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PlanetSide 2 interview: resurrecting the dead

Wednesday, 5 September 2012 17:07 GMT By Dave Cook

PlanetSide 2 is currently in beta, and the timing couldn’t be better for SOE’s sequel. VG247′s Dave Cook speaks with the studio to find out why round two will be a winner for the team.

The sheer numbers involved give the fighting an intensity that you just can’t replicate with any other game mechanic, and that’s something that has us really excited.

Game designer Jason Good believes that the original PlanetSide was ahead of his time, and he’s absolutely right. Launched in May of 2003, Sony Online Entertainment’s MMOFPS pre-dated World of Warcraft’s release by over a year, and although it gained a cult following, it never exploded like Blizzard’s game did.

The world wasn’t ready. The notion of sprawling worlds, massively multiplayer experiences – and perhaps most importantly – established microtransaction funding models didn’t do much to ease PlanetSide’s success. But SOE is back for more.

It makes perfect sense too, as the MMO landscape is positively exploding right now. Tapping into the industry’s keen interest in the social and MMO aspects of gaming, PlanetSide 2 – which is essentially a re-telling of the original game – will finally give the series the platform it deserves to succeed.

VG247: The original PlanetSide came at a time when the MMO model was still finding it feet. Is it fair to say that the game was ahead of its time?

Jason Good: I think that’s a fair assessment. Working with the technology available ten years ago definitely limited some of the things the original PlanetSide could do, but it still captured a scope and scale that was phenomenal and groundbreaking.

I think having some of the more modern options beyond of the traditional subscription model would have been a huge boon for the original in terms of its overall impact.

It wasn’t all wasted time however. What key lessons did you learn from your time spent with the original, and how did they help SOE’s fresh approach going into PlanetSide 2?

The original PlanetSide was awesome, but there were definitely areas we thought needed iteration. The thing at the forefront – for me at least – were the core shooter mechanics.

Technology at the time just couldn’t allow for an experience that would have been able to stand up against modern shooters. One of our goals was to
make sure PlanetSide 2 didn’t make any sacrifices in that department.

The original also had a rock-paper-scissors feel to the combat that we wanted to smooth out a bit – for example, MAXs could only be effectively countered by anti-vehicle weapons in the original PlanetSide. In PlanetSide 2 we’ve smoothed that out by making the Max class vulnerable to regular bullets and headshots.

Marv Wolfman is penning PlanetSide 2′s backstory, which is said to much grander this time although it is essentially a re-imagining of the original. Can you give us an insight into the new plot changes and the experience of working with Marv?

It’s been great. We think he’s created a really rich and exciting backstory for us. His work helps solidify the motivations of the various empires and provides some depth to the reasons behind the conflict, while still maintaining a lot of the core elements that will feel familiar to players of the original.

How will players gradually uncover this story with so much mayhem going on? Is it all told through linked to missions, or is there scope for world changing events like Blizzard did with World of Warcraft: Cataclysm?

The scope of the lore we’ve been releasing on our website is pretty huge, spanning hundreds of years leading up to the events of PlanetSide 2.

It definitely has left us some room for potential foreshadowing of events that may come to pass, but for launch at least, the lore is there as a backdrop to set a tone and give some context for this massive conflict, not to guide or directly impact player activities.

And in the middle of this backdrop there are three factions in PlanetSide 2. Can you give us an insight into how they differ in terms of play style and thematically?

The Terran Republic is the historic authority on Auraxis – a holdover from Earth’s
government that strives to preserve law and order to uphold the unity and safety of Auraxis. Their empire emphasizes speed and rate of fire.

The New Conglomerate is a group of rebels formed of mercenaries and freedom
fighters who seek to tear down what they see as an oppressive Terran Republic
government and fight for the ability to control their own destiny. Their weapons and vehicles are all about hitting hard and holding up under punishment.

The Vanu Sovereignty is extremely advanced, employing powerful alien technology on the battlefield. Their singular purpose is to uncover the secrets hidden away in ancient artifacts scattered over the surface of Auraxis and they will annihilate anyone who interferes. Their weapons and vehicles emphasize accuracy and maneuverability.

With each of the three factions focusing on their own specific traits and gun styles, how challenging has it been to hit a solid gunplay balance in such a game with so many variables?

Very challenging – this is why Beta is so important for us. Beta testers give us the right kind of environment to test against when it comes to balancing things like weapons. Now that we have Beta running, it should make our efforts going forward much more effective.

On top of guns you are also giving players unlockable skills that are only said to only tip balance between 12-20% so that they don’t get too overpowered. Can you give us an insight into some of these skills and how they shake up battles?

We’re still in the process of locking down abilities and tuning values on our
certification system – which is essentially unlocking skills, as you say – but there are a myriad of different unlocks for each class, weapon, and vehicle planned.

These can range from unlocking access to explosives or tools for a specific
class, upgrading the regen on abilities like cloaking or jump jets, accessing new
attachments for a weapon, or decreasing the spawn timer on a vehicle.

Let’s talk about tech for a bit: What are the biggest changes you’ve had to make to the ForgeLight Engine to make PlanetSide 2 a reality?

From the perspective of a writey-designer type, coders are like wizards that cast
spells with frightening math problems instead of material and somatic components. They turn things in my imagination into things that happen in game through secrets techniques I will never fully understand.

It was these wise and powerful coders that created the ForgeLight Engine through arcane magicks and blood sacrifice – or so I assume.

All kidding aside, I can only speculate regarding the challenges that came up during ForgeLight’s initial development. From my end of things – the way less technical end – I can say we’ve been constantly refining the engine to help ensure that we provide the best possible experience once we really start bombarding it with players in a live environment.

It is a live environment as you say, and it’s also a massive one. What is the key to making such a big area feel populated? How must you approach game design to give players plenty to see and do?

Really, the challenge was in trusting in the scope of the game – the players are
the only population. When you’re designing an area that’s meant for two thousand combatants, it’s going to feel emptier than you’d like during your internal testing.

Keeping in mind how many players were really going to need space to maneuver
was something we had to keep at the forefront, and now that we have Beta running, I’m really glad we didn’t clutter up the place.

We’ve heard that you may expand the game beyond that initial world by adding other planets. How much of this decision – or any big decision for that matter – hinges on the community?

There are a number of different directions we go could post launch – which could certainly include new worlds beyond Auraxis – but right now we’re all focused on
Beta and getting PlanetSide 2 ready to launch.

I think through the history of PlanetSide 2’s development we’ve managed to cultivate a great relationship with our community – we’re always interested in their feedback. I can’t imagine us not taking the opinions of the community into account as we go forward.

War. It’s pretty.

How has the beta been so far, because so much of that core feedback comes from the testing phase doesn’t it?

Hectic, but fun. It’s really a pretty big undertaking for our team. We’ve been in this mode of heads down, working hard, banging stuff out, for so long – and then all of a sudden you need to shift into being essentially a live game. Bug fixes that once could have been put off become urgent, the community expands, and now there’s a ton of new data to examine.

One of the things that I think surprised us all was just how epic the combat felt right from the get go with Beta. We still have a lot of work in front of us, but even in this really raw state we saw the potential of what we had going.

The sheer numbers involved give the fighting an intensity that you just can’t replicate with any other game mechanic, and that’s something that has us really excited.

To what extent will the success of the beta dictate the next beta phase and your final release window?

Beta is huge for us. We have a game that’s intended to be played with thousands of people –this is the first time for us as developers that we really get to see if our designs hold up under those numbers.

Testing things with hundreds of people internally lets us extrapolate what we ‘think’ will happen, but with beta we get to experience everything as sort of a ‘live fire’ exercise.

We know where we need to be at launch, and the data we see on beta and the feedback we get from players is going to do nothing but help us get there.

As a free-to-play game, rushing it out the door would be especially bad. There’s no box sales for us to fall back on – if it isn’t fun, we aren’t going to see any money, simple as that. Luckily for us, I think a lot of people are going to have a blast in PlanetSide 2. There’s nothing quite like it when it comes to online gaming.

It seems some – but not all – MMOs are struggling to retain players. What do you feel is the secret to convincing people to stick around?

The core gameplay needs to be fun enough that it holds players’ attentions long
enough to get caught up in the community. Rolling my 14th alt all by myself does not sound like a ton of fun, but rolling my 14th alt with a bunch of my guildies where all of us are bards or rogues or something crazy sounds way more interesting.

Due to WoW’s enormous success, a lot of companies have tried to emulate it, but I think the shiny veneer of these new MMOs wears off more quickly because it feels like we’ve already played them once before.

And weren’t those great times the first time around? You haven’t actually talked
to your guild in awhile…maybe you should re-sub and just go check out what
everyone’s been up to…Did you hear there’s a new expansion out? You can play as a goblin now? OH SNAP!

And then it has you again, and the vicious cycle repeats.

You are a free-to-play game, and that does make it easier for players to come back whenever new content is added. Is the age of the subscription MMO truly dead?

In the traditional sense, I’d say it’s definitely dying. As developers continue to
figure out how to handle free-to-play in more effective ways, I think the traditional subscription MMO will continue to fade.

If executed properly, the free-to-play business model gives more freedom and
choice to the customer and us as the publisher. It’s better for everyone.

Players can try a game without any upfront cost. More players will have the
opportunity to experience your game because of this. Players can choose how much money – if any – they are willing to spend.

In the sub model, if I’m only willing to spend five bucks a month in your game,
I probably can’t play it at all and the developer will get none of my money. Free-to-play will let me try the games I am interested in.

In traditional sub models, the 5 dollar player and the 300 dollar player aren’t supported and that leaves much to be desired from both sides of the equation.

In most situations, players that can’t or don’t want to pay anything will still
contribute to the game’s community through overall ‘buzz’, and add in-game content in the form of pvp enemies, group or guild members. Players are content in the free-to-play world.

PlanetSide 2 is in beta now. To join the fight, head over to the game’s official site.

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4 Comments

  1. Chockster

    Beg, Borrow or Steal a beta key. It’s really worth it.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. freedoms_stain

    The sheer numbers in this game are insane.

    Hundreds of players locked in battle. If you thought 12 on 12 Battlefield was big, lol, in PS2 there are 12 guys in your squad alone.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Len

    Anyone else on the US servers here and fancy teaming up as I have no real idea wtf I am doing at the moment…lol?

    #3 3 years ago
  4. freedoms_stain

    @3, here’s what I do, hit F11 to join a squad, then go to the squad menu and leave it, that should give you a list of open squads, pick one that mentions team work/voice etc in the title, hopefully they’ll have a decent squad leader and he’ll pretty much tell you what to do. Use a mic, chat is massively useful, and thanks to Proximity chat you can get ammo/health quicker than if you have to type – the quick-text comm menu doesn’t seem to work right now so you pretty much need proximity chat to communicate that to people around you. And of course you can ask your squadmates for advice, I’ve found that the experienced players are pretty cool about helping noobs.

    I’m playing on EU 01 btw.

    #4 3 years ago

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    The latest footage from Epic’s new Unreal Tournament has surfaced, and it shows off the game’s first high-textured map which is called Outpost 23. As you can see from Zaccubus’ video, its the same are which Epic showed in the flythrough video from last year, only with updated textures and some new areas outside. The […]

  • Final add-on for Sunset Overdrive arrives in April

    The final add-on for Sunset Overdrive, Dawn of the Rise of the Fallen Machines, will be released in April. On April 1 to be exact. No, that’s not an April Fool’s joke from Insomniac Games either. Below, you can watch a fist-look at the new story, area, and traversal mechanic.

  • Heroes of the Storm playable at EGX Rezzed

    Heroes of the Storm will be playable at EGX Rezzed. This will be the first UK public hands-on with the online team brawler. Blizzard will also host giveaways and friendly tournaments at its stand. Tickets for all three days of Rezzed are still available, and you can purchase a pass through the official website. EGX […]

  • PES 2015 Data Pack 4 coming next week with Winter Transfers, new faces

    Data Pack 4 for Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 has been dated, and it updates the game with Winter Transfers, new player faces, and additional stadiums. The latest free update contains real-time player transfers made within the January window, and player ratings have also been updated. Additionally, a number of improved likenesses to key players will […]

  • Here’s the changelog for Dragon Age: Inquisition Patch 5

    Notes for upcoming Patch 5 for Dragon Age: Inquisition have been posted, noting improvements to gameplay and stability, and the new features outlined back in early February. Along with the new party storage system added to the Undercroft at Skyhold, players also have the ability to adjust the size of subtitles. Below you will find […]

  • Game of Thrones, Mortal Kombat X, Batman mobile games on the way

    Warner Bros. has announced free-to-play mobile titles spanning its DC Comics, Mortal Kombat and Game of Thrones properties. The following five new games under development are: Mortal Kombat X from NetherRealm Studios: The game blends fighting and card collection with cinematic gameplay and Fatalities. Play as both classic and fighters, and if you own the […]

  • Win! Beta access to new MMORPG Skyforge and DLC worth $70

    We have ten Wrath of the Gods Founders Packs to giveaway for new RPG Skyforge, worth over $70. All you need to do to win a Wrath of the Gods pack is enter your details in the form below and we’ll pick 10 winners at random on Thursday, March 5, after 3pm GMT. Skyforge is […]

  • PC gaming expected to be worth $35 billion by 2018

    PC gaming is alive and well. In fact, it’s expected to be worth $35 billion by 2018. According to game-business group Open Gaming Alliance, the PC gaming industry is expected to grow beyond its current $26 billion worth and to a massive $35 billion by the year 2018. The information is based on data collected […]

  • Advanced Warfare: new patch adds new weapon, Master Prestige ranks, more

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has received a new patch that gives season pass holders early access to a new weapon and everyone else a myriad of fixes and additions. The patch went live today on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, without any official notes. CharlieIntel reports that among the new additions is the new […]

  • Destiny’s end game and raids explained

    Destiny’s end game can be a bit obtuse to those not used to MMO games. Fear not, we’ve got a few quick tips on how to crack it. Arekkz Gaming has a video for new players of Destiny or those who are looking to brush up on their knowledge of the game. Today’s theme is […]

  • Capcom adds local co-op to Resident Evil: Revelations 2 on PC

    Following fan outrage over lack of local co-op support for the PC version of Resident Evil: Revelations 2, Capcom has now added it. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 now officially supports split-screen local co-op in both campaign and raid mode. The update is currently in beta on Steam, but anyone can opt-in to try it. Capcom […]

  • New Destiny glitch spawns infinite Thralls on Earth

    Destiny’s latest glitch spawns infinite Thralls to help fuel your bounty hunting and loot lust. The glitch is simple to replicate. You’ll need to start The Dark Within mission on Earth, on any difficulty. Then follow the steps in the video below (Via DualShockers) to get to an area out of the map. You’ll then […]

  • Battlefield 4 Winter Patch is here with new game mode, netcode improvements and more

    DICE has released the Winter Patch for Battlefield 4. The patch brings an eSports focus with new game mode Squad Obliteration and plenty more. Battlefield 4 Winter Patch is now live on all platforms. It’s just over 400MB on PC and 1.34GB on consoles. The patch adds new game mode Squad Obliteration and more customisation […]

  • HTC hopes to see Half-Life on VR headset Vive

    Vive manufacturer HTC said that it hopes to see Valve games, including Half-Life, on the virtual reality headset. Speaking to the BBC, HTC chairwoman Cher Wang said that Valve is keen on having its games available on the VR headset. “I think Valve’s best game is Dota, right, and Portal and [Team Fortress] and I […]

  • Make money easily in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

    If you’re looking to buy a fell set of armour for your character in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate but keep falling short on Zenny, this video will show you an easy way to make lots of it. Arekkz Gaming has a very handy tip for all Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate players: how to make Zenny […]

  • This is how you claim free Xbox One games from your Xbox 360

    Microsoft is giving everyone the ability to claim their free Xbox One Games with Gold titles from their Xbox 360 console, even without owning an Xbox One. If you don’t yet own an Xbox One and want to make sure you don’t miss out on all those free Games with Gold games, you’ll be pleased […]

  • Destiny weekly reset for March 3: Heroic and Nightfall detailed

    Bungie has reset the weekly cap of Crucible and Vanguard marks and added new Heroic and Nightfall strikes, now with burn. From now until next Tuesday, the weekly Heroic strike will be The Devil’s Lair with Heroic and Lightswitch modifiers. As for the Nightfall, you’ll be fighting Sepiks Prime with the help of Arc burn. […]

  • Few Mass Effect FemShep cosplays are as elaborate as this one

    The internet is full of Female Commander Shepard cosplay from Mass Effect, but very few are as terrific as this one. Visual artist Freya Willia has spent over two years painstakingly creating the perfect suit of armour and the best weapons to make her cosplay of Female Shepard as authentic as possible, Omni tool and […]

  • Deals with Gold: Assassin’s Creed Unity, Red Dead Redemption and more discounted

    This week’s Deals with Gold titles for Xbox Live subscribers is a good mix of modern games and old favourites. The list of discounted games through this week’s Deals with Gold is live with discounts on Assassin’s Creed Unity, Amazing Spider-Man 2, Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 3, and more. The deals are live now […]

  • Destiny guide: how to maximise your Grimoire Points

    Destiny players regularly compare the size of their Grimoire Points. Learn how to make yours the biggest. Destiny guide: how to earn Grimoire Points In Destiny, earning most Grimoire cards is just a matter of playing the game, maybe a little more attentively than usual. You’ll either need to complete a certain number of actions […]

  • Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows will let you play as a baddie

    Shovel Knight owners will benefit from the generosity of Kickstarter backers quite soon. Because Shovel Knight was overfunded during its Kickstarter campaign, developer Yacht Club Games committed to releasing free content updates. The first of these, Plague of Shadows, has now been detailed. The expansion stars baddy Plague Knight, who turns on his former allies, […]

  • GTA controversies, from Hot Coffee to PR manipulation

    GTA has a long history of controversy. The latest Did You Know Gaming tells the full stories behind the sensational headlines. Grand Theft Auto is such a byword for controversy that it’s easy to forget the full context of what actually happened to bring mainstream press, politicians and interest group awareness to the Rockstar series. […]

  • Infamous 2 one of five new PlayStation Now additions for March

    PlayStation Now will expand to the tune of five new games this month. The March PS Now additions are Infamous 2, Twisted Metal, R-Type Dimensions, Alone in the Dark: Inferno and Operation Flashpoint: Red River. PS Now will set you back $20 per month or $45 for a three month subscription. It offers all you […]

  • Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster gets PS4 release date

    Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster hits PS4 in May. The PS4 release date for Final Fantasy 10/10-2 HD Remaster is May 12 in North America and May 15 in Europe. Gematsu reports a special pre-order bonus calendar with art by Yoshitaka Amano is available through the Square Enix Store and participating retailers. In Europe, pre-ordering […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare getting 15 new Prestige levels

    Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare players can now aspire to the ranks of Grand Master Prestige. Advanced Warfare developer Sledgehammer Games will add 15 more Prestige levels to the latest Call of Duty, giving players at max XP a chance to grow even further. According to the Sledgehammer Games blog, when you enter Master level […]

  • Destiny: Crota’s End recreated in Minecraft

    Destiny’s toughest challenge gets even nastier if you throw Creepers into the mix. The ultimate Destiny challenge – for now – is the Crota’s End raid. Taking place in an alternate dimension accessed through the Hellmouth on the Moon, the Raid takes Guardians through a pit of darkness to the resting place of Crota himself. […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3D trailer introduces the Heir to the Monado

    Xenoblade Chronicles 3D protagonist Shulk is the Heir to the Monado, his distinctive red sword. Let this trailer fill you in on what that means. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D releases for New 3DS on April 2 in Europe and April 10 in North America. As well as all the content of the Wii original, it has […]

  • The Elder Scrolls: Total War mod covers Morrowind, Oblivion and more

    The Elder Scrolls: Total War is a terrific mod allowing you get get intimately involved with the history of Bethesda’s detailed fantasy universe. The first release of The Elder Scrolls: Total War dropped on the weekend, giving players their first chance to try out LoRdNazgu1‘s creation. This version runs from 3E 427 to 4E 45, […]

  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 out now on Steam

    Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 is out now. Yes, we’re surprised too. You can grab Five Nights at Freddy’s 3 on Steam for $8. Developer Scott Cawthon really doesn’t mess about; the game was only announced in early January. Here’s the blurb: Thirty years after Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza closed it’s doors, the events that took […]

  • EVE Online heister makes off with $13,000 worth of goods

    EVE Online is a hotbed of villainy, espionage and backstabbing, but one intrepid corporate thief has made waves even in this setting. The thing about EVE Online is that it’s a true sandbox: the game’s rules are very loose, and allow players to make careers out of theft, piracy, assassination and espionage in addition to […]

  • Marth Amiibo getting a stock refresh in North America

    Nintendo of America has announced a fresh supply of the difficult to find Marth Amiibo. The Marth Amiibo will be back in stock in the US in late April, the platform holder said on Twitter today. Planning to pick up Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. and don’t have a Marth amiibo? More are headed to stores in […]

  • Skyrim beta update upgrades creation kit file size

    Skyrim has been granted a new beta update – more than three years after launch! – to improve the experience for modders and those who use them. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim released in November 2011. I think that’s worth noting before we discuss the beta update that dropped today, even as Bethesda is working […]

  • Paradox’s next epic RPG is, uh, Knights of Pen & Paper 2

    Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is very serious business so please enjoy this very serious trailer. “Return to the dicey world of Knights of Pen & Paper for a new turn-based adventure, where players get to take on the role of players, and also of the game’s encounter-designing, rules-laywering GM in a fully customizable […]

  • Amplitude looks amazing in new gameplay trailer, has a team multiplayer mode

    Amplitude may have been delayed but we still get something this March: a fine new gameplay trailer. Amplitude is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 sometime in northern summer. It’s a reprisal of Harmonix’s classic rhythm action game, a forerunner to its later efforts with Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and was crowdfunded. Update: Turns […]

  • DayZ creator’s “crazy”, “esoteric” next game developed with Improbable

    DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall has dropped the first vague details of his new game project. “I do not want to make safe games. I do not want to make games the way we have been making them. What if the most experienced video game staff in the world collaborated on the most esoteric and […]

  • Battlefield Hardline will support AMD’s Mantle

    AMD has confirmed what most Battlefield fans thought. Battlefield Hardline will indeed support Mantle. Battlefield Hardline will support Mantle, AMD has confirmed. Some players weren’t sure whether the retail version of the game will support AMD’s API, due to its absence from the recent PC beta. AMD did not say whether the feature will be […]

  • Unreal Engine 4 GDC 2015 sizzle reel shows what the tech can do

    Unreal Engine 4 is a pretty versatile bit of tech, as this new sizzle reel shows. As one of the more ubiquitous engines, Unreal will be on show at GDC this week. Developer Epic produced the following sizzle reel to quickly demonstrate what it can do – cutting edge graphics (there are very few games […]

  • Survarium’s latest patch removes limit on battle ammo, rebalances experience gain

    The latest Survarium patch has readjusted the value of experience and reputation points gained and removed the limit to the maximum amount of ammo you can use in combat. Survarium developer Vostok Games has released patch 0.27a to the public, having recently finished testing it. The patch is a major one and covers changes to […]

  • The Hunt Begins in new Bloodborne TV spot

    Bloodborne is so close you can almost smell its coppery tang on the wind – and also you can watch commercials for it. Bloodborne arrives on PS4 at the end of this month (March 24 North America, March 25 Europe, March 27 UK) so excitement is starting to build. Sony isn’t helping keep us calm […]