Massively Exclusive: Matt Higby reveals account-wide SC unlocks coming to PlanetSide 2

MJ Guthrie
M. Guthrie|11.30.12

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Massively Exclusive: Matt Higby reveals account-wide SC unlocks coming to PlanetSide 2
Massively Exclusive Matt Higby reveals accountwide SC unlocks coming to PlanetSide 2
Back at SOE Live, Creative Director Matt Higby spoke about PlanetSide 2's goal to appeal to a broader audience than just the shooter fanbase. It might just have worked: It's been just a little over a week since launch, and PS2 seems to be pulling in players ranging from die-hard veterans of the original PlanetSide to first-time or non-FPS gamers (like yours truly). In fact, as Higby tells it, the number of folks flocking to the new free-to-play MMOFPS has exceeded Sony Online Entertainment's expectations.

Of course, this is only the beginning of PS2's life. With launch now under the developers' belts, the question becomes what's up their sleeves? I cornered Matt Higby to talk about the first week of live servers, how many soldiers have joined in the war, and what's next for the game.

PlanetSide 2 screenshot
Account-wide SC unlocks

The first question I posed to Higby was whether the devs had considered allowing Station Cash purchases to be unlocked for an entire account, not just one character. I was pretty much expecting a no, but Higby surprised me with a yes; apparently, player feedback on this topic has already convinced the team to allow such unlocks. Folks itching to take advantage of this immediately will have to be patient, though, as there is no exact timeframe for the deployment of the change. "It's just a matter of how long it's going to take to get it right," Higby told me. "The good news is that it will be retroactive, so any items that you did buy will automatically go across your entire account once we put it in." He went on to say that there will not be an extra premium for unlocking things across your entire account; prices will remain what they are now.

There's one notable exception to the account-wide unlocks: If you buy something that is faction specific (like the Jackhammer weapon for the New Conglomerate), you won't be able to use it on other factions on the account.

PlanetSide 2 screenshot
Giving defense a purpose

Some players have been disappointed by the perceived lack of reason or reward for defending bases from an onslaught of enemies, so next I asked about plans for making base defense more meaningful.

Higby pointed out that defenders can ultimately get a much larger reward for defending a base than attackers get for conquering. All players see the one-time reward that comes with capturing a base, but apparently many players miss that each and every action taken during a base defense -- be it a rez, heal, or kill -- has an extra 15% XP boost attached. So the longer a player participates in a defense, the more profitable it is in terms of certs and XP. Although the mechanic is already in-game, Higby said that the team could do more to make it readily apparent to folks.

Next, Higby talked about an important aspect of strategy that is already in game: facility benefits. Which type of facility a faction owns determines which benefits other territories get, but since the benefit is available only to connected territories, retaining ownership becomes really important, especially for benefits like the tech plants. He gave an example:
"For instance, if you want to be able to get the main battle tanks from an amp station or a bio lab, you need to have it connected to a tech plant. It makes an unbroken line of connected territory very important."
But don't think that's all there is to it; Higby told me that the dev team's ongoing goal is to make large-scale strategic goals even more meaningful.

PlanetSide 2 screenshotPersonalizing the UI

PlanetSide 2 recently took a very hard-line stance against personal mods of any kind, warning that any such modifications will result in a ban and loss of characters and items. This includes what would normally be considered harmless UI mods. People who find the current UI setup to be counter-intuitive to their personal playstyles appeared to be out of luck. Good news for them: The ability to adjust the UI in game will be back!

Yes, "back." Higby shared that the ability to rearrange and resize windows in the UI was actually live during beta for a time, but it was buggy and had to be removed temporarily for fixes. When it returns, players will be able to customize their UIs to something that is more comfortable for them. Unfortunately, there is no ETA for the return of this functionality.

Immediate plans for the future

Given the promise of more meaningful strategic goals and the knowledge of new continents in the future, I asked about short-term plans for PlanetSide 2. Will new features be incoming? Higby answered,
"The next couple of months will be largely dedicated to bug fixes, polish, optimization, and stability. We didn't want to immediately pivot and move on to creating brand-new features until we felt like the state of everything that's in the game right now was as polished, solid, and fun as it could possibly be."
The developers will also be going through major feedback and concerns from players to address things brought up by the community. And while there is no established ETA for any of them, requested features such as the account-wide SC unlocks, UI functionality, and server transfers will also be implemented. These items are just a few that are on a "gigantic list of things to add to the game."

Concerning balance

Of course, in a game so dedicated to life-and-death struggles, balance is an important issue for players. So with one week of play to monitor conflicts on a larger scale, what does SOE think about the overall time-to-kill for infantry? Anyone hoping for one class or another to be pounded with the nerf-bat will be disappointed; the devs believe the balance is pretty spot-on. Higby said, "We have some minor discrepancies for some classes where time-to-kill vs. another class is a little longer than we want it to be, but for the most part, we are pretty much right where we want to be."

PlanetSide 2 screenshot
A successful launch

To conclude the interview, I asked about SOE's overall thoughts on PS2's launch. Higby admitted that there were initial stability issues, but those were dealt with such that stability increased immensely over the course of the week and even more so in just the last couple of days. He also noted that multiple new servers were added the day after launch to accommodate all the folks logging in to play.

"In the first six days of launch, each one of those days had averaged over 100 years of play-time in the game."

With so many new servers added, I wondered whether player demand was higher than anticipated. Higby agreed: "I would say so, and in a lot of different ways, too -- ways that you wouldn't necessarily guess." He explained that people are logging in and staying on a lot longer than expected, clocking play sessions of eight, 10, and even 12 hours. To give us an idea of PlanetSide 2's initial popularity, Higby shared this very interesting fact: "In the first six days of launch, each one of those days had averaged over 100 years of playtime in the game."

But the game's overall success is tied not only to how many people log in to try it but to how many stay. Consequently, the devs are focusing on retention. So how many people are logging back in day after day? "Those number are solid," says Higby. "We couldn't be happier with the response so far and with the uptake on the game. It's been phenomenal."

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!
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