The Mittani Interviews PS2's Matt Higby

Several things annoy me when it comes to 'gaming journalism' (That's a lie, basically everything about it pisses me off). First, interviews are often conducted by people who barely play the game they're talking about, resulting in fluff questions, wild speculation, or marketing garbage that teaches existing players nothing. Second, the devs or company officials being interviewed too often fall back on talking points or vague platitudes when confronted with gameplay-specific questions. 

I play the hell out of PlanetSide 2, so I'm delighted to report that when I brought Matt Higby, PS2's Creative Director, a bunch of crunchy queries about BFRs, Battle and Scout rifles, the Alert system and future MLG plans, Matt gave us real, useful replies - at great length and detail. Bravo, Matt. 

PlanetSide 2 has been out for several months now. One thing that always interests me is developers talking about ways the playerbase has surprised the developers with behavior the devs may not have anticipated or expected. Can you describe some player behavior that was not anticipated but you really liked or found intriguing?

It’s one of the little joys of game development to speculate as to how players will use the tools you’re building for them, take bets about what the most broken combination is going to be, and usually to be completely wrong about your assumptions when players, in their infinite complexity, turn all your predictions on their heads.

One of the things that’s had us boggling in the past is the differences between how people have learned to play the game on different servers. All the way at a server profiling level we’d noticed large differences between the workload that our zone servers have to handle on different worlds due to the way people play the game. Once we were trying to find why we had a certain type of load would pop on a couple of the worlds but not all of them, and it wasn’t really correlated to overall population or anything else obvious that we could see. When we ended up digging into it we found that on some servers, entire outfits will /suicide and redeploy to get places rapidly, this wasn’t happening on all the servers, but on the servers where players did do that, we got some interesting spikes on the server performance as entire areas were being sent down to a large group of players at once and we identified that behavior as the cause. It was something easy to fix once we figured out what was going on, but now answering the question “What weird stuff do players on this server do?” is an important step in our debugging process.

In a recent Reddit comment you mentioned that Battle Rifles are getting looked at. What are you looking at doing to make them more interesting/useful?

Battle Rifles are supposed to fulfill a medium to long-range marksman niche. Right now these weapons have a bit too much recoil to reliably land enough shots to get kills at range, and the muzzle velocity is a bit too low on many of them to be really viable at the range they’re intended to be used at. Right now we have an extremely compressed infantry game, where most of the action takes place at very close ranges, leading to certain weapons being a bit too one-size-fits-all. We want to make sure there can be meaningful infantry combat, besides just sniping, at ranges up to 75-100 meters on a more regular basis, and having a viable Battle Rifle is a really important piece of making that happen.

Similar to Battle Rifles, Scout Rifles have sort of a weird niche now that SMGs are out. Are they likewise going to get a balance pass, and if so, what might we see there?

Scout Rifles are extremely under-utilized by Infiltrators right now, and they’re also going to be getting a buff in GU07. The idea with Scout Rifles is to provide a medium range option that allows for a bit more defense than a Sniper Rifle when someone gets in close, but still gives the option to effectively engage from outside the other classes' optimal range. With the buff to Scout Rifles, we hope they will become more of a primary weapon type for active, run-and-gun type Infiltrators, and definitely the go-to weapon for most medium-range battles.

The PS2 Facebook page recently posted an example of a "Mech" for Vanu. Is this an indication that you are considering implementing BFR-like vehicles in PS2, or was this just the social media team doing their own thing?

We have no plans on adding a BFR-type vehicle into PS2. It’s something that is brought up a lot by our players and in this instance our community team was showcasing a really nice piece of concept art that this player (SirCrazed12) had shared on reddit (he actually had concepts and designs for all three of the empire mechs, and they were really well done!). While we have discussed and really love the idea of eventually adding some heavier vehicles to the game, we’re currently focused on locking down our current vehicle/infantry balance, getting the buggies in as a quick strike option for small group play, and then figuring out what holes exist in the game that need to be filled and will contribute to an overall more balanced and fun experience.

Put politely, Vanu rifles sound like fairy farts, though the vehicles and heavy weapons have a solid ‘plasma fire’ feel to them. Are there any plans to revamp these sounds so they’re a bit punchier?

This is something we’ve heard from a lot of current and former VS players. Yes, we’re working on a few changes for the VS right now to try to give them a bit more intimidation factor. Some of that will be audio, some will be visual, and some will be gameplay related. In GU07 we will see the first few tweaks going out, but we’ll be continuing to work on giving the VS some love over the coming few weeks.

Any word on if/when player server transfers are going to be implemented? I ask this on behalf of the Connery refugees.

We’re waiting on adding the server transfer items until we’re certain we’re done with server merges. Right now we’re still looking into the possibility of doing a merge of Connery and Helios, but with the addition of the alerts system, those servers are both having pretty active fights, and the overall faction balance on those servers isn’t ideal for merging right now. Once we’re certain that we aren’t doing any more merges we’ll put the server transfer tokens up on the store.

Goonswarm Federation CEO, Space Tyrant. Likes yoga, Alaskan Malamutes, bacon, and delegation.