PlanetSide 2 Aiming to Be a Great Shooter First

Most interviews at conventions take place in sterile meeting rooms, or in noisy booths on a show floor. When we sat down to chat with Planetside 2 Creative Director Matt Higby, we weren’t anywhere like that. Instead, we were in the lobby of the hotel next door. Even so, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s more passionate about the game he’s working on. Despite suffering from a particularly nasty case of food poisoning, Higby was able to give us some great information on Planetside 2.

One of the first things we talked about was the mission system. When Planetside 2 launches, players will be able to complete missions that Sony Online Entertainment creates for them. Sometime after launch, SOE plans to add a system that will allow players to create their own missions. Higher level players will be able to create higher level missions, which will offer higher level rewards.

What makes this mission system interesting is how players will be able to use it to engender cooperation from other members of their faction. If I am trying to secure a base, I can create a mission for other players to assist me. In a game predicated on large numbers of players fighting to take and hold territory, it’s easy to see how a system like this could really be useful.

If you’re wondering just how you’ll be taking that territory we just mentioned, Higby explained that Planetside 2 will use a hex-grid system. When you attempt to capture a hex, the speed at which you capture it is directly affected by control of the surrounding hexes. If the hexes are neutral, the capture will take place as normal. If an opposing faction holds those hexes, capturing it will take longer. If your faction holds them, you can capture more quickly. Unlike the ‘front line’ system employed by games like Frontlines: Fuel of War, Planetside 2′s grid system won’t eliminate the option of sneaking behind enemy lines to capture territory. Instead, it will make it a daunting task, one that will require teamwork and quick action to pull off. It will also help to focus the action on the contested hexes at the forward lines of each faction.

With the decision to launch Planetside 2 as a free-to-play title, there’s one immediate question that comes to mind: How will SOE keep it from becoming a pay-to-win game? Higby was explicit in his assertion that it wouldn’t happen. SOE will sell cosmetic items and accelerators in the cash shop, but all of those accelerators will actually have to be slotted into an implant slot. As players have only 3 of these slots, the decision to replace a piece of gear with an accelerator won’t be a casual one. The cash shop will also sell weapon sidegrades that will also be available for purchase with in-game currency. Higby also stressed that SOE’s goal is to make a “great shooter first,” and that doing so is the best way to make sure the free-to-play model works.

As a long-time fan of first-person shooters, one thing I personally wanted to see was how Planetside 2 would support clans. Higby didn’t disappoint, describing Planetside’s clans as Outfits. Outfits will be a cross between traditional shooter clans and MMO guilds. Leaders will be able to create their own ranks and permissions. Outfits will also be able to advance and gain unique unlockables. As an example, Higby described a theoretical outfit that specialized in tank warfare. Not only would such an outfit be able to unlock unique bonuses to armored vehicles, they would also become an outfit that every tank driver wanted to join, thus fostering the community.

Vehicles and guns will offer up a wealth of customization options. Each player will be able to change a number of things not only about their character, but also about the weapons they carry and the vehicles they drive. This was one thing that Higby pointed to as a distinguishing feature of Planetside 2 – an enormous amount of customization. We didn’t get any hard details on just how much we’ll have control of, but it sounds as though SOE is shooting for ‘a lot.’

We didn’t get to see any new gameplay (although Ben saw a bunch at GDC earlier this year), but I still came away from our chat with Higby feeling optimistic about what Planetside 2 could be. If SOE can realize the vision they’ve set forth, it could be a very exciting game, and one that both new fans and veterans of the first Planetside will want to play.

Follow Ron on Twitter: @ffronw

Game Front is on-site at PAX East all weekend (April 6-8), bringing you daily news, hands-on previews, interviews and pictures. Stay tuned for more PC gaming-focused coverage!

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