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PlanetSide 2 Editorial: Can Planetside 2 Redeem SOE?

By William Murphy on July 14, 2011

There’s little denying these days that the MMOFPS is on the rise.  As Drew Wood’s latest DA column says, pretty much every other game on the horizon throws the FPS mechanics into the MMO formula.  But the one that will now be watched vigilantly by just about everyone is no doubt Planetside 2.  Tribes: Universe, Dust 514, Defiance… they all sound fantastic.  But if there’s one blend of shooter and MMO that people look to fondly when they think hybrid it’s the original Planetside.  The question though is whether or not SOE can live up to the stacked expectations for Planetside’s sequel. 

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Right off the bat, I don’t think the IP carries the same kind of hype-weight that something like a TOR or even a DC Universe might carry, but if there’s any one section of gamer that’s more critical than the MMO gamer, it’s the shooter fan.  And with recent stumbles like the account information theft on top of several recent releases to receive only mediocre attention, it might be said that SOE needs Planetside 2 to be big.  The company has to prove that they’ve still got the chops to create a solid MMO experience.  They’re the company that helped make this whole industry into something more than MUDs and it’s time people remembered that over the NGE of Star Wars Galaxies.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of SOE Austin’s DC Universe Online.  But even I can admit that it didn’t receive the love all around the web, and I’m well aware of the reasons.  But what DCUO proved to me is that SOE can create compelling gameplay beyond a shadow of a doubt.  It may have been more at home on the PS3, but DCUO still has one of the better representations of setting and combat that I’ve seen in the MMO space.  That said PVP exploits and a lack of content have sorely hurt the game’s PC population.  When I think about PS2, I begin to wonder if the same issues might be at stake.  The content maybe less of an issue, considering PS2 will be all about the three-factional warfare and won’t focus on PVE as content.  But what worries just about any competitive FPS gamer is the possibility of cheaters ruining everything for everyone.  It happened in DCUO’s PVP, it happens in so many FPS games, and one hopes that SOE is well prepared for something like this when dealing with their new engine.

My worries kind of end there, though.  I know there are folks who will claim “But it’s SOE!” at the drop of a hat.  I’m simply not one of them.  The NGE didn’t burn me, and I’m of the belief that The Matrix Online was a load of hooey.  I’m also of the belief that Everquest 2 is one of the industry’s most underappreciated MMOs and I eagerly await the next installment of the venerable series.  I also think that Planetside itself was woefully under-loved during its heyday, and judging by the current reaction to its sequel I’m thinking I’m not alone.  So when I see all that SOE has planned for Planetside 2, I tend to get the warm fuzzies.

  • Skill-based flight model requiring skilled pilots thereby making them in-demand
  • Thousands of people fighting at once across three warring factions in an open massive world
  • Offline skill training in one of many classes which can be switched on the fly as your side needs
  • Detailed hit-boxes bringing headshots and other body shots to the game (missing from PS1)
  • Massively scaled territorial control with a real emphasis on vehicular warfare
  • Advanced weapon customization and character customization
  • Customizable armor for Outfits (clans) and other nifty personalization stuff
  • Volumetric clouds allowing airships to hide in freaking clouds

The list goes on, but this is what stood out for me from Fan Faire’s material.  Again, I know there’s a lot left to learn about SOE’s next great hope, but I feel comfortable giving them the benefit of the doubt, because even they have to know how important a sequel to one of MMO gaming’s most cult classics is.  Sure they have Everquest Next on the docket as well, but if Planetside 2 doesn’t make a splash, SOE’s once valid reputation as the MMO company could be lost forever.  They’re not reinventing the wheel here though, as the team has said countless times that they’re really focusing on bringing what they know worked well on Planetside into the future with a new engine, new capabilities, and a more hungry MMOFPS audience.  So long as they stick to that core set of ideals, the MMOFPS may have its bar set pretty high when Planetside 2 launches.

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