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GDC 2013: PlanetSide 2's new app and the future of Forgelight

MJ Guthrie

On Tuesday, SOE shared a trailer highlighting its Forgelight engine. The proprietary engine not only runs PlanetSide 2 but will also be the foundation for all the studio's future games, including EverQuest Next. The same press release also introduced the upcoming PS2 app. Although it won't be available to the public for a a bit, I had a chance to sit with senior art director Tramell Issac to see the app in action as well as discuss the Forgelight engine and what's coming up for PS2.

The app provides easy access to a ton of gameplay info, from personal stats to weapon information to real-time in-game map updates, and consequently there could be a marked decrease in workplace productivity in store for PS2 fans!

 PlanetSide 2's players site
The world of PS2 at your fingertips

As with any number of games that involve intensive strategizing and build manipulation, there is plenty of time devoted to activities other than the physical battle itself. These activities don't need the full power of the entire game client, which is where the new PlanetSide 2 app comes in.

In many ways,the app mimics the PS2 Players site that is currently in beta. It contains plenty of information for players to access while not actually logged in the game. Will the app compete with the Players site? Not really, according to Isaac; it's more of a companion. Unlike the Players site, you cannot do player comparisons, but the app makes other information available anytime, anywhere.

Aug 2012 of PlanetSide 2 appSo what does the app (which will be available for both iPad and Android) include? Isaac called it a wikipedia of all the game's weapons, vehicles, equipment and related stats. It's a repository for official videos, tweets, and Twitch footage, with quick links so players have instant access to media information about the game. It also includes a current listing of the scores for highly ranked players. Although searching the entire database of information is doable offline, players who log in can get a personal breakdown of everything to do with their characters.

Curious as to how many times your soldier has driven -- or flown -- a specific vehicle, used a specific weapon, or maybe how many kills you've racked up on said weapon? A few clicks brings all that information up. Players can even see an accounting of how many bullets each weapon has fired, how many of the kills were headshots, and a myriad of other statistics. To illustrate this, Isaac brought up a profile that showed that for one specific weapon, a player had taken 11 shots and scored one kill. If you can think of a stat relevant to PlanetSide 2, this app probably has it. On top of that, the app has extensive sorting capabilities and an intuitive format.

Gaming on the go

The app's features don't stop there. With it, PS2 players can keep abreast of what's going on in game; they can zoom in and out and see the real-time happenings on the game map. They can also keep in touch with friends. Isaac said:
"If you're logged in and they're logged in, you can talk from the iPad to them over voice chat and get the latest updates. If you're at work and your friend is playing, you can say 'Hey, how's it going?' and you can actually look at the map and participate in the battle as well... We are giving these tools -- very rudimentary tools right now -- to players so they can stay 'in the game' without actually being in the game."
If the current tools are considered rudimentary, what is considered more advanced? Isaac talked about how "the ultimate goal is to be able to actually affect some kind of change in the game though the iPad or the Android app... maybe like drone strikes or orbital strikes."

With so much packed into the app, players might be interested in getting their hands on it right now. However, Issac noted that the app is still in testing and going through approvals right now, but it will be available for general use in approximately a month, possibly sooner.

Image from PlanetSide 2's Forgelight video
Forging ahead with Forgelight

While touching on the benefits of the Forgelight engine, Isaac talked about how the engine was meant for longevity. He stated, "Forgelight is just the beginning of a new generation of games we're going to create with this technology that allows us to stay relevant for a longer period of time." He continued, "I think Forgelight is going to allow us to continue to make the game look better and better." Instead of having to rely on a graphics overhaul down the line, Forgelight has features already built in that just need to be unlocked as time goes on.

He also noted that SOE had no plans to license the technology out to other developers. In fact, according to Isaac, this engine is a good recruiting tool for bringing people into the SOE fold.

PlanetSide 2' screenshotComing up next

Isaac spoke about what is on the development timeline for PlanetSide 2. He talked about what players can expect in the next two or three months including the MAX suit update (with new abilities, weapons, helmets, and cosmetics) followed by the Light Assault update, with common pool buggies that any class can use coming sometime in between. After that, empire-specific vehicles will make their appearance. Later on there will be new maps with new terrain, first a swamp and then a lava zone.

As a final question, I asked Isaac how he thinks the game is doing. He said he appreciates how people are engaged with the game and giving enough feedback so that the developers know where to focus their energies. Isaac described the Roadmap the devs are using to determine where the game goes, and how players are really directing that effort. Basically, ideas for what players think the devs should be working on are presented in a poll and the players then vote on what they want to see implemented. Isaac noted that the devs have been surprised at things the players have voted down, such as orbital strikes (which they thought would be a core thing).

Isaac summed it up thusly: "At the end of the day, the game is for the players. If we are working on something that players don't really necessarily want, then that's time wasted and money wasted."

Massively sent its ace reporters to San Francisco to bring you back the biggest MMO news from this year's GDC, the largest pro-only gaming industry con in the world! Whether it's EVE Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic or that shiny new toy you've got your eye on, we're on the case, so stay tuned for all the highlights from the show!

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