PAX East 2012: Relaunching the MMOFPS With Planetside 2
Planetside 2 will offer a unique, persistent game world and large-scale battles with a free-to-play subscription model.
Like other gamers with low-end computers and shoddy dial-up connections, I didn't get to play the original PlanetSide, missing out on the unique blend of massively multiplayer and FPS action it introduced to the gaming populace way back in 2003. This year Sony officially announced PlanetSide 2, a direct sequel to industry's first ever MMOFPS. I recently sat down with Matt Higby, PlanetSide 2's Creative Director, to find out what's new in PlanetSide 2 and what he hopes players will enjoy the most.
"PlanetSide 1 came out ahead of its time. People weren't able to really play the game, [and] the people who did, they loved it and they remained as ardent fans of the game because nothing else really matched it," said Highby of the first game. "There's no other games out there that are really like PlanetSide, so that's why we're making PlanetSide 2."
The main draw of PlanetSide 2 , like its predecessor, is the massive scale it brings to the table. PlanetSide 2's game engine, titled Forgelight, is designed with next-gen MMOs in mind and is capable of supporting up to 2000 players within the game world, far exceeding the kind of large-scale firefights seen in other FPS titles like Battlefield 3. In addition to promising huge locales populated with hundreds of players, PlanetSide 2 also promises a persistent game world that will change based on how players interact with the environment. Bases and territories that players conquer will remain under their control until others from a rival faction invade to reclaim it, which in turn adds a level of strategy to the game that Higby believes that many other FPS title don't have.
In addition, PlanetSide 2 will feature a day and night cycle, meaning players will need to invest in equipment like nightvision to handle things like differing lighting conditions. Higby hopes to introduce more environmental factors after the game launches to add more variety and challenge to PlanetSide 2's gameplay.
"It's probably not something we'll have at ship, but we're definitely planning on having weather, so you'll have sandstorms come blowing through and that'll mess you up, [and] the fog will adjust as it gets more humid. " Higby said of some of SOE's next plans for PlanetSide 2's persistent game world, which may also allow players to construct their own bases and fortifications that remain until destroyed. "There's a lot of things like that to try and make the world more dynamic."
One of the more interesting aspects of PlanetSide 2 is that unlike other games in the FPS genre, the game will instead adopt a free-to-play subscriber model similar to other Sony Online Entertainment's free to play MMOs (such as DC Universe Online and Everquest II).
"[Free to play] makes sense for a variety of reasons, but the main one is I think as a player-friendly business model, it doesn't get much better." Higby said in support of the decision to make PlanetSide 2 free. "If you're a player and just want to play the game, you can. There's no bullshit about it."
Higby also added that a free-to-play subscriber model puts the burden on developers to make a great game so that players will want to stick around and spend money on any "freemium" items that may be available for purchase. Currently, most of the unlockables, items and weapons in PlanetSide 2 will be available for purchase using in-game resources earned through fighting and conquering territories, but Higby explained that players can use real money to purchase station cash to pick up things like armor sets or camo patterns to customize their characters.
"Anything that actually affects gameplay, you can unlock in gameplay." Higby said of the PlanetSide 2's in-game store. "There's nothing that's inherently better or worse on the store, so if I'm choosing assault rifle X over assault rifle Z, the difference is just my own personal preference or maybe situational over what kind of battle I'm going into. One is better than the other, but they're balanced against one another, so you're never really buying something that's stronger than what over people have access to."
Currently, there's no information as to when gamers can expect to play PlanetSide 2, but Higby did say that SOE is working to ensure it'll have the game in excellent shape when it opens up to the public for beta testing. Interested parties can currently sign up for the beta through PlanetSide 2's website.