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MMORPG | Genre:Sci-Fi | Status:Final  (rel 05/20/03)  | Pub:Sony Online Entertainment
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PlanetSide Interviews: Thom Terrazas

By  on July 03, 2006

SOE's Thom Terrazas answers our question about the original MMOFPS

Thom Terrazas of SOE's PlanetSide answers our questions about the evolution of this classic MMORPG FPS. In May, the team celebrated their three year anniversary. See what they've been up to.

MMORPG.com:Happy Anniversary on three years of PlanetSide, how has the community and game-play grown since launch?
Thom Terrazas:

Three Years – Thank you very much! We’re very proud of the work we have done on PlanetSide since the launch on May 19, 2003.

PlanetSide is in a league of it’s own as an MMOFPS, in that you can have literally hundreds of players fighting in one area. It is a very unique game where players can play in an FPS-style and have the in-game content updated and changed constantly. Since launch, there have been hundreds of thousands of players deciding on which empire to join. Many of which create outfits (or guilds, as you might be more familiar with in other games) and continue on with their own web sites to support their friends they’ve made in game or to support PlanetSide altogether. We have some great web sites out there that continue to support us and I would probably forget someone if I tried to list them off the top of my head, so I will refrain. However, we are working with these sites to support them as well as they are a great resource to PlanetSide and our players.

Since launch, we have updated the game with massive amounts of content to keep the game play fresh and appealing. As a matter of fact, you would have seen an extensive list of updates and changes in our May Newsletter if you did not get your copy. I’ve inserted a link just in case you need to get caught up. :)

All of these items together have contributed to grow the community, but nothing has been more successful than the people involved in the game. From the developers, the fan sites and most importantly to the players, we have all made the game what it is today.

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MMORPG.com:What plans do you have for the game in the near future?
Thom Terrazas:

We’re in the finishing stages of implementing the Wasp aircraft, which is a variant of the Mosquito that has been built to suit a different role. The Wasp has been created to be an effective killer in air-to-air combat using a new missile pod attachment that fires two tracking AA missiles to take out enemy aircraft.

After the implementation of the Wasp, we’ll be working on some code to combat some of those unpleasant cheaters out there using hacks before we get back to some additional vehicle, weapon and combat engineering equipment.

Some of the new items we have slated are an improvement to the Sunderer vehicle. We’re giving it an increase in armor and weaponry to be used in the role of a “Gate Crasher”. The Phantasm is a new vehicle being introduced that will be used for transporting a small squad to infiltrate enemy bases virtually undetectable. Next on the list is another variant called the Galaxy Gunship. We’ve taken the current Galaxy aircraft and modified it with additional weapon mounts to take on the same role of the new and improved Sunderer…but from the air.

When the new vehicles are in the game, we’ll be working on some new toys for the Combat Engineering class. There will be a new class of Combat Engineers and possibly some other classes that may have the ability to deploy tank traps to stop enemy vehicles from passing through specific choke points in the game. They’ll be able to deploy a one-man operated turret in the field of battle for suppression. Different supply terminals may be available to deploy in open areas assisting troops in battle lines reducing the need to run long distances to a base for supplies.

In addition to the Combat Engineer changes, we have created different weapon variants for almost each and every weapon in the game. The intent is to give players a chance to use a current weapon with customized characteristics to cater to the varying game play styles they have mastered in game. These items will probably be earned, but we are still working on the final details.

MMORPG.com:Can players expect anything in the way of updated implants and bionics?
Thom Terrazas:

We’ve discussed numerous possible options to include into the list of player Implants to expand game-play. Additional Implants gives us a unique way of increasing the diversity of each player and their experience and although we do not have anything slated to go immediately into the PlanetSide, we have a few ideas earmarked that we may be working on in the near future.

MMORPG.com:Are there any new weapons on the horizons for players to blast away with?
Thom Terrazas:

With a ton of weapon variants already on the horizon, we have taken one weapon and given it a bit of a twist. I don’t want to say too much about it, other than it is being designed to be break up defense lines by shooting a rocket explosive that detonates just past barriers in order to hit enemy forces with flying shrapnel.

MMORPG.com:Can you give people who may be new to the game an insight on Battle Frame Robots?
Thom Terrazas:

BattleFrame Robotics (BFR's for short) are giant mechanical vehicles that move on legs, as opposed to wheels or treads. They are fully customizable and can be equipped with weaponry to fit a wide array of combat situations.

There are three configurations of the BFR, the one-man variant equipped with a flight pack and the two-man variant equipped with a gunner pack.

All BFR's are based on the basic model of each Empire. These are one-man units, equipped with pilot weaponry attached to each BFR arm. When a soldier first gets imprinted, this is the first BFR they may acquire. In order to acquire the Advanced BFR's, they must meet additional requirements.

The Flight Pack allows the BFR to perform a jet-assisted leap into the air. The flight BFR can maneuver left, forward, right, and back while in the air. However, moving in any direction with the Flight Pack active will slow the ascent of the BFR.

The BFR can maintain altitude by pulse-thrusting as it flies and allowing the capacitor to recharge between pulses. However, they have virtually no glide, so thrusting must be carefully managed to stay aloft.

The flight pack is powered by a continuously recharging capacitor. This capacitor will require a minimum amount of energy before it will allow a jump.

The Gunner Pack adds a second seat for a gunner and allows the pilot to add a gunner weapon to the BFR. From this position, the gunner can rotate a full 360-degree and has a high degree of up/down control for the largest field of fire possible.

MMORPG.com:For the three year celebration what type of event did players partake in?
Thom Terrazas:

For the Three Year Anniversary, we wanted to kick off an event to last more than just that anniversary date. We thought it would be beneficial to spread the event over a week to two weeks, enabling players with different schedules to be able to participate in the event even if they missed the first day.

So we came up with an event with the following storyline that had players lose the use of many vehicles and required them to fight in the caverns for the recovery of those lost vehicles:

“The Core has breached the central mainframe and has rewritten vital portions of replication procedures. Engineers try to get the situation under control, but for the moment the Core's reprogramming has interfered with the ability for each empire to reconstruct some vehicle matrices.

The matrix construction of Vehicles is affected, losing vehicles over the course of a few days until it is finally figured out how to stop the Core. In order to get systems back online, the Caverns are discovered to be the best link to get access to computers to rewrite the modifications made by the Core. Troops are ordered to assemble in the Caverns and defeat enemy forces for control as each base capture and cavern lock will give scientists enough time to reprogram and recover offline systems.”

MMORPG.com:What can veteran players expect in regards to the anniversary content? Will there be rewards for all their hard work?
Thom Terrazas:

We had hopes of launching the Wasp vehicle at the conclusion of the Three Year Event as a reward for the hard work of reacquiring their vehicles, but we ran into some setbacks and will be adding it soon after.

MMORPG.com:There seems to be some in game problems going on across different continents, how is the harsh weather affecting players?
Thom Terrazas:

We noticed that there was an influx of meteor showers and earthquakes just before the Core had made an attack on vehicle replication patterns. Although there are many deaths associated with Meteor showers, players seem to enjoy them. Now, it is just me saying this, because I have no insight on what’s to come but I think there is a strong chance for showers in tonight’s forecast. :)

Earthquakes on the other hand can really disorient you. I’ve seen some small ones that are irritating, but the big ones are large enough for you to brace yourself and ride it out. They don’t do much damage to you nor to systems and currently players don’t fear them….but I hear that is changing.

MMORPG.com:What are the PlanetSide Reserves? How can players get active and join up?
Thom Terrazas:

Potential players can download the PlanetSide Reserves demo and play for free through Battle Rank 6. Once they reach BR 6, they will be able to continue to play the game, but will not accumulate additional experience points unless and until they upgrade to a paying account. On exit from the game after each play session, players will be taken to a website that will allow them to purchase the game client and upgrade to a paying account. Upon purchase of the game client, you will receive an additional 30 days of play after upgrading your account. This offer is not available for existing PlanetSide accounts.

The PlanetSide Reserves program will run for a fixed 12-month period. The length of your demo time will depend on when in the promotion period you sign up. If you sign up on the first day, you will have almost 12 full months of gameplay. If you sign up one week before the end of the program, you will have one week of demo time.

Anyone that is interested in playing PlanetSide can download the game and start the process through the following URL http://planetside.station.sony.com/reserves/ and/or through www.planetside.com.

MMORPG.com:How has your overseas player base grown with the localization in Europe and Russia?
Thom Terrazas:

The player base continues to grow each day with new customers deciding to play in their local languages (Russian, German, Spanish, Italian and French).

MMORPG.com:Have player created MODs impacted the game on a positive or negative note?
Thom Terrazas:

In general, I think that a MOD just pays tribute to the real thing. Imitation is flattery as they say. MODs have done wonders for multiplayer games, but there isn’t too many ways around subscription models like PlanetSide. I haven’t seen a successful PlanetSide Mod, but I do read about ones being started from time to time.

MMORPG.com:Explain the game play behind an event like the Martial Law on the island of Desolation? It almost has an Old West feel to it.
Thom Terrazas:

Ah hah! Our April Fools Event! The storyline behind the declaration of Martial Law on the Desolation server came about when a small wormhole opened up during the “bending event” for the Core Combat expansion. A long lost western civilization was exposed during the bending where technology hadn’t caught up with today’s arsenal.

Players could head over to the Desolation server for an ole west shootout! We had our own versions of many different weapons along with a few other items: a six shooter (Repeater Pistol); a shotgun (Sweeper Shotgun), a long rifle (Bolt Driver); dynamite (Grenades); a horse and saddle (Wraith); wagons (AMS and ANT); and a choice of a few hats (From a 10 gallon, a Stetson to a Prospector style hat).

The idea was to celebrate April Fools Day with a slight tongue and cheek event for approximately a week, giving players a little twist or change to their normal playing styles.

MMORPG.com:Have the three factions in PlanetSide remained balanced over the years?
Thom Terrazas:

This is a topic for debate each and every time the subject comes up. If you get a chance, visit our Forum/Message Boards and spend a few minutes looking at the discussions of this weapon being too strong or this one not being good enough. The player base has a lot of opinions in this area and will come up with some very good reasons to support their cause if you have a few hours to spend on the dialogue.

I have been on the PlanetSide team since August 2005 and can say that it is one of our top goals to keep the game balanced in every update that we do. For a game that just celebrated its third anniversary, we still feel just as strong about keeping the game balanced as the day the game shipped. We care too much about the game and our customers to publish content that may break an individual empire. It’s a challenge each and every project we work on.

MMORPG.com:Do the developers ever look at the leader boards to see how the top players are performing?
Thom Terrazas:

We look at the leader boards each week and look for changes to notice who is jockeying for different positions. Day to day, you won’t notice a lot of change in the Top 10 leader board so you have to keep visiting to see who may or may not be getting ready to climb up a slot above a formidable ally.

MMORPG.com:Any plans for expansions or PlanetSide 2 in the works?
Thom Terrazas:

At the moment, we do not have any plans for expansion in PlanetSide. We have a dedicated team that will continue to update the game with new content through publishes that players can download when they enter the game upon logging in.

As to PlanetSide 2, we’ve got no comment.

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