PlanetSide 2: Matt Higby on Battle Islands

WIth the unveiling of the Nexus map, PS2's creative director speaks to ZAM

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PlanetSide 2 continues to undergo constant change. The Road Map—an outline of current development that the players actually contribute their opinions to—promises improvements in a variety of areas, including outfit recruitment.

There can be few additions with a bigger impact than the recently announced Battle Islands. The first of these smaller, more focused fields of battle might be misconstrued as just an instanced battleground made for SOE’s partnership with MLG.

In fact, the islands will have a much greater influence on the day-to-day play of Auraxis and will, in some ways, define the back and forth of continental warfare. To get the details on this intriguing development, it was my pleasure to speak to PlanetSide 2’s creative director, Matt Higby.

Firstly, I asked Matt about the focus for Nexus and how its development was important for PlanetSide 2. He wanted to be clear that the map wasn’t just a development for eSports.

Matt Higby: eSports has prize money involved in these events and professional players. For us it’s about trying to create more legitimate competitive modes in the game to allow our players who want to be competitive, who don’t necessarily want to become pro-gamers, to have an area in which to compete in a legitimate and fair sense.

The pinnacle of that is eSports, but it’s not all about eSports. eSports gets a lot of the attention, but for us it’s about having ways to legitimize competition within the game between different outfits.

MLG is our partner that we’re working with on broadcasting competitive gameplay, but our focus is on creating competition within the game and it isn’t an eSports focus, it’s a competitive gameplay mode focus.

In terms of the map itself, Matt explained what he thought Nexus would bring that would excite PlanetSide 2 players.

Compared to our current maps, it’s a lot tighter so it allows for a lot more tactical movement, especially within the facilities and outposts. There are a lot more underground areas, places to have very focused infantry fights. We have a few areas like that in PlanetSide 2, such as Bio Labs and a lot of the facilities that have been revamped have that within them.

Because Nexus is a relatively smaller map, the density of that is a lot tighter. So if you just want to play infantry and just go from outpost to outpost, your ability to do that and remain in the action pretty much non-stop is a lot better within Nexus.

There are still, obviously, plenty of areas for vehicles to shine but there aren’t as many wide open areas as there are on the continents.

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Matt stated that there will be 11 different outposts for players to fight over on Nexus. They will be placed within areas that will emphasize the array of different types of confrontation that happen so organically in PlanetSide 2. Though substantially smaller than continents—Nexus is four square kilometers compared to 64km squared for continents—the Battle Island should contain all of the tactical opportunities PS2 players expect.

The outposts are designed with specific objectives in mind, the ability for certain ones to be more defensive, certain ones to be easier to take. For the proper MMO game, when we implement [Battle Islands] they’re going to be set up as two-way fights. Each warp gate will belong to one empire and you’ll be able to push in a more one-vs.-one way on this map than you would in the current game, whereas on a continent map there’s always a third empire to come in and block.

We’re implementing it first and foremost to fill out our continental warfare gameplay. It’s going to be about being able to conquest across that map and reach the other warp gate. That will allow you to get access between continents.

If you can imagine our three continents that we have right now in a triangle configuration and then Hossin in the middle; each of our current continents will have one home warp gate, that’s basically the home warp gate for that empire. So they now have a home continent.

The other two warp gates on the opposite sides of the continents would each connect to Hossin and each one of them would connect to a different Battle Island.  You would use the Battle Island to go from Esamir to Amerish, or you could go through Hossin—because Hossin will have three warp gates; one will go to Esamir and one will go to Amerish.

You conquest across and capture a warp gate. Once you’ve conquered across either a Battle Island or Hossin you will then be able to send forces to another empire’s home continent.

All of this allows us to facilitate cross-continental gameplay that we’ve wanted for a long time, but it takes a lot more maps to fill in the area in-between home continents.

From Higby’s description it’s easy to consider the huge scope that inter-continental warfare will have across the constantly expanding surface of Auraxis. Battle Islands will certainly not be peripheral, instanced entities that are simply there to house outfit skirmishes. In fact they will be highly important in forming the newly expanded dynamics of territorial control.

These [Battle Islands] are being designed first and foremost to facilitate continental conquest in the main MMO game of PlanetSide 2. They’re also being designed to allow for a very good competitive gameplay experience and support things like instancing and48-on-48 battles.

48 vs. 48 is a lot of players for an FPS game but that’s not enough players to fill up one of our existing continents so the Battle Islands work really well for allowing us to have a focused, competitive gameplay mode. But when we use them in the MMO game they’re going to support a couple of hundred players, so they’re not just going to be a small instance that’s only used by competitive players. Everyone who plays PlanetSide 2 is going to be able to use them and practice on them, get familiar with them. Then when we do competitive gameplay modes they’ll be a stage of that as well, but that’s not their raison d’être.

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No doubt many players will be looking forward to getting their boots, landing gear and tank tracks on Nexus. Matt explained that we will start to see elements of Battle Islands coming to fruition in-game “soon”.  He also made it clear that this won’t be the kind of experience where players will queue up monotonously—as they would in battlegrounds in other MMOs.

It’s never going to be a lobby based thing. The way it’s going to work is outfits are going to be ranked against each other on a global leader board. We’re putting together some specific heuristics to compare different sized outfits, so if you have a small sized outfit against a large outfit we’re going to be able to make sure they’re on a relatively even playing field. Then we’re using that leader board to seed a tournament bracket.

Your competition in the MMO game is what gives you access to participate in the competitive side. If you want to be a competitive outfit and fight in these tournaments, your outfit is going to have to make sure the MMO game is the most competitive, most fun and most active.

We don’t want to get the most competitive players to suddenly be off in some queue or some lobby all the time, just queuing up for matchmaking games. We want them to be part of the MMO game and enhance it.

That leader board’s going to be coming online fairly soon, so outfits are going to start jockeying for position on there, and then we’re looking at some time in the next six to eight months to actually add functionality to facilitate tournaments.

 

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Battle Islands
# Jul 05 2013 at 3:13 AM Rating: Decent
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All sounds very good, and as always Higby as open as can be. One thing I hate is segregation. I understand that you can't have 100,000 people on the same server, but at least when it comes to the Battle Islands, I am curious if these will be also segregated into different servers like the MMO worlds.

I don't play enough to know if it is already the case, and it probably is, but all the competitive players will want to play with the best on the same server, and those servers will be full in no time. Of course this can be said for any MMO, but it is another challenge we need to overcome in MMOs, at least when talking about PvP of course.

It would be interesting to experiment with the idea of tiered competitive servers. Where as teams get higher or lower in the rankings, they can move up and down in servers to allow them to play with equally skilled players; making for truly competitive servers.

Would make it very easy for spectators, you know when you peer through the looking glass at the highest ranked servers you're going to see some of the best pilots, tankers and infantry players.

Edited, Jul 5th 2013 5:14am by Crainey

Edited, Jul 5th 2013 5:15am by Crainey
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