How SOE are going about fixing Planetside 2’s frame-rate

Base assaults. They're going to be faster.

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.

SOE have released the first of several development diaries to track the process. Herein you’ll see their San Diego offices strewn with Star Wars memorabilia, an explosion like that which claimed Earth in Garth Jenning’s 2005 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy adaptation, and some serious day-night continuity issues. Yup – it looks like the optimisation problem is keeping the studio’s staff at work after-hours:

So why now?

“We’ve spent the better part of two years with PlanetSide 2 measuring and reviewing the elements of the game which are slow,” explained Elam. “When we’ve found things we could fix quickly, we did.

“When we found general optimizations that didn’t have much of a risk to them, we worked on them. But mostly, given that we were a live game since the opening of the PS2 Tech Test, we kept our optimizations as ‘safe’ as possible.”

Serious optimisations required rearranging well-tested code and introduced the possibility of breaking the game in quite dramatic fashion. But now the dev team have reached the point where they can afford the “soak time” necessary to fiddle with and sort out Planetside’s frame-rate. The game has a tutorial. The UI is readable and functional. The designers have a “vast array” of options in creating new content. The artists have a solid set of tools for creating art to match. The game has been localised for a global audience.

Elam elaborated: “We have reached an opportune time, and recognizing this, [SOE head John Smedley] stepped up and said, ‘Fix it, now.’ We all have wanted to get the time necessary to do some of these bigger changes, and do them right.

“Smed also recognizes fully that no matter how much work the design department or art department puts into making the game shine, it simply isn’t as fun of an FPS experience at a low frame rate.”

At long last, all of SOE’s Planetside teams have been given the freedom to come up with major fixes that’ll need a long time to boil.

“What you’re going to get at the end of this is a serious, noticeable increase in frame rate, PLUS some ancillary benefits that are capable as a result of some of these architectural advances,” promised Elam.

Just how good is this news, on a scale of 30-60 FPS?