I was this close to saving myself a lot of time by finishing this article with only a few simple words: Why do I play PlanetSide 2? Because it's fun. I'm pretty sure my boss would want me to expand on it just a bit, however, but let me drive those three words home: Because it's fun. I think we are all familiar with the word "fun," but it's something that we really don't hear enough about in MMOs. I don't think we play MMOs mainly because they're fun; I think we play them because they pull out other emotions in us, emotions like wonder or awe. They might help fill in social needs that are sometimes hard to fill out in real life. These are all positive and worthy reactions, but they're different from sheer fun.
I have oodles of fun in PlanetSide 2. Gobs of it. Barrels of fun. The fun is powerful in this one. You get the point. PlanetSide 2 actually makes me laugh to myself, makes me yell at the screen -- you know, those noises you hear from someone who is having a blast. Of course, there are a few other reasons I play PlanetSide 2 as well, so I'll fill you in on those.
Some of you may know this if you've read my other articles, but I'm no graphics snob. As I write this, I am covering MUDs for an entire month, and I will often livestream unusual or Anime-inspired games like Elsword. Graphics do not matter to me, but when they work, and when they work as well as they do in PlanetSide 2, I do enjoy them. I have to admit to being a bit skeptical when SOE's John Smedley warned that it would take a beast of a machine to run the game. I currently run a Core i7 3770, 12 gigs of ram, a AMD Radeon HD 7770 2GB GDDR5 video card with basic onboard sound, and I crank the graphics all the way up. I run it without a hitch, except for the occasional polite belch.
The game looks so nice. I prefer stylized graphics, but somehow PlanetSide 2 avoids the uncanny valley that plagues other SOE titles like EverQuest II and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. It's funny to find yourself in the middle of a massive firefight only to stop and admire the beautiful moons rising above. Oh, the glorious tracers that seem to be whispering violent love poems only to me like some sort of skywriting from Hades. My playtime in PlanetSide 2 is filled with screenshot-able moments like those, so it's a good thing that I am OK with dying while distracted.
Each faction has a distinct style of its own, so distinct that I can recognize aircraft from seemingly a mile away. The Vanu Sovereignty? They're my least favorite. They're sleek and fast and look a bit too futuristic to deserve any form of mercy. What about the New Conglomerate? They remind me of space marines from my table-top days. The Terran Republic? Those are my peeps. I rolled a Terran not only because of my love for the lovely red and black style of the characters but because of my hatred for the other two factions. Yes, I picked my faction due to its fashion. So shoot me.
Seriously, shoot me; I'm not a difficult target.
"If you are killed in combat, you just respawn moments later, a design that makes me feel like a member of an endless army of ants. The army with the most staying power wins."
Speaking of skill, I think the great thing about an action-based game or MMOFPS is that much of the waiting around for a group or attempts to min-max a character into infinity are largely unnecessary. PlanetSide 2 works for skill levels that range from the bottom end (me) to those who can kill with a toothpick (my wingwoman and PlanetSide 2 developer Margaret Krohn) because it doesn't penalize you for being a horrible player.
Instead, it rewards you for being a better player. If you are killed in combat, you just respawn moments later, a design that makes me feel like a member of an endless army of ants. The army with the most staying power wins. I can spend money to unlock all sorts of powerful weapons, but if I have no skill, I can succumb to someone who has more skill and a weaker weapon.
The game remains free for many because it is fueled by memberships and an in-game cash shop. I have a membership, but I can easily drop 20 bucks by unlocking new weapons or decals. Free players do not have to spend a dime to unlock the same weapons, but they do have to save up certs -- short for certification points -- that are earned by playing the game. You can earn more by being a better player and can earn some while being offline, a deal-sweetener for members. I might pay $7 to unlock a weapon, while another player has to pay 1,000 certs for it. It takes some time to build up that many certs, at least in my experience, but it's nice to see that free players are not completely left in the dust. Membership starts at a few dollars per month, or players can pay for their game piece-meal and by earning certs through gameplay.
Some players like to snipe. Others really enjoy raining death from above while flying a Galaxy or Liberator. Me? Don't laugh, but I cannot get enough of the Lightning, a Terran Republic light tank. It's quick and agile, and I love nothing more than to load it up with the Skyguard anti-aircraft gun. It's a very specific weapon for a very specific need, but I love nothing more than to help bring down an enemy aircraft. The gun does some damage to ground units, as well, but its true purpose is to bring down those annoying pilots. I have unlocked every gun for the Lightning, I've kitted it out with a devil's head decal and a faster chassis, and I love experimenting with different loadouts. Sometimes I try the smoke screen, and I've been toying with gun magnification and a better radar. I spend almost every cert I earn on that little tank, and it's starting to show. I can get to where I need to go in a flash and pop out as an engineer and repair as I see fit. Sometimes I will run around as a Infiltrator and attempt to snipe enemies, and I'll even pop into a MAX suit just to see how long I can last.
PlanetSide 2 works because it allows players of almost any skill level to feel like a useful part of a team. Players like me can survive long enough to actually do some damage while other players go for that headshot. I can jump in literally for 30 minutes in between games that I need to play for work and follow it up with several hours on the weekend. Membership is optional, and free players don't feel completely cheated. It's got something for almost anyone. The community seems mostly well-behaved as well, but that might be due to the fact that we're all too busy laughing out loud to cause any trouble.
And that's why I play PlanetSide 2!
There's an MMO born every day, and every game is someone's favorite. Why I Play is a column in which the Massively staff members kick back and reminisce about all their favorite MMOs. Whether it's the new hotness or an old fan favorite loaded with nostalgia, each title we cover here tugs at our heartstrings and keeps us coming back for more.