Sony Online Entertainment's MMOFPS, PlanetSide 2, had a very strong 2013. With more than 6 million players joining in the Auraxian War, SOE believes that the game will only get bigger in 2014, as the game is set to debut gobs of new content, along with the long-anticipated PlayStation 4 version.
SOE has been keeping fans up-to-date on their game through their own forums, as well as other websites, such as Reddit. However, Shacknews has quite a PlanetSide 2 following of its own. We reached out to the game's creative director, Matt Higby, to ask about the developer's approach to fan feedback, difficulties with the PS4 version, and pitch a number of questions from our own Shacknews Chatty community.
Shacknews: You've accepted feedback from PS2 fans across various corners of the internet. How important is it to establish this kind of rapport with your fanbase? And is there a particular sector of PS2 fans whose input on the game might carry more weight than others?
Matt Higby: For most games, having a great relationship with your players is a really good thing, and for a game like PlanetSide 2, it is absolutely mission critical. Even with all the internal testing and QA in the world, and a publicly accessible test server, we really don't know what effect a new weapon, ability, base layout or mechanic change will make to the overall game balance until it's in the game and thousands of players are using it simultaneously for weeks at a time.
We take feedback from wherever we can get it, including fan sites like PlanetSide Universe, as well as places like Reddit's /r/PlanetSide or 4chan's /vg/ board. Having a community of dedicated players we can count on to give us detailed, objective feedback about any change we make to the game doesn't just help us develop, it is one of the biggest reasons it's even possible for us to do this.
Continuing the theme of fan feedback, you scrapped the idea of purchasable implants back before SOE Live, but also noted that you guys were "going back to the drawing board" and exploring different ideas. Has there any been anymore thought over how to introduce these particular implants or has the idea been completely scrapped?
We've put a lot of thought into ways to make consumable implants be something fun for players to use. We have a new design for Implants that we'll be sharing with our players soon; it's much more tied into moment-to-moment gameplay and should add a lot of fun to the game. Stay tuned for more on that.
How have you handled the implementation of Player Studio? Have there been issues regarding balancing new weapons or items?
For now, Player Studio is a completely cosmetic content system so players are making appearance-only items, and they are making some really, really cool stuff. We have plans to expand what types of cosmetics Player Studio creators can author, but so far, we haven't been thinking of ways for them to make gameplay affecting items for PlanetSide 2.
What are some favorite Player Studio items? Which creations do the dev team and the fans seem to like the most?
Helmets! There have been some really kickass helmets coming from players so far, and of course lots of really cool camos, too. My favorite combo right now is CoffeeOutlaw's NC-Only 'Scout' Helmet and AmbientOSX's 'Pulse' Camo.
What's been the most difficult part of developing PlanetSide 2 for PS4?
Purely from a design perspective, I'm sure the engineers would give a much different answer, designing the UI/UX to be more console friendly and figuring out ways to better contextualize the massive scale combat for players who are used to more arena-style FPS gaming has been the most challenging. This is something we encounter with the PC version of the game, too, so we're used to thinking about it, but bringing this game to the console market puts an extra layer of importance on these goals.
You've stated that the PS4 version would be like "if you turned up your PC version to Ultra." Some of our readers have been skeptical about that. Are you confident that the PS4 version of PlanetSide 2 can go toe-to-toe with the PC version?
We're confident we can get the ForgeLight engine translated to the PS4 hardware with the visuals intact and running at good frame rates - we've made some great progress in optimizing the game in the last few months.
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Much of the Shacknews Chatty community is also actively involved with PlanetSide 2, as evidenced by their weekly Shackbattles. They had some questions for Higby, as well.
atom519 asks: Is the developer roadmap back on track after it was pushed aside for the performance patch?
We've been adding to the Roadmap again now that we're finished with the performance-only patches. There are tasks through June 2014 on there now, with a lot more of a detailed breakdown on the upcoming two months. Please let us know what you think of some of the upcoming features by hopping on the roadmap threads!
atom519 also asks: Many players find the current Squad Leader talents lacking in usefulness compared to the original Command Rank structure of the original PlanetSide. Are there any plans to enhance or redesign these talents?
We're adding new systems that should really help out squad and platoon leaders. Chiefly among them will be the new Mission System, which you can read about in detail on the aforementioned roadmap.
ant_hillbilly asks: There hasn't been a lot of news lately in regards to Hossin. Is there an estimation on when it will be ready?
We're targeting early summer for Hossin, but we know that our players want it to be 'great' more than they want it to be 'now,' so we're taking the time we need to make sure it gets there.
sergeon and atom519 ask: Orbital Strikes were a major part of the original PlanetSide and were once a part of the developer roadmap. Are these no longer in development?
We have a design for orbital strikes in PlanetSide 2, but right now we are working on implementing some other high-priority gameplay and mechanics based on feedback from our community.
DM7, conandan, and Dunwich ask: The Shack group (Giant Communist Robots) has seen enlistment go down, because of a lack of an end game scenario. You've mentioned continent locking, but is there an estimation as to when that will be implemented? Are there plans to implement an end game scenario in the near future?
Permanence and persistence are two things that really define PlanetSide 2. While they help separate us from the pack in the FPS genre, they hinder the ability to make a definitive 'end game' or declare 'winners' & 'losers.' We have some designs involving continent locking and in-game alerts to help make victory less fleeting, more impactful, and more driven by player actions, and we're trying to see if we can fit in for the first 6-months of this year.
Nullzero asks: Will players be able to take the unlocks from the PC version to the PS4 version?
This was something we discussed early on in the project, and ultimately we decided to keep characters & unlocks separate on the PS4 and PC.
Nullzero also asks: Are there plans for more overseas servers, such as in areas like Southeast Asia?
We are working with partners all over the world to bring local servers to every corner of the globe. We have plans to open servers in South Korea with Daum and Brazil with BoaCompra / Gamérica. I know we have some things in the works elsewhere, but I can't spill the beans quite yet.
Nullzero also asks: What unique PS4 features will PlanetSide 2 take advantage of?
We are trying to take as much advantage of the PlayStation 4 hardware as possible. Some of the things we plan to support that I'm most excited about are the motion and voice controls to navigate UI elements.
Nihil ME asks: You've mentioned wanting to change the resource system (for vehicles, etc.). Is there an idea of how this system will look and what's the target release for this?
We have a couple proposals for alternative resource designs and we're still working through the details. It's something we're definitely planning on hitting this year, but I'll wait until we've locked down the design a bit more before discussing it.
boarder2 asks: If someone previously played PlanetSide 2 and dropped off, what about the game in its current state (or in the near future) will convince that player to come back?
We take player feedback to heart and have fixed a lot of issues with the game over the last year-plus. If a player left due to balance concerns, performance or map design, we've done a ton of work to help those areas of the game - they're all improved substantially across the board. We're always looking for ways to improve the game and integrate player feedback.