The Road to Launch: Matt Higby Talks PlanetSide 2
PlanetSide 2 will wrap up beta next week in preparation for release. Ten Ton Hammer's resident PlanetSide 2 geek sat down with Matt Higby, Creative Director, for some last-minute words on the game's road to launch.
The modular nature of PlanetSide 2 is such that serious forethought must have gone into re-envisioning the game. Could you tell us a little about how you've gone about designing things like certifications and other mechanics to allow for future expansion? Specifically, IÂd love to know more about some of the ambitious and totally cool concepts Smed posted about in his blog a while back (resource gathering, base creation, naval units, etc.)
When designing an MMO game, one always has to be mindful of the future. You canÂt only fixate on what the game will have on day 1, but also on day 100, and day 5000. ItÂs a peculiar way of thinking sometimes, because youÂve got to design something thatÂs going to be compelling, fun and exciting at all times, but always have in your head ways that you can make it cooler with future expansion. So, where do you draw the line? ThatÂs a challenge, since we always want to make it as cool as possible right now.
ItÂs also very freeing to designers who can consider crazy multi-year expansionary projects that you really wouldnÂt be able to even think about in a standard development cycle. ItÂs exciting to know that the game youÂre working on doesnÂt have any doors closed in terms of what we could do.
We definitely have plans for some really amazing sandbox features on the horizon such as player base building, more seamless connections between continents (and worlds!), all of this will be building on top of a world that weÂve consciously built from the beginning with these concepts in mind. You can see elements of this forethought in the design of facilities which have massive landing gears and retrothrusters as if theyÂve been dropped in from spaceÂ How will that come in to play in the future of PlanetSide 2? Only time will tell.
On a somewhat related note, Smed has mentioned his respect for EVE Online and some of the things CCP has done. Is there any chance we could see ideas from that franchise making their way to PlanetSide 2, such as a player-driven economy, guild/corp-controlled territory, research, etc.?
EVE has really incredible player-driven sandbox gameplay. We definitely feel like that type of gameplay has a place within PlanetSide 2. Especially elements like player ownership and cooperative efforts like facility construction, economies, etc.
I have to ask you to excuse the inner geek in me for a bit. The incredibly modular nature of PlanetSide 2, and the fact that customization is so unique to each individual, has to play hell with your stats. How in the world do you account for all that customization when determining balance? What sorts of unique challenges has customization created?
ItÂs definitely a challenge to get PlanetSide 2 fully balanced, but weÂve got a few things that help to counter that challenge to some degree. First, all of our player choices are, as much as possible, sidegrades to one another. This means that ideally players who are stacking lots of different advantages in one area are going to be limiting themselves in other areas, rather than becoming a perfect super-soldier. Coming up with sidegrades that felt meaningful, that allowed you as a player to experience varied playstyles, but not fundamentally alter the core balance has taken the dev team a long time.
We also have an individual balance mitigation in the basic nature of the game, situations faced in PlanetSide 2 are massive and often chaotic, in a 3-way battle with a scale of say 50 infantry and 20 tanks against 100 entrenched infantry against 80 infantry with air support, itÂs difficult to pick out any ÂoverpoweredÂ individuals. Add in the natural advantages of each empire, and youÂre looking more at the macro balance issue, which is more straight-forward to solve.
As long as youÂre playing your current role optimally (hanging back, engaging at medium to long range as needed and providing support as a medic, or charging in on the front lines and absorbing damage as a MAX) youÂre going to always have advantages you can exploit, regardless of how many sidegrades or accoutrements you have. Really, the sidegrades provide playstyle differentiation, but shouldnÂt fundamentally shift balance.
What were some of the pitfalls you may have avoided by learning from the mistakes of the first PlanetSide?
I think the biggest was accessibility. We wanted to be sure we had a game that you could just jump into, find a huge battle and be awed and excited from the very first moment. PlanetSide 2 is a huge and complex game, but the fundamentals are simple to understand: point and shoot, dominate, conquer. WeÂre making efforts to pace out more complex concepts such as resources, territory control, etc. so that they are there to provide structure to the dedicated players, but arenÂt barriers to jumping into the game and finding a kickass fight.
WhatÂs the focus of beta leading up to PLANETSIDE 2Âs November release? Can we expect anything big to be in the works before launch?
WeÂre making major modifications to both the new player experience as well as elements of the high end metagame. So many changes coming itÂs almost difficult to list, but theyÂll include tutorial elements, base capture updates, continental domination rewards, squad cohesion tools, better commander communication tools, a new continent, and more! Whew, lots of work to do, I better get back to it! Thanks for the questions!
Our thanks to Matt Higby for taking the time from his busy schedule to discuss PlanetSide 2 with us. Keep your eye on Ten Ton Hammer for PlanetSide 2 news as the game nears launch.