Submitted APR 07 2012 by: MgFalcon
Community is what makes a good MMO great and a great MMO unforgettable. Therefore the interaction between the development team and the community is a crucial aspect that most companies overlook. Sony Online Entertainment is not one of those companies particularly the PlanetSide 2 team.
On countless occasions the developers have given and received feedback from people interested in PlanetSide 2, a game unique to its genre with the exception of its predecessor. Matthew Higby, Creative Director for Planetside 2 was generous enough to grant an interview with MgFalcon liaison of the PlanetSide community. Equipped with a list of questions gathered by members of the community it was time to see if a Vanu soldier could play nice with New Conglomerate commander.
MgFalcon: What was one of your biggest challenges in creating Planetside 2?
Higby: Hmm.. Good question; physics - physics was probably one of the biggest challenges. Just getting PhysX integrated, getting to work really well with all the vehicles, getting to have all the functionality that we needed for all the different vehicles was, and continues to be an ongoing challenge. So when we need to modify something or add something to physics it's a big hassle.
MgFalcon: Can we expect armors color to change as players progress similar to PlanetSide 1? Many have noticed that some of the armors seem low level when using PS1 as a comparison.
Higby: Nope. Players will be changing armor based on their own personal customization, not based on leveling up. Yeah you'll be able to change all of that for sure but that will be part of your character customization, it's not something you have no control over.
MgFalcon: The permanent footholds have been a hot button issue as of late. Can you tell us what you plan to do in order to prevent constant stalemates on continents?
Higby: I think that the thing that footholds do is kinda prevent a permanent stalemate. Because they always allow you to access a warpgate that always takes you to a continent that you want to go to. So it's real easy for you to jump around and go fight someplace else. If the battle is stagnant on one continent you can pop to a new one really fast. The main reason they're there is to have some safe spot since we don't have sanctuaries in the game; there needs to be some safe spot that you can go to either to attack out from or have a last stand out.
MgFalcon: Can you talk a bit about Outfit Bonuses and Specializations?
Higby: Sure, we're going to try to create as robust as possible of different bonuses. One of the things that has come up a lot is people saying "Well I don't want to have a strong tank outfit bonus, because I want to play with people who aren't necessarily tank players. I have a bunch of friends already and if we can only specialize in one thing then they're missing out and can't play with me and that sucks." So we're trying to creat a couple different layers of bonuses, some that are really general and work really great for anybody and what their vocation might be in the game, and others that are kinda specialized. So if you are in an outfit, and your outfit is cool with the idea of going with an air superiority in your outfit bonus that's just something that the people that fly reavers in your outfit are able to use. We're gonna have multiple outfit bonus slots too, so you're gonna be able to slot more than one outfit bonus at one time.
MgFalcon: What are the differences in roles/functions on the battlefield between Heavy Assault and MAXes?
Higby: They're similar but the MAX is more of a pure class, the Heavy Assault class you're doing trade offs. As a MAX you can have a really good AI as well as a good AV and AV/AA at once - so I'm [as a MAX] a little bit more versatile at any given time. with the Heavy Assault you're swapping out your rocket launcher for an MCG.
MgFalcon: So on the field you'd have to go back to the terminal to swap them out?
Higby: Yeah, exactly! You can swap them out in between dying or on the respawn screen pretty easily, but really the Heavy Assault is supposed to be one of the main AV classes, he has a shield he can deploy so he can walk out hit his shield and be sitting their blasting away tanks and take virtually no damage. A MAX doesn't have that kind of ability, he's gonna take damage when up against a tank. MAXes are gonna have a respawn time, you're not gonna be able to get MAX back to back to back if you're dying really quick, MAXes will probably have a resouces cost which Heavy Assault won't have. So Heavy Assault is more actually infantry class and MAX is more a hybrid between an infantry and vehicle.
MgFalcon: That big ship in the sky from concept art? Any hint on what that is/if it will still be a part of Planetside 2?
Higby: That was just a piece of concept art, it doesn't have a place in the game yet. But we have talked about adding an Outfit Mothership kind of. I think it would be really cool to have down the road a little bit is that; you have an Outfit Mother ship that you can configure with whatever defensive systems you want on it. If you want to you can deploy at a continent and that gives your outfit bonuses to able to HART spawn in anywhere they want to, or they might be able to have additional or more powerful Orbital Strikes because it's [Outfit Mothership] is in play, but when it's in play it can be attacked. So somebody can fly up to it and basically go up into it and destroy it and the outfit would be out of those resources.
MgFalcon: So kinda like the Millenium Falcon going into the Death Star.
Higby: Haha, yeah something like that. I mean if you played the Titan mode in Battlefield 2142 they had something similar to that. But I want to do is make it be really configurable so you could buy different automated turrets, security systems, and stuff and then place them all over the thing almost like making a tower defense setup. Your outfit members are going to go up there and help defend it, and it comes with bragging rights too like "We're gonna deploy ours on Indar, come try and take it"
MgFalcon: Cool, so to have something like your banner plastered everywhere on the ship, I can see some of the outfits right now saying "oh come on, just try and mess with us!"
Higby: Yeah I really want to do that, I think it would be cool way to have some intra-outfit rivalries and cool ways to ****-talk. It would never be a permanent thing if it got blown up you'd have the configuration and go spend more resources to deploy it again.
MgFalcon: Many members of the community have been concerned about the casualized focus on PlanetSide 2. Things like 3D Spotting, Kill Cam, and other things of that nature. Can you talk about some of these features and expand on how focused the team is on features of this sort?
Higby: I've read a lot of these threads and seen a lot of people who say these guys are trying to make a game for the millions of FPS players out there and that's true. I mean we don't want to make a 2003 FPS experience because that's too hardcore and the reason the FPS genre was small back then was because it was too hardcore. Making it a little more mainstream with features like spotting is just a way to help new players with the game that’s already so crazy in terms of the amount of stuff going on. It’s gonna be hard for somebody new to be able to adopt and have fun with. I don't consider that stuff to be dumbing down really either it’s just a different tool; another tool you have access to use. So in a way it’s making it more complicated because now I have another tool I'm aware of and as a player running around I have to be aware that I can be getting spotted right now. And if I am getting spotted other players can shoot at me and I might not necessarily see them... there's a lot of strategy to that. And I've talked a lot about the kill cam too, I mean the kill cam we had a GDC isn't what our killcam is gonna look like - it won't reveal positions in the final version.
MgFalcon: Which I can see as extremely important especially as a sniper class.
Higby: But I mean from a learning standpoint it’s important to learn. The reason kill cams makes sense in a lot of games, and I do think it makes sense in Planetside. But we can do it a better way. It’s good to learn when you walk into this room; where people are standing like if I get ****ing slammed as soon as I walk into the room and if I don’t know where people are shooting me from all I might know is "that room is really dangerous, I shouldn't walk into that room at all" and that sucks. You kinda want to be able to know something like "oh OK I walked into the room and somebody sniped me from that corner so next time I walk into that room I’m gonna check that corner first because that’s a good spot, or next time I’m a sniper I’ll stand in that corner and see if I can get some kills on some people" I see it as valuable in that sense but I understand why people don’t like it.. I mean PlanetSide 1 you could get so much more intel from going and dying near where enemies were cause you could sit there forever looking at them, or just a really long time.
MgFalcon: Will the day/night cycle be synchronized for all continents on a server?
Higby: No, it'll be different depending on which continent you are on.
MgFalcon: Giving it like a global feel?
MgFalcon: Which class(es) can use the Jammer Grenade? How do they differ from PlanetSide 1?
Higby: I believe the Jammer right now is on Engineer and Infiltrator. But we’ve been talking a lot about class based grenades and the reason I say "I believe" is because right now we don’t have a lot those restrictions on internal play-test, everybody has access to everything. But that's the eventual plan - to restrict those a little bit more. So we’ve been talking a lot about different class grenades and what role class grenade are gonna have, and are you gonna have to spend resources on buying class grenades, so some of that stuff is up in the air.
MgFalcon: Without a lattice system that shares benefits what is the role of covert operations to take down a generator?
Higby: Well taking down a generator doesn’t have the same implications in PlanetSide 2 as it did in PlanetSide 1. There's not a central generator that you could blow up to de-power the base. There are generators in the base that power up things like shields and stuff like that, and you'll take them out and it'll disable the shields and you'll be able to travel more freely throughout. But it doesn’t just turn the base off like it did in the original. We don’t have a concept of the lattice system at all, it's all territory control and right now the idea of linked benefits by having linked territory doesn’t exist either. We just say if you own that territory you get all the benefits for it, you get all the resources. You don’t have to own every single hex in between two pieces of territory you own to be able to gain resources from both of those. Although we’ve talked about adding rules like that in, that kind of stuff is super easy for us to do if we decide if want to make it so that you only get resources from a continuous area of controlled territory, and what ever area of contiguous territory is where you get resources from. That kind of change is trivial for us to add if we did want to add I don’t think we would though - I can’t imagine we would.
MgFalcon: How does the capture mechanic work (or how you intend for it to work) in relation to territory adjacency?
Higby: The way base capture works right now in our internal play tests is capturing a base is almost like winning a conquest map in a Battle Field type game; there are several control nodes you have to hold, and holding the majority of them means you're gaining control of the base.
MgFalcon: So it would be like holding the tower, control console, and vehicle pad?
Higby: Its actually discrete things that are called 'control nodes' and our bases are set up so where we have a central area around the base and we have some little base outposts off to the side. Each outpost has a control node and the central part has three control nodes so you can’t win or lose by just holding the outside or inside, you kinda have to move out or move in either way. If you own a lot of adjacent territory then you have a bonus to the beginning your bar of how much you need before you fully capture that thing. So if you’re TR and I show up as NC; I capture a node, if I own all the territory that's around that base you own I'm going to have a huge bonus to my amount of capture points. You can think of it almost like tickets: I have a ticket counter and I'll start off at something like 500 tickets in my 1,000 ticket counter, and you're gonna start off at zero in your 1,000 ticket counter. So you have your ticket counter/bar/control meter that shows how much control you have over the base by attacking a base that you own a lot of adjacent territory to you’ll get a significant bonus to that essentially - it’s a very important part. So if I'm a defender at a base I only really have to hold maybe two control nodes if I own the adjacent territory because I have such a big head start that you can’t really keep up, unless you just wipe us out completely and hold every single control node then eventually you'll do it. And this is a process that takes 15-20 minutes from start to finish unless you have every single adjacent territory and you capture the control nodes immediately, then it can be really quick. But the idea is essentially it makes it so if you’re running behind enemy lines and you capture a base behind enemy lines you have a huge disadvantage of doing it.
MgFalcon: Like preventing back-hacking or something like that?
Higby: Well not preventing back-hacking, but kinda disincentivizing them, you could go capture it but the enemy is gonna come back and re-secure super fast cause they still own all the adjacent territory. Like I just spent 20 min fighting this off, and I could totally do that, if I fly in with a galaxy and we have a couple people there and we respawn on top of that and fight there, but if I don’t own any of the adjacent territory it’s gonna be so easy for them to flip it back over. And the burden would be completely on my team to hold every single one of those control nodes basically for the entire capture period, and not let the defending team get near them, which is possible - it happens, it's just rare. Then the more balanced based fights it starts off equal, each team has the same chance to win, based on whether they’re able to actually succeed in capturing the control nodes or not.
MgFalcon: Can you give us an idea on how many non class specific cert trees there will be, and are there different "paths" (like Melee Cloaker or Sniper/AA Aircraft or AV Aircraft)?
Higby: There are those different roles, but they are not implicit the way the trees are set up. It's more like you figure out what your build is gonna be, you buy the cert that work for that build, but its not like you have a cert tree just for mele-cloaker, your just gonna go to the infiltrator cert tree and you're gonna want to get the mele-related ones.
MgFalcon: Can you talk more about what healing abilities combat medics will have?
Higby: They'll have several, they have an ability that’s basically a shield they can put up in a radius and depending on the level of the skill it’s a larger or smaller radius that heals friendly units within in it, but also blocks incoming fire up to a certain amount of damage. So that's a passive healing thing they have so if you're about to get screwed over you can pop that thing really quick for some safety. They also have just an active heal; basically a glue gun same situation. They also have a healing grenade and we've talked about giving them a rez grenade but I'm not sure that's 100% going yet but I like that idea, throwing a grenade and everybody zombies back to life over there. Higby- There would definitely be a time on that, some of those more ability-type things have timers on them for sure.
MgFalcon: Will there be mines in the game? And can we expect different types of mines this time around?
Higby: Yes - heavy mine, light mines, lots of different mines, land mines, infantry mines, vehicle mines for sure!
MgFalcon: Will 3rd person view be available for ground vehicles as well as air?
Higby: No, it'll be air vehicle right now, pretty much exclusively air vehicles. I don’t like 3rd person, I think 3rd person is sort of...
MgFalcon: The hide behind walls and pop out trick?
Higby: Yeah! And if you're in a tank you can do the same thing, I can see behind a wall, or around the corner with a tank in 3rd person just like you can with infantry person in 3rd person, obviously not as viable as in as many situations.
MgFalcon: Why just the aircraft then?
Higby: Well Aircraft it’s really important to get situational awareness - like how high am I off the ground, how far am I from hitting this object, we’re gonna make it really hard for you to aim and shoot in 3rd person in the vehicle. It’s more for if you’re purely flying, or dogfighting trying to escape, or something like that you might want to switch to 3rd person to be able to go through obstacles. But it's not something you’re going to be using while you’re strafing and killing guys because the camera is going to be dynamic and won’t show crosshairs so you won't know where you’re aiming very well. You won’t even be able to put a post-it note on the middle of your screen and have that work either, because the camera is gonna shift around a little bit - so it won’t always be perfect.
MgFalcon: If you could tell a person who had never heard of PlanetSide before one thing, what would that be?
Higby: The thing that I always try and tell people to make them understand what an amazing game Planetside is, is I tell them the people who play Planetside love Planetside, and no other game since Planetside has come out scratches the same itch that Planetside scratches, it's just a completely unique, unprecedented gaming experience - there’s just nothing like it. And if you back in 2003 decided you wanted to play RTS games, between then and now you'd have dozens of RTS games you could have played. If you decided to play MMOFPS' between then and now, there were none and that shows that it was a completely unique experience and that I think gets people interested. Obviously you can talk about the highlights like it's massive with thousands of players fighting on a continent, but that's usually my thing I talk about.
Whether one is a Veteran who has fought tirelessly on Auraxis since 2003, or a Newly Enlisted Grunt intrigued by PlanetSide 2 we can be assured that this development team cares. Not solely about the game but what the community as a whole thinks about PlanetSide - which in many cases is far more than just a game, it is a World and the bonds run deep. The synergy between the development team and players truly might make this one of the most passionate Worlds we can call home. Regardless if you play Terran Republic, New Conglomerate, or Vanu Sovereignty, be assured when PlanetSide 2 is released a precedent will be set for games to now be modeled after, and that is something to be excited for.