PlanetSide 2 Beta, Gameplay & Development Interview
PlanetSide 2 is the colossal follow up to Sony Online Entertainment’s 2003 original. Throwing thousands of players on to the planet Auraxis in a three-way war for global domination. If you like your shooters big and action-packed, you need to check this out.
In short, PlanetSide 2 is MMO gaming at it’s most exciting. Imagine Battlefield 3 but with hundreds of people fighting over an area, rather than 64 and you’re on the right track.
So to learn more about PlanetSide 2, and how it will shake up the FPS multiplayer arena, we caught up with Sony Online Entertainment’s creative director Matt Higby for a chat.
It has been suggested that PlanetSide 2 is more of a re-imagining of the original concept, rather than a straight sequel. Is that fair to say?
Fans of the original will feel right at home in PlanetSide 2. They’re back on the planet Auraxis as part of the three-faction war for supremacy, and will see a lot of the classic weapons and vehicles make a return.
When we talk about “Re-imagining” Vs a “Sequel”, it’s more that the story doesn’t directly follow the events of the first game. We’ve reset the world.
As you’ve reset the game world, what new elements are you bringing to the table?
We’ve added a slew of new mechanics, from a robust customisation system for weapons, vehicles and classes, faster paced gameplay, modern FPS mechanics such as sprinting, iron sights, and locational damage, a completely revamped conquest meta-game, infantry classes and more. The list goes on and on.
As huge fans and believers in the original game we wanted to stay as close to the spirit of PlanetSide as possible while being able to bring the gameplay up to modern standards. I feel like we’ve achieved a fantastic balance.
In terms of PlanetSide 2 development, what stage would you say you’re at now, and what key challenges have you faced along the way when trying to make this a killer sequel?
We’re definitely still in the meat of the development process, but in terms of design framework and engine development we’ve been working on the game for several years.
Our biggest challenges are performance and scale related; it’s obviously not trivial to get thousands of players to be able to clash at the level of detail and quality that we have, but our engineers love challenges though, so we aren’t shy about providing them with some huge ones.
How would you pitch the concept of PlanetSide 2 to someone who hasn’t heard of the series?
PlanetSide 2 is the largest scale FPS game you’ve ever played. Thousands of players across three factions compete with one another simultaneously in enormous continental-scale warfare.
Battles in PlanetSide 2 feature action-packed first-person infantry combat as well as dynamic air and ground vehicle battles, and take place in a persistent evolving battlefield where the map never switches. when time never runs out, or some objectives are completed. Instead, the world iinstead perpetually engaged in conflict.
PlanetSide 2 will be free to play, but in what ways will you be looking to monetize the game at launch? How mindful are you of nailing the balance between free play and paid items?
Well, one thing we’re committed to is ensuring that players who pay and those who don’t are on an even playing field, so that PlanetSide2 doesn’t become a “Pay-to-Win” experience.
Items that affect your PvP gameplay will always be acquirable through gameplay, the types of things that will be sold for our virtual currency StationCash would be cosmetic changes, convenience items, and the like.
Can you describe your approach to the PlanetSide 2 beta? What can beta participants expect, and what key trends and feedback will you be keeping an eye out for during testing?
Once we get to beta, we’ll be looking both at players’ direct feedback via bugs and message boards, as well as analyzing data that will be collected and aggregated.
The biggest benefits to a big beta are load and stress testing, testing across a diverse collection of hardware configurations, getting large sample sizes to determine if weapons and vehicles are balanced, and so on. We won’t be shipping anything until we’re all proud of it.
Are you keen to push back launch if the beta throws up unexpected issues? How important is this process to you as a studio?
For MMO games beta is critical. There is a lot we can do to test gameplay and mechanics in studio, but getting the massive scale needed to ensure the game really works requires getting real players in.
It’s also critical to determine if our player progression curves are too punishing or too lenient, find exploits, balance issues and so on. Beta for us as a company is an incredibly critical phase of development.
The market has shifted a lot since the original PlanetSide. How confident are you that the sequel can compete with the Call of Dutys and World of Warcrafts of today?
We’re in a unique position of offering something that no one else does and that gamers want – truly enormous epic-scale PVP.
In most modern shooters you see that desire for mind-boggling scale represented by intricate scripted events showing squadrons of fighter jets flying overhead when you reach a checkpoint or columns of tanks cruising along before your mission starts.
In PlanetSide 2 you’ll get that same feeling of awe when a sortie of planes fly overhead and block out the sun and a sea tanks roll by in a canyon below you, but the difference is every single one will have a real player behind it instead of an AI script.
I can’t think of any game in the market now or on the horizon that we’re really competing with for that.
To what extent would you say that the original PlanetSide was ahead of its time? In that respect, how confident are you that your previous knowledge of the market will help PlanetSide 2 become a resounding success?
Well, when PlanetSide launched there were relatively few people familiar with MMO type games, the hardware requirements were harsh and perhaps most damaging broadband adoption rates were very low.
All three of those things contributed to PlanetSide not being able to reach its full potential. None of those problems exist to the same degree now, and with a free-to-play model backing it up we’re really confident that PlanetSide 2 will enjoy widespread adoption and success.
Could you ever see a future for PlanetSide on consoles as they exist now? What does the home console market need for MMO games to be a reality in that space?
Sony Online Entertainment currently operates two successful console MMOs with DCU Universe Online and Free Realms.
We’ve always expected that when PlanetSide 2 launches and people finally see the incredible possibilities of a fully realized MMOFPS game that the genre as a whole will really blow up.
So, to me the possibility of a future PlanetSide game on a console seems like a pretty good bet.