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Friday, December 14, 2012

Planetside 2: The circle-zerg

So the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of holidays and law school finals, leaving me bereft of time to write anything meaningful or do much in the way of gaming. In that time I did take a shine to the newly released Planetside 2 and it occupied what breaks I allowed myself. SOE has conjured forth my nostalgic side and drawn me into the web of MMOFPS once more and I don't mind much. I loved Planetside, it was the first game I played with "MMO" at the front of its genre. Alas the game is far from perfect; the shift towards a F2P model has had some negative effects on the gameplay that I aim to address in a coming series of posts...the first of which, I call the "circle-zerg".

Put briefly, Planetside 2 has three continents for the three factions to fight over. Each has its own terrain (desert/plain, snow, and a sort of forest/jungle) and a dozen or so large bases to fight over, with twenty or so smaller installations scattered around. That's a lot of territory to conquer....and it would be great. But Planetside 2 is all about certs, certs do everything for you....they allow you to "specialize", they let you buy new weapons or equipment...they do most everything. They are gained from combat experience (doing everything from healing allies, killing enemies, to sneezing on a tank). Thus everyone wants to maximize their experience gained per hour so as to maximize cert gains.

There is a problem though; you get about 4 certs worth of xp for taking a facility (1000, and that's in addition to the combat experience you get doing so), and guess how much you get for defending? None. There is no bonus for defending. Furthermore, there is no restriction on which facilities a faction can attack...the speed at which they capture is determined by "influence" but otherwise everything seems to be fair game. So this means that the best way to get xp is to take territory, not to stay and defend what you have. It leads to this.... (image comes from a reddit post, currently PS2 will not allow me to take screenshots)

Notice the bars showing each continent's faction population (top right of each) with the total population on the bottom right.
So what happens? People group up for the best chance of getting xp...strength in numbers...and then the moment things go south they bail to the continent where their faction is doing best. Instead of having "wars" of big armies fighting, most of these engagements are turning into one-sided steamrolls of those few defenders stick around. This is the essence of the "circlezerg"; two armies crawling around each other, taking back what the other side takes....and all of this, because certs are the currency of the realm, and are all anyone desires (because of how ridiculously many it takes to get anything). SOE needs to provide some new incentive to defend territory.This is one of those places I think a look back would help them moving forward. Right now, you can attack anywhere...and while this is nice for "operative" type players who like small group tactics, it results in defenders having no idea where they will be hit next. The lattice system in Planetside 1 at least ensured that to progress the attackers had to go certain directions and it allowed losers at one battle to reinforce and defend at the next base, providing for better fights. By keeping the smaller perimeter redoubts and towers open to be captured, those players who like the more covert style would still have tasks.

I've railed on certs here, but I'll address them in another post....but for now, with certs being the prize everyone is chasing, SOE needs to do something to bring the zergs together, because it would be a lot more fun to actually fight a formidable foe.

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