In the first game, the three factions would vie for control of territory but doing so didn't offer any benefit. Higby is introducing resources into Planetside 2, which suddenly make capturing and holding territory important for upgrading weapons, outfitting vehicles and many other systems throughout the game. "Resources are a new impetus for combat, a motivation for players to be fighting," Higby said. "On a continent, you will have multiple regions and each of those will have an intrinsic resource value to them. As you capture territory, you'll be gaining resources for your empire, your outfit and yourself." Players don't have to mine nodes or anything, the resources are automatically credited when the territory is held.
Gone are some of the features that ended up slowing down the gameplay of the original Planetside, such as sanctuaries. "The original idea of [sancturaries] was to have these massing places, and to some extent they are still used that way," said CEO John Smedley. "We did not intend for them to slow down gameplay. We want you to be coordinating a battle, or be in the battle, at all times in Planetside 2" Other facets of the first game that were removed are shuttle timers, and the inability to spawn anywhere in the world. "We're trying to change the dynamic to one that a broader base of players is used to playing."
The skill system will be the primary way that you make your character better. No specific skills were detailed, but instead we know that you can choose skills that make you a better leader, or a better pilot of a certain vehicle (there are 15 in the game), or a better medic or one of classes in Planetside 2. In addition, these skills can be advanced even when you are not logged into the game. The catch is that you have to log in every day to set your skills.
"A queue system that requires you to check in [every day] does a few key things for us as game developers," Higby said. "We want people to be logging into our games every day. We want them to continue to stay engaged. I want them to log in to check their skills, and then they see, hey, there's this really cool battle happening. And oh hey, check it out, some of my really cool outfit members that I like to play with are online too. You know what, fuck it, I'm gonna stick around for a while. I don't need to eat, whatever."
One thing that will keep players engaged when they are not playing is the fact that Smedley and Higby are making every piece of data in the game mineable for use with third party apps users might create. That, coupled with an interactive introduction screen showing what's happened since you've been offline, will ensure that players know where the action is and why.
The "why" is the big thing that's been missing from online multiplayer shooters. Higby likened Planetside 2 to the deep strategic choices involved in playing the boardgame RISK versus the complexity of Checkers. "In Planetside, you have to think more long term. It's a much deeper and more strategic experience," said Higby.
Planetside 2 is not another console shooter with unrelated multiplayer matches on a bunch of different maps. Each kill, each hex captured means something to you, your outfit and your empire. "One of the most amazing things about Planetside is that it's persistent," Higby said. "That territory that you captured is yours until someone takes it from you. That's not something that happens in any other FPS game. Usually you have a round reset, somebody wins, somebody loses, and it's all completely done. It didn't mean anything.
"In Planetside, it really does mean something," Higby said.
And that's sounds exciting to this jaded player of countless meaningless shooters.
Smedley was adamant in not giving a release date other than "Sooner than you think," and he wasn't able to confirm any platforms other than PC at this time. But I'll bet you dollars to donuts that if Planetside 2 launched on the PC, PS3 and maybe even a competing console (Wii U I'm looking in your direction) then it's possible SOE might finally enjoy the commercial success that that concepts of the first Planetside deserved.