Barriers

When people talk about “Free to play” titles, there is usually a reference to removing barriers. Removing them from the entry to the game, purchase costs, monthly subscriptions, etc.
While this has a positive benefits in terms of players and accessibility, removal of these entry level barriers means that those looking to exploit a game can just roll new accounts when they get found out.

Come with me into the Past

Ghostly outlines

Let me take you back in time to 2006, this was before the free to play model was fully embraced as a viable business model and subscription was the order of the day.

To encourage more gamers to try out Planetside (1), SoE introduced a feature called Reserves for a period of 1 year. This allowed anyone to create a SoE account and earn 6 battle ranks levels and 2 command levels before they stopped gaining XP.

On the whole there were high-hopes that this would drive more players into picking up the game. However this single act, resulted in a massive influx of persons out to abuse the system. The worst part was that the continued free access granted them the ability to test out different hacks and “so we are led to believe” develop/use tools to achieve various hacks on the fly.

Sadly this wasn’t the revamp that Planetside needed and effectively paved the path for continued exploits and ongoing problems that plagued the game forever more.

Now?

Over the last week in PS2  I have encountered a player on three separate occasions who appeared to be using a wall/clipping hack combined with increased damage output, meaning you would be killed by an “invisible” enemy with 1 shot.

In a purely PvP orientated game like Planetside 1 or 2, the floodgates are wide opened for cheaters and trolls to apply their “trade”, thanks to the removal of barriers.

I am rather surprised that SoE didn’t seem to take anything away from the reserves experiment. Even their hacking detection seems to be as lacklustre as it was in 2006/2007, relying more on other players to report these events over actively seeking them out in real time.

Planetcide

Many of us found our gaming home in the ranks of the soldiers of Auraxis, our war was on land, air, sea and even underground when needed. There was always a target in mind, something to do, a single squad could take action that made a difference to the global fight, hell a single solider could turn the tide of a battle with a well placed orbital strike.

We fought in the vehicle bays of tech plants, defended stair cases of towers, assaulted rooms carved from crystalline structures. The goals and objectives changed by the minute: fall back, roll armour, hold the line while reinforcements flew to our aid. If there were dull moments, I must have missed them.
You weren’t thinking of your next kill or level, there was work to be done, and despite it being a “grind”, it never felt like it wasn’t the sole purpose of the game.”

Excerpt from Tales of Auraxis – ChaosNC Archives

It is with a sad heart that say I’ve given up on Planetside 2, conceding to the fact that almost all of the enjoyable elements of the original game were overlooked when in came to designing PS2, presumably in favour of a more mainstream elements found FPS games.

At first I thought that it was just me and perhaps the shiny new engine just wasn’t my cup of tea, however after talking with a number if players it would seem to be a much wider spread concern.

If you are a veteran Planetside player who has played both games I shall ask you a simple question:
How many memorable/heroic feeling moments have you experienced in Planetside 2?

Global Map

For those that enjoy the killwhoring side of FPS games PS2 is great, but for many others it’s almost a chore to play, with little enjoyment or thanks for undertaking support activities. Ignoring the free to play nature of the game, PS2 lacks many of the original game elements that gave the game some direction, a fact that has been noticed by the folks at SOE given that they aim to bring the lattice back into play.

However it’s a long way from the things that gave PS a unique feeling, from simple things like tower drops to tactical activities such as Gen holds/ base drains. There are large scale battles but they don’t last long as players drift off, or you get back hacked.
Also gone is the hack defense, emergency ANT drop from max altitude via lodestar, 30 person max crashes or re-securing a base with seconds left on the clock.

Maybe one day I’ll return to Planetside 2, maybe one day it will be the game I hoped it would be.

 

Welshtroll/ChaoticDecimation – SmasherDevourer – TurboTurbot

Bleeding the Freemium players

ccowSo this far into the Free-2-Play adventures it’s plain to all that there are frequently some tactics used to help customers part with their recently purchased coins/cash/tokens/crowns/points. However most companies seem to have some morals and don’t kick the arse out of it too much with the occasional item once every 3 to 6 months.
Additionally it is frequently some cosmetic item/armour or a new/unique horse.

However so far SOEs plan seems to be different, by making weapons unlockable with station cash many people see it as a “Win Button” approach and I have to say to a degree it sometimes feels like it. At this point I’d much rather a subscription game than the half and half model, which to be honest feels greedy.

However what appears to be happening at the moment is that SOE announce and release a new weapon, which once players have their hands on it turns out to be highly overpowered.
Once word of this gets into the mainstream player base there is a rush as everyone spends their Station Cash on the new Flavour of the week/month weapon, normally trying to get in on the action before SOE take a nerf-bat to it.

Of course the outcome is that SOE announce that it will be de-buffed in some way in the next patch, but not the worry as here is a brand new overpowered weapon to make up for it, just spend another 700 station cash and you can be a kill-whore like your friends.

As you can see the problem is due to two man factors:

  • No testing server has been given but I hear it’s coming soon, lets hope they listen to feedback rather than ignoring it as they mostly did with Beta.
  • The internal playtest/balancing is being done by SOE isn’t picking up any problems with these weapons. Now concerning that may of the devs claim to be life-long Planetside players, why aren’t they flagging these overpowered items before they hit the live servers?

All of this ultimately makes me believe this continual delivery of game wrecking functionality is being purely driven by SOE as part of their strategy to milk the players for as much as possible.Bit of a shame really.

Perhaps it’s just me, perhaps I’m that tied up with this game more than other F2P titles that I have most likely missed it happening to this extent elsewhere.

What are your experiences?

Planetside v2

The original PS was my first MMO game, MMO in the sense that the world was massive, it was persistent and the theatre of combat was continually shifting and evolving. The game remains the place that spent a large potion of my 20’s, when I wasn’t working, I was on Auraxis, fighting, laughing and making friends with a group of players who remain a big part of my gaming life.

Planetside 2 isn’t a successor, but as the title implies it’s a reboot of the franchise bypassing all of the awkward elements that were shoehorned into the game which had the same effect as the NGE had on Star Wars Galaxies. This is making the world as it would have been made in the original version had technology been available, everything is super sized, from the buildings to the landscapes.

SOE has been rather sneaky and rather than leap into newer versions of Direct X the engine runs on DX9, which for anyone with a modern rig you can run at high end settings without too much trouble, this of course means that older machine should be capable of running the game.

However there a number of elements of Planetside 2 that I haven’t got to grips with yet.

1) Server bound characters
This is a normal practice in MMOs, yet this move in PS2 is hampered by the fact there are limited number of continents on a server thus resulting in locks and queues. Yes I know there were queues for continents in the original game, but you could still get onto the server even if you had to fight in a less populated battle. This new system instantly means that at peak time, not only can you not get to the main fight you can’t even join your outfit and have to fight elsewhere, to me this is a step backwards in character/server configuration.
Maybe just another cheap trick to incentivise players to opt for membership/VIP status.

2) Target audience
PS2 is targeted at more main stream FPS gamers, drawing from players of Call of Duty and Battlefield, this is a both a good and bad thing. Planetside requires team work in order to maximise the enjoyment gained and to also to achieve objectives. A big problem is that standard FPS games allow casual players to join matches solo and work towards a team objective with little or no interaction with fellow gamers.
Players who arrive with that attitude will find the game difficult maybe even boring
It is clear to see this selfish approach with simple acts such as not offering transport when you are commanding a vehicle with 11 empty seats, to the Zerg mentality that didn’t that much fun to watch or endure.

3) Pay wall versus idiot haven
As other games have proven Free to Play titles face a problem griefers, the effect of removing the pay barrier results in a large number of persons who are out to misbehave to the detriment of other players.
This even appears in the form of rage over perceived kill stealing, twice in the last week have I been gunned down due to some moron missing out on a kill (I believe), not that conducive to happy game.

4) Interfarm
As veteran players will recall the interlink farm was a time sink and primarily used for all those kill whore players to add some more figures to their kill streak. In PS2 the tech plant appears to have filled this role, however there is a stark difference between the games that means in PS2 camping out in a base to farm enemies for XP is a cost that is paid via the loss of other regions.
In the original game the lattice system meant that you didn’t lose too much from a little Interfarm now and again, where-as last night I watched as territories were taken all around us, yet the double XP kept a large chunk of players in one location.

Those as are the biggest issues I have with the game, there are other nigglingly points that aren’t worth pointing out at this time.

PS & Me

Maybe my reason for playing this game has changed, my definition of enjoyment certainly has compared to others. For example last night we end up in a techplant farm, after 25 minutes I commented that we should leave but the feedback from an outfit member was that the “Alamo” situation was the best place to be during double XP.

I promptly redeployed elsewhere, rather gutted that others seem to get more enjoyment out of  a repetitive and mundane battle rather than using some initiative.

 

The game is wonderfully detailed and allows for battles on a scale that we have never seen before, but for me the f2p design leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, which I’m not completely sure if it’s a long term thing at this time.

As if by magic

Well that’s my annual “can’t be arsed to blog” period over with.

A quick update on my gaming habits of late:

I’ve not resubbed to Secret World as I’d not played it in such a long time, a shame as the concept and world were fantastic yet the game felt like a single player game with the difficulty set to MMO. I could run quests but the mobs took such a beating as you progressed through the areas.
I feel sad to be letting the game go after the rough start it got, maybe I shall revisit that secret world in the future we’ll have to wait and see.

Torchlight II – Runic games 2nd game and sequel to the 2009 title, this game retains the good qualities of the first and enhances them while adding new features that suit the game well. Both Rachy and I enjoyed playing the first but as most people commented the lack of Co-op didn’t allow us to play together.
Thankfully that is a big part of Torchlight 2 which allows you to play over LAN/internet with upto 5 other players, this has meant that we can easily team up on a local to battle our way through dungeons.

Orcs Must Die 2 – Another title that was screaming out for co-op mode and rather nicely a sequel comes along and deliveries the missing goods. As action tower defence games go, OMD2 delivers a solid game that may feel some what like the original, but he spell upgrade system is far better and well defined in the sequel. Once my firewall connectivity issues were resolved the Co-op via Steam worked very well and gives a completely different dimension to the game compared to when playing solo.

Planetside 2 – yeas another 2. The original SOE MMOFPS game that is in my opinion the only Massive Mutliplayer Online First Person Shooter, has had a lot of fans and a lot of fond memories. SoE are looking to bring their unique game into the modern age with a Freemium title that is bigger and better that the first.
while most people had their first MMO experience in a land filled with NPCs and quests, mine was on the harsh environment of Auraxis where an endless war was raging.
I’ve avoided playing too much of the beta as to not burn out on the title too soon, I have some extra things to write but they will have to wait for a separate post.

World of Tanks – WoT is such a drop-in game that just sits on your desktop waiting patiently as you play through other titles, knowing fully well that when the shine has gone from your new game it will be waiting exactly were you left it. There is no denying the fact that levelling can be grindy, but only if you look at it from a levelling perspective. If you put in an hour a day you are likely to get in between 5 to 8 matches, each will be different with different threats or terrain, you may have to play each one differently and that is what makes the game enjoyable and less grindy. The latest major patch complete revamped the physics engine along with a redesign of some of the maps, this game sees a lot of continued activity to enhance and expand on an already enjoyable title.

I think that covers the gaming side for now.