(Note: Jason McMaster was with us for our E3 excursion. He also was sick as a (sick) dog and missed most of the show. He did manage to see a few games and we’ll be posting his reports now that he’s back from the undead.)
I’m standing in line outside of an E3 theater booth. I’ve been pretty sick for the last couple of hours. I found myself throwing up outside the Wizards of the Coast meeting room (not because of Duels of the Planeswalkers) and doubting I could continue with my appointments. Great is the power of Planetside, because this is one demonstration I refused to miss.
Some of the finest moments in my personal gaming history were performed while wearing the purple uniform of the Vanu Sovereignty. I often found myself sitting in a jump ship, waiting to unsling my Lasher and visit fiery, plasma death on my enemies. Or the times when there wouldn’t be much action and I’d stealth into a base, begin a hack and watch while hundreds of enemies and allies poured in to defend or overwhelm the territory. There has yet to be a gaming experience that took me that far in to the mindset of combat.
Sadly, much like Puff the Magic Dragon’s little friend, MMOs don’t live forever. Sure, Planetside is technically still alive, but it’s not like the old days.
At the beginning of the ’video demo’—I wasn’t sold, but as the presentation for Planetside 2 rolled on, I felt a glimmer of hope. The equipment is still present and recognizable, although a bit prettier than before. There’s the famed NC MAX unit, the toughest of the MAXs. There’s a Magrider, the Vanu hover tank, and so on. I found myself mouthing the names of all the equipment I used to use – and used against me – with a sense of nostalgia. .
The new Planetside has quite a bit to offer, if this video is to be believed. The terrain, bases and models look great. The combat looks exciting and grand scale. It’s also running on the popular SOE free-to-play model, so you can play the game without spending a dime. Technically.
As the demo ended and we shuffled out of the theater, I was offered a chance to play the game. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for since 2003, when I de-activated my Planetside subscription, and there’s a booth full of players waiting for me to jump in. They’re frantically fighting their way to the core of this base to hack it and take it for whichever faction they’re currently representing. It was hard to do, but I declined.
I moved to the back of the area and watched people play, trying to get a sense for what it is that connected me so deeply to this game. It could be the sense of camaraderie thrust upon you in a combat situation, as there’s nothing like thinking you’re going to lose a position and seeing a friendly face instead of a rifle barrel. It could also be the action. Even games with large player counts like the Battlefield series have yet to instill the sense of scale that Planetside managed to eloquently convey.
In reality, it’s a combination of all of the above. Planetside had a tight design that worked well when populated by players with desire and the imagination to work together in dedication to a cause. As much as I want to play the game, I want to play it my way. I want to put on my stealth suit, activate my advanced hacking cert and start a war. If Planetside 2 manages to capture a portion of the excitement that made the original such an exciting experience—I’m there.