PS2's Creative Director talks hacking, UI improvements and lessons from launch.
PlanetSide 2 (PS2) has launched with the swagger that resounding critical and fan positivity provides. Garnering such accolades requires an inordinate amount of work by the development team, as seen by the swathe of balance tweaks, stability fixes and other iterations that have been seen in the short time since launch.
Creative Director Matt Higby spoke to me in the middle of his whirlwind schedule to discuss the reaction of players to PlanetSide 2, the trials the game has undergone and some of the changes still to come. First, I asked Higby about his views on the game’s performance since launch.
“Launching an MMO is always a huge challenge, you never know exactly what’s going to bite you in the ass and you always have a feeling there’s something about to. The first few days after launch I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, like “When is our character database going to go offline?” but nothing like that really happened.
I think it is a testament to having 13 years of experience in launching MMOs. The whole company, from our operations team to our customer service team to our game dev team, is a bunch of people who are experts and have been through the wringer a few times, in what I would say has been a miraculously clean launch.”
Though Higby was clear that the team was aware the launch hadn’t been 100% perfect, with some intermittent downtime for servers, he was very pleased with the improvement in stability of the game and its performance. Server stability has seemingly been brought under control; which was put to the test by the recent Double XP Weekend -- a thank you to fans for their patience in getting the game performing to the desired standards.
Populations were very high all weekend. The skies of Auraxis were filled with the roar of dogfights while the ground rumbled under the weight of armored columns moving from Amp Stations to Bio Labs and beyond. All with very few performance issues on PlanetSide 2’s servers or from the client itself.
Still, even with such a successful launch, the move from beta to live brings in new players and new lessons to be learned. Higby spoke of the importance of new player feedback and the perspective it has brought:
“A lot of the feedback is centered on wanting better options for a tutorial and ways to ease you into the game; we are taking that very seriously. We are going to be building out more things in the future that make it a little bit easier for new players to get into the game and figure out how things work. We certainly recognize that as a deficit right now, but for the most part the response has been thrilling.”
I asked about what the dev team’s focus has been for the game in these immediate months from launch and where it currently resides. Higby was clear on the priorities as they stand:
“We said that we were going to dedicate the rest of the year post launch to fixing bugs and polish. And that’s basically what we’ve been doing as a team, from guys working on server stability to people working on client optimization; we have people working on building a better framework for anti-hacking, there’re lots of things that are happening but they are all out solidifying the game rather than us pivoting and immediately working on the next big feature.”
Much has been written about the cash shop and some people’s concerns over any microtransaction system can be difficult to assuage. However, just by playing the game and seeing the number of people who have been paying for different skins for their troops and vehicles, players have mainly embraced the approach, as Higby commented:
“We’ve been pleased with how popular it has been. I’ll say that. It’s been really cool to see players go in and see some of the customizations that maybe they saw the devs have in beta, but they didn’t have access to.”