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The Gaming Iconoclast: A side of PlanetSide

Rafe Brox

"Come on, you apes! Do you want to live forever?"
- Unknown WWI platoon Sergeant, as quoted in the epigraph of Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein

This sort of chaos, of being flung into the maw of an overwhelming and relentless foe, very succinctly sums up the jovial insanity of Massively's foray into PlanetSide's world-event realm as so-called Black Ops. Replete with frenetic action, us-versus-the-world attitude, and the ever-so-helpful seismic and meteoric stylings of a GM eavesdropping on our Skype chat, TGI hopes that our incursion into PlanetSide's universe provided an entertaining distraction to the folks for whom it's been a long-time daily driver.

Our efforts could politely have been called "lambs to the slaughter." They could less-politely be visualized as a well-worn combat boot meeting a sensitive part of TGI's anatomy, perhaps the one he sits upon, repeatedly and with great vigor.

It was glorious.

TGI has mused on previous occasions about stepping outside of one's comfort zone and engaging in mind-broadening play sessions. This was an opportunity to do so, in spades. Having not strapped into a first-person shooter outside of a few minutes' worth of BioShock other than Halo since the hoary old days of Quake ]|[ and Unreal Tournament, there was a not insubstantial amount of rust to be shaken off. Said rust was, shall we say, neither shaken nor stirred.

TGI's personal incompetence aside, the game itself rekindled a dormant passion for simply and straightforwardly doing unto others before they do unto you, with no further ornamentation. This was the first time a true MMO has embraced this notion so wholeheartedly in TGI's experience. There are no NPCs. No formal quests. It is merely "kill or be killed" on a planetary scale. Conceptually, it resonates with what TGI believes proper worldwide PvP ought to be. But, having now run about PlanetSide as both a regular foot-soldier and as one of Team Massively's agents (if we'd had a de facto team logo, imagine a "KICK ME!" sign with a large, friendly bulls-eye beneath it), TGI is left with nothing more than a keen desire to see a sequel, though perhaps not for the reasons most folks might expect.

After about two hours, it was very clearly time to call it a day. Even the most frustrating, we're-banging-our-heads-against-a-wall-here encounter in PvE content may require a few minutes away to regroup while the baddies go back to their pinochle game. However, as Hemlock pointed out, the concerted camping efforts of the other players were not going to cease as long as we were ripe for the picking. The self-same world persistence that makes it an attractive environment to drop into and start kicking enemy butt also leaves the door open for such actions. In the absence of a heavy hand from the GMs, there's not much that can or should be done here. It certainly fosters a lot of teamwork when you need to root out an entrenched pile of hostiles who've taken up residence.

A mixture of this pure PvP with occasional world events that require cooperation among nominal enemies, or simply provide a distraction from the workaday slaughter would be more meaningful. War doesn't take place in a vacuum, with static factions at all times. There's a fairly robust amount of organic flexibility in the current model, but injecting a greater frequency and/or amplitude of external factors would prevent a pattern of give-and-take that could become tedious.

On the subject of world events, and player participants as the objets d' morte of them, so to speak, a question was put to TGI by the Substantially Better Half. Not being terribly well-versed in the Black Ops mechanic, but sharing an avid World of Warcraft habit, it was initially challenging to draw parallels. We certainly weren't the equivalent of outdoor raid bosses (but, oh, doesn't that sound fun); perhaps more akin to the rarely-spawned silver dragon creatures that intermittently blunder into the path of oh-so-grateful adventurers, ready to be shaken down like so many affluent but naiive tourists. Or, perhaps, inept beekeepers, sticking our hands into an angry hive and meeting with a swift and coordinated counterattack. Of course, having Benedict Arnold over here, broadcasting our every move -- hey, how about you type less and shoot more! -- might have had something to do with that, too.

It was also the first chance for several of us here at Massively to interact with one another in something more exciting than a chat room, which was a nice consolation prize. It's pleasant having some company in the afterlife. After all, who wants to live forever?

No, that is not his hair. Rafe Brox spends an inordinate amount of time annoying people who think they know more than he does. When not causing friends and enemies alike to /facepalm electronically, he can be found extolling the virtues of the weird peripherals in his life, from kettlebells to the Trackman Marble. If you, too, would like to tell Rafe exactly how wrong he is doing it, the target coordinates are rafe.brox AT weblogsinc DOT com.

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