We give SOE's giant MMOFPS that fresh Beta run-down, while asking Senior Art Director Tramell Ray Isaac about the mysteries of Forgelight.
Calling PlanetSide 2 a PvP MMO feels almost a little misleading. This isn’t a small-scale arena for frantic fragging, but it’s also not a larger battlefield with rules, objectives and time limits. Instead, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has focused on delivering a single goal: all out, large-scale, futuristic war.
With beta fully underway, it was time to see how well the game lived up to being both a fun first-person-shooter and a great multiplayer experience. With up to two thousand players spread across three factions on each massive map, there’s plenty of opportunity for strategic, thought out combat. Add into the mix a range of infantry classes, land vehicles and aircraft, and there’s enough flexibility for even the most hardened military commander.
While at Gamescom, I also got the chance meet with Senior Art Director Tramell Ray Isaac. He shared some background on the Forgelight engine powering PlanetSide 2, from origins to future deployment. Isaac also shared his views on why he thinks the unique mass-combat FPS will appeal to a wide range of players.
First Steps with Forgelight
The first order of business was to select a faction to ally with: the nationalistic Terran Republic, the democratic New Conglomerate or the technocratic Vanu Sovereignty. Although each faction has some unique vehicles that bias in a particular way, the choice is largely ideological. In the end, the strafing tanks and green/purple logo saw me choosing Vanu as the banner I would wage war under.
Set on the planet Auraxis, combat takes place on giant continent-sized maps. While it would be a stretch to describe Indar as gorgeous, the Forgelight engine does a fantastic job of rendering scrub grassland, deep canyon and arid desert. Scattered across this barren landscape are a number of bases and checkpoints, with the three factions fighting for control of them. The conflict is persistent and ongoing, with no match timers or magic resets. If you want to own a patch of dirt, you have to fight for it.
With 2000 players on a massive map, I was expecting to descend into a swamp of lag as soon as I went near any action. This is where Forgelight surprised me, as action progressed with only very rare and brief pauses. With such wizardry going on, I asked Isaac what the magic was. He laughed. Telling me “I couldn’t tell you the magic, [but] we’ve already pulled that off. We did that with the original PlanetSide so this is nothing new to us. This is nine years ago, we did this and it’s still going. PlanetSide is still up and running, people are still playing it today. Having two thousand people on any particular map is not new to us. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.”
Where did Forgelight come from? Isaac explained that it’s something that SOE has been working on for some time. “It actually started from the Free Realms engine. We’ve got all the features from Free Realms, so you can make kids games. You’ve got all the features from Clone Wars that were built on it. Now we’ve added all the extra features that we needed, to have the visual quality to be competitive. To future proof PlanetSide 2 for the next 3 to 4 years, and then create whatever is next for EverQuest on top of that with Forgelight.
“Every game from here on out, from SOE will use Forgelight. We can pretty much do whatever type of game we want with this engine. If you can get two thousand people on a server and run that at sixty frames a second with the fidelity of a first person shooter, you can pretty much make any game. This engine was made to be versatile”