It’s admittedly been a while since I last pod dropped into PlanetSide 2’s war-torn world of Auraxis. Curious to find out what’s been happening, we caught up with PlanetSide 2 creative director Matt Higby to chat about the newly launched (beta version) of the PlanetSide 2 Players Site as well as the game’s Roadmap and upcoming server merges.
The PlanetSide 2 Players Site continues a similar trend in contemporary FPS games in that it provides a web-based tie-in to the game that offers deep statistical information about all the game’s minutiae at players’ fingertips. You can track your own personal statistics out of the game, compare them to friends’, or even check out the stat breakdowns of other players. If you’ve played around with say, the Battlefield 3 Battlelog, you’ll be right at home with the PS2 Players Site. The granular level of information available is pretty mind-blowing. Not only can you track things like how many kills other players are getting with certain weapons, you can even narrow it down further and find out how many kills a player is getting with a gun vs. different factions.
Unlike other FPS games, Matt explained that PlanetSide 2 is an always on experience, and so the Players Site will offer additional functionality that just doesn’t apply to your typical shooter game. You’ll be able to see what your friends are up to in the game, track (in real time) the status of map regions, and even peruse live killboards.
Since the Players Site is still in beta, there are a number of features that haven’t come online just yet. Features such as the ability to track statistics by Outfit, go through the Certifications you or other players have earned and how they’re spent, are all coming soon. Of course, if you have your own ideas or feedback for the Players Site, you can respond to the feedback thread here.
SOE has always launched their Census API alongside the Players Site and this will allow external developers to use all the statistical data to develop their own websites, applications, or tools.
I spent some time checking out the Players Site before Matt and I linked up for our interview and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the PlanetSide 2 Mobile App that was in planning way back before the game launched. I actually got to play around with whatever version of the app they had in development back at E3 last year and I was pretty impressed with the potential there, especially the planned mobile app-to-in game voice chat capability.
Matt assured me that the Mobile App is actually coming along really well and they are ‘really close’ to getting the app out on iOS and Android. Matt tells us the voice chat functionality is in, working really well and players can expect to find all the same sort of features and data they’re seeing on the Players Site on the Mobile App once it goes live.
One of the really unique things that SOE is doing with PlanetSide 2 isn’t necessarily related to the game at all, but more about how SOE is approaching the development of future features. Typically, developers tend to keep upcoming features fairly close to their chests both for marketing reasons and due to the fact that players don’t tend to respond well when planned features fall through or are pushed back for whatever reason.
With PlanetSide 2, SOE has turned all that on its head and has gone ahead with a publicly viewable development roadmap that gives players a peek at what SOE is working on for up to five months ahead of time. This roadmap isn’t simply there for illustrative purposes either. Instead, each feature marked on the calendar has its own designated feedback thread. These threads help gauge the popularity of any particular feature and also offer players a chance to guide the features development with suggestions or concerns before it actually goes live.
The benefits for players are fairly obvious here, but this also helps the developers as Matt tells us it’s far easier for the designers to address feedback and concerns while in development as opposed to after the fact. The different approach SOE has taken here has really helped address concerns with upcoming features (such as Orbital Strike) and even given the team reason to broaden the scope of a feature that turns out to be more popular than SOE may have expected.
Matt did acknowledge my concerns that there is a possibility that there could be significant backlash from the community if a planned feature just doesn’t pan out and ends up being dropped. However, he placed confidence in the PlanetSide 2 community as far as understanding that the schedule is fluid and things could change at any given moment.
Looking at the roadmap, I picked out the VR Training Area feature to pick Matt’s brain about and we learned that this area would actually be quite robust. Players can look forward to the ability to test out all weapons, vehicles, and certifications. There will even be targets available to practice on to help you learn the recoil and spread of each particular weapon, too. Eventually, the VR Training Area will even tie-in to some new handheld tutorials that will allow players to pick from a variety of subjects and have the game walk them through it.
It only takes a cursory glance at the PlanetSide 2 roadmap to realize there is a lot of interesting stuff coming up on the horizon for the game, but one of the most important developments for the game’s health is coming as early as next week.
Understandably, players have been frustrated with population issues on a number of servers over the past couple of months and some may have given up on the game altogether as a result. To address this issue, SOE will be merging a number of servers next week, and from what Matt tells us, this should go a long way towards ensuring players always find players to fight across the game’s many regions. We also learned that the merging process has been a fairly sophisticated effort that is not only taking into account simple player population numbers, but will even take into account faction spread and other criteria, in order to bring both boost overall server populations while also maintaining proper faction parity.