PlanetSide

By Scott Parrino 12 May 2003 0

Beginnings

Five years ago, the first-person shooter genre consisted of dungeon crawling, crate-jumping action shooters. Although these shooters were extremely popular, their genre had become stagnant under the weight of several similarly repetitive titles. But new life was breathed into the genre in late 1998, when Dynamix released their landmark sci-fi shooter, Starsiege: Tribes. With jetpacks, rolling hills and valleys and a variety of unique new weapons, this shooter ripped the FPS mold out of the dank underworld of past games and brought them into expansive outdoor lands. Its successor, 2001's Tribes 2 took the franchise one step further, adding a variety of player-controlled vehicles and an esoteric depth which successfully scaled the shooter's depth to reaches never seen before.

Four years ago, the massively multiplayer genre was only in its infancy stage. While games such as Ultima had grown its first roots, it would be up to a game by the name of EverQuest to bring MMORPGs into the forefront of PC gaming. Verant, now Sony Online Entertainment, created the EverQuest sensation and has since dominated the genre.

All of this history brings us to today, circa 2003. First-person shooters and MMORPGs are both equally commonplace and each of the genres have developed a loyal following. But looking to bridge that gap is Sony Online Entertainment's ambitious PlanetSide, a "massively multiplayer online first-person shooter" or MMOFPS. In fact, it's the melding of two different genres: the MMORPG EverQuest and the FPS franchise Tribes.

In order to preview this intriguing new title, The Wargamer enlisted Chris Abele and Jim Zabek to explore the intricacies of the hybrid title. Chris, our resident first-person shooter guru, has been playing shooters for several years now, including the Tribes series - he'll offer his perspectives on the shooter side of PlanetSide. Jim Zabek, The Wargamer's Editor-in-Chief and a fan of both first-person shooters and MMORPGs recently kicked his addiction to Dark Age of Camelot to pick up PlanetSide. Jim will offer his impressions on the game from the perspective of a player accustomed to the in's and out's of massively multiplayer gaming. After playing the beta for a few weeks now, we're pleasantly surprised to find PlanetSide intriguing on a number of different levels.

First, the Technical Side of Things

PlanetSide will arrive in stores on May 20th, but before then, players can try out the beta test - provided they meet the demanding system requirements. The game itself is approximately 1.6 gigabytes to download (expect the retail game to come on two or three CDs) and has extraordinarily high system requirements. Even on Chris' Pentium IV 3.0 GHz machine, the game still experienced noticeable slowdowns when entering new areas or in the midst of intense battles. We hope to see the code further optimized when the game is released, although the game did run just fine on Jim's slower 1.7 GHz machine - just a lower resolution. Like EverQuest before it, PlanetSide requires 512 MB of system RAM (the retail release says only 256 MB, however) and we strongly recommend a broadband connection to keep up with all the updates, let alone download the mammoth beta test.

We'd like to add one more note on the game's technical aspect: unlike so many other MMORPGs' initial launches we've experienced in the past, PlanetSide has been as stable as an offline game. Given the MMORPG genre's past history of shaky launches, this is a very encouraging sign and should bode well for the game's official launch later this month.

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