It’s been a long trip along the development roadmap for implants in PlanetSide 2. Announced to the player base nearly a year ago, the idea was met with… shall we say, some skepticism? All one has to do is read the responses to the post on the PS2 forums to get an idea of the response to implants as initially proposed.
That post has been updated several times to reflect changing development goals and the appeals of fans, and now, with implants finally set to go live as soon as this week, I had the chance to chat with PS2 Lead Designer Luke Sigmund about the controversial addition and how SOE is planning to make them user-friendly.
A lot of good info can be found on the “Implants” page on the PlanetSide 2 wiki. Basically, implants confer in-game advantages and can be obtained through in-game activities, bought with certifications or Station Cash, or crafted. They are permanent; once you have an implant, it won’t go away (unless you use it to craft something). Only one implant can be active at a time.
However, to use an implant, you’ll need a charger, a kind of battery that limits how long the implant is active. You’ll get a Tier 1 charger and basic implant initially, and can craft bigger chargers by combining different-tier implants.
To be clear, you can utilize implants (and chargers) without buying/spending Station Cash. However, since they provide direct advantage, their exact in-game cost – both in terms of certifications and time – will always be a touchy subject. I was told that implants should drop roughly every 20-30 minutes of active gameplay. Higher-tier implants require more power to operate, and the higher the tier of your charger, the longer it will last, from about 20-30 minutes for a low-tier charger to three-plus hours for a high-tier one. All numbers are, of course, subject to re-balancing and tweaking. Remember, implants are permanent; you’ll only have to keep supplying yourself with chargers.
I’d like to see the minimum amount of time before you need a new charger to be at least one hour, in line with what the wiki page says (which I’m told is outdated information). I’m a little concerned that I’ll have the feeling of “I just got into a big firefight and now I need to get a new charger,” but Sigmund assured me that wouldn’t be the case. “We want to keep the system low-maintenance,” he said. My mind is still fresh with the regular inventory-clearing nightmare that is The Elder Scrolls Online (where every 20 minutes of gameplay is followed by 10 minutes of playing inventory Tetris because your bag space is so tiny), so we’ll just have to wait and see how much of a burden it really is.
In our talk, Sigmund admitted that implants have had a rocky road from creation to implementation and that the PlanetSide 2 team has heavily incorporated player feedback into their development. “But our goal with implants has always been the same, and that’s to allow players to make additional strategic loadout choices to better deal with the differing situations that they come across.”
Regarding the implants themselves, a few that counteracted specific strategies were the most hotly debated by the fans. Sigmund cited the Clear Vision implant as one that was specifically called out and whose effect was lessened as the direct result of player feedback. Another trouble spot, the Awareness implant, which lets you auto-spot enemies who damage you, also sparked tension (with one player saying it should “die in a fire”), but the dev team thinks it to be a situational effect that won’t overly harm, say, infiltrators. If that mindset changes, it’s likely that its power level will also be adjusted.
Finally, I asked if implants, being that they offer direct power, would seem like another hill to climb for new players who already face the disadvantage of having to “catch up” to high-Battle Rank characters with tons of cert points and unlocks. That was a reason for making the basic implant, Enhanced Targeting, available to every character when the system goes live. It offers more info on the HUD on enemy health and increases identification friend-or-foe range, making it easier for newbies to make decisions in the heat of battle.
Implants are probably the biggest change to come to PlanetSide 2 since its launch, and as such, they have the potential to cause significant imbalances and fuel a lot of rage as the result of that imbalance. They’ve been pushed aside for months now, so SOE’s aware of the need to get them just right. As with any change of this magnitude, they probably won’t be perfect, but as long as their acquisition doesn’t seem too exploitative and acquiring/utilizing them doesn’t overly interrupt gameplay, they should offer some good strategic options and give long-time players another weapon in their arsenals.
By Jason Winter