The one feature Call of Duty has unquestionably glued to the contemporary first-person shooter is the personal player upgrade system - a simulation of actual modern warfare, in which soldiers are granted necessary equipment for survival in piecemeal fashion based on how many murders they’ve committed.
It’s difficult for a game like Planetside 2 to accommodate that kind of expectation - it’s a massively multiplayer game designed to be played for years on end, and players are already beginning to ‘cap out’ on the existing unlock system. SOE have a sort-of plan, though.
Planetside 2 is one-year-old. You can tell, because it’s starting to run a lot faster, and its parents are getting an awful lot more sleep than they did 12 months ago. SOE are commemorating the year past and the six million players who’ve pledged to-the-death allegiance to either Terrans, Vanu or NC with double XP and, um, a $39.99 USD anniversary bundle - home to special camos, weapons, decals and a six-month heroic boost.
Regardless of whether or not you buy into that, however, you can enjoy a look back over the massively-multiplayer man-shooter’s short history.
At the end of September, the Planetside dev team downed tools on new vehicles and whatnot and instead dedicated all of their staff to OMFG: Operation Make Faster Game. Following a four-hour update process in the dead of last night, you can now take advantage of the first framerate fruits of their efforts.
Ever since I was a tiny child, MMO’s have been been the backbone of my gaming habits. With huge open worlds, populated with thousands of players, each day would be laced with adventure. Some were short-lived affairs, while others earned months if not years of my attention. From Runescape, through to World of Warcraft, to more complicated fare like Eve Online - MMOs remain my preferred way to play.
And I think that if you choose the right game, they could be yours, too. Here’s my list of the 10 best MMOs on the market. They’re in no particular order, but whichever place you choose to explore, will be stay with you. Here’s to growing old in strange new worlds.
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“Overall we're running faster across all our hardware test cases, in some cases with up to a 30% increase in framerate, and we're not even done yet," said creative director Matt Higby. “We know everyone here is anxious for news so we wanted to share some tentative dates of when we expect to have some of these efforts released to you guys."
That first major patch should be released on 23 October, “assuming that our testing goes well."
Planetside 2 is about done. Not finished, you understand, but functional in every sense SOE had planned it to be when the game first when live as a Tech Test nearly two years ago. As such, they’ve seized the opportunity to embark on OMFG: Operation Make Faster Game - turning over their entire staff to optimisation duties for the time being.
“Every single member of the team, no joke, is actively looking for and implementing ways to make the game faster so we can deliver a better gameplay experience to you," said tech director Ryan Elam.
Let’s just take a second to imagine what the Replies field on John Smedley’s Twitter account must look like. That man, the CEO of SOE, is the public face of several MMOs. Do you think he has his TweetDeck notification bleeps turned on, on the nights the servers go down? How about the week aimbots took root in Planetside 2?
The news that Black Ops spokesmouth David Vonderhaar had suffered “threats of violence" after a negligible gun tweak sparked rightful uproar - but you can bet other developers suffer as much in relative silence.
SOE’s solution? Ban the most offensive and anti-social buggers from their games.
A former Counter-Strike pro once told me that Battlefield would never make it as an eSport, despite DICE’s interest, because competitive play simply doesn’t scale up. “Who’s going to put 16 players up in a hotel?", he asked. In Planetside’s case, the point is amplified. Who’s going to fit an Empire in a bus? How does one go about printing enough polo shirts to clothe the entire Vanu military? It’s not practical.
That won’t stop SOE from fostering a bit of competitive spirit, mind. There’s the World Domination Series coming up, and before that five weeks of preseason shenanigans, which began yesterday.
Planetside 2’s been plagued with criticisms of its frame rate since launch. It’s to be expected that a game which sees hundreds of units blowing each other to smithereens on the same screen may be a little computer intensive but SOE are now making it their business to optimise the game wherever they can.
It’s all part of Operation: Make Faster Game. OMFG for short.
When the cruel winds of Thursday morning brought news of SOE’s recent round of layoffs, it seemed that the Planetside 2 team had escaped unscathed - at the expense of the DC Universe lot, customer service and general QA.
Not quite. A readably saddened John Smedley took to the Planetside forums to tell players that, yes, some of the men and women who pieced together Auraxis no longer work at the studio. But he denied the shake-up would impact development, asserting that SOE “have a large team still working on it".
To us, SOE are mostly the Planetside 2 and EverQuest people - but in the last three years alone, they’ve also been the Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures people, the Magic: The Gathering Tactics people, the DC Universe Online people, and the Bullet Run people. Not all of those ventures have been the unequivocal successes their flagship universes have, and the company last night announced a major “reduction" of their workforce.
Planetside 2’s Player Studio is set to allow players to create their own cosmetic items for the game: helmets, decals, camo patterns, cockpit decals, hood ornaments are all things that can be created and submitted for approval.
Planetside 2’s creative director Matt Higby couldn’t be more excited for the system. He explains how “50 dudes all getting customised because [they] have a badass artist in [their] outfit [...] enhances the teamplay, enhances the community, enhances the game."
SOE feel that there were just too many players for the space available in Planetside 2. As such they’re working on adding a whole new continent to their MMOFPS. Auraxis’ fourth continent, Hossin, will join Amerish, Esamir, and Indar.
While the continent isn’t due for official release until September, Hossin is being loaded into the Public Test server later this week.
Planetside 2 has been opened up to the community, at least in the terms of the aesthetic. Starting with US based creators, Sony will be allowing submissions to the 'Player Studio' for in-game items that will eventually appear in game for sale, and a portion of each sale will go to the original creator.
SOE continue to roll out their lattice network across Auraxis with their latest update. The lattice aims to direct players into hotspots, focussing the action in Planetside 2. The update also brings redesigned facilities to the Esamir continent, new weapons, and changes to vehicles, spawning, platoons, and audio.
Planetside 2 very nearly slid into dangerous waters with Sony Online Entertainment’s plan to introduce paid-for implants. Thankfully SOE have made the right decision and made a massive u-turn after players denounced the move.
You might have missed it amid the lengthy on-stage explanations of console restrictions due to be retracted a week or two later, but E3 saw the announcement of Planetside 2 for the PS4.
It’ll be out later this year with its free-to-play model and regular update system intact - but despite SOE’s genuinely remarkable achievement in persuading Sony to bypass their laboured patching process, we sadly won’t be sharing armoured vehicles with our plastic-box-infatuated brethren just yet.