Category Archives: PlanetSide 2
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.
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.
So, it has been almost 6 months since I started playing PlanetSide 2. Am I still having fun?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: …yes.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Yes, you are seeing that correctly. SOE has reimbursed me twenty-six thousand (26,000) Certs.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
In games like PlanetSide 2, organized PvP is too often boring PvP. When you look at this picture, what do you see?
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.
A few weeks ago, SOE released a new weapon: the pump-action shotgun. New weapons in a F2P game is somewhat expected, with two different SMGs having been released the month before. I am starting to get the impression that a metaphorical corner has been turned with these shotguns though.
The problem? The shotguns offer a one-hit kill (OHK) at ~7 meters and less. A one-bodyhit kill.
It is nothing new that some guns are better at others at various ranges. Bullet damage decreases the farther it travels, and there are wild swings both in terms of Rate of Fire and Bullet Velocity amongst each factions’ arsenals. The difference this time, IMO, is reaction speed. If I see an enemy at the same moment he sees me, the fight comes down to a number of factors. Sometimes pulling the trigger first is the difference, especially when “bullet flinch” (which has thankfully been decreased) can cause your counter-attack to miss its mark. Of course, even if the enemy has a gun advantage over yours, you can still win with either better aim (headshots), luck (headshots), or environmental awareness (ducking behind cover, etc).
With the new pump-action shotguns, this has all changed. The outcome of any encounter is boiled down to a single variable: did the guy with a shotgun miss? If he didn’t, you’re dead. If he did… you’re probably still dead a few moments later. Your gun having a 1.27 second Time-To-Kill is meaningless when the shotgun’s is 0.00 seconds.
If you believe that the short OHK maximum range is a good enough downside, well, I would ask whether you play PlanetSide 2 at all. You see, for however large the “maps” are – and they are extremely huge – all of the infantry action typically takes place within 7 meters anyway. There are medium engagements, sure, but they are either always brief or consist of steady exchanges of fire from cover. The latter is necessary because tanks and jets will murder you in moments if you are spotted on open ground. Ergo, between the need for cover and that all capturable objectives are located in small sheds, a short-ranged weapon is no downside at all; especially not one with such a high payout.
In PlanetSide 2, you are either sniping or in bayonet range.
Honestly, something like this is probably less nefarious than it is inevitable. There are only so many “sidegrades” a design can accommodate before the number of permutations reveal downsides that aren’t downsides at all. Care has to be given to how the game itself plays out most commonly. A 30-second cooldown that increases damage by 10% is not the same as 100% damage cooldown every 5 minutes, no matter what it says on paper. Similarly, a gun with a low rate of fire and a high reload timer is irrelevant in a firefight that ends as soon as it begins.
There undoubtedly would be havoc unleashed should SOE come out and nerf the $7 shotgun, so I am not entirely sure what the solution to this newfound problem can be. Indeed, I have already resolved to purchasing the shotgun myself; not to fight fire with fire, but to eliminate the fire-starter before he can even react to the heat of my flames. The only reason I have hesitated is because, much like the SMG before it, another pump-shotgun variant is slated to be released soon. And it is entirely possible it will be more powerful than the original, which is how it worked out for the Vanu SMG.
Perhaps this new one will hit so hard it kills you again on the respawn. Or shoots explosive shells that damage tanks. Or both. The sky (up to 7 meters) is the limit.
I finally buckled-down and purchased a 3-month subscription to PlanetSide 2 last night. I say “finally” because I had been waffling back and forth for quite some time on the decision, all of which has resulted in me losing out on +35% XP gains (which translates into faster Cert gains, which translates into character/weapon upgrades) for the duration of the indecision. I have been playing this game 1-2 hours a day for the past several months, so it is not a trivial amount of potential lost progress.
But still, even with credit card in hand, I felt like I was getting suckered. Since Steam, I never pay full price for anything. And this is a F2P game, right? I know things are designed to part me from my cash. I could technically get everything (non-cosmetic) from gameplay, so why purchase anything? Or, you know, bide my time until the next double/triple Station Cash sale at least.
But… you guys have no idea how much fun I’ve been having with, say, that underbarrel grenade launcher. Or rocket pods on the jets. At what point does it become silly to intentionally have less fun for a long duration for a reward at the end, versus spending that same amount of time having fun with the reward?
Actually, the former sounds like… erhm… daily quests.
By the way, this means, to date, I have spent ~$85 (x3 SC cards, 3 month sub) on a F2P game. Mission fucking Accomplished, SOE.
PlanetSide 2 continues to be a part of my daily gaming routine. It’s a tough game to nail down though, balanced as precariously as it is between FPS and “MMO.” Battlefield 3 is probably the better shooter, and certainly can be paced better, but there are moments in the epic firefights of Ps2 that simply cannot be replicated in any other FPS that I have played.
Flying around in one of the “jets” is how I usually start any play session. Sometimes – more often than I like to admit – I die within a minute of taking off. Since my timer on the jet is 8 minutes long (I spent some Certs to bring it down from 15), I usually try and spawn at some sort of hotspot, hopefully in an already-filled platoon. Sometimes that is enough for the rest of the night. Other times we either win or are pushed back, and it becomes difficult to tell where to go afterwards. If I am more than 5 minutes away from any sort of action, I usually just log off.
I inadvertantly joined an Outfit (aka guild) a few weeks ago during the Double XP weekend. During that time, the coordination resulted in Certs raining from the sky and was pretty awesome. Other times… well. To be quite honest, actual coordinated “fights” in Ps2 are pretty boring. It is like running around in premades in WoW BGs: a lot of time spent rolling over a handful of randoms, while actively avoiding other premades. Capping empty, undefended bases is about the most boring thing you can imagine. At the end of the night, you have “claimed” territory that is fairly irrelevant to your gameplay the next day, barely getting the equivalent of 2-3 kills worth of XP per base. I caught myself thinking “I should have been doing daily quests in WoW instead” the other night.
That’s the macro view. On the micro view, I’m having tons of fun in the actual shooting.
For the longest time, I was stuck in a limbo zone of wanting to buy a new gun, but wanting it to go on sale first. About a week ago I finally buckled down and bought my Engineer (some guns can only be used by certain classes) the Solstice SF, which is basically a slightly-worse default gun… with the possibility of an under-barrel grenade launcher. It cost 700 Station Cash, i.e. $7, or technically $2.33 since all my Station Cash came from a Triple SC day.
I have an extremely hard time justifying purchasing anything in F2P games as I end up second-guessing everything. “Do I really need this gun?” “Remember that one time you threw down money on a F2P/DLC purchase and then quit the game two days later?” “Will I even be playing this game 2-3 weeks from now?” It is kind of a vicious cycle, or perhaps more of a self-filling prophecy – the longer I deny myself fun, the more likely it is that I quit playing. It is not as though I even need to be so miserly with my IRL money, I just derive zero pleasure from spending money on non-deals. It’s why I can have hundreds of dollars in Steam purchases for games I have never played, but waffle for weeks on a cash shop purchase for a game I’ve got 51 hours into and counting. My hesitation is actually even dumber than that, considering the SC was already bought and paid for months ago; why I cannot see the $30 as being a box purchase of Ps2 instead of dollars I can hoard instead is beyond me.
But, yeah. Otherwise, I am having inordinate amounts of fun in the jets, and now sitting on my own engineer’s ammo boxes shooting endless grenades at my foes. Now all SOE has to do is stop releasing patches that drop framerates.
So you went and downloaded PlanetSide 2. Now what?
The following set of tips and tweaks that will hopefully make your beginning experience that much smoother in PlanetSide 2 (hereafter Ps2).
Why Bother in the First Place?
To be completely honest, the new player experience in Ps2 is awful. Right after character creation, you will be drop-podded down into the thickest fighting on the map as a Light Assault class, and probably killed in seconds before you even had the chance to look at the keybindings. You will empty a clip into the first enemy you see, and they will turn around and kill you with two bullets. Your HUD will be filled with icons that may as well be Egyptian hieroglyphics, there will be cooldowns and resources and cash shop items and oh my god get me out of here. The entire purpose of this quickstart guide is to soften the blow, but you are still going to be punched in the face. So why bother, especially with this F2P game?
Because this happens:
And this happens:
Oh, and this was yesterday:
I am not a part of a Guild/Outfit, I did not schedule my play session, I know none of the people I was playing with, and I likely won’t even see them again. Many people will say that the “correct” way to play Ps2 will be a part of an organized group of friends. That might be more fun, but it can be plenty fun logging in solo. Will you experience the sort of uniform fun that comes from playing a few maps of Battlefield 3? Not all the time, no. But I can say you will never get a moment in BF3 when you are flying in formation with 20+ other airplanes, raining havoc upon your foes. Or having the ability to create a tank on a whim, instead of waiting for a respawn.
Suffice it to say, when Ps2 is good, it’s really good. When it’s not, it’s not. This guide is about getting more of the former, and less of the latter.
Finding the Action
So you’ve just been killed within 30 seconds of starting the game for the first time, or maybe you have just been wandering around, lost and confused. Where is all the action taking place?
First, hit either Esc or M to bring up your main menu:
- Click the Social button.
- Click the Join Squad button next to a squad you think will work for you.
- Click the Map button.
- In the lower-left part of the map, click Squad Leader and then Deploy.
If you follow the steps, you will be drop-podded near where the squad leader is located, which will typically be in the middle of a war-zone. From there, find some friendlies and follow them around, occasionally shooting bad guys. There is no guarantee that your squad knows what it is doing, but the idea is to get yourself acclimated to this particular FPS flow, with base layouts, how firefights play out, and so on.
When you die – and you will, many, many times – you will see a screen like this:
First thing I’d recommend, if you haven’t already, is change your class: click on either the Combat Medic or Engineer. For the Deployment locations, they are generally listed in the distance from where you were killed. You will not always be able to respawn near where you were fighting; sometimes your spawn location will be taken over (if a base) or otherwise destroyed (Sunderer). A Sunderer is a troop carrier vehicle that can deploy into a mobile spawn location, and will be your best friend in any base assault.
It is also worth noting that the little symbols on the right end of the bar correspond to what kind of consoles are located there. Every base will have a Pistol icon (Infantry console), but whether there are others depends on the base layout. For example, if I want to spawn somewhere where I can create an airplane, I’ll need to choose one of the bottom two.
What Do I Do?
The general idea is to take over every base on the map. Each area on the map will have one or more types of bases, ranging from small outposts to those huge Biodomes you can see from miles away. Taking over bases involves putting warm bodies next to the capture nodes for the base/region and waiting for a bar to fill up. In larger bases, there will be generators that power shields that keep your faction’s vehicles at bay, along with shields that protect a 2nd generator keeping the enemy’s spawn location active.
It sounds complicated, and to be honest, I believe it is overly complicated for no reason. If you familiarize yourself with the various icons though, it becomes much easier to follow.
Basically, if you see the Up Arrow icon in someone else’s colors, go there, and hang out near the weird data thing pictured in the lower right. You can see your progress towards capturing this particular node in the center top of your screen. Once captured, you should be able to start spawning near this location. If you see an [A] icon instead, that means… well, do the exact same thing. The key difference is that capturing an [A] node is just as quick as before, but your faction won’t actually own that point on the map until that second bar in the center-left part of your screen fills up. With bigger bases, you will also need to cap [B] and [C] if they exist. I don’t know for sure whether the map only caps if there are people hanging out near a capture point, but hang out anyway; being near a facility being capped gives you a huge XP bonus (enough for +4 Certs for a Biodome, in fact).
Not pictured above are the various generator icons, the respawn generator icon for large facilities, and other things. While you do want to help blow generators up (go up to them and hold E to destabilize them), it is not something I would focus on as a brand new player. You are likely going to be of much more use helping your team cap nodes than bringing down the shields so your tank column can set up shop outside the enemy respawn location.
Teleporters are probably useful. Use them. Indeed, if you are assaulting a Biodome, if you capture the outlying bases (they will have the Up Arrow symbol near them) then you gain access to a teleporter that sends you to a shielded room in the heart of the Biodome. “Shielded” as in you can shoot enemies out of the room, but they cannot shoot you inside. Biodomes sieges in general are good sources of close-quarters killing/farming XP.
There are three types of consoles are indicated by their symbol: Pistols (Infantry), Tanks (Vehicles), and Airplanes (Airplanes) Go up and press E to use them. You can restock ammo infinitely at the Infantry consoles, along with changing your class. Vehicle and Airplane consoles are pretty straightforward, and you should never feel like you don’t know enough about the vehicle in question to build one and drive it around. Each player has their own individual Resource pools from which to build vehicles, it fills up by X amount every 5 minutes automatically, and it has a cap of 750 points. Ergo, if you have 750 Mechanized Resources and aren’t building a tank, then those Resources are going to waste.
Speaking of wasted points, here is another Pro Tip: you spend Infantry Resources to get more grenades (among other things).
- If you have more than 100 Infantry Resources, go ahead and stock up on (explosive) consumables.
- Pick the class with the consumable (grenades are universal), then click a Loadout.
- Click on Grenade or Utility, depending on what you have.
- Make sure the appropriate item is selected, then click Resupply.
The short version is that things like grenades are considered one-use consumables; you can only carry one grenade at a time (unless you unlock more), but you might only start with 5 total across all your classes. Since the only other use of Infantry Resources is busting out a MAX unit, anytime you have more than ~100 points, spend them to stock up on your consumables (which includes medpacks, proximity mines, C-4, and anything else you’ve unlocked). If you let your Infantry Resources cap out at 750, you are seriously hurting yourself later should you get into a situation that calls for some supplemental utility.
As I mentioned before, I am recommending the Combat Medic or Engineer for new players. Why? Not only are both useful in a group setting, but you are also much more self-sufficient as either class than you would be by yourself. And until you get a handle on what is going on, you are probably going to find yourself lost and alone pretty often. Here is a quick rundown:
- Infiltrator – Press F to cloak, but you cannot fire or be healed. Class is a bit weak until you unlock better sniper rifles. Hack enemy consoles by pressing E.
- Light Assault – Double-tap or hold Spacebar for jetpack. If you are ever fighting somewhere that you can get to without a jetpack, you are doing it wrong.
- Combat Medic – Press F for AoE heal (including yourself). Use your heal gun on people; revive the dead. When you revive someone, finish healing them.
- Engineer – Drop ammo boxes, drop a turret that you can man. Repair everything, especially friendly MAX units.
- Heavy Assault – Press F for an extra shield. Only class with default ability to hurt vehicles via rocket launcher.
- MAX – Press F to run fast for a few seconds. Left-click left gun, right-click right gun. Swap anti-tank weapon for anti-air depending on fight.
Personally, I play Engineer 90% of the time in-game. Running out of ammo is a pretty major concern in Ps2, and few people run around as Engineers despite it being an easy source of XP. Each time someone gets resupplied, you get 10xp, or 10% of a kill. Plus, after you take a base, there is typically a lot of repairing that needs to be done to get the AA guns and consoles back online.
- There is friendly fire in this game.
- You can move your drop pod slightly with WASD. Aim for rooftops.
- Press Q all the time. It will help you spot enemies you didn’t actually see. Plus, if someone kills them you get free Spotting XP.
- The secondary fire (press B) of the Engineer Turret is another ammo pack. Once you buy some other Utility item, drop your “regular” ammo packs and get the benefits of having both.
- You can swap out a MAX’s weapon loadout at any Infantry console without losing the MAX itself. If you switch classes though, the MAX goes on cooldown.
- Drop an ammo pack near Sunderers, get massive amounts of Resupply XP from people running back to change classes/get more ammo.
- Normal guns can damage light aircraft (Scythes, etc), so shoot at them to encourage them to go somewhere else. Larger aircraft are immune, though.
Certifications, aka Certs
All the XP you are earning is basically a means to get additional Cert points to unlock new weapons, gear, attachments, and… well, everything. The Cert interface is pretty confusing, especially when you start browsing the weapons, but there are some inexpensive items to get you started.
In the screenshot above, we are looking at the Suit Slot of the Heavy Assault class. Note that there are six different options, but you can only equip one of the upgrades under the specific tab at a time. I already have the first rank in Nanoweave Armor, which gives me 10% base health and cost exactly one (1) Cert to purchase; the next rank is pretty inexpensive at 10 Certs as well. The different classes usually have different options, although sometimes an unlock is class-wide, such as Medpacks and even some weapons like shotguns. If you unlock something new, such as a gun attachment or the aforementioned Nanoweave Armor, you have to specifically equip it in a Loadout before it takes effect.
The above process is the same for vehicle Certs.
Are there must-have Certs, or always-avoid Certs? Probably. I recommend getting the Nanoweave Armor upgrade on all your classes since it is 1 Cert a pop, for example. There are some similarly cheap upgrades for the healing/repair guns. I might also recommend unlocking Medpacks since they get unlocked for all classes with a single purchase (don’t forget to equip them and buy more with Infantry Resources!). From there is starts to hugely depend on what class you have found yourself gravitating towards. Since I enjoy the Engineer the most, I went ahead and bought him some Proximity Mines. Just yesterday I purchased C-4 for my Light Assault as an investment in future shenanigans.
When it comes to weapons, I have been playing it pretty slow and avoiding spending any Certs. The majority of the guns cost a whopping 1000 Certs, which is probably 10-20 hours of straight gaming assuming you know what you are doing; no matter how cool the weapon, you are likely go to get a lot more mileage out of class upgrades than weapons, especially since the former cannot be purchased with Station Cash (only boosts). Once you do find a weapon you enjoy using though, I recommend investing in a better scope and horizontal stabilizer.
By the way, you will passively earn roughly ~12 Certs overnight. It is not a whole lot, and you stop earning them after 48 hours of not logging on, but there are some decent early ranks you can pick up with that amount.
How Much Will This Really Cost Me?
It’s Free to Play, bro.
…for the most part. We all know F2P games are not always as free as they appear, but Ps2 is a lot better than any I seen. The 1000 Cert floor for most weapons takes them off the table for rational people, and while all of them being “sidegrades” is probably a bit too charitable, I am extremely satisfied with the default guns (as Vanu… your faction mileage may vary).
The only point at which I feel at a decided disadvantage is when it comes to the Heavy Assault rocket launchers and the light aircraft rocket pods. The default dumb-fire rocket launcher for the Heavy deals the most damage out of the available options, but the AA rocket launcher can change a “getting farmed in respawn location by aircraft” engagement into an enemy rout. On the flip side, flying a light aircraft with the A2G rocket pods can turn you into a jealous Greek god, meting out judgment upon the lowly worms in your warpath.
There are ways around these limitations – switch to a MAX with an AA gun if aircraft are near, and… just use your machine gun or not fly – but these were definite F2P thumbscrews for me. I have heard similar things regarding High-Explosive rounds for tanks vs the default ammo, but I have not used ground vehicles all that much when I could be getting my Greek on.
Important note: Cert/Station Cash unlocks are currently character-specific. In other words, if you dropped some real cash unlocking rocket pods for the Scythe (Vanu faction), you cannot use those rocket pods on another Vanu character on another server, or different faction on the same server. This is slated to change in future, i.e. unlocks becoming account-wide, but there was no timeline given so who knows when that will go into affect. Such a change will apparently be retroactive, but in the meantime, it is a good idea to stick to a faction/character you think you can live with.
If all the negative press regarding the new player experience has made you leery of downloading Ps2… well, it’s true. The new player experience sucks. However! From what I have been reading, the developers are listening to and implementing feedback at a pretty quick clip. Plus, hopefully this Quickstart guide will ease your passing into what I have found to be a very entertaining FPS.
Honestly, after being able to create vehicles on a whim, I don’t know if I will be able to go back to the Battlefield 3 model of camping the helicopter pad for a chance at 3 minutes of fun. There are still timers in Ps2 to prevent light aircraft spam, but between using Certs to reduce the timer or simply creating a tank to wait down the clock, I am never at a lack for mayhem to get into.