A crisis of community and self – State of the Game October 2014

It has been a while since my last post, and without any explanation to you all.  For that I apologize.  The last two months of Planetside have been the most frustrating and turbulent for me, as a member of the community and as an individual player.  I hate being an overly negative person but I think it’s important to discuss both aspects of why I walked away from the game for almost 6 weeks.

 

The community is currently in a state of crisis.  Other people are starting to realize this, although it has been brewing for over a month now.  It began after the valkyrie patch fell flat on its face and we saw the end of FNO.  It was quickly followed by the departure of many big names from the PS2 team in sequential and seemingly related fashion – Luperza, TRay, and Malorn.  Populations are declining and Emerald feels distinctly less active than it once did – several big name players such as RGuitar, most of PREY/QRY, many C00P players are taking breaks, for who knows how long.  My entire outfit, NNG, who once was a dominating force on the server and involved in the competitive scene completely evaporated – most people leaving for ArcheAge or simply not playing PS2.  It is a snowball effect that makes servers feel empty, and leads to stagnant fights and gameplay – this in turn hurts those players remaining.  We are currently in full out damage control crisis mode with the most recent patch which has introduced some bizarre bugs (giraffeside) as well as the frustrating and game-breaking hitches.  While I remain hopeful, it is not a far-fetched notion that if something isn’t done to stop this negative momentum soon, the game will indeed die and we’ll be orphaned on some singular server playing a dead game.  After all, the community surrounding an MMO is what will keep people logging in and playing for months and years to come, and if it crumbles, you will not have much of a game left.

 

Then comes my own personal frustrations.  I was one of the players affected by the PS4 code merge – constant FPS dips, hitching and memory leaks that worsened throughout the play session.  August was a great month for me personally, I was loving directives and was averaging 4-6 KDR per session.  After September, my performance started to dive and I found myself growing more and more frustrated with the game.  While I don’t like blaming my stats on system performance, it became clear that the crisp infantry combat I had once enjoyed was not happening, and each evening was a series of frustrating deaths that led to be logging out early to watch TV, or even go to sleep early *gasp*

 

I reached my wits end part way through September and submitted this post to reddit “At the end of my patience”.  Shortly following that, I stopped logging into PS2, after 2 years of nearly daily gameplay.  It was strange at first, and I found myself trying to play several times only to be quickly reminded of the terrible hitching and FPS I was now cursed with.  I updated drivers, downgraded drivers, reinstalled the game, and played with my .ini settings to no avail.  October released a patch that actually made hitching worse for a period of time, followed by a hotfix which seemed to stabilize performance (although I still had FPS dips into the teens).  My outfit left the game around that time as well, and we said farewell to the PS2 community which was very bittersweet for me.

 

Towards the end of October, I felt that performance was good enough to start playing again.  I formally joined GOKU, who I have been playing with on and off for almost a year now.  The last week I have been logging in each day, and the game is tolerable (still with FPS drops).  I have been having a lot of fun however, and most of that can be credited to GOKU who provides a great platoon atmosphere and good fights.  Some of the footage I have recorded is not high enough quality to use for a new montage, but I am starting to collect moments that will be worth putting into a new project.  So while I have had a very frustrating PS2 experience since the valkyrie patch, I’m starting to recover and get back into PS2.

 

So what does this all mean?  Well, I think it is clear that SOE needs to adjust their priorities.  Performance is the foundation for everything else in a shooter.  If people are hitching, stuttering, losing FPS because of buggy content patches, they will have frustrating game sessions which build up until that player cancels their sub and leaves.  If a prominent member of the community hits that point, they can bring an entire group of people out the door with them (Jaamaw and NNG for example).  We need to be in full-on damage control right now, focusing on refining the PS4 code integration until players feel that the gameplay experience is similar to where it was pre-valkyrie.  Our community managers (RadarX, dCarey) need to keep demonstrating enthusiasm for the game, and showing to all of us that SOE is aggressively chasing after the problems the players are having.  We need to regain the momentum that was once strong – a few months ago this game was in the best place it had been since release with Hossin, Directives, Emerald merge, continent locking and revamps to the infiltrator and medic class.  The Valkyrie was supposed to be the next big thing, and unfortunately these performance related issues (in addition to some rebalancing needed for the valk) have really hurt what could have been a great and dynamic addition to the game.

 

PS2 is a unique game that provides a blend of combined arms, infantry combat and large scale that is found nowhere else.      Despite its flaws, it has provided countless hours of entertainment for me and many of my friends.  It saddens me to see the community losing momentum, as well as my own personal enjoyment of the game suffer.  SOE has a small window to turn things around before more lasting damage is done that will make it hard for the game to recover the player base it had just a few months ago.  I sincerely hope we can get those players and outfits back.

 

M

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