Daybreak Game Company – or rather, Rogue Planet Games (I’ll get used to that eventually) – has a big update in store for PlanetSide 2. “Escalation” is true to its name, ramping up the battles on Auraxis both in terms of the armaments players will bring into battle and the overall greater emphasis on outfits and their role in the wars.
At the forefront of the update is the Bastion Fleet Carrier, a huge airship that will be the focus of many a battle going forward. But that isn’t all that Escalation will bring to the table when it launches next Wednesday, Feb. 26. We got a chance to talk with PlanetSide 2 Executive Producer Andy Sites and Lead Designer Wrel (“Just Wrel”) about the update and just how big an impact it will have on the neverending war.
MMOBomb: How has the transition to Rogue Planet Games helped things? We hear the news, about it being great that Daybreak now consists of three different companies, but what does that really mean? What kind of tangible benefits does it provide?
Andy Sites: We don’t have the typical issues of having multiple studios or multiple teams in the same building where, depending on what project is priority, you get people shifted back and forth. The Rogue Planet team is fully dedicated to PlanetSide and all PlanetSide-related games going forward, without any risk of getting pulled off to work on any new projects that might need some additional resources.
It’s been nice to allow us to completely focus on PlanetSide right now. Daybreak’s really hands-off when it comes to the overall vision and the direction where we’re going. We speak every day, we’re in the same building, but they’re giving us the opportunity to basically run on our own with it.
MMOBomb: What’s the general feeling around the studio regarding the Escalation update? What’s the general feeling around the studio regarding it, about going with such a huge update so soon after the transition?
Sites: We do updates of this scope probably once every couple years. And what we wanted to do, especially since we were transitioning over to Rogue Planet and ramping up the development team, is really show the community that we’ve just celebrated the seventh anniversary of PlanetSide and we’re not going anywhere.
So, to make our first big splash, we wanted an update that wasn’t just a new feature or piece of new content, but really an expansion-level update. We started on this a couple months ago, and we just announced it last week. We had a lot of confidence in it, but you don’t really know for sure until you release the details and you see what the reaction’s going to be, and it’s been phenomenal.
We’ve still got a lot of cleanup and tuning to do, but we’re really confident in what we have. It’s the first step in where Rogue Planet’s going with the PlanetSide franchise.
MMOBomb: The big addition in this update, literally, is the Bastion Fleet Carrier. How much firepower is it going to take to bring one of these suckers down? In my mind, I envision something like X-Wings swarming an Imperial Star Destroyer.
Wrel: Oh yeah. With PlanetSide 2, we always put a large emphasis on scale and the Bastion Fleet Carrier is intended to be attacked by a fleet of aircraft and manned by a large group of allied players. It creates a new dynamic for how the battles for the continents play out.
Sites: The one thing that’s cool is that, even though it’s a war asset that can be pulled out by large outfits, it affects everyone who’s on that map. So it’s not like just a small group of players are ever going to encounter it. If you’re playing on one of the continents and an outfit pulls one of these things, you’re involved, whether you’re part of that outfit or not.
There are 48 seats in it, which includes turrets, and when you deploy from it, you don’t just drop out in a drop pod, you actually deploy in a strike fighter, and that adds to the intensity of a lot of the air battles. It’s not just this big ship that’s cruising across the continent. It’s usually swarmed by dozens of aircraft, either defending it or attacking it.
MMOBomb: I’m sure you’re still working on just how many resources they require, but will it be the case that one outfit in a faction will have enough to spawn one, and then when it’s shot down, another outfit will spawn another, and so on and so forth, cycling through so they’ll always be on the map? Is that what you’re aiming for, or what you desire?
Wrel: Currently, the plan is “no.” We want the Bastion moments to be a culmination of what’s happening on the continent, and the creation of them is going to be an effort. We want the goal of this update to be to bring outfits together by giving them a communal goal, something they can work toward, and the Bastion is one of those things.
Sites: The intent is for these to be really significant moments, and not something where there’s just fleets of Bastions flying over the continent.
Wrel: I think, initially, there are going to be a lot of people trying to get their Bastions out as quickly as possible, but ultimately we want it to be a strategic decision. Like, is now the right time to pull the Bastion? How can I exert my faction’s force to the greatest degree? I’m excited for the in-faction discussions and politics that come out of an update like this.
MMOBomb: In the livestream announcement, you talked about outfits being a little underserved, calling them a “glorified friends list.” The new elements, like the Bastion Fleet Carrier and Outfit Wars and Outfit Loyalty will help with that, but PlanetSide 2 is seven years old now. Why are you getting to sprucing up outfits at this point?
Wrel: We know that we have a large list of players who have been looking for a reason to come back. [Sites broke in to mention that the game has “just crested” to over 16 million players across PC and PS4.] PlanetSide 2 is a “home game” for a lot of players. When a new AAA title comes out, quite often we’ll see people look over to that but then come right back in. It’s a really cool thing.
But one of the types of players we had neglected is the players who were really part of the initial push, way back in the day. We want to create something that they look forward to coming back to, and up until this point, I’m not sure that we’d done that. This update is going to be the first chance to really make outfits mean more.
Sites: The two primary goals for this update are to provide for our really engaged, existing players, but also to win back and bring back a lot of the old players who are just looking for a reason to come back. With the war assets, the intent is to give outfits and larger groups a bit more agency over the map. It makes the experience a lot more dynamic and we think it’s going to be one of the many things we do to help keep things fresh and interesting.
MMOBomb: Finally, let’s talk a little bit about Outfit Wars, which will pit outfits against each other in a one-off, three-way battle. It seems like you’ve been trying some sort of match-based battles with the PS2 engine for a while now. I remember an e-sports push from a while back, 2014-15 or so, and then there was PlanetSide Arena. My question is, why keep trying it? My feeling has always been that PS2 is great and unique in what it does – open-world, continuous PvP – and it doesn’t need fixed-length matches. Obviously, the dev team(s) through the years has kept trying it, and I’d like to get some insight into why that is.
Wrel: First, it’s important to note that Outfit Wars is players playing the main game and then qualifying for a spot. We don’t want to take players away from what is essentially the sandbox and just throw them in instanced combat all the time. This is a culmination of what you’ve been doing for a month’s time [under the current schedule].
If you’ve ever seen the community-run events, like Server Smash, there’s a very powerful desire for players to participate on some sort of competitive level. So our challenge is being able to make sure that it meshes well with our game as a whole. We absolutely want to be respectful to the sandbox, and in doing that, we’re layering on this Outfit Wars system and it’s giving outfits that want to be competitive another goal to push for without taking them out of the main game.
The goal is bragging rights. People like to show that they’re the best, and we’re giving them a space to do that in a competitive manner.
Sites: The plan is that the match would take place in less than two hours on a Saturday, once a month. So they’re not pulled out of a game for very long, and that’s only if it completes on time. If they actually defeat each other through scoring, then it would wrap up even sooner.
At this point, we talked a little bit about the testing process and the fact that the update would be launching a week later than originally scheduled. I commented that the original time frame, which provided just 12 days for testing, seemed short for an update of this size and that provided this unusual revelation:
Sites: The one thing that we have done, that we really started doing a lot more with PlanetSide Arena but haven’t done a lot with PlanetSide 2, is we actually set up a private server environment and handed out a couple hundred keys to community members. So they’ve been actually testing this for several weeks with our dev team. They weren’t under NDA, it was more of a “handshake” agreement that they wouldn’t say anything.
MMOBomb: That actually worked?
Sites: We conversed in Discord with them and today [Feb. 13] told them, “Guys, we are stunned and amazed at how tight-lipped you kept everything,” and they were like, “Frankly, we are too!”
We had probably 12 direct points of contact, like the outfit leaders, and we gave each of them dozens of keys to hand to trusted members of the community that they wanted to bring in, and every single person kept their mouth shut.
There you have it folks: loose lips sink giant sci-fi battleships. Thanks to Rogue Planet, Andy, and Wrel for taking the time to chat with us!