Last week, we gave the exclusive first look at the PlanetSide 2 Lightning tank; now we're picking the brain of Creative Director Matt Higby to find out some specifics on Sony Online Entertainment's upcoming free-to-play shooter. Want the details of PS2's game balance, updates, and sneaky reconnaissance between factions (as well as a handful of exclusive screens)? Read on.
GamesRadar: Besides upgrades to the visuals, have there been any major changes to the core mechanics of PlanetSide?
Creative Director Matt Higby: Yes, many! Weve totally revamped the way the territory capture mechanics work to make the game more fluid and the battles more dynamic, added a mission system to quickly get players into battles, added classes to streamline inventory management and give us some more set combat roles, added tons of new weapon and vehicle customization, special abilities and cosmetic personalization. PlanetSide 2 is a totally re-envisioned game that still delivers the gameplay that made PlanetSide the unbelievably amazing experience it was, like massive coordinated battles and persistent FPS action.
GR: What were the most important leanings taken from PlanetSide?
MH: Most of the biggest lessons are about getting players quickly into battles. Many FPS players dont want to have to spend a chunk of time configuring their load out and traveling to the destination where the battle is, so weve streamlined that experience quite a bit while still keeping the world feeling massive and allowing players a huge level of customization.
GR: What do you believe will draw players to PS2 from other, similar games?
MH: PlanetSide 2 delivers on massive battles and team-play in a way that no other game does. Having hundreds of allies and fighting against hundreds of enemies is an epic experience that no other game even comes close to.
GR: How will skill progression work?
MH: Each weapon, vehicle and class has its own certification tree which players can spend points in. Players unlock skills (certs in PlanetSide) using cert points which are earned through gameplay as well as passively while online or offline.
GR: Have there been issues striking a balance between in-game skills and player skill?
MH: Its been challenging to design certs that feel meaningful without giving players a major gameplay advantage. Our mandate has always been to ensure that fights come down to player skill, not cert points spent or weapons unlocked. In general, this means that our unlocks offer tradeoffs, rather than straight advantages. This isnt 100%, there are certs that just give bonuses, but weve tried to keep those bonuses under 20% in terms of total affect of player power so that a 5 minute player and a 5 year player can have a fair fight that really comes down to player skill.
GR: How important will vehicles be in skirmishes? Do you expect some players to specialize in driving X tank or Y plane?
MH: Vehicles are critical in PlanetSide 2, from combat vehicles to more logistic orientated vehicles, theyre all very important in terms of overall strategy. We definitely expect to see players specialize, and right now have hundreds of certifications to unlock for each vehicle role in the game.
GR: How will the netcode deal with latency issues?
Ryan Elam, Technical Director: PlanetSide 2 draws upon over a decade worth of experience in networking, with some of the first and best coders to squeeze thousands of people in on the same spot. Using the ForgeLight engine, which has supported massive numbers of simultaneous users, plus the experience of some original PlanetSide coders, we will not disappoint.
GR: What do you like best about the Free-to-play model? Who do you think has perfected it, and why?
Weve published several very successful free-to-play titles here at SOE; outside of us, I think League of Legends is doing a great job with how they provide a fantastic game experience and monetize with things that dont hurt the competitive nature of the game.
GR: How often do you plan on releasing updates? New guns/vehicles/etc?
MH: One of the things were mindful of is that were making a competitive game. Shaking up the landscape every week with new weapons to learn and vehicles to fight against isnt always the best way to make the game feel like it has a strong competitive feel. Id like for things to settle and people to be able to learn the ins and outs between updates.
GR: How will you prevent spawn camping and/or high-level characters harassing low-level areas?
MH: We dont really have the idea of levels in the traditional MMO way. An established player can be killed by a new player just as easily as anyone else. We have a variety of spawn methods as well; from squad spawning to spawning on deployed vehicles, so having some guys in your spawn point is rarely a game breaking situation.
GR: Can players defect from one faction to another?
MH: No. But, youll be able to create multiple characters (on different servers) to check out the other factions.
GR: How will you prevent smurf accounts from working undercover in other guilds? Is this something you actually want to promote?
MH: Its not something we want to promote, and while there isnt a lot that well do to prevent it we have some ideas on how we can help dissuade it. It will ultimately be up to the leaders of a given outfit who they let in.
Want more PlanetSide 2 info?
We're excited to hear from Higby that SOE won't put a stop to faction-vs-faction espionage, even if they don't officially encourage it. To find out more about PS2, check out our PlanetSide 2 preview with, wouldn't ya know it, Matt Higby!