50 MMOs in 50 Days #37: PlanetSide 2

Last played: 2014
Experience: Very Extensive

If I had any one reason to be optimistic about EverQuest Next, it’s because of PlanetSide 2. People say Landmark is the “beta test” for Next, but I think the real test case for what many people are saying could be the “Next Big Thing” is PlanetSide 2.

That’s got nothing to do with the actual mechanics of the game, of the shooter fundamentals, the base-capturing, the graphics – well, it does have a bit to do with the graphics, even though EQN is going to look much different. PlanetSide 2 was SOE’s first game using their ForgeLight engine, and, if you recall, it performed very badly at launch and throughout the game’s first year. They spent much of that time optimizing things and probably learned a lot about how to make the game run smoother. That experience should help loads when it comes time to make EverQuest Next.

Even more so than the software, I consider PlanetSide 2 to be SOE’s first “true” free-to-play game. Yes, Free Realms came out earlier, but that was when F2P was still a new thing in the West, still in its infancy, and Free Realms suffered for it. Other SOE games also went F2P earlier, but they were sub games to start.

PlanetSide2 2012-10-10 21-36-00-27With PlanetSide 2, SOE got the formula largely right. Granted, that’s easier to do with a PvP game than with a PvE game, but by making the game accessible and entertaining to players of varying skill levels and wallet sizes – you can still be effective in a group even with starter weapons – they created a game that rewards players for their experience but doesn’t punish them for lack of it.

That’s another, more subtle point, that’s not talked about much when discussing PS2. As Matt Higby explained to me when I first talked to him about the game, the top end of vertical player progression makes you only 20-25% better than a starting character. This is the optimal solution – not auto-adjusting levels so that a level 10 can compete with a level 50, and definitely not a free-for-all, where level 50s can carve through a dozen level 10s with ease – but doing away with the vast gaps that vertical progression and typical leveling systems inherently create. People will still want to get that tiny bit better, but they don’t have to be light-years more powerful than less-experienced players.

Character levels are an artifact of older games and just don’t translate well to multiplayer online games, where you need a semi-level playing field or at least the ability to more easily play with your friends. PlanetSide 2 does that better than just about any game out there. EverQuest Next also won’t have levels, and I’m hopeful that it’ll do experience and progression much like PlanetSide 2 does.

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3 Responses to 50 MMOs in 50 Days #37: PlanetSide 2

  1. zax19taken says:

    I was really looking forward to PS2 but I can’t seem to be able to play it for more than a couple of days once in a while. The problems I have are that the aircraft control has really weird sensitivity, the infantry guided missiles and aircraft missiles are behind a paywall and that it’s a grind-fest where you die really fast and respawn really fast. That’s just not fun if you consider the number of players that could have you in their sights at the same time.

    • jasonwinter says:

      I don’t know about now, but I bought one of the guided missiles a while back with certifications, didn’t have to pay. And yeah, it can be a die fast and often game, but sometimes I’m sorta in the mood for that. No different from Team Fortress 2 in a sense.

      • zax19taken says:

        You can pay with certs, but it’s the Asian style of “pay or grind like hell”, it’s 500 and 1000 certs. On the last episode of the Co-optional podcast they mentioned the idea that lower number of players means that you are more important part of the team.

        They were comparing different Battlefield games and how the bigger ones make it so that there are more people likely to kill you and it takes longer time to get back into the fight. That’s why I like Firefall more as a shooter, it takes longer time to die and to kill, there is more space for decision making while still not being too long. For example MMORPGs often make the 1v1 fights too long. My choice would be around 4 seconds in straight up 1v1 fight, at least in MMO context. In Quake it’s fine because it’s about the score and rounds. That’s why I’d compare PS2 to ARMA in this aspect. Just imagine playing ARMA on a server with 2000 people. It can be a bit annoying to run, die, respawn, run, die…

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