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Interviews: Matt Higby Interview

By Derek Czerkaski on December 26, 2011

Matt Higby Interview

Hello there! My name is Derek Czerkaski, and I'll be writing this piece for about PlanetSide 2.

Once it was completed, what was your favorite aspect of PS1, as in what really excited you the most when you were playing the game? Ant runs, bridge battles, etc. The more detail, the better! And looking back, what was your least favorite part of the game?

Matt Higby:

I was able to play PlanetSide in early alpha and through beta as a more-or-less end user, and I remember thinking right away this was the future of online gaming. The types of experiences that are uniquely possible in an MMOFPS are incredible, visceral and so engaging. My favorite moments were coordinated air sorties with Reavers strafing and Galaxy drops where you'd get dozens of troops dropping into a courtyard to capture a base - that sort of epic entertainment experience was only available to people watching the "Flight of the Valkyries" scene in Apocalypse Now before PlanetSide.

In terms of least favorite, I don't have a specific moment, but the amount of downtime between those epic moments could get to be fatiguing after a while.


With the previous answers in mind, what steps have been taken in PlanetSide 2 to enhance or diminish the satisfaction (and agony) of your most favorite and least favorite aspects of the game?

Matt Higby:

From the start we've been thinking about those remarkable experiences that are so uniquely "PlanetSide" (we actually call them "PlanetSide moments") and how we can deliver on those more frequently. One big thing we've done to make that happen is create an all new Mission system that allows veteran players to create missions which troops can follow. This system allows new players to rapidly find their way into badass scenarios, ensures that large scale battles are happening more often and simultaneously addresses downtime by letting players have shortcuts to get to the fun stuff.

Technology has a come a long way since the original PlanetSide. Super-powered motherboards, dual and quad-core processing, multiple graphics card rigs. How are some of these new hardware perks being utilized in PlanetSide 2?

Matt Higby:

PlanetSide 2 features an all new game engine called Forgelight which has been built from the ground up to support not only enormous scale of battle, but also to deliver the kind of graphic wizardry that have previously only been glimpsed in AAA FPS games. Some of the high-level features of this engine include: physically based light models, deferred lighting pipeline, volumetric scattering, highly detailed character shaders and a bunch of other stuff that's way over my head but the coders tell me are pretty great to have.

One of my favorite aspects in the original game was the flexibility to "play my way"; I could essentially create classes that would cater to multiple play-styles at once, such as a engineer + medic + deployables supporter. PS2 will be switching to a class-based format if I'm not mistaken. What was the reasoning behind the changes? And due to the enormous scale of the game, can you provide an estimate of how many classes will be in the game?

Matt Higby:

We went to a class system for a couple reasons. First, it adds recognition aspect to your character. When you come across a player in a fight, you can tell by looking at them what class they are and therefore roughly what sort of terrible things they'll be able to do to you. Second, it lets us do some really unique class-specific stuff that would just have broken combinations in an ad-hoc equip anything you want system. This isn't actually very different than the original PlanetSide where you were restricted by the type of armor you wore. It's important to note also that players are never restricted to a single class; they can switch their class at equipment terminals. When players respawn and everything in the game is accessible to every character, leveling up your empire's tank won't preclude you from leveling up your fighter jet, or medic, etc.

Vehicles played a major role in the original game: BFR's, tanks, aircraft, etc. What sort of new surprises can we look forward to in terms of vehicle combat? In particular, if there's a new dynamic, such as naval battles, or siege units?

Matt Higby:

We've been using PhysX to create realistic physics simulations for all our vehicles; this adds an entirely new dimension to the vehicle gameplay. With physics we can make the vehicles a lot more dynamic, you can take a turn too fast on your quad and you may flip, you can do barrel rolls with the empire specific fighters, etc., it's a really cool evolution over the vehicle combat from original PlanetSide.

How will individual progression be measured in the game? Will it be experience-points based, merit-point based like in PS1, or something else entirely? What will be the perks associated with progressing through the game/reward for long-term players? Will there still be a commander level as well?

Matt Higby:

Players progress through a certification tree that unlocks access to a variety of vehicles, weapons, weapon attachments, skills, etc. Players can also unlock lots of weapons, so once you're certed for Assault Rifles there will be lots of unique assault rifles for you to mess with to find the one that fits your play style perfectly. Certification uses Cert Points which are earned over time and through achievement in the game. Right now we have a leadership cert tree that unlocks various skills and abilities that commanders will be really interested in, such as squad spawning, rally beacons and the like.

Given the importance of teamwork and guild-play, what sort of features can we expect to encourage players to join an outfit? Will there be any sort of outfit perks, uniforms, combat bonuses, vehicles, etc? Will teamwork still be a driving force in PS2, or will there be more of a focus on individual play?

Matt Higby:

There's definitely still a strong emphasis on teamwork. Outfits will have access to unique customizations that will let them specialize in various aspects of the game - we want the outfits to feel like military divisions, like when you see a soldier from the 101st airborne you know he belongs to an elite air assault group. In PlanetSide 2 outfits will be equally recognizable for their specializations.

I had heard rumors on the net that there would be "resource" control. In the first game, the only real resources were power, and the lovely A.N.T. Speaking of which, is the A.N.T. coming back? Will there be an additional emphasis on territorial control, and if so, could you expand upon it a bit?

Matt Higby:

No to A.N.Ts at launch, although we have some thoughts about them later down the road. Each area of the continents in PlanetSide 2 has resources associated with them, and by capturing those regions your empire will gain those resources. By actively playing, capturing bases, regions, defending areas, you'll be granted personal resources based on your empire's holdings. These resources can be used for all sorts of cool stuff from unlocking new items in the marketplace to spawning vehicles and equipping attachments.

While I'm sure it's too early to make any definitive estimates, what is the ideal battle size you're hoping to accomplish in PS2? Are we looking at 100 v 100, 500 v 500... or even 1000 v 1000? Will there be incentives for fighting in bigger fights as opposed to smaller fights? If so, what will be the driving motivation to start up new skirmishes?

Matt Higby:

Our goal right now is to support combat with thousands of players. The incentive to fight in larger fights is more targets and more mayhem, which is always fun.

I realize these have been some lengthy questions, but I have just one more for you in this interview. TR, NC, or VS; which faction is your favorite, and why? I'm a TR man myself...

Matt Higby:

NC for sure, I love their style. Are they freedom fighting rebels defending the rights of the people, or the insurgent terrorist scumbags who want to wreak havoc upon Auraxis? Depends on who you ask, but no matter what they're the vagabond underdogs, and that works for me!