It's time for some personal revelations here for anyone who still doesn't know: I have a crush on PlanetSide that rivals Charlie Barratt's love affair with Gabriel Knight. I mention it any chance I get. It's my favorite game of all time. I played it on a regular basis for seven years. And so, with the confirmation today that yes, the next installment in the PlanetSide franchise is indeed coming in 2011, I'm excited for a game in a way I haven't been in years. If you're wondering why you should be excited, let me enlighten you below.
Above: This was me on any given night since 2003, igoring all other games
The "announcement" started earlier this week when John Smedley, President of Sony Online Entertainment, let slip to The Escapist that, "We have a very big launch coming in the month of March. It's a big first person shooter franchise that we're really happy with." When asked if it was PlanetSide Next (a term coined by Smedley on his blog, and still considered a working title), he answered: "Could be. We haven't technically announced it."
Well, consider it official, because today on the PlanetSide forums, Paul "Virrago" Williams, the Senior Community Relations manager casually mentioned in a thread: "We’re excited to confirm that we will be continuing the PlanetSide franchise with an all-new FPS action game next year. More details will be coming soon…"
When I normally ask people if they've heard of PlanetSide, it's usually either "What's that?" or "Yeah I heard of it, never played it though." Well, I'll assert to the day I die that it is the single most important multiplayer FPS of the decade. It's the largest-scale FPS game ever conceived (at least until PlanetSide Next arrives). Think MAG is big with 256 players on a map? Puh-lease. Try, in its peak, five hundred players on one map. But wait, it's even bigger than that, because that one map is not an isolated match - it's simply one continent on a connected world of ten continents, with actions on each continent affecting the flow of battle on all the others. Although it never acheived those numbers, PlanetSide had the capability of having 5000 players on one server all participating in the same war.
Now, huge numbers of players does not make a great game - it's just the foundation. PlanetSide features a sci-fi conflict between three factions, each of which has unique weapons and vehicles, creating an asymmetrical balance similar to StarCraft. I have characters on all three factions, and they are so different that playing each one is like playing a new game. Throw in endless customization of your character's equipment, huge possibilities for teamwork (30-player platoons, troop transports that can carry ten players each), and an advancement system that brilliantly doesn't make you stronger as you level up, but just more versatile, meaning even newbies have a fighting chance. Here's a player-made video showcasing all of PlanetSide's awesomeness:
You can be sure I'll be covering the crap out of PlanetSide Next, because if it achieves anything like the original did, it will make other shooters feel like hollow shells with their non-persistent worlds and sad little 32-player deathmatches.
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