With The Division 2 six months away from release, we spoke with Senior Producer Cristian Pana about where the franchise is headed. Cristian enlightened us with some of his reflections on how far the original game has come, and how The Division 2 will build on the groundwork laid by The Division.
Q&A With The Division 2 Senior Producer Cristian Pana
Game Revolution: The Division broke records for Ubisoft at launch but also faced some criticism across different fields. How did you identify the concerns that warranted implementing?
Pana: We kept our ears open for what was well received and what didn’t work, so we could learn and adapt. In the development of a live game, production must remain agile and open to its community.
Thanks to our players’ feedback, press reviews and our data analysts, we quickly identified the strengths we could capitalize on: the realism and relatable universe, the gritty atmosphere, the Dark Zone potential, the deep RPG mechanics, and the shooting mechanics, for those that come to the top of my mind.
There were definitely areas of improvement at launch, from bug fixes and server issues to balancing. How do we prioritize those? We focus on critical issues first, those that affect your gameplay or possibility to enjoy the game at a basic level. Server issues, crashes and stability are our number one priority. Then we look at improving the balancing and adding quality of life features, with the intention to make a more fair and enjoyable experience. We all play the game at Massive, and we are always eager ourselves to get those improvements in the next client patch. Finally, once the experience is in a good state, we look at adding new content, new activities for players to engage with.
A different filter that we apply to our prioritization is the speed of execution. Important issues that can be dealt with faster are immediately fixed, client or server side. The other requests, big or small, that take more time due to technical constraints, are treated in a different way. We gather feedback from different sources, organize playtests, and then implement the solution in a patch as soon as the fix is ready.
In post-launch, we give the opportunity to our players to try the content before release via Public Test Servers. That way we can gather their feedback on the new content we are about to add in the live game, prior to its release. Keeping an open channel for discussion with your community is key in the development of a live game.
GR: Upon release, The Division had a narrow endgame. However, I’ve noticed that now even at high/max level it seems no matter what you choose to do you can get a fair reward for your effort. How did you decide to broaden the endgame and what were the challenges you faced?
Pana: We knew that we would keep adding content after day one, particularly endgame content. On launch day, we were not expecting our most dedicated players to consume our content so fast! It was very exciting to see how much they enjoyed the game, but we realized we needed to change our approach to content distribution. For The Division 2, we started the development of the game with the endgame-first philosophy at the core, to make sure that there will be meaningful endgame content available from day one, providing a great experience for everyone, while expanding on the game story and more.
As for the first game, as we kept developing the game after launch, we have added new content and activities to cater to every type of player we have identified in The Division. In the endgame, we’ve added the Underground, Resistance and new Incursions for players eager to experience new challenging PvE encounters. Looking at how a segment of our players behaved in the Dark Zone, we developed Last Stand and Skirmish, for competitive PvP players wanting to measure their skills in the team versus team mode, starting on an equal foot.
We didn’t want to force our players toward one activity more than another. The game is meant to be fun and we think everyone should have access to the best gear by doing the activities they enjoy the most.
Today, we feel that The Division has one of the most complete endgame offers for an online shooter RPG, with Legendary Missions, Incursions, new Dark Zone areas, West Side Pier, Resistance, Skirmish, Survival, High Value Targets, World Bosses, Underground, New Gear Sets, New Exotics and more. There is always something to do in The Division. We spiced it up with Global Events that add new modifiers, and Shields that bring new challenges to our most dedicated Division agents, with rewards directly granted in the sequel. The road to The Division 2 really started here.
GR: When The Division first released it was a bit empty feeling in areas. I noticed upon playing it after patch 1.8 that New York feels a lot fuller, with more activities and citizens populating the streets. Is this feeling of life and society after a catastrophe going to continue (or expand) in The Division 2, or are you going for a bleaker more isolated tone?
Pana: We will definitely be going a step further in recreating that feeling of life and rebuilding a society in The Division 2 with the addition of the Living World System. You’ve actually seen a part of it in our E3 demo as you were tasked to take back a Control Point, the Crash Site, from an enemy faction. Areas like those contain key resources for survival such as food, clean water, supplies and equipment that factions are constantly looking for.
At this point, enemy factions and civilians have survived the post-pandemic Washington D.C. for seven months. The factions are hardened combatants and they will want to control those strategic locations to spread their influence on the city and reinforce their position. As the different factions interact with each other and with civilians, they will make the world come alive.
We’ll have a lot more to share about the dynamic living world soon!
GR: A lot of the weapons and equipment found in The Division are based on real-life guns. How did the team choose which firearms to add to the game as time went on?
Pana: We work with different manufacturers via the authenticity department at Ubisoft. We select all the weapons based on their potential to expand gameplay possibilities. For our Signature weapons that were shown at E3, we wanted to provide complementary weapons to enhance co-op gameplay as part of the new Specializations system – one of the main additions we’re bringing to The Division 2. Specializations will unlock at Level 30 and provide a unique set of skills and a Signature weapon. It had to be exciting, imposing weapons that fit with the fantasy of each Specialization.
We landed on the crossbow for the Survivalist, the grenade launcher for the Demolitionist and the 50. Cal rifle for the Sharpshooter.
GR: With the game as a service model, player retention is always an issue in between major content drops. How did you keep players hooked into The Division while still devoting time to producing expansions (and now as you’re working on The Division 2)?”
Pana: Our objective for The Division was to keep developing the game until it felt complete and as long as players would enjoy it.
We wanted to involve our players as much as possible in the development, with the various Elite Task Forces we held at our studios, the different PTS phases, and maintaining ongoing contact with them on a weekly basis with our State of the Game on our Twitch channel. These exchanges allowed us to produce content, features and fixes that players requested, and that we felt were needed.
Today, the game feels complete, with a compelling campaign, a wide range of endgame activities, new map areas and a fairer experience in the Dark Zone. As we focus on the development of the sequel, we continue to bring new elements to the live game with Global Events, and new Division Shield challenges, which provide rewards that will carry over to The Division 2.
We want to thank Cristian and the PR team at Ubisoft for giving us the opportunity to speak with them about The Division.