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The Firing Line: PlanetSide 2's Matt Higby on the MMOFPS revolution

Jef Reahard

Sony Online Entertainment has begun carpet-bombing media outlets with publicity relating to its upcoming PlanetSide 2 MMOFPS. The game has been in development for quite a while now, but up until very recently the devs have kept a low profile. Now the title's Twitter feed is exploding on a daily basis, awe-inspiring alpha gameplay videos are finding their way into the public eye, and interviews abound.

I managed to get creative director Matt Higby's attention for a few moments, and he's got some interesting things to say about PS2's upside. Would you believe that MMOFPS is about to become a new industry buzzword? Read on after the break.

PlanetSide 2 - Mosquito
Massively: What faction did you play in the original PlanetSide and why? Do you plan to play it again in PS2?

Matt Higby: I played New Conglomerate in the original PlanetSide and I'll be playing New Conglomerate in Planetside 2. Like many PlanetSide players, I can't imagine running around in one of the other factions because I can't think of them as anything but villains. During internal playtests, my skin crawls if I have to play Vanu Sovereignty!

Are there any plans to recognize PlanetSide vets in PS2 in some way? Some sort of visual nod maybe?

We're still working out exactly what we'll do for PS1 vets, but we definitely want to do something cool for them.

PS2 isn't just PS1 with better graphics. There are some new features, some old features didn't make it, etc. What would you say excites you the most about PS2 in relation to the original game?

I'll try to limit myself to three things I'm really excited about with PlanetSide 2 vs. PlanetSide.

1. Continent and level designs -- We've really hand-crafted the world of PlanetSide 2 to support awesome combat no matter where you are; this will mean that a lot more of the world will be under contention at any time and fights will tend to be a lot fresher and more dynamic.

2. Modern gameplay mechanics -- Everything from firing a rifle to flying a jet feels like a modern AAA shooter; there are no compromises to the gameplay mechanics in order to make the game massive, that's been a huge challenge and a tremendous accomplishment.

3. Free-to-play -- I know that a lot of people cringe when they hear it still, but F2P is really a great thing for PlanetSide 2. It means that populations are going to be able to support the massive-scale battles that make this game incredible.

PlanetSide 2 - Terran Republic aerial assault
Why do you think PlanetSide's community has held together so long? Is it the game itself, the sense of teamwork it fosters? Something else?

PlanetSide definitely has an amazingly passionate and enduring community. I think a lot of it has to do with bonds that are formed in persistent FPS combat, always fighting with and supporting the same friends, and fighting against and defeating the same rivals, does definitely foster a deep sense of community as any MMO player can attest.

Another huge part of it is that PlanetSide was and is a totally unique and unprecedented gaming experience. If you were bit by -– for instance -- the RTS bug back in 2003, there would have been dozens of great RTS games between then and now that you could have played and enjoyed. However, if PlanetSide got its hooks into you, there just hasn't been another option for you to scratch that itch until now with PlanetSide 2.

Do you think MMOFPS titles are somewhat niche, then, and if so, do you think PS2 has enough crossover appeal to broaden the market in some sense?

Nine years ago, PlanetSide shipped to a world that wasn't quite ready yet. Hardware requirements, broadband saturation and comfort-level with subscription models all contributed to the game remaining relatively niche. As cliché as it sounds, it really was a game that was in many ways ahead of its time.

As a genre, MMOFPS is a breakout just waiting to happen. Most action gamers crave an epic, larger than life experience, and being able to be part of the type of battles that are uniquely possible in an MMOFPS is about as epic as it gets. When the world sees what we've accomplished with PlanetSide 2, I fully expect to see MMOFPS become a new industry buzzword, just like MMORPG was when people saw that promise in the original EverQuest.

Sounds great, thanks for chatting with us!

The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.

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