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Planetside Smanetside

Of course, there are other problems with Planetside 2 than the ones I discussed in my last blog entry.

Major Problem #3: Hax

For example, there's a certain problem with cheaters in the game.  For the most part, I think the cheaters are kept to a minimum and rapidly banned, Smedley hates them almost as much as I do, but being a free to play game just means banned cheaters can just start another account, and the fundamental problem Planetside 2 has is that the game simply is not coded to prevent cheat software from working.
Warning: Though shown here to establish some proof hacks exist in Planetside 2, DO NOT DOWNLOAD what this video links to.   It's as likely to be a hack as it is some trojan that steals your SOE account information or worse, and I cannot be held accountable for that.  (For starters, my pockets are far too shallow to be fun to sue.)

A long time ago, SOE caught some controversy from players for including software in EverQuest that scanned their customers' systems for cheats.  Well, SOE, you can stop feeling so nervous about that, because today people quite willingly play games that require they also install apps like Punkbuster, VAC, and so on.  Heck, these days, game companies are even suing the creators of cheats for their games.  Times have changed, SOE, catch up, already.

What makes it worse, though, is that I suspect that there's actually in-game code facility that allows players to sabotage other players.  There's this weird glitch I keep encountering only in situations where I am doing unexpectedly well, in a really good position, like manning a turret that can probably stymie the enemy advance.  All of a sudden, I encounter massive slowdown, the terrain vanishes and blinks and my view is weirdly skewed to the side, like my character's head is leaning over 20 degrees to the left.  That's not a normal kind of glitch in that it would require in-game code cooperation to happen.

On the most ludicrous end of the spectrum, it's possible the developers have added cheats to their own game, but that seems rather unlikely considering it would be a massive scandal, heads would roll, and people would never work in the industry ever again if they were discovered.   More likely, there's a cheat along the lines of something that sends packets related to flash grenades direct to players, but at parameters far too great for the client to handle, and this causes it to glitch out.  All I know is that the timing of it happening and the nature of the glitch is too damn suspicious to my experienced gamer eyes.

Major Problem #4: Frustrating By Design

Paranoia aside, I think what really bothers me about Planetside 2 is that the experience feels so frustrating.  After a full day of playing Planetside 2, I actually have dreams about how frustrating it is.  These dreams are usually made up of a wide degree of experiences where I'm just barely short of success, again and again.  I think that they are probably accurate reflections about how my subconscious feels about playing this game.

The most basic part of the gameplay, fighting on foot, is mostly a losing endeavor for me, and that's rather frustrating.   Part of that is because I'm on the absolute bottom of the "pay to win" spectrum, using starting weapons with zero attachments, and that's definitely going to put me at a disadvantage.  Part of that is because I have not been playing nonstop since release like some players have, and there's another disadvantage.  A 0.68 kill/death ratio is pretty good, considering where I'm coming from, but it's still enough to feel frustrating at the end of the day.

However, the main trouble I have with the infantry combat in Planetside 2 is that I really don't like Battlefield 3's approach.  Besides dividing players in "haves" and "have nots" with ponderous equipment unlocks, it has a player detection system that endeavors to make exploitation of visibility easy.  Whether I'm being sniped by somebody who found a way to embed themselves in a tree or scaffolding, or simply being attacked from behind, I'm mostly killed by people I never saw, there's not a damn thing I can do about it, and this is what's so frustrating about it.   It's the kind of design you create when you want to establish that war is brutal, hectic, and unfair.  Judging by the plot of Battlefield 3's single player campaign, that was their goal, but Planetside 2 probably should have stuck with the Tribes model.
You might call running up to a Sunderer and blowing it up with mines while an enemy squad can't do anything to stop you to be heroic.  I call it a game design flaw.  The "mine guard" Sunderer upgrade option is not much of a solution, it just means you throw more mines, and it's of no good at all versus C4 packs (which make it slightly harder to do simply because you have to live long enough to pull the trigger).

Aside from basic infantry combat, there many specific circumstances that frustrate me in the game, too.

For example, defending Sunderers is very frustrating due to how easy it is to blow up Sunderers.  As the video above demonstrates, you just walk right up, chuck a few mines or C4 packs at the Sunderer, most of the time people won't even register you're there until it's too late.  Taking "mine guard" helps against mines, but it's ultimately only increasing the number you need to use, and of no use at all against C4.  About the only thing you can do to reliably protect your Sunderer from kamikaze attacks is lay down a few claymore anti-personnel mines and hope those kamikaze players don't manage to walk around them, since one player won't be able to put down enough mines to protect the Sunderer comprehensively.

So defending Sunderers is a frustrating experience, but really, any ground vehicle will have this problem.  If you're driving a Lightning or Prowler/Vanguard/Magrider, it's just as easy for an enemy infantryman you don't see to run up out of nowhere and blow your vehicle to kingdom come with a few mines or C4.   You simply can't hold still in a vehicle, you need to keep moving constantly to prevent this from happening.   So whether I'm on foot or in a ground vehicle, Planetside 2 frustrates me by design.

Conclusion: Tough Love

I'm trying to enjoy Planetside 2 with an open mind, taking all these hardships as a challenge or a new kind of game to get used to... but the tormented dreams remain.  Is this really a good way to spend my time?

Well, it's certainly a cheap way to spend my time.  Planetside 2 is a free to play game, after all.  I also really want to like the idea of a massively multiplayer first person shooter, this is an ambitious project that deserves my time and attention.  There are times when everything's going well and I can actually appreciate this gorgeous, massively-multiplayer game for what it is, and am grateful for SOE for making it and providing it to the players.

Yet, considering Planetside 2 endeavors to make me feel exploited (from the "pay to win" balance and ridiculous F2P grind to unlock weapons), like I'm engaged in a futile endeavor (from poor player population control), paranoid (from cheaters), and frustrated (from that BF3-inspired visibility model and ridiculous ease in destroying vehicles with mines and C4) the end result is so overwhelmingly negative that I'm currently having a hard time saying that my time spent in Planetside 2 is well-spent.

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