PlanetSide 2: Interview with Creative Director Matt Higby

Sony Online Entertainment’s new MMOFPS PlanetSide 2 launched just a few weeks ago to wide critical and player acclaim. A sequel to their venerable PlanetSide title, the online game boasts, above all, massive FPS battles unlike you’ve encountered before.

Recently we sat down with PS2′s Creative Director Matt Higby and grilled him mercilessly on his strafing skills. They were pretty damn good. We also¬† had a few questions for Matt about PS2′s monetization system, the ability for solo players to enjoy the game, the future of PlanetSide 2, and more.

Can you give me an overview of PlanetSide 2 for those who haven’t yet played?

It’s an MMOFPS. There’s thousands of players fighting on each of three enormous continents. These are 8 kilometers by 8 kilometers which gives us about 64 square kilometers of playable space. Some amount of that is out of bounds area, but it’s three really, really enormous continents that allow us to have massive scale infantry combat, massive scale ground vehicle combat, massive scale air combat, and support a rich and in-depth metagame.

There is alot of strategic decision making happening at the highest levels by each one of the empires in deciding if they really want to capture a continent or secure different resources or move the fight from one continent to another continent. Plus, huge amount of individual character determination of what they want, what they want to be doing, and how they want the war to progress.

What does PlanetSide 2 offer for the solo player?

That’s something we spend a lot of time thinking about. The bulk of our audience right now don’t play in squads. There’s a couple of things for solo players. One, you get an experience playing PlanetSide, even if you are playing solo, of grandeur and spectacle that you just don’t see in any other shooter. Period. It’s just you don’t get that experience of “I’m walking next to 25 tanks that just drove by and they are getting strafed by 50 airplanes that are flying over.” That’s an everyday occurrence when you’re playing PlanetSide 2. And that’s just a really cool feeling.

We wanted to make it easy for you to jump in and play and that’s why we have things like the Hot Spot system which lets you jump straight into a fight. It’s guaranteed to be where a big fight is happening. If you have 30 minutes to kill you can just jump in, hit this button, and you’ll be there in 10 seconds.

If you want to run around as a light assault, which is a class designed from the ground up to be a more soloable class, they can support themselves. They have jump jets to be able to maneuver around to get in tactically advantageous situations for themselves. The Infiltrator which is our sniper can really easily be played without a team at all. If you don’t want to be in an outfit, you can still play a Medic and follow around a bigger group of people healing and reviving them, shooting other guys. There is no real need for you to jump into a TeamSpeak server. We have some built-in voice server IP with proximity so if you want to talk to people near you its as easy as hitting a button and saying “Hey guys, I’m here to heal.”

But really the experience shines when you decide to take the next step and join an outfit and participate in some large scale operations that the outfit does so you’re seeing this sort of organized game play. That to me is where PlanetSide stands head and shoulders above any of these other games. It is team play on a scale that very few other games have ever gotten close to.¬† The only one I can think of that gets close to it in terms of scale is EVE Online. In an action game like this, it really is unprecedented. You might see that in Call of Duty or Battlefield. You’ll see airplanes flying by and paratroopers coming out of them, but it’s a cut scene. Its not dudes coming out. In our game when a transport ship flies over and 20 guys jump out of it those are all dudes that you can kill and they can kill you. Kill the airplane. There’s no window dressing. It’s all real.

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2 Comments on PlanetSide 2: Interview with Creative Director Matt Higby

Derek

On December 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

It sure has raised the bar on the genre. I loved PS1 and I love PS2. It certainly has a big wow factor due to the epic scale. The hit registration is perfect, which is something I didn’t expect a during 400 player battles. The air combat is very well done. Once the in-game VOIP chat is fixed (it has hardly worked since beta), the tight squad gameplay will be a true highlight.

Some big drawbacks are present that are going to limit its popularity through. Game performance is low even on PCs that can run more detailed games. There are too few infantry only combat engagements. Free to play business model is giving a free hand to cheaters to run client hacks and keep returning after bans. One or more of these issues is the reason why many of my friends refuse to play or continue playing. There’s also the fact that players can pay to skip the months of play required to unlock weapons by paying cash. Those players might be persuaded to come back with a few station cash sales though.

Anathemize

On December 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm

The issue I have with the game is there isn’t a real point to take things over. Yes you get bonuses but in 30 min or less another faction will just come back and retake it.

You really need to be able to kick a faction off the continent so that it feels like it matters that your empire has taking certain things.

I enjoyed the first few hours of it but then it just got repetitive. I never really felt that if i won this big battle that it meant anything past a few minutes.