Report from Auraxis : The New Planetside

by on Nov.06, 2012, under FPS, game reviews, mmo, pc

Planetside 2 has been beckoning me, as daily rants and ideas trickle in from the community of /r/Planetside , a subreddit where the Sony developers have opened the gates and talk openly about their game.

Finally, after a many months of looking over the shoulder of early beta testers, I got my chance to play the new game. I also note that this thing is definitely beta – it goes through a bi-weekly cycle of updates.

So what do I think so far? Planetside 2 rocks. As long as you don’t compare it to the original.

You see, once you start the comparisons, you open up a severe critique. Planetside original (or vanilla, or ‘one’) was a cutting edge game that pushed the boundaries of the technology of the time. They innovated and shaped it into something awesome, carving out a new genre in the process : the MMO FPS. Before the inevitable decline, brought about by a couple of noted expansions and balance issues, we enjoyed massive campaigns in an endless struggle of epic proportions. Tanks, aircraft, troops, transports, resources, bases, hacking… it was endless. And it was fun. There was a place for everyone in the original Planetside, whatever the skill level or latency. The key to PS1 was the scale : your tiny struggle could easily map into larger macroscopic objectives within the game. And this quality is important to remember.

Now, here we are in 2012. The new Planetside is a game that attempts to merge the nostalgia into a modern shooter engine, copying elements from popular squad shooters like Battlefield 3. What I really enjoy is its solid shooter qualities, along with a strong base defense/offense mechanic. The game rewards you for playing the objective. It rewards you further for playing in a squad or a platoon. I enjoy the deep certification trees, reminding me that this is indeed a MMO that we’re playing. I can follow my whims in where to spend my points, and the promise of a vast amount of choice in future is what’s going to keep me coming back. A word to the wise : when you join up, join a squad as quickly as possible. If you luck out like I have, you’ll find a decent amount of teamwork and coordination, and enjoy the experience so much more.

The bad : I know that this is beta, so I expect a fair amount of bugs and issues. What I’ve found most wrong with Planetside 2, ironically, is in the places where it tries to be like Planetside 1. What they’ve cut, and what they’ve added, doesn’t make a lot of sense from a holistic standpoint. For example, the presence of the Galaxy as an airborne troop transport, is not justified in how the game plays out. I can instant spawn all over the place, without requiring me to wait (and wait, and wait) for a Galaxy to land in my area to take me to the next objective. And these things are so weak in the face of deeply certted players in their anti-air capabilities that they inevitably get shot down before they become useful. And the only reason the GAL exists is because it was there in PS1. This is just one example of many. And another riff I can go off on is the wider, macro-field gameplay. PS2 base and territory mechanics leave a LOT TO BE DESIRED. Capping territory has very, very little benefit at all. So you could log in and play for an hour, capture a vast swathe of territory (if you’re good) and when you leave and return again? Lo! You’re back to square one. There is very little inter-connectedness between the bases, no player sanctuary, no holistic benefits to gaining territory, and most importantly : no opportunity to win in the ‘greater game’. PS1 had this stuff, so it makes me want it. And therein lies the issue : PS2 is not PS1. It’s an epic shooter, no mistake, but if it’s going to enjoy any longevity it’s got to improve the meta-game.

Enjoyment without a greater goal is not how epic memories are forged. It’s just a distraction. PS2, for now, is a great distraction.

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Upcoming Game Excitement

by on Nov.05, 2009, under FPS, gaming, pc, rpg

All of these games are released, but I’m waiting for payday to start delving in. 🙂

#1 Dragon Age : Origins

From the RPG experts comes Dragon Age : Origins. The excitement I have for this has not waned over the years, in fact the various YouTube developer previews have exceeded my expectations. The combat looks plain fun, together with a rich detail in environments, spell effects and gritty melee action. It’s obviously a heavily story-driven game, so I’m hoping it isn’t too cutscene heavy. This is my next game purchase and I can’t wait to have a go!

#2 Torchlight

Torchlight came out of nowhere, and I’m honestly not sure where I heard about it. For the quick and fun Diablo-style dungeon crawl, this will be a nice ‘casual’ game to break out once in a while, as the content randomization doesn’t suggest I need to remember any story arc or quest objectives. I lament the lack of anything multiplayer, but I did enjoy it’s spiritual predecessor, “Fate”. Just something to tie me over until Diablo 3.

#3 Borderlands

This one got my attention recently. The “RPG and Shooter made a baby” tagline is an idea whose arrival was only a matter of time. The “RP Shooter” aspect is displayed readily, and is easily grasped right away. It’s a shooter, but as you ‘level up’ you’re obviously taking on bigger challenges and pouring out more damage and extra abilities. I like the idea of a small co-op mission-based style of game, ala Left4Dead. And I have to say the trailers are pretty funny.

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Planetside 2???

by on Sep.29, 2009, under FPS, games design, mmo

I would very, very, very much welcome this.

According to RPS, this may be in the works. Per

As a somewhat seasoned (but inexpert) Planetside player (CR4), Planetside had a great mix of teamplay, massive battles, and a wide variety of individual player choice (specializations, vehicles, objectives). It’s probably one of my favourite games of all time. I moved on when it was clear the game was dying a slow death (empty servers, etc.).

My thinking on PS2:

  • A PVE axis that contributed to the overall battle (and your XP). This was planned for, and never implemented in the original. There was a real lack of solo content in PS, and this would have really helped.
  • Better base design, thus removing the layout silliness that players would exploit. Also base placement was a huge problem, very odd design decisions were made in that regard.
  • Better LFM/LFG system. Enough of the hunting for extra squad members.
  • Proximal VOIP system would allow you to shout at nearby players to get them moving. Teamspeak was great if you were already grouped, however the whole server couldn’t be on your TS server.
  • If the game has a “Command” specialization that allowed them special privilege to direct the battle, then reward players who following your orders. This would ecourage better organization and get groups moving in the same direction. Having more people on one side of a battle made all the difference.
  • Reward the support activities of players who chose to perform roles that don’t involve battle. The ANT drivers and the GAL pilots should be encouraged, not excluded.
  • Outfit/Guild Housing is absolutely required. The implementation of Outfits was an aborted design, obviously. There must be clear benefits to joining an Outfit and sticking with it. And then rewarding the successful ones. A game built around teamplay should structure itself around the entire concept of “Team”.

The list goes on, now that I start thinking about it. Planetside was THE GAME that realised the goal of most MMO games. Massive battles, massive coordination, esprit de corps, and most of all, fun! I miss that game.

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Team Fortress 2 Video

by on Sep.01, 2006, under FPS, gaming, pc

Thanks to the continued excellence of Valve, we get an old favourite from the Quake era, Team Fortress 2! I just had to show it. We suspect that it was featured for a select audience at either PAX or Leipzig. I’m surprised that this hasn’t seen a broader release.

I think I like the promo as much as I’ll like the game!

Words won’t do this justice. You have to see it to believe it.

Source : YouTube.

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Hoping for Utopia

by on Jan.10, 2006, under FPS, game reviews, games industry, pc

dystopia mod

Dystopia, the best Source mod ever, gets to Update 4 this week. Signed, sealed and released! Cyberfans rejoice and a big congratulations out to Team Dystopia.

The update contains two new maps, with numerous gameplay tweaks overall. I am guiltily addicted to this slaverous mix of teamplay and action. Forget BF2! Dystopia features mixed team objectives and dual-sourced gameplay. Play as a decker and breach security systems in cyberspace… or join the fireteam and forage ahead as a heavy mechdroid in meatspace. Its fast. Its hard. But so much variety and choice are packed into this game that its virtually impossible to get bored. An extremely well conceived effort, and a visual treat.

Support the Source mod scene and go vote for Dystopia as Mod of the Year!

Valve and Dystopia

Team Dystopia’s early intentions were to release this as a demonstation of their capabilities. First as a Half-Life2 Source Engine modification, and ultimately as a commercial venture. They’ve met with mixed success, partially due to Valve’s (the maker of Half-Life2) resistance. Valve, rarely famous for kind shepherding of young game-makers, typically likes to completely own property invented within their engine. And with Dystopia, we can only guess that Valve is playing the same old game.

When Dystopia was released, Valve introduced a crashing bug into their game engine, which effectively killed Dystopia completely. Momentum lost. Its not likely intentional, but once that was fixed, we heard murmurings from Valve stating that “commercial-level releases in the mod community are discouraged”, supposedly because quality is “never achieved by indies on the first go”. Do it fast, do it iteratively, and build your fanbase. This was Valve’s preference. Listen to us, they said : Be Like Counterstrike.

cs 1.6

Ah Counterstrike. The mod that grew into the most popular online activity since pr0n.

And Valve owns it.

Now their reticence starts to make some sense. Don’t make your mod perfect on the first go, they say. Perhaps they mean : Let us examine its potential, first. Its too bad we’re a little smarter about this stuff now? The early mod days, including Counterstrike’s debut, had very little engineering sense to them at all. This made quality releases almost impossible. But when you look at the detail and the testing that go into upper-echelon mods today, you’ll find an entirely different animal. Some of them have pros on their teams. Others are funded. And many hope for a commercial payoff one day. The mod scene runs the spectrum, of course, with jokers and amateurs alike. But with Dystopia, it was a wholly different beast, and was professional right from conception to execution. Truly a model that should be rewarded. You can’t really blame the publisher, since its in their interest to see a return on their investment – which was the very platform from which these games have sprung. Yet, arguably, it was precisely those initial successes that fed Valve’s success today. They simply wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to play the new Counterstrike (including yours truly – seven years running!). Valve wants to own the best of them, and its far easier to do that when they exhibit the merest seeds of success.

Rest assured, there are many people (some of whom I know personally) that are watching the outcome of the Dystopia venture with intense interest. Dystopia’s success could serve as a model for indie gamedev in general. I sincerely hope that Valve does the “right thing” and gives them a Steam publishing deal (like they did with Darwinia, another indie developed game). With quality, with fanbase, with a dedicated team and a healthy product, what do they have to lose?

In the meantime, we’ll have fun with Dystopia, and here’s to one day seeing them take their game to the bank. This stuff is the power politics of business, and Dystopia may not win. Personally, it’s Valve’s loss if Dystopia chooses to go elsewhere. I mean, what if Counterstrike was made for Quake?

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