Tag: PlanetSide

Space Shooters Return

Courtesy Giggly and SOE
“War. War has changed.”

It’s been a while since I’ve played Tribes: Ascend. While I still think the skiing movement mechanic and the unique weapons make it fun in the middle of the game, some of the periphery aspects of the game and its business model left me feeling sour. It’s hard to stay invested in a game with ongoing development when you get the impression that the dev team cares more about producing super-powered weapons for an initial rush of cash than they do fixing existing problems or heeding feedback from the community. League of Legends occasionally has this problem as well from time to time, and while Planetside 2 can also feel like the devs have gone too far one way or another, I just can’t stay mad at it.

I tried a bit of the original Planetside back during my World of Warcraft days. A MMO shooter seemed like an innovative idea. Shooters tend to be at their most chaotic and unpredictable (which leads to fun times) when games and servers are full. Most of them limit the size of their games, with something like 16 players to a team. That’s one of the main things that sets Planetside 2 apart: its scale. Instead of 16 players to a side, engagements can involve any number of players, and I’ve seen battles take place with hundreds of players swarming around a base while hundreds more rush about defending it. There are no NPCs or boss monsters or dungeons: all of the conflict is generated by players, vying for control of resources on a distant world.

It would be very difficult to get any positive results without some organization, which leads me to the second point in Planetside 2‘s favor: the outfit. Like guilds in other MMOs, an outfit makes a huge difference in yielding enjoyment from the game. While there is a proximity voice chat feature in the game, I’ve found it’s a great deal better to find an outfit that has its own voice solution, like Mumble or Ventrilo, to facilitate communication and organization. You can enjoy the game as a lone soldier following no orders but his or her own, but this can also be a lonely and confusing experience. In an outfit, you know where to go, can communicate what you need to the team or offer contributions of your own, and if the outfit is right, you can leave proximity voice for things like a teammate broadcasting music to put you in the right mood.

Finally, Planetside 2 puts an emphasis on combined arms, from foot soldiers with various weapons to ground vehicles in multiple roles to aircraft. And all of them can be customized with weapon loadouts, perks, armor options, even camouflage and vanity items. This is the part that appeals to the theorycrafting portion of my brain. I find myself asking many questions as I pore over the options available to my classes. What’s the best way to dish out a ton of damage as Heavy Assault? Is the Infiltrator better as a close-quarters stealth assassin with a suppressed SMG, or a long-range sniper with the best scope? How can my Engineer best protect the Sunderer that supports our advance? So on and so forth.

I think it’s these factors combined that keep bringing me back into Planetside 2. Sony Online Entertainment may not always strike the right balance, but with the addition of things like the Engineer’s AV turret and the upcoming VR trainer for pilots, they seem to be moving in the right direction, which is more than I can say for some other developers. They’ve put together a game that makes you feel like you’re part of something large and expansive, and for my part, makes me want to experience more of it. I want to keep earning certifications that yield more interesting loadouts, improve my skill at flying so I can escort our dropships or pilot one of my own, and I definitely don’t want to miss the next time the outfit advances down a hillside, firing our plasma rifles as a teammate plays “Disco Inferno” over proximity.

Gaming in 2013

SmallWorld with the 'rents

The new year is in full swing. I’m starting it off writing by carving out writing time on a daily basis (for the most part, more tomorrow on that). But once the writing is done, and with Fringe done and Sherlock‘s third season not yet underway, what sort of amusements fill my time once I tear myself away from the allure of social media and videos on the Internet?

Magic Type <2

With the introduction of Gatecrash, you might think that I’m eager to get involved with new decks for Magic: the Gathering‘s Standard format. And you wouldn’t be wrong. However, I have to admit the format is beginning to lose some of its luster. New sets to Magic come out every few months, and when they do, your current Standard decks either need an overhaul or get scrapped altogether. I like theorycrafting and deck-building as much as the next Planeswalker, but the recurring investment is starting to bother me. I’d much rather make small alterations to decks I already have than having to keep build new ones every quarter while sinking money into boxes of new cards.

To that end, I’m turning more towards Modern and Legacy formats of Magic. I’ll talk more about the decks I’ll be fielding next week, but suffice it to say the new expansion does factor into at least one of them…

Warhammer 40k

Oh, 40k. If ever a hobby was even more of a time and money sink than collectible card games, it would be you. Your little plastic men are much pricier, your rules are a great deal more complex, a fighting force takes a lot more to prepare than a deck, there’s painting involved…

…yet I can’t deny there’s appeal. The universe is steeped in baroque, melodramatic lore, the disparate forces guarantee there’s something that will appeal to players, and I’ve played it and other wargames enough to understand the appeal of plotting out a strategy to defeat the enemy, preparing the right mix of troops, seeing how the enemy responds, and the thrill of adaptation on the fly. I have a Dark Vengeance starter kit sitting near my writing desk, just waiting for me to make the time to start doing something with it.

Soon, my minions… soon.

Video Games

I played a bit of the original PlanetSide back in the day, so I figured since it has the same name and is free to play, PlanetSide 2 would be worth checking out. There are plenty of multiplayer shooters out there – Team Fortress 2, Blacklight: Retribution, Tribes: Ascend – but this is the first one where I’ve felt like part of a major military outfit instead of a being out for myself. To succeed in PlanetSide, teamwork is required, not unlike League of Legends. And rather than approaching the enemy with a couple friends, you do so as part of a group that could include 100 or more fellow players. This leads to some chaos, to be sure, but after joining up with an Outfit and getting on Mumble with them, it really provides a gaming experience I hadn’t realized I missed. It feels like a worthwhile investment.

On the single-player front, I have quite a few video games left to finish before I feel comfortable downloading new ones. I kickstarted Strike Suit Zero and definitely need to play more of that before I weigh in on it, I haven’t finished Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, and I have an itching desire to play through LA Noire and The Witcher 2, which probably means I should finish the first Witcher as well. At this rate, it might be a while before I finally play FarCry 3 or Dishonored, which is a shame, because I really want to play both of them! Not enough hours in the day, unfortunately.

Board Games

Here we have perhaps the rarest of specimens amongst the games I play. I live with someone who finds board games to be rather boring, and so my boxes containing SmallWorld, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, Android: Netrunner, and Lords of Waterdeep go largely unopened. We do play Cards Against Humanity and Chez Geek from time to time, but I don’t think the others will ever really win her over.

But I will not be deterred! There are still board games I want to experience. I am a huge fan of space-themed 4X games, and Eclipse looks poised to scratch that particular itch. After Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop showed me how Alhambra works, I find myself intrigued by a game with such a pastoral theme that still has deep strategy and requires forethought and negotiation. I hear wonderful things about Battlestar Galactica, and the theme in and of itself is enough to encourage me to buy. And tying back into Warhammer is Chaos of the Old World, a game that will require me to scrape together three friends, no more and no less, who will probably get annoyed at me if I keep calling dibs on Tzeensch.

That’s a rundown on what I’ll likely be playing in the year ahead. What about you? What’s on your docket for gameplay and other amusements?

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