As described in the Daily Radar piece, the Planetside design team, led by Kevin McCann, have been working on what they describe as a “massively multiplayer tactical first-person shooter.” As McCann describes,
Versus an RPG, the storyline plays less of a role because I’m trying to make sure that the game stays true to what it’s trying to be — a first-person shooter. We have some role-playing, but it’s very light. People aren’t going to be coming in here to socialize, they’re going to come in to fight.
Players will assume actual avatars, with skills and statistics that persist and advance as the player progresses, but the gameplay itself is firmly shooter – the character skills themselves won’t impact the player skills – if you suck at shooters, you’re going to suck regardless of how high level the character you’re playing is. The actual game pace was described as “faster than Counterstrike, but not as fast as Quake 3”. Players will be attached to one of four teams (“corporations”) for a sort of mega-faction system, although presumably clans and teams will form underneath that layer.
So is this the “human skill” breakthrough Hedron has been praying for? Could be. Let’s go back to what McCann has to say about how a massively multiplayer shooter diverges from, say, Everquest:
this is a very different type of game. You still have character ranks and advancement, but it’s not the same. They aren’t the power aspect that you’d find in an RPG, where at level 10 you can kick the crap out of everything and what you fought at level 1, you sneeze at and it dies. There will be some return on your character, seeing him go up in rank and abilities, as well as other little rewards, like giving players better apartments. We’ll be scaling player’s homes from grungy quarters up to nicer apartments.
Over time, we want to introduce new equipment. Sometimes, equipment may only be available for a short time. For example, there might be a prototype tank that’s available for a certain amount of time before it’s gone. Other times, there will be new weapons that stick around. Basically, we intend to continually add new content. We’re not going to throw something in without severe testing, of course. There will also be new territories that we open up as the game progresses.
We do plan on doing a fair amount of campaigns. These won’t be every day, but we’ll be putting together bigger campaigns, with large fronts fighting for specific objectives. We’ll be doing at least one of these a month and make sure that we can accommodate everyone who wants to play in this type of thing. You’ll get an email in your account two weeks before to tell you that your corporation is looking for soldiers to help out take over a continent that you’d never seen before. You’re going to have a huge front, where you have several strike forces operating at the same time with a common goal. In the game itself, you’re still working for the company, but it’s a focused effort where you’ll have very large scale battles going on all over the place.
Of course, there is a downside. As you might have noticed from the first paragraph, it’s being developed by Verant. Verant has had, um, some issues. According to Fatbabies, quite a few of them. Fatbabies posted a story last week about Planetside (which they called “Tanarus 2”) that said that the game was basically an elaborate hoax (hey, we’ve never seen THAT in MMOG announcements!) and that what was actually being implemented in the game was nothing more than 300 person Quake levels (Planetside’s McCann is promising 3000 person servers). John Smedley responded with basically “you’re lying, none of your story is true, bite me.” Or, in his words,
Please remove your heads from their current locations and save the fiction writing for the Great American Novel I’m sure you’re writing.
Fatbabies responded by calling PC Gamer, source of the Planetside story in the first place, an unreliable source of news. (I can’t make stuff up this good, folks.)
As always, the truth will be on the shelves. In Planetside’s case, check back at the end of next year. Until then, ponder these final words of wisdom from Kevin McCann:
You can loot whoever. This is the PK game. What everyone else bitches about in other games, you can do here.