PlanetSide 2: Interview with Creative Director Matt Higby
How did you decide what’s free to play and what is not?
It was an easy decision. We wanted to make sure that anything that could affect gameplay, even remotely, is unlockable within the game. And anything that we sell isn’t something that gives you an advantage, it’s something that changes the way that you play. So I can go to the store right now and I can buy a new gun. That gun is designed not to be stronger than another gun or weaker than another gun because it’s cheaper. It’s designed to be a sidegrade, but it will be advantageous in certain situations and not advantageous in other situations.
Imagine two assault rifles. You have a bolt pump assault rifle that has a really high firing rate and its really stable and you can run into a room and just waste a bunch of guys with it versus an assault rifle with a burst fire mode that is much longer range, that has some high recoil on it and it’s really designed for a marksman to be firing with it from a couple hundred meters away. Those weapons aren’t necessarily better or worse than each other, they’re just situationally different.
All of our weapons are designed to be sidegrades because we want our game, at heart, to be a truly competitive game. Our class system works the same way. If I’m playing a light assault class, I need to get close to get my best advantage against other players, but if I’m playing an Infiltrator, I want to be far away from other guys. You can unlock every gun in the game if you want to, you can use Station Cash to get them, you can unlock them through certifications you got from playing the game, but none of them will give you a straight up “because you bought this gun you will now win.” If you want to play and always use the default guns, you will be very successful as long as you use those guns for what they are advantageous at.
From a business model perspective, we feel like we have something that is really fair right now. Free to play games constantly worry about the specter of pay to win. All of our Station Cash exclusive stuff is purely cosmetic. There is nothing you can buy only with Station Cash that affects game play. We have boosts that give you additional experience, but they don’t affect your moment to moment game play. They just affect the rate at which you can unlock stuff.
If you are a free player and never spent a cent in our game, you can unlock anything that affects gameplay. Any rocket pod, every vehicle attachment, every weapon, all of that you can unlock. Or you can unlock it faster by spending if you want to. And then we have some things that purely increase gameplay. For instance, you can get a max suit which is a really strong suit. You can’t spend money to get that, you have to earn it in the game through in-game resources. Likewise with vehicles. We have a really solid business model that supports the game really well. We didn’t have to make any compromises in the game we wanted to build [to fit the business model.]