What’s so special (to me) about Planetside 2?

Last spring TitanFall launched after a TON of hype. I snagged a copy for PC (at a steep discount, thankfully) and played it twice before deciding the game wasn’t for me. More recently both Evolve and Battlefield Hardline have run beta events. I dutifully downloaded both of them, and played them both once before deleting them. Not for me.

Now before I offend anyone, I’m not saying these aren’t good games. I’m saying they’re a bad fit for me because they’re competitive multiplayer games (the full Battlefield Hardline will have a single player campaign, and Evolve will let you play with bots, but the betas of both games are just the MP modes). When it comes to gaming I’m just not very competitive. Competitive games get me really tense and get my adrenaline pumping like mad, and I am just not an adrenaline junkie. I mostly play games to relax, I guess.

And yet I really enjoy Planetside 2, which is a purely competitive multiplayer game. So last night after I’d ragequit the Battlefield Hardline beta 5 minutes after I’d booted it up, I went into self-analyze mode to try to figure out what made it different.

And the only thing I could come up with was the scale and the pacing. When I first start playing a game I like to take my time. Figure out the controls, figure out the game’s system, get a feel for how my character moves and what I’m supposed to be doing. Most MP PvP games don’t give you a chance to do that. You spawn in and everyone tears off in some direction that you have to assume is significant and you run along behind them trying to figure out what button is for melee and what button throws a grenade and what do all those icons on the field mean and BAM! you just got shot. Time to respawn.

Hell even respawning is stressful because you have a bunch of classes, loadouts, and spawnpoints to choose from, but every minute you’re looking at the UI to decide what to pick, your team is down a man. So you just pick whatever and spawn back in and get stabbed by the enemy dude that’s camping the spawn location, or, because you haven’t learned the map yet, you run out into a spot where 6 different sniping points have clear line of sight to. And dead again, and you’re team is losing because you suck.

In Planetside 2 you spawn into a world where potentially hundreds of other players are on your side and many battles might be happening. If you take 5, or even 50, minutes to get your bearings no one is going to care since it’s not a tightly scripted 5v5 battlefield. Same thing with the spawn-in UI. You can take your time. You can play on your own terms. Follow the crowd to a big battle and fight like mad but if you need a bit of a breather, fall back. Maybe go and spawn in a vehicle and run a taxi service for a bit. Maybe just fly around seeing the sights, or spend time as a healer or engineer fixing people and machines up. There are a lot of choices beyond “RUN SHOOT SHOOT RUN RUN SHOOT DIE SPAWN BUNNYHOP RUN SHOOT” constantly for the entire time you’re playing.

I just realized this translates to my competitive MMO playing, too. Games that have 5v5 (or whatever) battlefields are a real turn off to me, but games with open world PvP are much more appealing.

I guess it all comes down to pacing. But I wish there were more games like Planetside 2 out there…

Planetside 2 launch day

Planetside 2 is here, yay! I played the beta of this one a bit and liked it enough to know I’d be playing the released version (it’s “free to play” so that was no bold decision) so I opted to not play the beta very much so the game would be ‘fresh’ when it launched.

That might have been a mistake because Planetside 2 can be brutal to newbies. I seem to remember that when I played beta you first spawned in some central hub that was a safe zone. Not in release. In release you’re dropped right into a firefight. I opened my settings menu to check things out and BLAM! Headshot. Dead. Oh well, it gave me time to look through the settings.

But damn is this game fun! I am absolutely rubbish at it but I generally play a medic. No one hates a medic. If I die 19 times but the 20th time I get to you to heal you up, then I’m OK, right? I just need to go into the game with a light heart and not get angry and frustrated at dying a lot while I’m getting used to the game controls and such. There’ll be time to be competitive later and remember, it isn’t costing me anything to play.

What I love about the game is the scope of it. When you’re running across the field and there’re like 20-25 other guys and gals on foot, plus a few tanks and troop transports rolling along beside you, and fighter planes screaming over head, and suddenly the tank off to one side goes up in an explosion from a direct hit from somewhere.. it just feels like what would be the opening cut scene in any other game. But this is all real gameplay.

Of course other times things are a lot quieter. You gotta take the good with the bad.

Unfortunately tonight their servers are slammed. I keep winding up in a Queue that never moves…never even manages to give me my position in the queue. I finally created another character on a West Coast server with only a “High” population just to be sure the game was actually working. While I was in there I grabbed some video using the in-game video capture tools. It doesn’t do a great job, and then once I upload it to YouTube I fear it’s going to look even worse (it’s uploading as I type this).