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Siren Song of the Crown

God damned Crown.

For those not in the know, The Crown in PlanetSide 2 is one of the most insidiously designed base complexes in the history of gaming. You can read an evocative rendition of its many contours on here. While it is prominently located in the center of the default log-in map, The Crown has exceedingly little strategic value.

It’s psychological value however, is another story.

Pictured: What happens on any day ending with a "Y."

Pictured: the Red team clearly winning.

I can easily log into Ps2, look at the map, and spend my entire playtime bleeding my way up Hamburger Hill. While it is almost always a futile endeavor attempting to take The Crown, you end up getting enough miscellaneous kills that it is almost worth your time slogging through all the anonymous damage. Of course, the only times that my boots are on the ground is when I’m waiting out the timer on my ESF (Empire Specific Fighter) – otherwise, I am doing increasingly bold strafing runs on The Crown defenders. Because, hey, I know people are there.

All this said though, I can definitely sympathize with those saying The Crown is bad for the game. Every quixotic minute I spend tilting at the royal bloody windmill is a minute every other base on the map (let alone the other two continents) goes uncontested. For however much fun I feel getting an especially juicy kill streak against entrenched defenders, I inevitably feel empty at the end of the play session. There is no lasting metagame in Ps2, no real personal gain in capping bases… but some measure of fake progress is better than logging out two hours later knowing you achieved nothing. Even failed last stands at Tech Bases prove more satisfying than the Crown meatgrinder; at least with the former, you get the ability to be annoying.

Part of the problem, I think, is how little it is communicated where the action might be. When I log into Ps2, I want to shoot things. While there are Instant Action buttons, hexes that flash to indicate enemy presence, and flashes of blue/red to show heated exchanges of fire, more often than not it is ephemeral. You cannot just respawn anywhere – it is proximity-based – which means the Instant Action buttons and their 15 minute cooldown must be reserved for movement. Even when you do land somewhere where fighting is taking place, it’s likely in the middle of a rout (for either side).

A lot of game design time is dedicated to the notion of “stopping points,” and there is no better example of one than a successful (!) base capture in Ps2. Unless you are already in an Outfit or part of some larger convoy of tanks, momentum has a way of grinding to a halt in the face of the immense travel distances. You can always build an ATV at every base to get around more quickly… but go where? There is nothing worse than assaulting an empty base other than, perhaps, absurdly defending an empty base.

And so… The Crown.

As perhaps a related aside, this particular issue might be one of server population. In this sense, The Crown is not a cause, but rather a symptom. I bring this up because John Smedley actually came out and said that Server Merges were coming before Server Transfers:

Server merges soon. Info coming by Monday. No server transfers coming till after that’s done. Wouldn’t be right doing it other way around

If only Blizzard were more concerned about the player experience on no-pop realms than gouging the refugees. Alas.