Fighting for The Crown: SOE talks about PlanetSide 2's most well-known base
Three unspoken bylaws lie at the heart of PlanetSide 2's army-against-army battles: Always wear arctic camo for added coolness. Thou shalt watch where you drive that thing. And lastly, whoever controls The Crown controls the fate of the universe.
Perched atop a rocky outcropping square in the middle of the arid canyons and blasted deserts of Indar, The Crown is Auraxis' version of a quintessential fortress. It's prime fodder for last stands, blazes of glory, and intense stalemates lasting weeks at a time. Many avoid it for its costly price of victory. But despite a pursuit that inevitably involves funneling into a rocky rampway for vehicles or a precarious switchback path snaking along the base's rear, many more flock to The Crown for the advantageous position it bestows upon its victors, who are able to then strike outwards in every direction.
We wanted to find out more about The Crown's genesis and future, so we got in touch with SOE Facilities Designer Corey Navage and Creative Director Matt Higby for some answers.
PC Gamer: Let’s start with the basics. How did The Crown come into being?
Corey Navage: Before we even began the design, we knew this spot on Indar was going to be a really great place to fight, largely because it’s right in the center of the map. No matter what, that’s where most players would eventually go, so we decided to build something really cool there to have everyone fight over. It’s right where all three distinct geospheres on Indar meet, and they’re all kind of divvied up with high cliffs, so this is one of the most heavily trafficked areas. Because of that, all three factions are most likely to meet there, so you get a lot of three-way fights going on there, too.
It’s sort of the main crossroads of Indar.
How about The Crown’s intended theme? Whenever I’m fighting there, whether attacking or defending, I always get a serious Helm’s Deep vibe.
Navage: Right. We always knew we wanted it to be defensive, because there was going to be so much traffic there. We figured it should be really hard to capture, and once you do manage to pull that off, defending it turns really fun as well. You get the advantage of holding onto it for a while, a reward for your hard work—before you lose it again, of course. And that seems to be the way it pans out; we get comments that The Crown seems to only die out in the middle of the night when nobody plays.
"You just need so much firepower to take it, you usually don't have enough people left behind to guard the rest of your stuff."
I do notice quite a lot of comments about The Crown. It’s probably one of the most talked about areas in the game.
Matt Higby: You see all kinds of funny adages springing up about the place. My favorite one is probably “Whoever controls The Crown loses the world,” because if everyone’s fighting at The Crown, they don’t want to leave to secure the rest of the continent.
Navage: And you just need so much firepower to take it, you usually don’t have enough people left behind to guard the rest of your stuff.
The advantages of holding The Crown are tough to pass up. At the same time, its lengthy stalemates tend to ward off players seeking quick captures and fast points. Is that what you’ve noticed?
Navage: With so many players in the game, we’ve got all types of playstyles. And there are certainly a lot of people who just want to capture bases, so they avoid The Crown for that reason. On the flipside, we’ve seen a lot of people who just want to get out there and do some killing, and they know they can find targets at The Crown. At any time of the day, you’ll find a pretty good fight there.
What made Indar the continent of choice for housing The Crown?
Navage: Indar has three very distinct geographies. It’s got the highlands that are green, verdant, and have lots of trees. There’s also canyons to the east of highlands, and then the whole northern part is a dried seabed [see bottom image, below]. Indar is the only continent we’re made so far with such vast variety in its geography types, and they all come together right at The Crown. As I said before, we knew that convergence would turn into a hotspot, so we focused on building a really defensible fortress there up on that hill for that nice, wide view across any angle of approach.
Higby: Each of the continents has some sort of strong point of interest or tactical magnet in the middle. Esamir’s center has the only tech plant in the map, for instance. Amerish has something similarly modeled after The Crown but slightly tweaked with twin outposts situated atop a mountain. The team has tried to figure out what other cool things we can do like The Crown in terms of heavily defensive, highly trafficked areas in central areas to act as focal points. We’ll definitely continue considering different approaches on other structures and base setups as cool and widely played as The Crown.
Any examples of the The Crown’s individuality helping other bases characterize their respective continents?
Navage: You can already start to see something along those lines with Amerish’s pair of clifftop bases. They’re only accessible via air or the bases’ spawning facilities themselves. There’s no way to drive vehicles up there. Sure, if you’re persistent enough, you can hike up there on foot, but it’ll take a long time.
Higby: The idea there was to have them connected along a single road, so if you capture one of them, you could sort of chain your conquests down the line.
Navage: Right. That road was very carefully built to have lots of cool places to fight along it.
Higby: Those bases still have their differences compared to The Crown, of course. So, we need to look at how we can recreate The Crown’s lightning-in-a-bottle kind of reputation.
What were some of The Crown's properties the facilities team noticed and changed during beta and leading into release?
Navage: At first, the base was way too defensible in beta. Everything we’ve done, and all the tweaks we’ve made to it since then have been to give the attackers a few more options. There’s a switchback path at the rear suitable for a Sunderer deployment at the bottom; that was a fairly recent addition to The Crown. The spawn room was initially inside the tower itself; it wound up being too much coupled with the other super defensible areas. So, we moved the spawn room out of there in hopes of slowing down defenders somewhat [see the exterior changes in the three images above].
Each one of those small steps we’ve taken was intended to make The Crown a little less defensible. We’ll probably continue along that line of thinking—setting up third and fourth options for attackers to choose from and such.
"We need to look at how we can recreate The Crown’s lightning-in-a-bottle kind of reputation."
What kind of options are those?
Navage: We’ll be adding another switchback path on the side at the end of the bridge leading from the palisade down there. We’ll have a sheltered parking spot for a Sunderer to protect against air and give attackers a relatively nearby spawn point.
Higby: A lot of it just a response to what players already do—we see players park their Sunderer underneath that big bridge all the time, for example. The ridge leading from the bridge is definitely climbable, but assault momentum often gets stuck among the rock outcroppings because of the amount of jumping you need to do. Corey and his team are simply legitimizing that frequently used path. People already defend there and attack there, but it’s a pain in the ass at the moment because the terrain doesn’t really support it.
Navage: We’ll basically set up the cover a little more intelligently to optimize engagement range and the number of people getting into a fight before it gets too crowded and everyone starts getting in each other’s way.
There’s nine of us on our design team, and I think we’ve all had a direct hand in shaping The Crown. That’s something I like seeing reflected in all of our base designs as a workflow benefit. If I need someone to jump in and tweak something at any given point, they can do so with little trouble. We also get a nice mix of flavors and touches on every outpost this way. The artists then come in and dress up a location as best as it can be. For The Crown, we wanted a strong sense of beauty. That’s a big reason for the big northern vista stretching past the seabed and into a huge crater. When the sun sets out there, it’s just indescribable.