's also featured articles from SOE developers on topics related to art asset creation and blog entries by Rystall, the director of artistic development for SOE. So are there any ZAM readers out there who are art students trying to enter the gaming field? If so, what are your thoughts on the site?

The Agency
SOE Staffers Form Studio; The Agency Won't Reboot

Three senior Sony Online Entertainment staff members who were working on The Agency have left the company to form Detonator Games, but SOE has told Eurogamer their departure won't lead to a reboot of the game.

Seattle studio director and executive producer Matt Wilson, art director Corey Dangel and producer John Smith left SOE and formed Detonator Games on July 4, according to the new studio's Web site. Wilson and Smith were founding members of SOE's Seattle studio."This was a very hard decision to make, but it's the right decision for both us and the project," Wilson told Eurogamer. "There were a variety of factors into making this decision, but we wish SOE and The Agency the best success."

So what does this mean for the future of The Agency? SOE wouldn't comment on the departures, but did tell Eurogamer "The Agency is not undergoing a reboot of any sorts — that is incorrect." The representative also said "the team in Seattle is still working diligently on this project and we’re looking forward to showing you new content in the future."

The Agency
Fan Faire: The Agency

One of the bigger surprises that we had at E3 was the playable demo that Sony Online Entertainment had for The Agency. While the demonstration restored our faith in the project, we still had a few questions that we had answered at the 2009 Fan Faire. We spoke with Senior World Designer Kevin O'Hara to gain a deeper understanding of what this game is all about.


ZAM: Can you just give us a little bit of information about the three different classes, or archetypes, that exist in the game?

Kevin O'Hara:
Sure; we've got three major roles and they are combat, stealth and support. They are about the different things you want to do as a super-spy in the game. Combat is all about taking more damage and being able to deal out a good amount of damage - really getting the enemies looking at him. Next is stealth. Stealth is, of course, about sneaking around, taking on guys from a long range and getting the lay of the land for the rest of the team. And then support, of course, is about helping out as much as he can. In this case, we've got a shotgun for him so that he doesn't have to be the most accurate guy in the world, but if anyone comes up close to him, he can definitely take them down. He can help revive other characters if they go down in combat, and he's got a number of things, tactically, that he can do to keep these guys alive and keep them informed of the situation. In this case we gave him a special item called a 'Martini Bomb" that he would have gotten out in the field somewhere, or he had an operative build for him. The "Martini Bomb" is a device that, when he shakes it up (shaken, not stirred!), he can throw it and it emits this icy concoction that covers the enemy and freezes them in place. In this way, he's supporting the team by holding the enemies in place. If you've got a lot of enemies, he might be the one saying "focus on these guys first, I'll keep these guys busy."