Sony Online Entertainment held their first ever PlanetSide 2 Ultimate Empire Showdown last week, January 25th, 2013, at the Book Bindery in Culver City, California. The UES was a competition between the three factions of PS2 led by a designer and celebrity YouTube personalities. The UES was open to the public and allowed fans of PS2 to interact with SOE developers as well as the internet personalities. Fans at home could also play along and help their favorite faction across the live servers. Jace Hall co-hosted the event with PS2 Creative Director Matthew Higby. Jace and Matt were joined by Adrianne Curry who roamed the floor as their analyst in the trenches. There were also two important announcements made concerning the future of PS2.
[Jace and Matt]
Well in advance of the event SOE had informed everyone that they would unveil the six month roadmap for PS2. What SOE had not announced previous to the event was they have teamed up with Major League Gaming to develop competitive gameplay features to form PS2 into an eSport platform. PS2 will be featured as an exhibition at the upcoming MLG event in Dallas this March. Sundance DiGiovanni, CEO of MLG, was on hand to talk about the SOE/MLG partnership with SOE President John Smedley during the UES broadcast. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Sundance before the event and he acknowledged that creating an eSport out of PS2 would be hard but what they want to do is take some of what works with the massive scale battles and find ways to pull pieces out that work within MLG’s universe. While everyone at SOE seemed to be excited to take PS2 into the eSports world, no one was exactly sure what they would do to get it there. SOE plans on having some form of the game for MLG in testing by this summer.
[Rob interviews Sundance]
The PS2 Roadmap adds a whole new level of player input to what SOE will focus on over the next six months. Matt Higby referred to it as “80% Reddit, 20% Whitehouse.gov petitions.” The road map allows players to vote up or vote down topics for the developers to work on. The player input from Roadmap will be used to help focus the direction the game should take and even help decide what content should be released. The current hot topic for January is developing tunnels from bases to prevent spawn camping. The topic with the most up votes so far is for February and it has become evident by a vote of 1571 up to 19 down that players want account level unlocks. This would provide players who have bought items with Station Cash unlocks across all characters that can use the item. It would also be retroactive and apply to all previous purchases. The only people I can think of that would downvote that idea are SOE accountants.
[Arclegger and SeaNanners]
The live event was more comparable to a WWE event than a sporting event. In fact spectacle might be a more appropriate word choice. Three teams of players came from across the world to represent either the Vanu Sovereignty, the New Conglomerate, or the Terran Replublic. Each empire was lead by an SOE employee and a YouTube personality. The Vanu were captained by PS2 Creative Designer Tramell “T-Ray” Isaac and LevelCap. The New Conglomerate were helmed by PS2 Game Designer Adam “Arclegger” Clegg and SeaNanners. The Terran Republic were ruled by the iron fists of PS2 Game Designer Jimmy Wisenhunt and Totalbiscuit. After a few opening remarks the beer and the smack talk was flowing the competition was underway.
There were four individual challenges that made up the Ultimate Empire Showdown. The first challenge tasked the Empires to control the most facilities on their server. The Vanu easily won this challenge (our own Ripper X played for the Vanu at this event). The second challenge required the Empires to take and hold the Crown and whoever controlled this facility at the end of the time limit would win. The Vanu proved for the second time to be the superior force. At this point it was clear that the NC were dead in the water but the TR controlled a large amount of territory and looked primed to contend in the third challenge. The third challenge was capture and hold. The Empire that controlled the most territory at the end of the time limit would be victorious. The TR won this challenge and left the NC winless for the evening.
While on the scoreboard the Vanu led 2-1-0, the overall champion was crowned based on the popular social media vote. Totalbiscuit and the Terran Republic were the clear cut winners taking home 49% of the popular vote. It was clear early on that TB and his legion of followers were getting out to vote. Of the 14,000 people that were watching the livestream of the event it was evident that most of them were TR loyalists. While the TR are clearly good at politicking it is evident from the scoreboard that SOE provided showing the results for the challenges across all servers the Vanu are great at making war. It’s not clear what the NC are good at besides helping Matt Higby color coordinate his wardrobe.
[Somewhere in the background T-Ray could be heard yelling, “Scoreboard!”]
While the event did run into a few technical difficulties along the way, one of which caused the livestream to temporarily go down, I would declare the UES a success. The Book Bindery was full of avid gamers and PS2 supporters. Fans waved foam fingers in the crowd to cheer on their favorite Empire. There was even a group of people walking around with cardboard likenesses of Matt, Tramell, and TotalBiscuit. SOE had social media was a stir with people on twitter and facebook voting for who they wanted to be crowned the overall winner. Hopefully SOE will put on more events like this in the future aside from the MLG that can engage the community in such dramatic fashion. It will be very interesting to watch PS2 evolve over the course of the next year during their partnership with MLG. The promise of player feedback having a real impact on the development of PS2 through the Roadmap is also a reason to take notice of what SOE is doing with PS2.
What do you think of SOE partnering with MLG? Do you think SOE will stick to their guns and follow the Roadmap? Let me know in the comments below. You can also find me on Twitter @grakulen or friend me on facebook Grak.ulen.