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Old 2013-05-21, 05:02 PM   [Ignore Me] #1
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SKY's Blueprints Vol. 2: Factions and Asymmetrical Balance


SKY’s blueprints vol. 2: Factions and Asymmetrical Balance

Note: My thorough apologies for not keeping up with my schedule. My life duties are currently keeping me busy, so finding the source images and creating the visuals critical for this project has been very difficult due to time requirement.


Hello and welcome again! I hope you have found the time to read and hopefully procure some feedback on the first Volume! If not, here’s the link. This time we will be looking at another important aspect of Planetside: the factions, their mechanics and achieving more compelling, visible and noticeable factional differences in both the visual and gameplay aspects.
Vol. 2: Factions & Asymmetrical Balance
1) Factional Motivation
2) Aesthetics
a. Terran Republic
b. Vanu Sovereignty
c. New Conglomerate
d. Nanite Systems
3) Traits and Empire Specific Mechanics
a. Terran Republic
b. VanuSovereignty
c. New Conglomerate
d. Nanite Systems
4) General Principles of Balance Asymmetry
5) Assembling of Above Aspects into working and enjoyable experience
Factional Motivation

As Planetside Lore dictates, the three Empires, stranded in a remote part of the universe, are seeking different Ideology Goals – Terrans want to re-establish the state of ruling that existed on Earth (Stratocracy), New Conglomerate wants booming Democracy (possible plutocratic influences); and the Vanu Sovereignty wants advancement and enlightenment of Humanity (Meritocracy- Technocracy with a tint of Theocracy) – however, they have the exact same Major Goal: Acquiring Technology and Re-establishing contact with Earth.

While the Ideological Goals are plentifully represented in the game, the Major Goal is definitely underplayed. And it could be used as the drive to hold territories with their specific facilities. It is because with the advent of re-birthing technology, they seek other ways to dominate their foes. That is by constantly developing new technologies (weapons and vehicles alike). As it was already stated in the previous Volume, players may have to be motivated by more than the vision of cert point acquisition in order to make them care about concrete Bases. Acquiring information about lore, upcoming features or weaponry is one of the ways. Adding the reasons for acquiring or defending specific bases to the Announcers’ speeches may help as well.

As suggested a plenty of times during the Beta test, Outfits may be allowed to choose a non-Facility Base in their default territory as their Centre of Operations (CoO for short), granting them an additional Spawn option besides the Warpgate if the base is available. Sense of ownership is another great motivating factor. It has been said the current plan is that capturing a base will put it in the ownership of an outfit that has contributed the most to its capture. This dynamic ownership is great on one hand as it keeps the players caring about different territory each time; however the sense of ownership will not be as strong due to this as well.

It is therefore probably best to let outfits choose different CoO every one, two or three weeks or assign them specific Bases close to the frontline should they choose not to change it themselves. CoO should of course come with the benefits of reduced timers or resource discount/acquisition boost for that territory’s Resource Silo (covered in Vol. 5).
Another way of immersing and motivating players is an addition of Continent Maps into each Warpgate, perhaps in the viewing distance of the Spawn Tubes, informing players of where they are immediately needed without having to scan their Maps in the menu. Propaganda posters and Outfit Advertisements may also add to the experience.

Finally, Factional Motivation should also appeal to the individuals that do not care about the lore at all, which means other ways, such as achievements or titles ( for –a very cheesy- example: Smurf Slayer) should be implemented as well. Being more concrete in this case is nigh impossible, because so far the community has little to no idea about how the competitiveness of Planetside 2 will be handled.

Aesthetics

Besides its scale, one of the main selling points of this game is the visual appeal. The engine allows for beautiful scenery and the realistic lighting offers opportunities for very immersive environment and is fully utilized on the maps. However, the benefits of the engine are not fully utilized on the factions, their vehicles and weaponry. Be it for performance restrictions or time-related problems, their design is still somewhat incomplete. Let us take a look at some suggestions to perfect the factional looks that have been observed through the life of the game.

Before we go to specific empires, let us address one major problem. Colour luminance. It is very aesthetically pleasing if all entities have some sort of reflective/luminous surface; however, as proven by the NC Infiltrator, sometimes it is to the detriment of the game. On vehicles this is not a problem, since these effects usually come to show below 50 meters at which point you know the vehicle is there anyway, however with infantry it needs to be restricted to luminous points or small surfaces. Anything that creates a contour is a dead giveaway. It should be there, yes, perhaps it could even be used to allow darker nights for combat, but regulation is key.




Terran Republic

Earth’s best and well-oiled military machine, they use equipment that has been thoroughly tested, normalized and produced on precision machines that not only give it its reliability, but also very polished look. Sure there may be some flaking lacquer on the most strained surfaces or charred edges from the sheer amount of incendiary-based projectiles, but it still keeps its perfect shine and glory.

• Colour Scheme

Each empire has two distinguishing colours: The Base (darker, setting colour for large surfaces) and The Highlight (colour mainly used for identification, the dominant eye-catching representation of the empire). There are of course various shades added to give more vibrant experience. Let us also assign them a part of the greyscale spectrum. For Terrans, that is the lightest part of it, excluding area closest to white, which is reserved for Nanite Systems.


• Surface Finishes (possibly controlled by the normalmaps and lightmaps)

As has been said before, Terrans have fine equipment, highly polished, with metallic reflection. Here’s some examples (excuse the extensive use of cars, but they are the best for the representations)



• Shapes

Silhouettes are probably the biggest factor in distinguishing the empires. The current models are for the most part correct, just could be a bit more accentuated.

Vanu Sovereignty

An assembly of the most brilliant minds on Auraxis hell-bent on advancing humanity far beyond of what imaginations of the superstitious would ever allow. Their gear may not have been extensively tested or with the best efficiency possible, but it is constantly evolving, baffling their enemies every encounter. Constantly coming up with new composite materials and engineering marvels, their equipment is the most breath-taking culmination of science and technology.

• Colour Scheme

Planetside 1’s legacy dictates the use of Purple and Teal. In the Beta stage of PS2 development, this combination was very gritty as the lighting was much dimmer, edgier you might say. However, due to this lighting, camouflages and some elements were thrown to the back seat, so it has been changed. Surely many remember when Indar suddenly became the bright, hot, scorching desert it is today.

Currently, it could give VS more identity to push the Highlighting colour much more towards the green area of the spectrum, both due to Teal being very close to New Conglomerate’s side of the spectrum and also for more vibrant and powerful feel. Some veterans may disagree with this; however it is certainly possible to do. Infantry may have some room to be between green and teal, however the Vehicles and weapons especially would benefit from this change. Weaponry with ominous, green luminous areas has been respected throughout gaming history as some of the most visually pleasing tools to use. This also applies to projectile colouring, tracer fire and explosions. As onywb on reddit pointed out, in large quantities green can cause dissonance. USE GREEN IN MODERATION.

VS gets the middle portion of the greyscale


• Surface Finishes

Composite materials require special protective finishes or fibre surfacing to be breathtaking and innovative. Using the flake-paint or pearl finish, whole star systems can be seen upon gazing on the surface. If technology permits, chameleon pain could also be used.




• Shapes

Triangular or parabolic scales, body-molded ribs and composite textile armor, muscle fibre strength enhancers, wiring, power cores and all the various doohickeys some of which you couldn’t even pronounce.

New Conglomerate

The last bastion of freedom and resourcefulness on the stranded planet, their equipment is either repurposed from heavy-duty mining machinery or manufactured as fast as it can be invented, improved or otherwise changed. No time for fancy designs or abrasive polishing and lacquer, it is needed on the frontline immediately after it successfully fired once.

• Colour Scheme

As with other empires, the Base colour is set darker and Highlight brighter to bring up the contrast. NC has the darkest side of the greyscale, barring the area around Black, for obvious reasons.


• Surface Finishes
Again, NC just ship it as it is made, paint is matte, sometimes scrubs off; metal surfaces are rough, freshly machined.



• Shapes

The boxy nature could perhaps be softened a little. Even rebels can chamfer the edges a little bit more, mill in a section or drill a hole. For modularity’s sake, of course.

Nanite Systems
A combination of all the factional shapes and finishes, NS design is the commonplace sight of Auraxis.

• Colour Scheme

Unlike the empires, the scheme does not consist of a Base color, instead, it uses white for its large areas and Orange with Teal/Cyan as its Highlights


• Surface Finishes

A combination of the traits or perhaps focus on neutrality with additional possibility of personalization towards played empire through the Marketplace.

• Shapes
Current model, again with possible empire-centred customization to yield additional profit.

Traits and Empire Specific Mechanics

Aesthetics of course are only a part of what constitutes a faction. The mechanics of their weapons and specific traits of their equipment are an essential part of the experience. The best direction is creating a game that plays very differently depending on your choice. In single player games, this adds to replayability. Engaging enemies with varying abilities, nearly none of which are in your own possession and thus making you utilize your tools to the highest effect, is perhaps the most entertaining form of gameplay action games can offer.

Currently, we find ourselves at an impasse; we have a semi-balanced game after numerous tweaks, nerfs and buffs. The empires are not entirely homogenized, but do not really feel any different at all. This creates an awkward state of confusion about the game. Are the factions supposed to be essentially the same, but with different coats of paint and a few gimmicks? Or are they supposed to bring you entire different experience you cannot just compare by looking at the weapon stats?

This project is aimed at preferring the second of our options: differentiating of the factions and creating the state off balanced asymmetry that does not work on the rock-paper-scissors principle. Unlike some state (sometimes even with videos that describe asymmetry in a different genre entirely), this is extremely hard to achieve in an action multiplayer game, especially on the scale of combined arms warfare.

Here is a proposal constructed around observing the current weapon stats, the very mechanics of some of their elements and their calculation and introducing more specific and frequently applicable mechanics for each empire according to their philosophy. Concrete examples with values are listed in Volumes 3 and 4 respectively.

Weapon mechanics:

Recoil

This element can substantially distinguish each empire. Currently all empires use more or less the same model with random number generation thrown in, which is not only disliked by calculation in computers, but also frowned upon in the e-sports community, as it prevents developing skills around consistent weapon mechanics. E-sports community has some really unreasonable demands (such as a symmetrical pattern on shotgun pellets in certain games), however in the case of weapon control, they are correct.

Since Planetside 2 aims to be a part of MLG, it is perhaps a good idea to switch from random number generation to vectors controlled by simple functions, whose variable is either time or number of projectiles fired in continous manner. This means weapon bloom can be lessened/taken out and can switch its purpose from additional randomization factor to differentiation between short- and long-range weaponry.

TR
Vertical portion of the Terran recoil is minimized. It’s horizontal portion though, attains a completely new function – for the purpose of this project it shall be called Sway – which moves the weapon left and right based on sin(x) function. The period of the function could be around 0.5-0.75 seconds and its amplitude may be constant or perhaps even increasing, resulting in a y=h(x)*sin(x) function.

VS
Vertical and Horizontal portions of the recoil are more or less equal, the initial recoil is high, however it subsides as the weapon is fired (fast recoil recovery). To equate this and the no-drop factor of the weaponry, projectile velocity of the VS weaponry is the slowest, leading to most leading (covered further on)


NC
Very small horizontal recoil pull (side to which the weapon pulls may change from weapon to weapon, as with VS), but steadily increasing Vertical recoil – called Climb - with slow recovery make burst fire and compensation the theme of this empire.



Damage

As advertised with the game, this has to be more accentuated to each empire, which means damage per bullet is lowest for the TR, medium for VS and High for the NC. As for theoretical DPS, TR are leading, NC have hithest Damage Per Magazine, while VS sit in the middle, equating themselves through superior accuracy and fastest relad speeds.

Damage Degradation

TR receive a special perk of minimal damage degradation due to their already low projectile damage. VS have medium degradation, while NC have medium-high damage degradation. Further testing on these modifiers heavily recommended.

Accuracy

In this model this constitutes how much the weapon is fighting the user by its recoil, its stabilization and projectile drop. VS are superior in this area due to the lack of bullet drop (to be applied to the entirety of VS arsenal, including bolt-action sniper rifles and tank cannons – compensated by lowest projectile velocity of all empires), TR’s medium drop and NC’s highest bullet drop. In both TR and NC’s case, bullet drop should be increased so that it starts significantly affecting the distance target compensation at around 75-150 meters, depending on each weapon’s combat distance designation (CQC, MRC, LRC)

Projectile Velocity

NC receive highest projectile velocity to compensate for their recoil and projectile drop. This allows the user focus more on controlling the weapon instead of leading.

TR receive medium range of projectile velocity, because the Climb element of their weaponry is the lowest and the projectile drop is not as significant as the NC’s, so they focus on the directional pulls of their weaponry as well as slight leading.

VS receive lowest projectile velocity of all empires. The focus here is only a slight simple-vector recoil control combined with heavy target leading. The user does not have to fight the weapon itself as much, but instead has to compensate for the stream of his projectiles.

Explosives

TR
Their explosives have the smallest radius and centre damage, but near-constant damage across the radius with sudden drop. Areas are covered by multitude of projectiles.

VS
Utilize higher centre-damage than TR, medium damage degradation and radius with more linear drop at the edge.

NC
Use grand explosives with massive centre damage and largest radius, across which the damage decreases in a linear fashion.

Nanite Systems
NS is the sole bridge way for the empires to cross the faction traits. This is accomplished through myriad of attachments available in the equipment. No way of coming exactly to the point of any specific empire, but an ability to come very close.

Empire Specific Weapon Mechanics

In order to add most faction flavour possible, each empire should have very distinct, non-traditional weaponry in their arsenal that gives very unique experience. Not all weapons should have this of course; this is purely the case of each empire’s technological marvel.

Projectile Properties - To avoid misinterpretation like with onywb: these do NOT apply to all weapons. Only select few, specialy chosen.

NC
Target Penetration – through the use of magnetic propulsion and corrosives coated or inserted into projectiles, special NC weaponry is capable of damaging 2-3 targets before the speed reaches non-lethal levels.

TR
Damage Over Time – with the ample use of incendiaries and various toxins in their munitions, Terrans are capable of inflicting extra damage to their targets.

Last edited by SKYHEX; 2013-05-22 at 04:18 AM.
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Old 2013-05-21, 05:04 PM   [Ignore Me] #2
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Re: SKY's Blueprints Vol. 2: Factions and Asymmetrical Balance


VS
Projectile Bounce – by tuning the energy masses to certain frequencies and applying stabilizer fields, Vanu projectiles can ricochet, reflect and bounce from hard surfaces in the same manner light rays are reflected.

Weapon Mechanics

NC

Projectile Control – at the temporary loss of velocity, New Conglomerate soldiers are capable of steering some projectiles. Two systems are currently available: Full-time control (NC15 Phoenix) and Advanced Target Acquisition (NCM3 Raven) which controls the projectile for 2 seconds. After this time, the projectile rapidly accelerates towards its last destination - this has been designated for long-range combat.

TR

Projectile Swarm – Launching a single, host projectile which then launches a swarm of projectiles causing considerable damage across large areas has been a standard Terran procedure for over a century.

Remote Detonation – in order to maximize efficiency of Terran warfare, some heavy-duty weapons have been fitted with launched explosives equipped with a detonation relay. Best used in close proximity to target.

VS

Charge mechanics - this mechanic has various iterations and is probably the hardest to implement in fast-paced games. On tough objects like vehicles, the standard model of charge time/charge levels = stronger/faster/higher AoE projectile applies easily. On infantry however, this mechanic could potentially be to the detriment rather than an advantage.

Other models which utilize faster charging mechanic must be utilized: Reverse charge – projectile is charged prior to shooting, first projectile deals maximum damage, subsequent deal less depending on how long the user lets the chamber recharge; Burst charge – chamber is quickly charged for increase in RoF and thus DPS, last certain amount of time or projectiles; Overcharge(aka Overdrive) – allows higher damage/dps at the expense of a negative effect. Standard Charge being a different fire mode is also an option.

Lash Effect (aka travel AoE) – what is more frightening than a projectile that can swish past your head towards another target with lethal accuracy and still potentially kill you? Nothing, VS researchers say.
note: If you have more ideas on empire specific mechanics in this vein, please submit them in detail below! Do keep in mind what each faction stands for!

General Principles of Balance Asymmetry

Creating this type of balance is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks. For one, all weapon classes must fulfil nearly the same tasks, only their means differ. Then there is the problem of rock-paper-scissors nature that could occur. Finally, there are some individuals that would prefer total homogenization of all weaponry (aka. boring, non-existent factional differences).

The state of asymmetrical balance can be achieved by having differences of play style so vast that the tools of each faction can hardly be even compared due to their operation mechanics.


Assembling of Above Aspects into working and enjoyable experience

With the severity of proposed changes it is imperative various iterations are extensively tested on the Test Server first to ensure that the factions are truly different, yet can accomplish the same goals with their own, respective power.

Planetside 2 can feel like 3 completely different games depending on your empire choice, which can not only boost the sales, but truly make it a marvel of modern gaming. Of course, marketing and in-game references and tips will have to promote the notion of entirely different play mechanics so that even the users not familiar with the franchise can understand that they do not need the exact same replicas of their adversary’s instruments to accomplish the game objectives and most importantly, have fun.

With that, I conclude Volume 2. Please do post your ideas and feedback below. I will see you again in Volume 3, where we go even DEEPER and dissect Classes, Utilies, Weapon classification and more!
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Old 2013-05-21, 05:26 PM   [Ignore Me] #3
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Re: SKY's Blueprints Vol. 2: Factions and Asymmetrical Balance


*golf-clap, golf-clap*
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Old 2013-05-21, 09:36 PM   [Ignore Me] #4
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Re: SKY's Blueprints Vol. 2: Factions and Asymmetrical Balance


Good god Sky, I'll have to read this later :P I can't wait.
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Old 2013-05-22, 11:36 AM   [Ignore Me] #5
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Re: SKY's Blueprints Vol. 2: Factions and Asymmetrical Balance


Interesting read, good point on the possibility of multiple ways to implement charge mechanics. That sort of thing needs to be thought about since it's in danger of it becoming the "VS thing".

More distinctive colours are something I'd like to see more of. Camo sadly isn't going anywhere, but red vs. blue vs. purple was nice for the short time it lasted during beta & after launch.

A couple of things though.

One recoil model per faction: No thank you. There's nothing wrong with needing to learn individual guns, and if every gun has the same recoil pattern then that reduces the uniqueness of each weapon. The RoF & damage model & aesthetics are sufficient for empire differences, I think.

In addition, some recoil patterns are "better" than others. All else being equal, I'd take a biased (eg. up + right) recoil over an up + random left-right recoil any day of the week. Why? Biased recoil is, as a rule, more predictable. That allows players to increase the length of their bursts through practice and skill.

Granted though, other variables could - and would - be tweaked to lessen the effect of recoil pattern on accuracy.

Lastly, there's no reason my beamer should kick in the same direction as a shotgun or LMG.


Weapon changes: Not sure I like these, especially drop versus velocity. Specifically, I don't like the VS weapon idea because recoil and drop are things I can learn while velocity is a hard cap on effective range. And how much drop is the right amount?

Anyway, that's a big topic with a million variables. It could work or it could suck, and the debate would be endless...
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Old 2013-05-22, 03:05 PM   [Ignore Me] #6
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Re: SKY's Blueprints Vol. 2: Factions and Asymmetrical Balance


Good read buddy.

One main thing I want to respond to is that of asymmetric weapon balance (which I am all for):

As I told Higby when he asked for why the VS suck, giving us no bullet drop for infantry is a meaningless perk as at the ranges we operate at it has no real impact (although I recognise you address this by increasing bullet drop for the other empires, although then negate it by giving NC higher projectile speed) and if it did then it would feel very strange. In many other FPS games the weapons simply do not have bullet drop at all - it saves processing power and makes netcode simpler. In PS however the ranges we can fight at should see bullet drop as a factor.

On weapons where it does impact (sniper rifles and tank shells) the VS currently have bullet drop, and removing it would be a boost to be sure in these specific cases.

Slowing down VS projectiles would completely remove the accuracy perk as you have to start fighting the weapon itself (consider the PPA on the Mag/Harasser which is near useless because of slow projectiles) and at that point there is no good thing about VS weapons (and reload speed should not be a factor, by that point you have lost a one on one fight). As rigster says projectile speed is a hard cap, while bullet drop and recoil can be compensated for.

Look back at the original game and VS had two core perks - maneuverability/speed and versatile weapons that could flick between AI and AV modes in a fraction of a second. In this game we have lost our vehicle speed to the TR and our maneuverability of the MAX jump jets. We have also lost our versatile fire modes and the AV capability of the Mag just got nerfed into the ground with Game Update 9. All we have left is spandex.

What would I do? Give VS the highest accuracy plain and simple - high projectile speed AND minimal recoil/bloom is what is should be about, give us an advantage at long range while the NC are close and TR the middle ground.

The main perks of the empires needs a rework - TR Rate of fire and area of effect. NC Armour and high damage. VS Speed and accuracy.
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Old 2013-06-03, 07:16 PM   [Ignore Me] #7
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Re: SKY's Blueprints Vol. 2: Factions and Asymmetrical Balance


Finally Read it. Good Stuff :P Listen to episdoe 36 of reachcast tomorrow for my thoughts! I may have to respond with more at a later time.
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