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News: The Other Side of the Looking Glass

As we continue working towards the transition over to SOE, development continues on The Matrix Online. Along with other transition questions that have been asked, there has been a lot of speculation on the forums about the direction development will be taking post-transition.

There have been many meetings to discuss this, along with all the other details that need to be taken care of in the transition. I've had a chance to talk with our team about ongoing development plans and have some information I can share.

Focus on the Basics

Much of what the development team has been working on are basic issues that must be addressed for The Matrix Online to succeed. On the top of that list is ongoing bug fixes.

Some of the most irritating bugs that remain in game are also the hardest to reproduce consistently. Items like the "stuck in Interlock" bug and problems with enemies using or being stuck in the Evade state are high on the priority list for fixes. Some of these will be a matter of finding the cause, while others require a series of fixes to eliminate multiple triggers. Rooting out these issues remains part of our central focus for ongoing development.

Speaking of bugs slated for squashing: With the last patch, we introduced a bug that changed all gang names to single, mission-NPC style names. And, as many of you know by now, that also re-introduced "Trinity" to the game. (No, Trinity is not returning to the game...as far as I know.) The fix for this bug is currently in testing and will be added to the live game in an upcoming patch.

Following closely behind are the major gameplay issues we're all aware of. This includes things like combat balancing, revamping the Spy branch, and improving the Marketplace. There are many other gameplay issues that deserve attention in the ongoing development process and all will be prioritized according to gameplay impact, difficulty, community feedback, and other factors. I'll be keeping you updated on development progress as time goes on.

What is Pandora's Box?

One development issue that has come up on the forums is whether Pandora's Box is still being planned for the game. I am happy to report that the designers are continuing to work on Pandora's Box and the initial stages of the first story arc are already in testing.

For those of you who didn't catch the E3 reports talking about Pandora's Box, I can now give some details on what this new game feature entails.

Pandora's Box enables the introduction of plotlines through an item-based system. Each arc contains multiple stages and ties into the larger plotline. It seems a bit odd at first, but the implementation is cool.

For example, you fight your way through an Exile hideout and find an NPC who gives you an object. The details on this object take you to another NPC in the city. This second NPC gives you a mission in which you find another object. This continues until you reach the final stage, where you receive a Pandora's Box object.

Mission Mechanics

These mission "keys" won't be removed from a player's Inventory until that stage's mission is completed successfully. The missions and final encounter are designed to be challenging, so it is entirely likely that it may take a few attempts to beat a stage. Because the mission keys don't disappear until you succeed, you can retry that stage without having to start all over from the beginning.

Possessing a mission key also means you don't need to complete the entire storyline immediately. As long as you have a key to the next mission phase, you can come back to it at any time. Just take the key to the correct NPC and you'll be granted the mission.

On these missions, you'll encounter NPCs unique to those missions and somehow tied into that storyline. At the end of each mission, you'll find an object that leads you to the next mission in the story. (Current plans include character bonuses attached to the mission objects, as well.) Eventually you're led to a mission where you get the final object: a Pandora's Box.

Opening a Pandora's Box

A Pandora's Box is a special item that can be activated anywhere within MegaCity. When you activate the Pandora's Box, you spawn waves of special enemy NPCs that you must defeat. If you don't defeat a wave before the next spawns, you'll have to deal with both the new group and what remains of the former. After beating all the waves of NPCs, you'll receive a final object.

The final object will grant significant bonuses to the character using it. Additionally, it will be the key to the next Pandora's Box story arc when it is created and added to the game.

Only One Item? But Wait, There's More...

There will only be one mission key for each stage and only one final item. However, in addition to the main objects you'll receive, the NPCs you fight can drop special tokens that any character can collect. These tokens can be taken to a black-market Vendor who will trade special items to characters for a number of tokens. This Vendor will have a list of possible items available, some which will require you to have passed certain stages of the Pandora's Box storyline. For some of the top items, you may be required to also have additional special objects available only through Pandora's Box missions.

So, once you've finished a Pandora's Box story arc, you'll have good reason to run through it again with your buddies until everyone has gained the final object.

The first Pandora's Box story arc is being geared towards groups of players level 35 and above. Plans for future Pandora's Boxes will depend on reaction to the first storyline and upon feedback from the community on what they like and don't like about this new content.

Some details are still being ironed out as we test the first stages and we'll release more information as we're closer to implementing the first Pandora's Box. We're extremely excited about this new feature and look forward to your feedback once you have a chance to experience it in The Matrix Online.

A New Oyster Bed

That's right: I'll be moving along with the dev team to our new home at SOE. That means I'll continue talking to you about what's going on behind the looking glass and bringing your feedback to the team. There's a lot for me to learn in becoming a new member of the Community Team at SOE and I'm looking forward to helping The Matrix Online community settle into our new home.

We'll be getting more specific information on the transition in the coming weeks, and I'll be here to let you know what's going on.

See you on the other side of the looking glass.


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Posted by The MxO Team

TM & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (s) 2005. THE MATRIX ONLINE, characters, names and all related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. 2005. THE MATRIX ONLINE is developed by Monolith Productions Inc. MONOLITH and the Monolith logo are trademarks of Monolith Productions Inc. Sega is registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. SEGA and the Sega logo are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Sega Corporation. Software platform logo TM & © 2005 IEMA. The ratings icon is a registered trademark of the Entertainment Software Association.
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