The Division 2 Interview: Keith Evans Discusses Game Design

As you’ve seen from both our highly detailed hands-on with the game, as well as with our breakdown of the recently confirmed Endgame content, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 has a lot going for it.

Some of you have managed to see that for yourself with the private beta that took place earlier this month. But if you missed out, don’t worry, players. Another beta, this one open to the public, will be held in early March, just a couple of weeks before the game’s release.

That said, we were looking to get more context behind the game, including why Washington D.C. was the choice this time around, compared to where the original Division took place in Manhattan. So, we sat down with one of the best folks for the job, Red Storm Entertainment senior lead designer Keith Evans, about what to expect this time around.

The Division 2 Interview

After working on the first game, Evans had a pretty good idea of what the team wanted this time around. And the feedback from the fans certainly helped that along.

Evans explained, “We took (the feedback) pretty seriously. We’ve had a very open conversation with our community for the whole post-launch, I would say. There was a lot of anticipation for the first game, a lot of really engaged members of the community. So, it’s both this thing where we’ve had this post-launch game for three years, and we’ve done a lot of things, we’ve added a lot to the game, and being able to talk to the community about what they’ve liked, what they didn’t like, what was most important to them that really enriched the game experience for them, we’ve tried to double down on those things for the sequel.

So, (the) Endgame(content) being a huge part on day one, adding post-launch content for free that doesn’t fracture the community, those are big focuses that came directly out of conversations with the community for sure.”

From there, we discussed the design choices for The Division 2 this time around. Rather than sticking with the somewhat murky setting that the first game has, Red Storm, alongside Massive Entertainment, opted for a much brighter, while still somewhat dismal, setting within Washington, D.C. This time around, you get a much clearer view of what’s happening, while at the same time having to focus on some dangerous opposition.

When talking about this design choice, Evans said, “I think we all loved building New York, right? It’s a really iconic city. But, it is very ‘samey’ throughout the city, right? You’re in a concrete jungle.

So a big part of this game was going to a place that allowed us more diversity within the environment, and allowed us to build a different type of places to explore, combat arenas, and let us adapt the A.I. to more open spaces, and having you actually fight in very natural environments in parks, on hills, taking cover in trees. Those are places we knew we wanted to push the sequel, to make it feel like the true sequel we knew we wanted to build, but also to actually be able to deliver different experiences. And I think that you really see that in the combat, specifically.”

However, that world didn’t come easy to build, as Evans and company had to double down to bring it to life. “At the start of it, Manhattan was very, very accurate,” he said. “But we took little liberties around the space, and this time (in Washington), it was a huge part of The Division, creating these realistic environments and then projecting time and story and devastation onto them, so now we’re starting from a place of actual satellite imagery, and starting from like a true 1:1 (scenario).”

He continued, “So now you’ll see that everything in Washington, D.C. is exactly as it should be, and we were able to kind of put on top of that this seven months’ worth of decay, the kind that really makes it more interesting.”

And then we talked about stuff that was going to be added to the game following its launch next month, including the Dark Zones that pop up, along with eight-player supported Raids, and the long-awaited portion of PvP content. We asked Evans if there was any sort of challenge in adding this ever changing content to the game.

He explained, “It was something we planned from the get-go. There’s been a team that’s been dedicated to this living world system that we’re showing with the hands-on demo, the whole development process. And I think that it’s honestly, there are a lot of things that are being tweaked and refined and made better for the sequel.

But I think the most obvious and hugest improvement from the first game is this living world, because every time you log in, every time you…say, you’ve played 100 hours and you’re in the Endgame content, just walking through this living world now, because it’s an actual simulation, because it’s unpredictable, it’s going to be feeding you gameplay and new experiences. And it just makes the world so much more replayable than the first game. It really pushes it to the next level.”

Then we talked about what could be unlocked within the game, including a variety of new gear to equip your soldier with; as well as the possibilities of finding new squad mates to team up with, should your current buddies not be around. “It’s not a series of random events,” Evans noted. “That’s something that The Division 2 players will discover over time. The choices they’re making in the world, what they’re choosing to engage in, the control points they’re taking back, the civilians they’re saving, that actually has this ripple effect on the overall simulation.

So if you’re spending a lot of time on the west side of the map, and that area’s really locked down, that section’s gonna flourish, and they’re going to have more resources, and then maybe they go trade with the other settlement. And now, all of a sudden, there are civilians out in the world with viable resources, and they can get hijacked by one of the enemy factions. So all of those things are really layered on top.”

The Division 2 Interview

It’s best not to take on this world on your own, as we learned trying to overtake an enemy stronghold without sufficient backup from fellow Division agents. Evans suggested, “Not advised. Those are for a little later in the campaign. But eventually…that’s a huge part of this game, though. There’s such a power climb throughout that 1-30 (leveling up). The Division network is weakened at the start of the game, and there are a lot of new tools that you’re building. As you progress through the campaign, and you unlock all the skills and all the mods, and you start to get gear with tons of talents and attributes- that RPG really reveals itself.”

“You go from what is a really solid and fun cover shooter to something really deep and interesting with the RPG,” he added. It’s nice to see that kind of evolution can keep players hooked, even with the high challenge that comes with Endgame later on.

Then came a crucial decision with the game’s design, one that would make up for one of the flaws that hindered the first Division– the post-launch content. Ubisoft has already made it clear that the first year of DLC for The Division 2 will be free of charge to everyone, so that all players can be on the same page. We asked Evans what led to this decision.

“I can tell you exactly what led to it,” he said. “In the first game’s post-launch, we had a Season Pass in the beginning, and I think we added, honestly, a lot of really cool updates and really cool game modes. But, there were all of these paid expansions that started splitting the community up, which is unfortunate.

And then, as we went into year 2 (of content for the original Division), we were done with our Season Pass, and we had to kind of re-evaluate what we were going to do, and that was the first time that we did huge, free content drops. And the way that the community responded to that, and what it did for the health of the game, was something that we knew we wanted to push forward.

This time (with The Division 2), there’s going to be a lot of content and drops throughout the year, really close after launch. We’re going to drop the 8-player raids once players have had time to gear up, but that’s kind of just the start. And we’ll have three large episodes that are going to add main zones and story, main missions, along with…we’re going to constantly be supporting the organized PvP with additional modes and maps.”

There’s just going to be a ton of new content, and it’s free, so the community can just play it together.”

Finally, we circled back around to locations for the Division series, and how Washington, D.C. was such a key choice this time around, compared to Manhattan. But we couldn’t help but wonder something. If Evans could pick a potential location for a third chapter in The Division series (hypothetically- don’t go typing up these “Confirmed, confirmed!” rumors on social media), where would he want it to take place?

“That’s an incredibly hard question,” laughed Evans. “I think that, as we decided on D.C. this time for the obvious reasons, the stakes of the story, all the diversity…but we looked at other cities, right? We looked at other places. And some of the conversations circled around Seattle, which we’ve talked about, we’ve done some concept art on.”

The Division 2 Interview

“There’s just so many places we can take this story, this universe…so it’s really open for anything.”

And of course, with Red Storm involved, I had to make a mention of Las Vegas, where we saw the Rainbow Six series set up shop for a while. “Yeah, Vegas!” Evans concluded.

For now, though, players will be able to venture into Washington D.C. for The Division 2’s open beta, which begins on March 1 and concludes on March 4. More information about the beta will be available in the weeks ahead.

The full release of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 won’t be far behind, as the game will arrive on March 15 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

(Thanks to Ubisoft for accommodating me during this interview!)

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The Division 1.8.2 Adds the First Four Shields

Rather unsurprisingly, most fans of The Division are looking forward to The Division 2 and its new setting and other goodies. It appears that the devs are doing that too with The Division 1.8.2, which has introduced new Shield achievements that will have some bleedthrough once the sequel goes live.

the division 1.8.2

Shields work quite a bit like the Age of Triumph Record Book from Destiny 1 or the Valor system in Defiance; essentially, players can chase a variety of achievements that will earn them some in-game rewards in The Division 1 as well as qualify them for some undisclosed goodies in The Division 2 provided a certain number of Shields have been earned. Additionally, Shield unlocks are retroactive, meaning you don’t have to fill those bars if you’ve already completed any tasks that aren’t related to some form of grinding.

With patch 1.8.2, the first four of a planned twelve Shields have been added, with one new Shield arriving every month between now and The Division 2’s arrival on March 15th, 2019. These four Shields run from the most basic like unlocking the Base of Operations to more challenging endeavors like taking down a number of named bosses in Manhattan, the West Side Piers and the Dark Zone. Clearing out these Shields rewards the player with new Patches and a Shield Cache full of items and currencies.

The new patch has also made a few adjustments to the game overall as well as two new Legendary difficulty missions. Complete details on what’s been tweaked and added are in the patch notes.

Our Thoughts

Sounds like we’re all gearing up to leave the plague unleashed in NYC behind for whatever fresh hell was uncorked in Washington D.C. In any case, we like the idea of having a little achievement record that rewards existing players of The Division and grants a little knowing nod to those same players in The Division 2.

Source: official site

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The Division Movie To Be Helmed By Deadpool 2 Director David Leitch

Ubisoft’s The Division movie has secured David Leitch as its Director, a stuntman-turned-director responsible for Deadpool 2 and John Wick. He joins Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain, who have both been with the movie from the beginning, and takes over from Stephen Gaghan, more famous for geopolitical themes.

The Division Movie To Be Helmed By Deadpool 2 Director David Leitch

David Leitch is also on board to direct the Fast and Furious spinoff that stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, so it’s safe to say he’s got a pretty solid background in action movies. It is said that this movie will be shot first before Leitch moves on to prepare The Division at some point in 2019, with his producing partner, Kelly McCormick set to produce alongside Leitch under their 8711 banner.

The Division has had a rocky existence though has made vast improvements since its launch and has not only managed to reach 20 million players but is also getting a sequel, which we should hopefully hear more from at E3 in June. Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal and Chastain have remained persistent in ensuring that The Division movie stays true to the tone of the video game it bases itself on. Overall, it’s certainly a big enough franchise with a fascinating setting that could make for a fantastic movie.

Our Thoughts

We shall most definitely be keeping an eye on The Division movie. We’ve always had a soft spot for the game and its setting, despite the tumultuous launch, and the crew behind it thus far are incredibly promising. However, this won’t be Ubisoft Motion Pictures’ first rodeo and we shall most definitely be playing the “wait and see” game.

Source: Variety

 

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Ubisoft is Working on The Division 2

Perhaps this wouldn’t be a terribly surprising development considering how online shooters seem to operate since Destiny 1 and Destiny 2, but it’s good to know all the same that early word of The Division sequel has been officially confirmed during today’s State of the Game livestream and in an official press release.

the division sequel

The elegantly named The Division 2 will be developed once more by Massive Entertainment and will make use of the team’s two years’ worth of experience working on the original game as well as an updated version of the Snowdrop Engine.

“All of these new features and experiences have made our team better. We’ve always envisioned the story in the game we launched in 2016 as the beginning chapter in a larger saga, and today we’re excited to share more info about what’s next for The Division universe.”

Despite work on the sequel, the announcement also offered a nod to players’ commitment to the original title and so will be offering new Shields achievements in The Division 1 that will unlock special rewards in The Division 2. Additionally, further updates are planned after the end of the original game’s Year 2 celebration, including more Global Events and Xbox One X-specific enhancements.

During today’s State of the Game broadcast on the official Twitch channel, work on the sequel was further confirmed. That said, fans of The Division should not expect to hear more about the sequel during later State of the Game broadcasts and should look towards this year’s E3 for more details.

Our Thoughts

Well! On the one hand, this does strike surprising, particularly since the original game appeared to be getting a head of steam. On the other hand, refining the process of The Division and leveraging that into a proper sequel could also be good provided Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment don’t decide to “pull a Curse of Osiris” on us. Where do you stand on this new development?

Sources: press release, Twitch

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The Division Celebrates Two Years with Global Events

After what’s easily been one of the rockier starts in the online multiplayer world, the devs of The Division are celebrating the game’s apparent resurgence and thanking players by throwing a Division second anniversary celebration.

division second anniversary

All month long, players of The Division – all 20 million of them, according to a celebratory infographic – will get to experience Global Events every weekend in March. Every Global Event weekend will offer a different modifier to enemies, groups and activities and will offer several unique rewards.

In addition, the community team are planning several streams over the course of March on the game’s official Twitch channel and handing out rewards to those who watch like Cypher Keys and an Asher vanity outfit. The more time spent watching, the more goodies you get.

“We are very proud of what we have achieved during these past 2 years,” said creative director Julian Gerighty in a statement. “Listening and giving back to the community has always been our first objective and we would like to thank all The Division players for their valuable feedback and their support.”

More details on the modifiers for each of the Global Events running in March can be found here and additional details on the celebrations are here.

Our Thoughts

We’re definitely glad that The Division was able to right itself and get back on course, though admittedly it didn’t look like that was going to happen. In this case, however, it’s great to be proven wrong. Here’s to a great celebration for both players and devs.

Sources: The Division website, Ubisoft website

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The Division 1.8 Gets a Release Date

It’s easily one of the most anticipated updates for players of the online multiplayer shooter. It’s The Division 1.8 update, otherwise known as “Resistance”, and it has an official release date. And that date is tomorrow.

the division 1.8

Update 1.8 for The Division is a hefty one, with improvements to the Underground DLC, changes to the way players go Rogue in the Dark Zone, and tweaks to the gear system that will let players improve the stats of their weapons.

It’s not all just knob turning, however. Update 1.8 will also introduce a new West Side Pier area which will house new open world activities and two gameplay modes: a PvE mode called Resistance where a team of players must survive against waves of enemies, and a 4v4 PvP deathmatch mode called Skirmish.

In celebration of the new update, The Division will be hosting a special livestream where players can win unique items if they have their UPlay and Twitch accounts linked. Additionally, existing players can take advantage of free access to all of the game’s Season Pass DLC from December 5th through the 10th, while free access to the full base game along with the DLC will be available to all from December 7th through the 10th.

Update 1.8 is a free release for all existing players going live this Tuesday, December 5th on all platforms. Patch notes can be found here.

Our Thoughts

Interesting, running this update parallel to the release of Destiny 2’s Curse of Osiris… Regardless of whether this is intentional or not, we’re definitely hoping that players of The Division will enjoy the new content update and interested in learning whether the free DLC and game offers will draw in new blood.

Sources: press release, official site 1, 2

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