If you have no interest in computer games, you can stop reading now.
For the past three years I have been fairly obsessed with the game PlanetSide. It is an MMOFPS, that is, a Massively Multiplayer Online (like EverQuest) First-Person Shooter (like Doom). Really, it’s one of a kind.
It’s really the pinnacle of what I want out of a computer game. For the last bunch of years (I shudder to think how many) my taste in games has evolved. I find that I prefer to play online multiplayer games, as computer opponents are too stupid. I find that I like first-person shooters, but ones that are more tactical and require thought, rather than “twitchy” ones that require lightning reflexes that I don’t have. For a long time I was really into Counter-Strike, although it was sometimes hard to find a good server.
PlanetSide is, to me, nearly perfect. Here’s some of the things I really like about it:
- Huge maps. Continent-sized. With huge outdoor areas and a seamless transition to indoor areas.
- Penalties for traditional FPS “twitch” tactics. None of the weapons have pixel-perfect aiming. Jumping and running really throws off your aim, while crouching and using burst-fire helps. You need to be smarter than your enemies, not just faster.
- Huge battles. Over a hundred people a side sometimes, and there are three sides. And there’s not just one battle on the world, there could be dozens.
- Vehicles. Lots and lots of vehicles. ATVs. Tanks. VTOL aircraft. Humvees. There’s such great variety that you’re sure to find something you like, if not several things.
- Variety. There are lots of things to do, not just shoot at enemies. There are a multitude of support roles to be filled. Unlike MMORPGs where an ill-advised skill choice will “gimp” your character in perpetuity, all of the skills (“Certifications”) in PlanetSide can be picked up and later dropped, should you change your mind about which role(s) you want to fill.
- Each of the three Empires has it’s own “flavor.” While it’s a delicate balancing act, the Empires are not exactly the same, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.
- Requires teamwork. While it is possible to work on your own, it’s very difficult and there is only so much you can do. For the most success, you need to work with a team. When you’re working with a good team it’s great.
- Friendly fire. You have to be careful around friendly troops. I can’t stand games anymore where friendly fire simply does no damage. (If you’ve ever played a “Hunted” map in Counter-Strike and watched the guards fire rocket after rocket at the feet of the President to protect him from assassins and were struck by how ridiculous that was, you’ll know what I mean.) However, PlanetSide has a system by which the most egregious “griefers” can only be disruptive for a limited time.
The most important thing, though, is to get into a good Outfit. (Equivalent to a Clan or Guild in an MMORPG.) Working with the same bunch of guys (and the occasional gal) who share a similar philosophy toward the game and really enjoy working together makes the game. (I lucked out by getting into an Outfit of guys that are a lot like me. Most of us are well into our thirties or beyond, most are married, and a significant number have kids.)
The game only works, though, if there are plenty of people online. The game is nearly three years old now, and gamers can be a fickle lot. The reason I am telling you all this is because Sony Online Entertainment recently launched a program called the PlanetSide Reserves. This program allows people to play the game for free—no initial purchase and no monthly fee—with some limitations. A PlanetSide Reserves account can be converted to a full paying account at any time. The program will run until March 21, 2007.
If you are interested in checking it out you can download the client and sign in with no obligation. I’ll even offer this: Drop me a line to let me know you want to try it out, and I’ll hook up with you and give you a tour of the game myself and even see if I can get you in my Outfit.