PlanetSide 2 isn’t like many other MMO shooters, putting an emphasis on faction-based multiplayer where teams of players fight for control of territory across various continents on the planet of Auraxis. Online multiplayer features have always come first and any semblance of a story comes after, largely stemming from community-led theories.
But after breaking away from publisher Daybreak and gaining full creative freedom last year, developer Rogue Planet Games took the game in a new direction that focuses on a gradually-unfolding story that explores more of this universe's lore. That’s why “The Shattered Warpgate” update that hit private test servers on August 27 changes everything.
In a multi-month campaign, players will investigate what happened to a Warpgate on the continent of Esamir, kicking off a “catastrophic technological event” on Auraxis. Previously, more narrative-focused updates weren’t possible, but since Rogue Planet Games became independent, the developers assumed a new level of freedom that has resulted in major improvements since March’s “Escalation” update.
Inverse got an early glimpse at the new Campaign mission system, and it breathes new life into the 8-year-old game by providing new lore and engaging objectives. Executive Producer Andy Sites and Lead Designer Michael “Wrel” Henderson offered some insight into how “Shattered Warpgate” came together and what’s next for Planetside 2.
Was adding to the story and lore a major goal when Rouge Planet Games gave Planetside 2 renewed focus?
Andy Sites: Yeah, we've talked about that a lot over the last few years. A couple of questions have come up recently like, “Why didn't we do this sooner?” Frankly, it was the scope of work and the team that was available to work on it. When we spun off into Rogue Planet Games, we put together the roadmap for this year and grew the team by three times.
We knew that we couldn't just roll out an update and expect everyone to rejoice and come back. We needed to have major updates, continuous updates, and really support the game in a way that we hadn't done for quite some time. Getting more story and lore elements into the game is something that we had talked about for a long time, but as players are going to see with “The Shattered Warpgate,” it required a lot of work and we just didn't have the team size to be able to support it before.
Because of the success that we've seen with the "Escalation" update, that’s allowed us to keep growing the team and work on big updates like this. The majority of the lore that has surfaced around the game has been primarily community-driven. We know that there's definitely a there's an appetite for wanting lore and story in the game. We’re happy that we're able to finally provide that. Although it's been eight years in, it's better late than never.
What were the biggest challenges when implementing a story in a multiplayer-focused game?
Michael Henderson: One of the things that we have to keep consideration is that our game is a sandbox and that some of the people that are kind of playing in it like that. Unlike other games that would focus on the hero as the lead of the story, we have to shape the story around the world. We don't spin off separate instances, we don't put you in a single-player campaign. You're down there in the mud with everybody else.
The angle that we're approaching with the first campaign is that the common faction that ties all of the warring factions together is looking for your assistance while analyzing and interpreting all the changes that are happening on Auraxis. We put the focal point mainly on the environment, and we do that so that we can evolve the story of the war as a whole as opposed to the individual players.
Did the location rework influence the story or did you decide to rework Esamir because of this plot?
MH: It was one of our oldest continents. We looked at the gameplay and knew that this continent needed a lot of help. Campaigns were a good excuse to make that change. One of the things that allowed us to do is blow up the northeastern Warpgate.
Instead of players just jumping into the game and seeing that we rebalanced the map, there's some sort of cataclysm that has happened on this continent. This is the reason why you can no longer spawn up in the northeast, and it allows us to introduce new elements. There are still safe spaces for players to launch an attack with one of the three factions. It was a kill two birds with one stone sort of situation.
While did you decide to roll the story out on a month by month basis?
MH: It comes back to putting emphasis on the world. For the campaigns, in particular, we want to make sure that we make that as accessible as possible. Even if you don't have a lot of time to play, you're still able to jump in and play through the campaign at a pace that doesn't feel frantic. That’s the kind of a feeling that I have with battle passes in other games, and while it's rewarding to do that, we have other systems that function in that way.
We definitely wanted to take a more paced attitude to it. It also allows us to evolve the world with every new update. In Chapter 3, there will be new facilities on the continent that are made. That’s just an example of one of the things that we're doing to breathe life into the world and watch like a lot of players to watch it evolve and take part in it as well.
Will the game have lore resources for players that miss out on story content?
MH: Players can look back through previous campaigns and can go down the mission list and seeing the dialogue. They can have an understanding of the events that unfolded. It’s very likely that we will be introducing a more robust Codex that logs all the events as well.
Were there any pieces of community lore that directly influence where you took the story?
MH: The community comes up with a bunch of great stories, and there are a lot of conflicting signals because we have very rarely clarified the timelines and events. By virtue of doing this campaign with a fresh slate, we'll be able to more solidly establish some of those characters, events, and the timeline. We are working with a Lore Writer who is helping kind of bring that into being and inspire our imaginations as well.
What does the new missions system add to the game?
MH: The mission system is similar to a daily challenge system in other games. We did have a mission system that existed in the game prior, and while its intent was to guide players to different bases and it didn't do a good job of it. We’ve ripped that out and are adding this new thing. It allows players to create session goals, which is a point of feedback that we've had throughout the game's history.
With the mission system, you'll be able to log in, look at your mission board, and see what your faction wants you to do for them, whether it's ferrying allies to into contested territory or delivering messages. Or it could be one of the more community-oriented events where, for example, a mining drill drops from orbit and the players need to fight over it to maintain control so that it can harvest resources. There's also convoyed missions that allow players to kind of group up and then move as a massive unit toward a contested territory.
AS: The mission system is a good example of what would be very appealing to players who aren’t as interested in the new story content because, like Michael said, it's a challenge or achievement system that gives you the stuff to do, and there's a very large variety of mission types every day.
That’s something that would be like really appealing to the average player coming in, especially if you're a player that just likes to fly aircraft or drive a tank and not do the standard large scale group up.
PlanetSide 2: The Shattered Warpgate is now in open beta on PC.