Category Archives: PlanetSide 2

TitanSide PlanetFall

After gorging myself on Titanfall for the past few days, I just wanted to re-affirm my impressions from earlier.

This = Very Fun

This = Very Fun

Essentially, Titanfall is the quintessential wirehead game: an absolute orgy of sensory experiences surrounding a hungry engine of time destruction. Respawns take less than five seconds. Time-to-Kill is better measured in mouse clicks. The game is so frantic and fast-paced that the 90 seconds inbetween matches feels like an eternity. This is the sort of game where nobody would have time to type “GOGOGO” if there were even a chat interface in-game, which there isn’t. There’s one in the lobby, but it’s sole function seems to be pre-game prognosticating (“Lame, they have two G6 players. GG”) and post-game trash talking/ragequits. There is also voice chat, but it too seems superfluous – what sort of coordination is possible or even necessary when your foes could be cloaked and across the map in 15 seconds or less?

I have never owned a Call of Duty or Medal of Honor game, so this could all be old news for some of you. I cut my teeth on Counter-Strike and Halo and Battlefield 2 which, at least back in the day, seemed to take a bit longer.

This = Less Fun

This = Less Fun

What is somewhat sad is my motivation for playing the game. Essentially, I’m playing it as a PlanetSide 2 substitute. They aren’t really comparable games at all, but sometimes you just want to shoot people in the face, sci-fi style. PlanetSide 2 was failing on the “people to shoot” front, and there is every indication that it’s eternal beta is catching up with it. Specifically, either it’s hemorrhaging players or hemorrhaging paying customers (or both). Anything less than a 24v24 hex is a waste of time, and even the few freebie kills from the spawn room of hopeless defenses is losing its luster.

And by the way, can I just reiterate how asinine faction-specific game experiences can be? I chose VS more than a year ago and have almost all of my unlocks and such spent on that character. There is not a single moment in which I have not regret that choice. I have infinite more fun on my TR and NC alts based solely on their faction-specific missile launchers. Infinite! About the only redeeming factor for VS is the Lasher (which is garbage 98% of the time) and the fact that the Scythe fighter jet thing doesn’t have bars across the cockpit windows. That’s it. A single TR or NC dude with a rocket launcher is a threat; a single VS dude with a missile launcher is a threat 10 minutes from now.

I brought up the Titanfall vs PlanetSide 2 comparison for another reason: I’m realizing the inherent imbalance of level-based unlocks. In Ps2, you are given a menu to select upgrades from. In Titanfall, you unlock things at certain levels, or occasionally based on achievements. I recently unlocked Satchel charges, for example, and it is better than grenades by a factor of a little over 9000. Most upgrades are technically sidegrades-with-downsides, but usually you’ll find that you can more than compensate for the trade-off. What you can’t really compensate for is that your guns or whatever can/will be weaker than those who played longer.

In any case, the one thing Titanfall absolutely must fix (and soon) is it’s utterly repulsive and/or non-existent matchmaking system. There is a “beta” version out there for Attrition and Hardpoint modes, but I cannot begin to imagine what that is supposed to mean in any context. Is it really that difficult to not have matches like this:

This = Rage Quit Worthy

This = Rage Quit Worthy

Those special symbols are sorta like the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer tags, e.g. it denotes a player who hit level 50 and reset their progress to level 1. After “Generation 2″ it also requires you to earn 4-5 special achievements in order to unlock the, ahem, next generation. It’s not fucking titan science to, you know, spread those guys around. Hell, I don’t even care if the G5 player is a skill-less noob somehow (pretty difficult to imagine), it’s just goddamn demoralizing heading into a 6v6 match of any kind looking down that sort of barrel. Give us the G5 and G2 and let them keep the G4 and G3. Bam! Balance! What’s worse is that you’re stuck in the same lobby of people from match to match unless you specifically leave, which tends to cement the winning teams harder and harder.

Anyway: Titanfall. Shooty-shooty, explosions, instant-kill jump kicks, wall-running. I spacebar through the 5-second kill cams so I can perma-sprint into the adrenalin high faster.

Factoids from Smed

In the midst of phat beats the Smedster was laying down yesterday, there were a few random facts I didn’t want to let slip through the cracks.

In practice, our primary job is making fun games. That always comes first. PS2 was a $25M investment. (source)

It is pretty rare that we get to see how much a game costs directly from a knowledgeable source.

Player Studio items – let me make this simple. We excluded them because we didn’t like the idea of giving away someone else’s item. The player who made it would get no revenue in that case because it’s a free item. We are considering just eating the cost of this. Either way we are likely going to allow Player Studio items. (source)

In case you were wondering about the “eating the cost” comment for Player Studio items. Here is a bigger drop though:

We’re in the middle of developing Everquest Next Landmark (on schedule right now for end of this month). We rebooted the game 3 times. It was a massive delay and it hurt us financially. But it was the right thing to do for us, and for the industry. Most importantly you all are going to get to play something we’re very proud of and we think is a whole lot of fun. (source)

Emphasis added. So… the weird sort of “marketing” surrounding EQN:L is starting to make sense. Namely, SOE didn’t know what the hell they were doing either. That’s almost comforting. But a little scary too, considering it appears as though SOE is going to be leaning on EQN:L for financial stability.

We’ll have to see how it plays out, but for my part, I am liable to start my SOE subscription back up once I can start playing EQN:L given how I’ll likely be getting PlanetSide 2 bonuses as well.

Good Guy SOE

So, I find myself playing PlanetSide 2 again. Yes, I had stopped for good. Probably more than once. I might be what they call an “unreliable narrator.”

What brought me back into the fold (for the time being) were forum tears. Specifically, I saw a veritable rash of QQ posts on Reddit concerning how overpowered A2A missiles are, how unfair it is that skilled pilots (presumably packing lolpods) are being blown out of the sky by noobs, and so on. So I did what every rational gamer would do in such a situation: log on and run the flavor-of-the-month gravy-train all the way to cheeseville.

Let the hate flow through you.

Let the hate flow through you.

11 kills in 43 minutes may not sound like anything – and it’s not – but they were 100% other players in jets, which I can assure you is a feat I have never remotely came close to before. Indeed, the time was inflated a bit because I had to go in search of more jets, having destroyed the gate-camping ecosystem I was hunting in.

In the meantime, there was another controversy brewing on the Reddit forums in the form of John Smedley changing the way subscriptions work at SOE. Currently, you can subscribe to Ps2 for $15/month, receive some membership perks, and then receive a monthly stipend of 500 Station Cash (SC). As Wilhelm has detailed previously, SOE has had a ton of issues with people hoarding currency from triple SC sales, to the point where they had to stop letting you redeem SC for expansions, subscriptions, etc. For the less economic-minded, the problem with SC hoarding is that SOE can’t actually count the cash you used to purchase SC as revenue until you redeem it; until you do, the SC technically counts as a liability. Indeed, since the introduction of Player Studio items, SOE faces the additional uncertainty of having to potentially pay out an unbounded amount of cash to players once per quarter, depending on how many people redeem their SC for those items. We aren’t talking about virtual money for virtual items anymore, we’re talking cash payments to player artists.

If that still sounds confusing, an example I’ve heard is this: imagine what would happen if 100% of EVE’s playerbase used PLEX for their subscription next month. Sure, CCP technically already has the money, but they are unlikely to have enough cash on hand to cover a full month’s worth of payroll, server costs, etc, with nothing coming in that month. Companies do end up estimating “breakage” (e.g. gift cards that are never redeemed and the like) but they can’t claim all of it without running afoul accounting principals.

The first solution Smed presented was interesting. Instead of a 500 SC stipend that simply accumulates, they would allow you to purchase one item a month that costs up to 2000 SC. A voucher, if you will. The primary issue under that scheme is that there is next to nothing in the Ps2 store that costs 2000 SC aside from the ocassional bundle, which you cannot even buy with it. Most player-created items – which, incidentally, are so much cooler than SOE-designed items that its sickening at this point – cost 1000 SC apiece, so ostensibly you would be coming out ahead under this rubric… but Player Studio items were also excluded. Even if Player Studio items were allowed, the creators would see zero reimbursement since the 2000 SC voucher was “free” – Smed stated in the thread that SOE was seriously considering eating the cost and paying the item creators anyway.

If you weren’t interested in fancy hats and cosmetic items though, you were going to be boned as a Ps2 player under this system. One of the perks of subscribing to Ps2 was getting access to a 2nd Deal of the Day, and said deals frequently put items at price points below 500 SC. Indeed, there were two items last week that were selling for 99 SC. If I wanted both, I could either spend an extra dollar and use the 2000 SC purchase on the other, or I could get both with the 500 SC stipend and have some virtual change left over for next month. And on the other end of the spectrum, if you have been playing for a while, there isn’t liable to be anything you want to buy in the store in a given month – especially since the devs decided to take their content-free optimization break. Each month you didn’t purchase anything as a Ps2 player was 500 SC you weren’t ever getting back.

After going back and forth across a 200+ response Reddit thread, Smed dropped some interesting information. The plan going forward for SOE is for the All Access Pass to be lowered to $14.99/month and to automatically apply to all SOE games (on the PC, for now). In other words, one subscription to rule them all. It sounds a bit weird at first, given how many of the games SOE offers are F2P to begin with. But that sort of makes it subtly brilliant: the fact you are receiving “premium” bonuses for games like DCUO might make you more inclined to download the client and take advantage of them. But what if I don’t care about DCUO or EQ1/2 in the least? Hmm. Maybe you have heard of EverQuest Next: Landmark & EQN proper?

The plot… it thickens.

As for the stipend, Smed will be bringing up a compromise to the suits: subscribers will get the 500 SC like usual, but you have to log on each month to claim it. While it seems silly that that solves anything, I wouldn’t be surprised that there are a non-zero amount of people that have auto-renew subscriptions and do nothing with them. After all, that’s kind of the point of auto-renew subscriptions as a business model. For every heavy Netflix user, there is someone like me who has booted it up for about two months out of the entire last year.

In any case, mad props to John Smedley for coming to Reddit of all places and laying down the behind-the-scenes facts. There are some people who are not happy with the way things shook out (the 2000 SC voucher sounded better to them), but no one can deny the fact that SOE climbed down the mountain and took the feedback of its players seriously. If you were going through Ghostcrawler withdraw like I am, look no further than… the PlanetSide 2 Reddit forums, apparently.

PlanetSide 2 – 12 Months Later

The “OMFG” patch (seriously… Operation: Make Faster Game) was released for PlanetSide 2 last week, and in the interests of giving the F2P game I have sunk $100+ into one final chance at redemption, I decided to give it a go. My initial re-impressions were… lackluster.

Glad this bug hasn't been fixed in 6 months.

Glad this bug hasn’t been fixed in 6 months.

While I have not bothered to post my opinions here, I did not have a particularly charitable view of this design pivot. Basically, the dev team stopped all development other than that which increased frame rates. Whether or not it was necessary (it arguably is), the game mechanically needed the biweekly updates I raved about 6 months ago to maintain any interest from me. I can sympathize with someone who wants to play and cannot due to not having a high-end system. However, as someone who was already playing and stopped because, in part, hitting Instant Action loads me into a drop-pod and rockets me into a base that has seen any action since Higby’s mom left last night is incredibly frustrating. Not that it helps much when some action is found when the opposition evaporates like so much morning dew and the devs seriously expect you to babysit an empty base for 6+ minutes.

Way back when this Ps2 adventure began, I compared it favorably to Battlefield 2 & 3. “It plays just like them except you can get a vehicle anytime you want, and look at all those Galaxies flying by!” Now? I’m longingly gazing at the $48 Battlefield 4 deals I passed up because I would like to be able to actually shoot people in the face when I boot up a FPS. Whatever appeal six minutes of standing around once had is gone; what good is an expansive, open-world battlefield filled with ghosts and dust?

Give me more of this.

Give me more of this.

Last night as I scanned Indar looking for the hexes with the magical “Enemies: 48+” tag, I realized that all I was really doing was queuing for FPS server. I care nothing for the resources, the bases, or any of the other metagame nonsense. And in that context, the only real benefit of Ps2 is the ability to pull the equivalent of a fighter jet or tank when you want one. The costs though… the costs are steep. Not just in terms of the F2P payslope, but also in the drudgery of finding people to shoot.

So… good job, SOE. I’m not quite sure whether my (very slight) increase in frames is due to the two months of optimization, or simply because so many people left due to two months of no content updates that there is less character models to render.

Whale Crash

A while ago I was hanging out on a rocky ledge in PlanetSide 2, watching my team farm the NC warp-gate. Then I thought: “Hey, I can kinda recreate that last scene from Saving Private Ryan!”

Little did I know that…

The 4th Faction

One of the perennial hot topics on the PlanetSide 2 Reddit forums are concerns over the “4th Faction” and how to handle the issues that arise from it. So, let’s go ahead and talk about this issue.

Broadly defined, players of the 4th Faction in PlanetSide 2 are the people who have no particular loyalty to any one of the game’s three factions, and instead choose whichever side has the highest chance of winning. Some definitions of the 4th Faction term specifically reference the players who switch to an alt character in the final moments of an Alert, in order to get a higher Cert award. Other definitions include “spy” characters who will switch factions mid-battle to sabotage the efforts of their opponents via friendly fire. Still other definitions are so broad to encompass anyone who has an alt of another faction, even if that alt is on another server entirely.

So, already you can see that there is a serious problem with defining what a 4th Factioneer consists of, let alone how to tackle the issue (assuming one exists). And yet, by far, the most popular response is somewhat rudimentary: nuke it from orbit logging onto one Faction automatically locks your other Faction characters for 12 (or more) hours.

Apparently this was how the situation was handled in the original PlanetSide, and some feel it would work in this game too. Others are a bit more charitable and suggest the faction-lock should only trigger if you leave the warp gate. After all, SOE gives free daily Certs to each character you log onto, so a log-on trigger would prevent you from claiming these Certs. Others think a 3 minute timer would be sufficient. Still others believe you shouldn’t be able to roll different-faction alts altogether, or at least on the same server. Nevermind if SOE merged your server, or you are Australian and only have a single server on the correct side of the Pacific Ocean.

If I have not been overt enough with my tone, allow me to be explicit: the 4th Faction is a problem that cannot be solved. It can be mitigated somewhat with better incentives, but all of the proposals I have seen (including faction-locking) thus far have been terrible design.

Let us all face reality here: nobody likes to lose. But the more salient point is that you cannot force someone to stick around to lose. At any moment a player can simply log off, hit Alt-F4, or unplug his/her computer from the wall. While games like EVE/Darfall can have your character remain attackable for X amount of time even after a ragequit, the point is that that player has already given up. Although I have not played League of Legends, I have heard about their anti-quitting penalties. Which, again, doesn’t really solve the problem of “motivating” a player to not have (mentally) conceded an obvious loss.

Basically all games.

#FundamentalTruth

Many of the 4th Faction sob stories revolve around the curious population effect once an Alert starts winding down. Teams will be an even 33%/33%/33% for the first 1.5 hours, but in the final act the numbers start reading 50%/30%/20% or similar. “Those traitors are switching!” the forum warriors cry. Except… that’s not how it works. Each faction has a population cap per continent. You cannot go from, say, a 333 person split to 500/300/200, because 333 is the limit for your faction. While it is certainly possible for someone to switch to their winning-faction alt in the final moments, it’s only possible because there were empty seats.

And even if it were impossible to switch (via faction-locking), what difference does it make? The entire premise of the argument is that the person in question is on the losing side. The point at which they decided to switch characters is the point at which they gave up. They still would have given up if they could not switch. Switching characters at that point is indistinguishable from them simply logging off altogether or simply being AFK at the Warp Gate.

The fantasy that being “forced” to stay on your character will create the opportunity for a come-from-behind victory is exactly that: a fantasy. It might happen when the stars align and the angels sing, but it will never be due to random players banding together, but rather the concerted effort of Outfits – players who would not be switching to their alts anyway.

What are some solutions? Like I said before, we cannot “solve” the issue, but we can mitigate it. Here is an easy one: stop making Alerts grant 30, 40, 50 Certs for simply being online at the 00:01 second mark. Sometimes I will be online at 11pm and a 2-hour Alert will pop up, which means I can only really play part of it. While the Alert will grant a blanket 20% XP increase for everyone for the duration, why is it that I can play 99% of it and then lose the bonus Certs by having to go to sleep? The current design is dumb at both ends of the spectrum, and actually encourages people to switch characters (since they get the full reward whether they played 2 hours or 2 seconds).

Perhaps it would be too resource-intensive to track individual participation in an Alert. In which case, here is another solution: a steady trickle of rewards. Instead of 20% bonus XP throughout and 10,000 XP at the very end, how about 20% bonus XP and +50 XP every 5 minutes you are logged on? Or, hell, to reward the more “loyal” players, make the reward ramp up the longer you stay logged onto that character during the Alert. Something like +25 XP every 5 minutes, which doubles every half hour – if you stay for the entire Alert, towards the end you would be getting +200 XP every 5 minutes plus whatever you earn on the field. Change the final reward to something like 50% more XP/Resource generation for the next X hours, to incentivize winning (if necessary).

Will this solve server/faction imbalances? Sadly, no. If you are not VS on Matterson, you are probably getting farmed; other servers have similar scenarios with different faction names. You cannot force someone to pick the losing team. Not only that, but anyone who complains about the imbalance already implicitly gives voice to desire that sustains it. “It sucks being TR on Matterson.” Yes, I’m sure it does. Just like it sucks being outnumbered anywhere else. Stick with the miserable situation long enough, and it would be perfectly rational to quit or transfer… which is exactly what 4th Factioneers (proactively) do.

Am I 4th Factioning? By some definitions, yes. I created a character of each faction, on three different servers that I researched ahead of time to be the home of large Outfits. After server merges, my NC alt was moved to Matterson (home of my VS main). I basically stick with VS until I get the desire to use the Phoenix (camera-guided rocket launcher) or the desire to ruin people’s days with the Striker (OP and annoying lock-on rocket launcher). Indeed, for the longest time I started to think I would just give up on VS altogether, considering that the Lasher/Lancer was not nearly fun enough to justify the faction. Then, well, the ZOE happened. ¹

But here’s the thing. I find it completely ridiculous to buy into the whole “faction pride” angle when you are presented with fairly unique, faction-specific experiences. You are, in a sense, voluntarily avoiding the other two-thirds of the game. Granted, the empire-specifics weapons other than the rocket launchers are really just minor variations, so maybe not an entire two-thirds. My point still stands: the loyalty is largely arbitrary self-flagellation.

While even-fights and faction parity is a perfectly understandable, legitimate desire, so is the desire to not experience demoralizing losses or be stuck on dead-end servers/factions. And even in a perfectly balanced scenario, you are still going to lose two out of three games. Ergo, the best thing we can do is give consolation prizes to the losing side and hope there are a perfectly symmetrical amount of stubborn underdog-fans for, well, ever.

¹ And it’s getting nerfed, of course.

PlanetSide 2 – Six Months Later

So, it has been almost 6 months since I started playing PlanetSide 2. Am I still having fun?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: …yes.

Everything a sniper likes to see.

Everything a sniper likes to see.

Aside from a brief 1-2 week experiment with Outfits (aka guilds), I continue to have fun despite playing solo. While many of the problems I outlined in my prior article are true regarding organized PvP, they are perhaps a tiny bit less true now. Anti-Aircraft units have not been nerfed, but I am a bit more cognizant of of where they might be and thus avoid them. Or perhaps, given the server mergers, there may simply less people playing.

The biggest “problem” I consistently have with PlanetSide 2 are its break points.

Have you ever sat down at an MMO (or any game) and find yourself easily able to play for 2, 3, 4 hours at a time? That sort of thing doesn’t happen by accident; it’s part of a game’s intentional design. In PlanetSide, I occasionally sit down prepared for a long night of gaming… and then log off after 30 minutes. Finding a compelling fight isn’t necessarily the problem: the problem is finding the next one.

Momentum can stall. Spawning at a Sunderer and throwing yourself into the meat-grinder attack of a base feels awesome. And then you win. Err… what now? Sometimes the attacking force splits up. Sometimes you stay together as a cohesive unit, only to find that the next base you find is empty. It can take 8+ minutes to cap even an empty base. That is eight literal you-only-have-41 million minutes of your life, staring at the wall.

Thankfully, this shit should be changing soon.

Thankfully, this shit should be changing soon.

Part of why I stick with this game though is because of how much communication and iteration there is between the devs and the community. There are major game updates roughly every two weeks. The community asked for test servers so broken mechanics and (new) bugs stop appearing, and now we have a Public Test Server. The devs are pretty active on the Reddit forums, soliciting suggestions and advice.

I don’t think the designers have all the right answers – the devs clearly have some issues coming up with interesting Vanu mechanics, not unlike the issues Blizzard has with the paladin kit – but they are visibly trying. I am excited in particular regarding the upcoming lattice system. Assuming everything works, this could go a long way in fixing the problems with the gaps in engagement I experience after capping a base. And changes to the capping of a base – where destroying the Spawn Control Unit allows an attacking team to actually move on – will lessen the dead time after overwhelming a position.

So… good news all around.

Still such a thrill rushing an enemy base as a spontaneous group.

Still such a thrill rushing an enemy base as a spontaneous group.

If you are curious about the personal effects of Cert-Gate a month later, let me assure you that I don’t feel like it has changed all that much about the way I play. Yes, I have most every upgrade. Yes, I care a bit less about capping empty bases, given that I don’t feel like the 2-5 bonus Certs are worth 2-5 minutes of my time. On the other hand, I naturally have a hard time committing all of some limited resource to something. For example, I have ~2800 Certs left out of my stockpile. There are two guns I could buy with those Certs… but I won’t. Because I know that there will be new shiny things coming out in a few weeks, and I like the option to purchase those instead. But I might not buy those, and instead hold out for the new gun releases after the next batch. And so it is almost as if my 2800 Certs don’t even exist. It’s a bit irrational, but that’s how I roll.

So, yeah, I’m still having fun. PlanetSide 2 isn’t my main game (largely because it can’t be, given the breaks), but it is still a game I constantly think about and can’t wait to play for a bit when I get home. And the best thing? I don’t have to make apologies to anyone for those days when I just don’t log in.

Who is enjoying the MMO single life? This guy.

Cert-Gate

SOE dropped the bomb on Planetside 2 a few hours ago. In the latest 38mb patch, these seemingly innocuous patch notes appeared:

  • A certification grant has been done for players who purchased duplicate weapons on multiple characters.
  • Please note that if this causes a player’s certifications to go over 10,000 they will not accumulate any more certification points until some have been spent to bring it below the cap.

When Ps2 first launched, all the weapon unlocks were on a per-character basis. Fairly recently, SOE decided that one of the perks of purchasing faction-agnostic weapons with Station Cash was that it would unlock the weapon on all of your characters. Usually, the choice is 700 SC (~$7) or 1000 Certs for a weapon, with 1000 Certs representing a pretty significant investment both in time (I accumulated around 9,000 Certs after 150+ hours) and opportunity cost (spending Certs on class upgrades, like more fuel for your jetpack). Still, using Certs to unlock weapons means you can play for free; so being able to unlock one weapon and use it on every faction makes the Station Cash option that much more competitive. “But wait,” players reasonably asked, “what about all that Station Cash I spent on weapons I now have a useless duplicate of?”

Well, today we have SOE’s response: Certification reimbursement. But something has gone horribly, horribly wrong:

Spot the differences.

Spot the differences.

Yes, you are seeing that correctly. SOE has reimbursed me twenty-six thousand (26,000) Certs.

Holy mother of god.

Holy mother of god.

The official version of things is exactly what I wrote above: SOE decided to reimburse the people who bought two of the same gun on two same-faction characters at a 1 SC for 2 Cert ratio. Did I spend $130 on, frankly, poorly-planned purchases on redundant toons? Of course not. As it turns out, the database query also captured all transactions in which you bought an item that was later a part of a bundle that you purchased anyway. For example, I bought the rocket pods for the jet only to find out they were included in the “Vehicle Starter Bundle” along with a lot of other juicy weapons; while I did not get a discount for already owning the rocket pods, the rest of the bundle was still a good enough deal to purchase.

The result is 26,000 Certs. On each of my three toons. And SOE has said they aren’t going to roll them back.

This is a literal case of the common WoW “log on, collect epix” hyperbole. The only thing I cannot buy with these Certs are helmets, camo, and other such visual extras. Oh, and XP boosts, but I don’t think I will ever be interested in such things again.

So I bought things. Lots of things. And upgraded everything else. A new pump shotgun came out today, this time with 11 pellets to the standard 10 at the expense of a slower rate of fire. Just last week I bought each faction’s pump shotgun for SC as they were 50% off. But who cares? I need to chew through these Certs because there is actually a 10,000 Cert cap beyond which you can’t earn any more.

Pretty much everything useful.

Pretty much everything useful.

I stopped spending Certs after going down to around 4,700 as I found myself starting to purchase ridiculous shit. Did you know the Medic can carry around two sticks of C4? I would never have unlocked such nonsense for 700 total Certs, but now I have it. Forever. I can also give out Empire-wide orders and listen in on Commander chat now. Just ’cause. I was actually starting to worry about squandering my giant pile of unearned Certs – it is small enough to only purchase four new weapons – but it occurred to me that I still have a bit over 50% of the total amount of Certs I have ever had.

Let that last sentence wash over you for a second.

The big question mark, at least on a personal level, is where things go from here. After the 1.5 hour spending spree, I still participated in one of the newfangled Alerts. Let me tell you, it was great fun zipping around in a kitted-out Scythe with a 5-minute timer instead of a 9-minute one. Prior to today, I had been conflicted as to whether my next big purchase was going to unlock a second stick of C4 for the Light Assault (finally allowing me to potentially take out a Sunderer solo) or if I was going to unlock Rank 3 of my Scythe’s hover frame. I had previously waffled so much over the decision that I ended up hitting 1200 Certs a few days ago and purchased a submachine gun for my Infiltrator instead, practically unlocking a brand new play-style for the class.

But… now? Will I feel the same way about Planetside 2 without the progression angle? After all, I lost complete interest in WoW PvP once I had full Honor gear last time around. For now, I think SOE is safe; the core mechanics of shooting people in a wide-open world is great fun.

It is an open question though, how SOE will weather the building rage on the forums and Reddit. Not everyone got 26,000 Certs, and I can imagine what all those Battle Rank 90s are feeling to have my BR 38 ass flying/driving/shooting circles around their more generalist loadouts.

Hyperinflation has come to Auraxis in a major way, and the future is looking quite a bit grimmer than it was just yesterday.

Lanced Boil

Faction-specific rocket launchers in PlanetSide 2 were released last Friday. As is often the case, what is complained about most on paper is the opposite of what occurred.

The launchers are the Striker, the Phoenix, and the Lancer. The Striker is sort of like a heat-seeking rocket-launching minigun. Well… sorta. Essentially, you lock onto a ground or air target, and then launch up to your full clip of five heat-seeking rockets. There was already a rocket-launcher that did exactly this minus the five rockets (the Annihilator), but this one does happen to deal more damage overall. The downside, as it is with the Annihilator, is that there is no dumb-fire mode, i.e. you can’t just shoot the rockets without locking on. Technically one flare from a jet or IR smoke from a tank will ruin all 5 of the shots, but considering most (good) pilots wait until they hear the rocket tone before dropping a flare, it might technically save you some ammo if you wait a second before releasing rockets 2-5.

The Phoenix is a camera-guided rocket launcher that was proclaimed the weakest on paper and yet is, unsurprisingly, is the most powerful. While the turning radius on the rocket is not especially good for the first 50m+ (to prevent steering rockets indoors), you can absolutely fire from behind a rock, fly through some trees, and then hit the back of a tank that was itself hiding behind another rock. Or, as this video amply demonstrates, simply steer it into any infantry, killing them instantly. Or fire it just to scout out the terrain. It even technically has a dumb-fire mode insofar as you can just fire it at close-range without needing to lock onto anything, or simply exit the missile “vehicle” and let it sail into a lined-up shot.

The last, most fearsome-on-paper launcher was the Lancer. In essence, the Lancer is a plasma railgun. Line up a target, hold down the fire button until it charges up to three levels, and fire… for slightly less damage than the default rocket launcher. And then leave a very pretty, very obvious 4-second contrail leading exactly to your precise location. The Lancer is so powerful, in fact, that it is… receiving buffs!

The Lancer is Super Effective... at putting on light shows.

The Lancer is Super Effective… at putting on light shows.

On the SOE forums and Reddit, the thought was that a group of 6+ Heavy Assault classes equipped with Lancers would be able to one-shot any vehicle within a 500m range “without warning.” What never really made any sense about this argument was A) how it was unfair to die in a 1v6 scenario, B) how much warning a vehicle driver really has against a salvo of 6 normal rockets, C) how this is any different than 6 Engineers dropping 12 anti-tank mines all over the place, and D) what are the other 5 tanks doing? All of these questions were in addition to awfulness of the Lancer as released. Far from hit-scan accuracy, the Lancer was released with a random cone of fire with three projectiles, with any missing the target resulting in less damage (e.g. it wasn’t a graphical glitch).

It bears mentioning, in passing, that the Lancer does significantly reduced damage to player targets. There is also a dumb-fire mode of sorts, in firing off only a level-1 charge. If fired from the hip, this shot is about as inaccurate as a hip-fired sniper-rifle.

While it will be interesting to see if the Lancer is buffed into usefulness, at the moment (and likely even post-buff) the Lancer is not terribly useful for the solo player. Outside of alpha-strike coordination – something extremely difficult to pull off give that a max-charge shot is fired automatically/cannot be held – the average tank gets an extremely obvious warning in the form of ~20% damage and a convenient highlighted path by which to judge whether a nearby rock would provide sufficient cover. And this is besides the fact that the most common vehicle strategy, behind a rock peekaboo, defeats the “OP” Lancer just as hard (if not harder) than anything else.

Anything other than a camera-directed Phoenix, of course.

Sometimes the grass is actually greener on the other side. But I am far too deep in VS microtransactions to make a switch now. Sigh. The worst MAX, the worst launcher, the worst main tank, and the worst balancing mechanic (sacrificing bullet damage for bullet drop is irrelevant when combat occurs before bullets actually drop). The only actual advantage to VS are the Scythes, which would be a painful loss since NC has the worst possible jet.

I really do despise games with “unique” factions – more often than not, you just get punished for commitment.

Organized PvP

Everyone has heard the phrase “Less is More.” The converse is occasionally true as well.

A few weeks ago, several PlanetSide 2 servers were merged, and mine was amongst them. When it comes to player-generated content, you always need players to be in physical proximity for any of the magic to really occur. So, I should be all for this development, right?

Well…

In games like PlanetSide 2, organized PvP is too often boring PvP. When you look at this picture, what do you see?

Whatever is over there is screwed.

Whatever is over there is screwed.

If you said “a bunch of planes,” you would technically be correct. Each plane is a Galaxy, which is a 16-man troop transport. Dozens and dozens of fiercely-organized players could be spilling out of the sky, with no warning, deftly seizing territory almost behind enemy lines. Cool, right?

Not really. More likely, those dozens of troops will be landing on an empty base, sitting around shooting 1 bullet and reloading to give some free XP to the Engineers resupplying them ammo, until the base is capped and they move on to the next. Capturing anything less than a Bio Lab results in about the same XP as killing 3-5 people. And even if this Outfit lucks out and finds willing defenders, said defenders are likely to give up and respawn elsewhere than throw themselves beneath the tread of an organized zerg. Because… why would they?

When I log into PlanetSide 2, I do so out of a desire to shoot people. Fighting against an organized Outfit does not result in interesting gameplay for me, as I am necessarily foiled at every turn. Unorganized zerg clashes, on the other hand, are fun times – people flock from all around to any given Bio Lab fight – precisely because individual agency exists. It is your individual, focused skill against the seething mass of the average and distracted. Yes, the odds are low that you accomplish anything of consequence given any one of the dozens of enemies can undo your damage. But sometimes they don’t, because, you know, unorganized. And then you feel like the one-eyed man in the land of the blind.

Which brings me back to the Ps2 server merges. Simply put, since the change I have seen a large increase in organized Outfit activity. Which makes sense, of course, given that there are more people in a smaller space. The result is less interesting gameplay to me, however, as I either face an organized resistance or none at all – the unorganized defenders having been squashed or conscripted hours before. There simply isn’t room for a lone ESF pilot flying around, harassing the odd Sunderer. The landscape beneath my wings is either barren or blanketed with vicious Anti-Aircraft units, both scenarios a reaction to a prior sky full of organized terror.

One might imagine that the underlying design goal was for the two organized groups to meet upon the battlefield, fighting tooth and nail, performing novel tactics that can only emerge from such clashing of focused wills. One might also question what the designers were smoking to believe that such things ever occur naturally and spontaneously. Why struggle and possibly fail (!) when you can instead shepherd your Outfit into empty territory after territory, maximizing XP gains for all? Three kills give more XP than a base capture, but its doubtful everyone will have the opportunity to get three kills, assuming you even find that many defenders still sticking around when the dust of 17 tanks looms tall on the horizon.

No, PlanetSide 2′s organized warfare is the WoW random BG premade, seeking easy kills for the easy Honor. To get these Outfits to clash, SOE is going to have to fashion a similar solution: incentivize Outfit vs Outfit gameplay, ala Rated BGs or Arenas. Changing the hex system to a more linear one is no solution to anything. Scratch that, it’s a great boon to finding a fun, unorganized brawl. It is not, however, going to change how Outfits follow the natural inclination of organized warfare in the preference of soft targets to hard.

If anything, the meeting of strength to strength is the most unnatural result of all.