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Published March 10, 2013

If you ask any Planetside 2 player what their biggest problem is with the game, chances are you'll get a good variety of answers. Defense being untenable except on a few (notably biolab) hexes, gun balance favoring the TR, and even accusations of pay-to-win are complaints likely to scoot across your window in large, angry letters. While these are all valid issues, they aren't the biggest problem. The cancer eating Planetside 2 from the inside out is a matter of attitude.

Zerging will be the death of Planetside 2.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with zerging, but in case you aren't, here's a quick explanation: zerging is the act of grouping up in a massive, unblockable push of men and smashing all opposition apart by sheer force of numbers. It's the idea that even an excellent team of 48 players can't beat an awful team of 96 players. They just don't have the manpower.

Mattherson's Woes

My home server of Mattherson is a good case study on how this attitude of "zerg for victory" damages Planetside 2. The TR has an overwhelming presence on most continents throughout the day, and the VS and NC are mostly relegated to cannon fodder. If you try to defend a point, you get smashed apart by a tank-and-ESF push so massive that the game doesn't render troops past 50 feet. I've been on both sides of this equation - my TR and NC characters are both on Mattherson - and it's rarely any fun.

The real issue with zerging is that it completely demoralizes the other team. While blows to morale are great in slow-burn games like EVE Online where you can stop fighting and go do something else, they have the potential to bring a game like Planetside 2 to its knees. Players on the NC side on Mattherson are notorious for leaving a continent they are losing. It's not uncommon to see an 80 percent NC population on Amerish as the TR push the NC all the way back to their gate on Indar. Neither of these situations results in the ever-elusive "good fight" players search for.

Why Good Fights Matter

The entire economy and purpose of Planetside 2 is based around the concept of a well-fought campaign, and zerging defeats that purpose. When you play for an hour, losing point after point to enemy forces so massive you can do nothing to stop them—only slow them down or deflect them—it's understandable if you simply stop and go play something else. For example, fighting as an NC or VS on Mattherson is almost criminally tedious. You can't expect people to continue playing when they die so often that they might as well not even have started playing.

And we're seeing that. The NC on Mattherson give up incredibly easy, often leaving for another continent or just leaving the game. They are the saddest sacks of shit on the server, and the laughingstock of the other two armies. While this is certainly a problem with the mentality of NC players, it's also a problem with the attitude of the other factions.

Having a four-platoon armor push is not a good fight, and it never will be. It's a game of attrition. Can the other side take out all those tanks before you make it to their warp gate? Short answer, no. Long answer, hell no. You'll steamroll over all opposition in your path, and while it makes for easy cert farming and makes you feel powerful, it's not actually fun.

Fun is being challenged. Fun is spending days attempting to defend or retake an isolated biolab. Fun is a constant back-and-forth struggle between sides as they strive for dominance. It's not getting annihilated by or effortlessly destroying enemy teams. There's no challenge there, just grinding for certs.

You've also got to consider the viewpoint of the new player. While veterans will obviously be annoyed by getting steamrolled by a numerically-superior force, they are more likely to just hop onto another continent, character, or server. After all, they really love Planetside 2. But getting steamrolled is a fundamentally different experience for a new player. It teaches them that nothing they do matters as long as the enemy has larger numbers. Defense is useless because you'll just get spawncamped by 20 tanks all blasting at your spawn shields, and attacking is almost useless because you'll be unable to reach any points worth taking. With no options available to them, it's entirely likely that the newbie quits the game and uninstalls. You see it all the time in games like League of Legends.

Conclusion

Next time you log-in to Planetside 2, ready to shoot tanks with rockets or rain Zephyr fire from your Liberator, consider playing on a less-populated continent. Encourage people to balance populations. Make an effort to avoid just mindlessly taking every point on a continent with a force so large it barely notices the enemies it rolls over.

Don't zerg. It's not skillful, it's not fun for anyone, and it's killing Planetside 2.

Tegiminis
Prolific game journalist and big gay robot. Editor-in-chief and general curmudgeon. Fight me.