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I feel like I know Matt Higby. PlanetSide 2’s creative director lives half a planet away from me in San Diego, where he’s currently helming development on SOE’s second shot at the MMOFPS. But he once flew Reavers for the New Conglomerate in PlanetSide. He piloted a gunship, screaming through the sky over hundred-man battles. He rained rockets down on enemy tanks, he lanced snipers with his chaingun. He’s me, in a suntan and a nicer suit.
PlanetSide 2 has really nice clouds. As they bubble up over the rust red mesas of the Indra continent they occlude the sun, casting undulating shadows in realtime and leaking ghostly, shimmering rays. If you care to hop into an aircraft and point your nose up, you can lose yourself in the fogbank – which may be a hazard or a blessing depending on who’s chasing you. All this may seem like a minor frill for a game that otherwise sells itself on big gun battles, but it goes to the core of PlanetSide 2’s remit, and spells out its vital difference from other claimants to the MMOFPS title, such as Dust 514. As creative director Matt Higby puts it, “We’re not just building a shooter, we’re building a world.”
This article originally appeared in PC Gamer UK issue 232. Matt Higby isn’t surprised there aren’t more massively multiplayer shooters out there. “They’re fucking hard to make.” What surprises PlanetSide 2’s creative director is the lack of attempts by other developers to emulate 2003’s ultra-ambitious PlanetSide. “You talk to anyone who was a PlanetSide player, they’ll go all misty eyed.” Fellow ex-players, please join me in a spot of eye-misting. I played PlanetSide for a year after the game’s launch, seeing the same potential in the game that Higby still eulogises today. “It’s an excellent team-based game, it has a lot of action and it’s just cool being able to hold a tower with 50 people when 200 people are coming in to it. You can’t compare it to anything else.”
"It's an experience no-one's ever had before" says Matt Higby, Creative Director of Planetside 2. Then he frowns slightly. "well, except for Planetside players." He's just spent 30 minutes showing us impressive running battles across one of the continents in Planetside, with the support of 30 other developers. You can watch the footage here. It's when he points out that these same battles would normally feature between 300 and a thousand players that you blink. First things first; it's free-to-play, funded by microtransactions. Despite SOE's earlier reticence in announcing this, Higby tells me that he doesn't imagine anyone will ever make an MMO that isn't F2P again; "I can't imagine why they would. It's going to be really hard to compete with this level of fidelity in a free-to-play game. I think most of the big successes in the last five years haven't been paid. The games that you hear aobut all the time are League of Legends, World of Tanks, Free Realms."
There's been some concern surrounding Rich's mental state in the run up to the start of the Planetside 2 beta, as documented in our earlier post regarding the order in which Planetside 2 applicants will get in when. The servers seem to be locked at the moment, but we're pounding on the doors demanding to be let in so we can wage war on everyone and everything. It's all rather undignified. The important thing is, those who have redeemed their PC Gamer mag codes will get to jump in soon. If you still haven't decided on a faction, we'll be going Terran Republic. If you can't wait for the war to start, whet your appetite with Tyler's Planetside 2 hands-on and check out the big, noisy Planetside 2 CGI trailer.
Sony Online Entertainment has been pretty good about updating Planetside 2. As part of its Operation: Make Faster Game (OMFG) it released Performance Update 01 and 02, which addressed a very long list of balancing and performance issues. But players had to wait for them for a long time. This week, SOE announced that rather than huge, infrequent updates, starting this year it will release smaller weekly updates.
When it's dark – properly dark – you can look up at the night sky and see a multitude of stars. Stop and consider those stars. Each one is a ball of superheated gas, floating out there in space with its own history. It's a staggering realisation. Stop for a second in PlanetSide 2 and you'll see a similar thing, except instead of stars, you're seeing people. Real people, just as out of reach in their homes to you as those stars. Stand and stare up at the sky and you might see a Belgian kid hurtle overhead, chased by a Spanish man in a fighter jet. As the Spanish man's rockets connect with his fuselage, the Belgian kid will wink out of existence like a star going out. Every light in the sky, every light on the ground, is another person. PlanetSide 2 is a massively multiplayer first-person shooter, and although it's identical in concept to the original PlanetSide: three factions wage eternal war on the ground and in the air over a handful of continents, it feels like the future of games. PlanetSide was crippled by 2003's technology; PlanetSide 2 has the benefit of nine years of human advancement.
Sony Online Entertainment's president, John Smedley, has revealed that an Australian server may be planned for PlanetSide 2.
After PlanetSide 2 launched, Evan and Tyler took to our foam-walled microphone palace to discuss the early days of the massive three-faction war: the battles, the guns, the certification grind, and the amazing things that happen when you pit 2000 knife, gun, and rocket-wielding players against each other at a time. See and hear what we love, and what we want from PlanetSide 2 after the break.
If you want to know why Planetside 2 is one of our games of 2012, look no further than the half hour of footage that SOE have been showing off at GDC. It's still in alpha, so there's some pop-in and a few glitches, but that ambitious sense of scale is there. Planetside 2's battlegrounds will support hundreds and hundreds of players on land and in the air. The video demo shows plenty of both worlds. Infantry battles are fast and frantic, with strong overtones of Battlefield. As soldiers jetpack about the base, barrel-rolling planes swoop about overhead, nailing them with fierce rocket volleys. Halfway through the videos, day is turned to night and the battlefield is lit by the glittering lasers and rocketfire of the warring factions. Spectacular stuff. Read on for the demo in full, and 14 new screenshots, which can be clicked upon to be enlarged and admired.
It's a great weekend to round-up a rag-tag collection of friends, before throwing them up against the defences of the despicable Vanu/NC/Terrans (delete as applicable) until they're a battle-hardened squad of warriors. Or to just aimlessly fly about in a Mosquito, desperately hoping you at least catch sight of a battle before crashing. That's my tactic, and it's working for me. This weekend, Planetside 2 will begin throwing out double XP, thus twice rewarding your continent capturing efforts.
Nothing says large-scale futuristic warfare quite like footage of slowly rotating men. It looks like we'll have to wait until the new year to see any videos of Planetside 2 in-action, but the latest faction vignette gives us an idea of how the three factions differ. You can choose to play as the sturdy, well drilled Terran Republic, the slick, high-tech Vanu or the desperate, under-resourced New Conglomerate. The Vanu's love of purple alien weaponry put them ahead in my book. Which is your favourite?
Planetside 2 already has the ice world, the desert world, and the kind of bland greenery world. What's next on the video game bingo card of potential environments? Water world? Too soggy. Lava world? Too deadly. Dinosaur world? Too... awesome? Instead, they've gone with the slightly less common swamp world, introducing the boggy fourth continent of Hossin during last weekend's SOE Live event.
Are you ready to jump into Planetside 2? If you have a beta key, you might get that chance on "MON OR TUESDAY" according to a tweet from SOE president John Smedley. Invites will go out in waves with priority going to veterans of the first game but codes grabbed from our mag giveaways will be invited "very early" according to a follow up tweet.
It's war! News writers sprint nervously between desks, veteran editors stare gruffly into the middle-distance, and Chris solemnly queues up the Les Misérables soundtrack. PC Gamer is going to war! (Again!) And you've been enlisted, soldier. Whether battle-hardened war hero, or barely out of boot-camp, we need your help.
Okay, so the last time Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley tweeted us into a state of excitement about this... it ended up being delayed. This time though, it's happening for real. Absolutely. Certainly. Probably. Touch wood. Unless anything goes wrong. Which it won't! (But it might.) But let's be optimistic. Quoth the Smedley: "Looking like it's going to be Monday at 2pm for the start of Beta. still a lot of work to do tomorrow and this weekend but looking good."
Rock Paper Shotgun's Jim Rossignol swung by the office a few weeks ago, and while he was here I threw a gauntlet at him. He was so affronted that he immediately challenged us to a Planetside 2 throwdown, pitting RPS' Vanu horde once more against our valiant Terran Republic forces.
At the time of writing, Planetside 2 is a little over two hours away. Are you interested in going to war alongside the European PC Gamer community? If so, then read on for details of our plans so far.
Far in the future, after SOE’s preposterously huge MMOFPS has come and gone, I see myself in a dark bar. I’m old, and I’m sharing the room with other old men and women hunched over drinks, barely illuminated by weak lights. On the wall, a video screen loops in silence. It shows rolling hills and green plains. Russet cliffs and brown, rocky bluffs. A voice behind me pipes up. “That looks like Indar.”