Interview: Matt Higby of ‘PlanetSide 2’
Logging on to my computer to play PlanetSide 2, Sony’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), usually doesn’t involve queuing. But with an equally massive event planned for gamers just a few hours away, and scores of gamers lining up to hit the servers, it might be better to go directly to the Book Bindery in Culver City (CA), just minutes away from the Sony Pictures Imageworks studios.
Entering the space, we’re blasted by gaming images on huge screens dotting the walls as we catch the end of an announcement about the collaboration between PS2 and Major League Gaming, the world’s largest e-Sports league. But we’re far more intrigued about the rows of computer screens that dozens of gamers are sitting in front of.
So we turn to PlanetSide 2’s Creative Director for answers. He’s been involved as one of the lead designers since development first began on the project, culminating in its launch in late November 2012 in North America and Europe, with Asia and Russia launches still to come.
MCD: For those who don’t know what PlanetSide 2’s all about…?
Matt Higby: PlanetSide 2 isn’t some “Capture the flag” game where you win and then go home — here we have three distinct empires, each with their own territories to defend and expand. Players participate at all hours, and being that they’re from all around the world, it only makes sense that large-scale team objectives exist. This requires teamwork among players, which fosters a sense of community and camaraderie that doesn’t exist in “first-person shooter” type games, even when they’ve online components involved.
MCD: What’s really unique about the game?
MH: There are some MMORPGs where the map lets 50 or 75 players participate at the same time — here we’re talking about up to 2000 players being able to congregate, coordinate and become active simultaneously. The PS2 development team has been working on the game for a little under two years prior to the launch and what has made it exciting is the level of commitment and enthusiasm on the part of the community. That’s pretty evident, when you consider that there’s been over 3 million playing the game since it first launched in November of last year.
MCD: Why hold this event in the “real world”?
MH: The Ultimate Empire Showdown exposes the goals of the competitive side of the game experience– and on a massive scale too, I might add. We’ve selected 12 players divided by Empire into squads — these squads will work in tandem with hundreds of teammates who have signed-on in-game to fight each other in what will be a most massive competition.
MCD: So what’s cool about doing this?
MH: One of the cool things is that this isn’t just happening on one server but across the world on many, many servers. Being able to integrate so many people from across so many time zones just points to how players don’t have to be physically in one place to form a bond. Of course the physical trophies are going to those Head Honchos and leaders of the Terran Republic Empire here at the live event for winning the Player’s Choice Award — but so many players participate online that it would have been kind of hard to ship out that many trophies.
But let me point out that it isn’t all just fun and games — we’re releasing a 6-month plan for developing the game and it’s out there for the player to see. That’s kind of unprecedented when developers pretty much assume they know it all — but here we’re asking the PlanetSide 2 community to get involved and help to prioritize and discuss the changes that will make the game even more awesome.
MCD: And the website Roadmap…?
MH: …is where this will all go down as players will be able to input their ideas for what they’d like to see in the game too. This isn’t something that has been done in game development before, but we wanted to turn the formula on its head because there’s no reason that the PlanetSide 2 community shouldn’t continue to be involved in the game’s development post launch.
MCD: Can you sum up what you feel is the most important thing about the game?
MH: The most important thing to me about PlanetSide 2 is that it creates an environment that allows players to participate in an exciting and rewarding team-based game at an unprecedented scale –one where teamwork predominates and makes its mark both in the gameplay as well as the collective consciousness of the community. That’s pretty compelling, I’d say.
Check out Marshal’s reviews of The Coolest Stuff from the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show or lust after the new Bentley Continental with us.