Some Assembly Required: Tramell Isaac talks Player Studio for PlanetSide 2

Some Assembly Required Tramell Isaac talks Player Studio for PlanetSide 2

Ya'll might remember a little reveal last year at SOE Live -- the one about Player Studio. It basically took player-created content up a notch, giving players the chance to put items they design into the games they love and actually make money off of their creativity. Initially, that ability to create content for cash only applied to EverQuest and EverQuest II, but Free Realms was added soon after. Though also slated to join in the Player Studio party, Vanguard, and PlanetSide 2 have remained noticeably absent. Cue PS2's big entrance.

That's right folks: The MMOFPS is finally getting in on the fun. On Monday, July 29th, PlanetSide 2 will officially launch into the realm of Player Studio. Keen-eyed players may even notice that the groundwork has already been laid; the necessary information has been soft-launched on the official website for potential creators to peruse. So what does this all mean for a game that is decidedly different from the fantasy settings of its SOE siblings? I sat down with Senior Art Director Tramell Isaac to discuss how this new tool fits into the war effort.

Pimp your ride

P(layer) S(tudio) Too!

Although Player Studio wasn't a part of PS2 when it launched, the game has the distinction of being the only current SOE title that intended to utilize the tool from the get-go. Isaac pointed out that while EQ, EQII, and Free Realms (and Vangaurd when it finally joins the party) all had to incorporate the system into existing game infrastructure, PS2 was designed knowing it would be using it, and therefore was able to plan accordingly.

So if it was expected from the start, why wasn't Player Studio a part of the game at launch? Isaac explained that even though the system was going in, more pressing matters demanded attention in the beginning -- matters like game performance, stability, and accessibility. Basically, as Isaac put it, "Making sure that players are there to buy items from players was one of the bigger initiatives that needed to be squared away!"

Start your creative engines

Obviously, PS2 is quite different thematically from the other games that use Player Studio, so the player-designed items will be different as well. After all, there are no houses to make decorations for, and whimsical weapon skins really wouldn't fit in the world. What items then can players design and submit for consideration? Isaac revealed, "The first foray of PlanetSide 2 into Player Studio is going to allow players to make one of five items: decals, camo patterns, hood ornaments, cockpit decals, and helmets."

By offering decals and camo as options, Isaac believes that more people will have the opportunity to participate in Player Studio compared to the other games. Since these items are relatively simple, contributors won't need advanced technical skills with design programs such as Blender, Maya, and Photoshop. "Pretty much anybody could get into a decal or a camo pattern," he said.

Helmet example

Helmets, however, are another matter entirely. Whereas decals are a small 2-D image, helmets are larger 3-D pieces, and contributors will need a decent grasp of specific design programs in order to create them. Another difference between the other items for Player Studio and the helmets are the specifications; with the decals, camo, and hood ornaments, folks can let their creativity go wild, but there are some definite rules for the helmets. And the guiding principle behind those rules is that the assets have to fit within the PlanetSide 2 universe.

The helmets must use the specific textures that were created by the devs and fit the style of the specific faction. Players can choose from the swatches available, but no custom textures will be allowed. Each of the three factions has its own set of textures for use. And they must fit the faction. This is to endure that the helmets now, and the vehicles and armor attachments later on, fit into the look and feel of the game. Anyone who was sitting here envisioning seeing a beer stein helmet or Afro can just give up that idea now; there's no chance of those things making it through the selection process. "We don't put anything in the game just willy-nilly, it has to have a purpose."

Would you like more of a challenge than just decals and helmets? More items will be coming. As time passes, the player Studio for PS2 will evolve, influenced by player feedback. Isaac stated, "As time goes on, we're going to expand that to other items like vehicle cosmetics and character cosmetics." Could player-created weapons be in the future, too? "If we do weapons or we do vehicles or something that would require some kind of design data," Isaac answered, "It would be more along the lines of a variation of something that already exists." Players would be able to create different looks for the vehicles, armor, and maybe even weapons, but the stats and utility will remain the same as current offerings designed by the dev team.

Working the system

Unlike its Player Studio predecessors, PS2 will actually have a few sample items in the marketplace upon launch and player contributions will soon follow. Isaac noted that "We do have people working on assets right now." It turns out that some contributors who have created things for the other games were just waiting for the chance to design stuff for the MMOFPS. And allowing people to get a jump start and test out the system gave the team the chance to "kick the tires a little bit." As Isaac pointed out, making sure the documentation is written in such a way that those outside the gaming industry can understand the requirements for contributions is crucial to the successful implementation of the system.

Want to hop on the Player Studio bandwagon and try to get your ideas in the marketplace? Instructions for how to get started are available on the main site, as is a handy FAQ that answers the most common questions. Why not try your hand at it? Who knows, before long you might be shooting down someone who sports your handiwork! You'll be thinking how nice it was of them to pad your wallet first and then your kill count.

Coming soon: Pimp your ride 2

Even if you don't want to be a seller, you can still benefit from the Player Studio. Having more items and a larger variety gives the entire player population more choice, and more choice to personalize your play is hardly a bad thing. Prices for player-created items will follow the same pricing standard as the already established dev items. And all Player Studio offerings will be clearly marked as such, so buyers will know that they are supporting fellow players. As an interesting aside, Isaac revealed that he has designed all of the latest camo patterns, so players will be competing against his personal designs for customers.

More PGC in the future

On a final note, I asked Isaac about the player-generated missions that were talked about a while back. He stated that that system was still on the roadmap and added, "It is something we've wanted to do for a while... The first step is making sure the mission system is in the game and working the way we want to have it work." So players looking forward to that feature can rest assured that it has not been forgotten!

Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!