Updated Thu, Aug 30, 2012 by ricoxg
A few weeks ago I got the one email I’d been waiting for all summer. That’s right, I got the Golden Ticket to Higby’s Awesome Factory--a PlanetSide 2 beta invite. The past few weeks have been epic, and I can finally tell you folks a little about it. Now, keep in mind that I’m talking about a beta, which means there’s more to be done. Even so, just with what SOE has in place already, it’s clear PS2 is going to be epic.
I thought some of my fellow vets might like to know some of the key differences between the first PlanetSide and PlanetSide 2. Here’s a quick run-through of some of the biggest changes as of beta.
Voice Macros are back, but there’s a new feature that may make them obsolete. In the original PlanetSide, the Q key was autorun. In PlanetSide 2 the Q key is a dynamic system called Spot Player. Spot Player includes a lot of dynamically generated options, depending on the nature of the target. What if you’re a long way from home and see a Galaxy flying over? Just target the Galaxy in your reticle and hold down Q. A radial menu will pop up with options, like “Request Transport,” which will not only cue the appropriate macro, but also notify the pilot of said Galaxy and give him a vector to your location.
I was pretty impressed with the new system, which also includes the ability to add the player as a friend, join a squad, or any of several other options dynamically displayed depending on the nature of your target. Integrating it into the Spot Player radial menu makes a lot of those options easier and quicker to use, and in a game as fast-paced as PlanetSide 2 that’ll be important.
One of the new developments in PlanetSide 2 will be an in-game VoIP system. Just like the text-based chat system of old, the new VoIP will include a number of channels to choose from. There are several in-game now, among them Local Area, Squad, Outfit, and Empire. Having played with the VoIP a little, I’m impressed with the initial implementation. (One telling moment was when a dev interview I attended switched from conference call to in-game Squad VoIP because the quality was so much better.)
With increasingly complex capabilities come a slightly more complex control system, but those who have played military sims before will have little trouble with it. A separate key-bind for each channel is necessary, but they’re all customizable. I am a little worried about comms-clutter, which happens occasionally in actually military communications when multiple echelons are attempting to communicate on the same band. Hopefully there will be some system joining and leaving specific channels, or perhaps for prioritizing who you hear on an individual basis. Squads would always want the Squad Leader to have priority over anyone else, including Commanders in a combat situation.
Gone are the old systems of Ammo and Inventory, which I actually liked a lot about the first game, but the new system has some advantages. While it was really cool to be able to tweak how much of each thing you carried, the new system is a little more in-line with popular FPS games and probably is a little more approachable by newcomers to the franchise. Instead of boxes of ammo, each weapon simply has a magazine and a set number of spare magazines, upgradable by certification.
One of the advantages was really noticeable when I was flying my Reaver and ran out of ammo. Rather than land and take time to open a menu and reload a saved configuration or even drag it in by hand, I just hovered over the platform for a sec and everything reloaded immediately. That gets you back into the fight fast, and cuts down on that dangerous time on the ground.
Another change to ammo and load-outs are certifications and purchasable weapons. We’ll go more into both later, but the important thing in this part of the conversation is that they cost something every time you pick them up or use them. Every grenade has a cost, and every time the engineer drops a mine or block of C4, there’s a cost. You can load up on them at the terminals, and while you can only carry one or two with you at a time, each time you respawn, you’ll get resupplied from your purchased stash if you used it.
There’s no HART in PlanetSide 2, so the combat drop works a little differently. Two ways to use the system are to either drop on a squad beacon, or to use Instant Action. Whenever a sector shows combat in the area, selecting that sector will pop up an option for “Instant Action.” Selecting that option will start a countdown that ends in the player dropping towards the planet in a slightly controllable drop pod.
The other way to use a drop pod is to drop on your squad’s beacon. To have a beacon the Squad Leader must have purchased the certification from the Leadership line of certifications. With that certification, he’ll be allowed to place a beacon which dead squad members will be able to select as a spawn point, launching them down in a drop pod. The beacon isn’t big, but it does glow, which makes it a little harder to conceal. They can also be destroyed, so some caution is called for.