A Galaxy Away: Planetside 2′s Spawn Bus Victory

By Jim Rossignol on October 5th, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

Desert bus simulator.
There was something I neglected to mention in my previous observations about Planetside 2′s version of the venerable Galaxy drop ship, and that was the tactical implications of having it as the mobile base and spawning point. I’d been meaning to discuss it for a while, but then SOE went and fixed the problem. They promoted the Sunderer – Planetside 2′s bus-like person-carrier – to the role they had originally designated to the Galaxy.

Thoughts on this, and more besides, resides below.

First thought: this really is a beta like they used to be. Before beta was essentially synonymous with “rolling demo”. That means it’s one of those big old play-test sessions where things really are changing, in a big way, in response to player feedback. That’s a beautiful thing to watch, as the designs proposed by the devs get reworked by exposure to the withering forces of contact with actual players. This is a good thing. The game will be stronger for it. And the changes are not limited simply to game design – as we have seen – they are also visiting changes on the way the free / paid aspects of the game will work.

But to our main point: the Galaxy and the Sunderer’s role swap.

This is a fascinating – to me at least – design point. I can see exactly why the Planetside 2 designers wanted the Galaxy to be the spawn point: because setting down and deploying this dynamic, flying hulk was just a cool thing to have in the game. Happily, though, they’ve recognised that the fact it can fly means that “battle lines” were becoming extremely fuzzy. With the galaxy about to drop down a spawn behind enemy positions, it because very hard to hold the line, and for fights to become firm along particular fronts.


With the Sunderer – a purely ground based vehicle – being the mobile spawn, the capacity for enemies to bypass defences is significantly reduced. While it might be less immediately “cool”, it does make for a far better dynamic on the ground. A Sunderer can’t just go as the crow flies to where-ever it pleases, and there’s the added fun of trying to get the unwieldy buses into useful and safe positions in the first place. Ultimately it’s just a better balance for the game.

Interestingly, I think, the issue with the Galaxy’s incredible mobility eroding challenging tactical play echoes another criticism I once made of Eve Online. For many years in Eve the only way to travel around the galaxy was via the jump gates. This meant that you could always see your enemies coming, if you had enough scouts, and that to shift extremely valuable cargo – big freighters for example – you’d need a concerted, major operation. Eventually, perhaps inevitably, the game introduced ships with jump drives, which could simply pop from one system to another without ever visiting gates at all.

This created a parallel loss of tactical nuance to the one with the Galaxy. Eve’s jump drives were cool, very cool, and absolutely fit the space travel fiction, but they meant that frontlines could not be maintained, and that convoys were a thing of the past. It was a parallel problem – one that Eve has never been able to solve – and one that Planetside 2, happily, seems to have identified early on.


With the Sunderer acting as a compromise, the Galaxy will have to find a new role. One it doesn’t seem to have quite yet. Since the change I barely seem them at all. I’ll be interested to see what the SOE team come up with.

Other things:

  • There are still some big issues hanging around in there. One is that the game’s voice comms break up over a certain volume, and don’t knock the volume down on the game’s general cacophony. For voice comms to really work as an integrated function of the game, they need to be both clear and audible, and these aren’t quite there yet.
  • I think there’s also a way to go with the squad interface. Players need much more signposting for where their fellow squad members are. Not just clearer on the map, but I would say in the world HUD too. Right now you can only see the location of chums if they’re within close proximity, which I feel is limiting the potential for intuitive co-ordination with chums.
  • The territory capture dynamics still feel a bit odd. Should a single character really be able to capture a base, as long as there’s some adjacency? The flipping back and forth of bases still seems to easy, although I can understand that SOE don’t want to push the “stickiness” of control too far, because then there might well be endless deadlock. One thought was that perhaps it demanded a set number of people to be present (rather than just a specific amount of time), so that those smaller captures demanding more than just a couple of guys who happened to be there to take an undefended post. Hmm, perhaps I can’t really push and answer forward here, but right now I just don’t think it’s quite right, and I expect it to change.
  • Finally, yes, I am aware that the European Planetside 2 will, following the launch, be handled by German media company ProSiebenSat.1. We’ve mentioned it before. And yes, I am aware that a number of people are uncomfortable with that, for various reasons. I’m going to see what SOE has to say about it, and do a little more research into whether people’s concerns are justified. For the region-locking thing alone, I would say, we have something to discuss.

In the meantime, the beta rumbles onward. We’re in this forum thread. See you out there.

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71 Comments »

  1. Flukie says:

    I only get around 20 FPS during combat on Low at 1080p on Planetside 2.

    I hope more optimisation is done, running at 680 / 1090T, may need to invest in a better CPU though.

    • Wedge says:

      The game is HIGHLY CPU dependent as far as I know, so if you’re still running a C2D or something, that will be a real issue here. It’s possibly the first game to make very real and relevant use of multi-core systems. I tested it a bit with my i5-2500k @ 4ghz and a 7950 and it runs perfectly fine at max settings. Shame I haven’t had the time to really play it, between work and Dark Souls.

      • Ganjatron says:

        I also have an i5-2500K, but with a 560ti, and it does slow down at times, but they’ve said there is still tons of optimization to be done before release. Also my i5 never gets maxed but my 560ti is slammed, so I’m not entirely sure it’s THAT cpu dependent.

        • socrate says:

          for what it look there is a big need for optimisation,quite frankly the graphic aren’t that impressive at all in Planetside 2,that said i had a bit more fun then the new x-com but that isn’t really hard to beat

    • Premium User Badge

      Tom De Roeck says:

      Why are you saying 1080p like that? its PC. its always progressive, unless you play on a TV.

      Dont come here with your video standards, boy!

      PS: if you were actually referring to 1920×1080, then the proper term is “HDTV”. 1080p could also be 1440×1080 progressive. It just rarely is.

      (however, 720p is always 1280×720)

      • Low Life says:

        Way to try to raise yourself on a pedestal by nitpicking about a very commonly used term and fail miserably while doing so. Let’s deconstruct this:

        “Why are you saying 1080p like that? its PC. its always progressive, unless you play on a TV”
        Fair enough – it’s extremely unlikely that anyone’s going to be outputting interlaced video from their PC. But there is absolutely no reason why an LCD monitor wouldn’t be able to accept interlaced signal if your LCD TV does – they both need to deinterlace the video before displaying it, and there’s no reason deinterlacing can’t be added in a monitor.

        “PS: if you were actually referring to 1920×1080, then the proper term is “HDTV”. 1080p could also be 1440×1080 progressive. It just rarely is.”
        No and no. HDTV does not specify any resolution, apart from it resolution being somewhere between 720p and 1080p (and even that’s fairly loose). Full HD is probably the term you’re looking for, but funny as it is it’s actually a marketing term for 1080p. And 1080p never means anything except 1920×1080. HDV 1080p is 1440×1080. But that’s HDV 1080p, which is an entirely different subject.

        And now, back to PS2. The game’s very promising, and the problems Jim listed are difficult to argue. I do find it a bit silly taking an entire outpost from the enemy as a lone soldier, when at the same time there’s an all out war of hundreds of people in the neighbouring hex.

        • Premium User Badge

          Tom De Roeck says:

          Actually no, HDTV in encoding terms, is always 1920×1080. Full HD is a marketing term, HDTV is not.

          (the only thing that varies, is of course the framerate, but thats not under discussion here)

          However, I am prepared to stand corrected on that, if you’re an editor or compositing artist; or otherwise involved in Video tech. (I am a film producer, used to be focused on editing/postpro until recently)

          Also, no need for me to be on a pedestal, but I cringe every time someone says something like that, as well as referring to Stereoscopy as “3D”.

      • Lev Astov says:

        Hear, hear!

    • Aether says:

      If I may, I have a 1090T and its highly Overclock able. In fact you can boost it up to 3.7 GHZ across all 6 cores pretty much for free. Though be sure to disable the turbo core tech.

  2. gerafin says:

    The sunderer thing is great, yeah. But I’m surprised you haven’t been seeing them often – it seems to me like every co-ordinated battle has at least one sunderer jockeying for position, and often there are quite a few. I’ve also taken it upon myself to be a dedicated sunderer driver, and let me tell you: by having the sole sunderer on your side of the battle, you single-handedly determine where the battle lines are being drawn, and that’s a really cool feeling. You decide when to push, when to fall back, and when to run for the hills.

    • Yargh says:

      he’s talking about the Galaxies

      • gerafin says:

        @Yargh: that’s what I get for trying to read RPS before my morning coffee. Yeah, galaxies are rare now and are used for one-off hot drops, if used at all.

    • MrUnimport says:

      At this point, being a “dedicated” Sunderer driver doesn’t mean quite as much as in the original. Everyone can pull a Sunderer, everyone can steer it, and AFAIK its mobile spawn ability is either free or extremely cheap. Your Sunderer may have sharper teeth or be able to take a few more rockets, of course.

      • gerafin says:

        Yeah, anybody can drive the sundy, and with this week’s increased cert gains, anybody can kit theirs out with all the most expensive goodies. And in a decent group, I can leave the sunderer to join in the main assault, and trust that the sunderer will be repaired / manned as needed by whoever in my squad is nearby. Usually, though, if not playing with friends, I have to babysit it in order to make sure some heavy assault doesn’t take it out while nobody’s paying attention.

  3. rockman29 says:

    Said everything I wanted to say and more, good preview of the changes and other pieces missing, especially the horrible squad interface!

  4. ulix says:

    I’d love to get into the Beta somehow…
    Reading that the game will be handled by Pro7 is really shitty though. I hate it. Probably won’t play the game for exactly that reason.

    • kdh says:

      I have a vague recollection of ProSiebenSat.1 being TV channels but that is about all I know. Why is it particularly bad that they are doing the hosting?

      • Logeres says:

        ProSieben manages a number of free2play games, most of them horrible (in a bland kind of way) and all of them designed to rip off the customer. Plus, even their TV program isn’t exactly known for its quality entertainment. I imagine some fear that they will get less for their money than the American customers, or that ProSieben will try meddle in SOE’s store system.

    • Lev Astov says:

      I believe you can buy into the beta. I can in the US, at least. I’m terribly tempted to do it right now.

  5. Mollusc Infestation says:

    A galaxy on the roof of an enemy biodome was far too useful as a spawn location, since there was no easy way to get rid of it. Sundererer spawning makes a lot more sense i think.

  6. Lancezh says:

    Ehm. Well. the Galaxy spawn was only removed temporary so they said. Kind of neglects the whole article ?

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      Not really. A week or so, EVERY galaxy could act as a spawn point. That was then removed, and given to Sunderers. You could only create a “spawn” galaxy by buying the ability with a LOT of cert points. Then they even removed that. So yes, in theory, some galaxies will still be spawn points, but they’ll be very, very rare.

      • Lancezh says:

        Read my above comment please

        • Premium User Badge

          Crimsoneer says:

          I think I did?
          They solved the issue by making Galaxies spawns very very rare and hard to obtain. At least, whenever they decide to implement it again. The issue Jim is referring to is that Galaxies were the default forward spawn point, that made the entire concept of battlefront redundant.

    • Asurmen says:

      The article is still relevant. The whole point is that they’re trying to make the Sunderer the default mobile spawning vehicle by having the ability require a few cert points. Galaxies are going to be high cert point and other restrictions like squad/platoon spawning only. The whole temp turned off thing relates to the past week when passive cert gain was turned to something crazy so the devs could see what the game might be like in x years time when people may have everything in the game.

    • Ganjatron says:

      They said they would bring it back if the community wanted it returned to its old glory, and so far the community has said no.

  7. Lancezh says:

    http://forums.station.sony.com/ps2/index.php?threads/beta-hotfix-09-28-2012.25485/#post-339588

    “Galaxy spawns are being temporarily disabled. They’ll return we promise.”

    • Premium User Badge

      El_MUERkO says:

      They wont return as they once were. In an interview the developers recognised the need to balance, the spawn will likely be restricted to your Squad/Platoon.

  8. Rotekian says:

    I’ve noticed an fps drop when I’m loading an area for the first time (I re-installed recently and it happened again). Otherwise I haven’t had too many problems with fps lately.

  9. Shooop says:

    Can we get some information about weapons? We know things like SMGs are going to considered sidegrades, but do they actually perform that way? Or is it another case of them being a faster-firing assault rifle?

    Is it a part time job to kill anyone like (my fingers bleed typing this) Halo (AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH) or will they hit the ground after you shoot them 2-3 times?

    • Asurmen says:

      People hit the ground very fast from weapons fire. TTK is not in the PS1 or even Halo range. Closer to Cod/BF3.

  10. Vorphalack says:

    This is a good change, particularly coupled with the necessity of having some adjacent territory controlled by your own faction before you could capture a base. Only 1 month ago, the most optimal way to play was simply load a Galaxy full of dudes, cruise around the map avoiding fights, flag as many undefended bases as possible, and repeat. Epic war it most certainly did not make.

    • MrUnimport says:

      This is still very workable. You just need to drop a spawn beacon and make sure your dead guys drop in and get back on the Galaxy before you take off for the next empty facility.

      • Vorphalack says:

        Well yeah, its not killed the Galaxy, which is good, but it’s not as stupidly game breaking any more.

  11. fionny says:

    Bother is the Galaxy is now practically useless.

  12. Popcornicus says:

    Higby stated that Galaxy spawns are returning as a SQUAD-ONLY mechanic limited to members of your immediate squad. The Sunderer S-AMS will remain a global spawn for all nearby friendlies.

    • MrUnimport says:

      I’m not sure I like this. If your squad is any kind of coordinated, you’re bringing a Sunderer along on the ground or at least have a spawn beacon or two set up at the location you’re assaulting. You don’t NEED a Galaxy AMS. Limiting Galaxy spawns to the squad is basically unnoticable to defenders as well, whether it’s 12 guys or 15 or 20 or 32 pouring out of the thing in an endless stream until you can miraculously blow it up isn’t a huge deal.

      • Reefpirate says:

        From what I understand the Galaxy will be quite different when it gets the spawn ability back. It will be limited to your squad, but it may also have a limited number of spawns, and you won’t be able to spawn on the ground but something like you can spawn IN the Galaxy if it’s up in the air or some such…

  13. tungstenHead says:

    Last I heard regarding the ProSiebenSat.1 situation was that there would be no region locking. I’ve read (I might be starting a rumour that is not true at all here) that PSS1 is handling the logistics end while the game itself will be operated by SOE. There’s a lot of mud in the water there, but as I understood it, there was hope for optimism. Still, worth following up on to get that mud cleared up.

    • razgon says:

      Well, I think thats true to an extent – SOE will of course still own and update the game and its files, but all subscriptions, points, and most importantly custoumer service will be handled by Prosieben. At least, so I’ve come to understand.

      I’m happy though that RPS is aware of it and is looking into it :-) (And I’m sorry if I came of pushy the last time I mentioned it towards mr Rossignol)

  14. DarkFenix says:

    I don’t think anything short of the complete and permanent removal of Galaxy spawning will ‘fix’ the ground war in Planetside. Galaxy spawning doesn’t make the front line ‘fuzzy’, it makes it non-existent; tank battles and outdoor infantry engagements were a sideshow, something you did to pass the time until someone landed a Galaxy on a base rooftop so the real fight could start.

    • Asurmen says:

      It was making it fuzzy but complete removal is a bit overkill. Front lines are needed but the game also requires some amount of black ops/dynamicness to it. The two extremes are both bad and I have faith the devs will solve the issue.

      • DarkFenix says:

        I always thought the Galaxy itself as a transport was supposed to fuzzy the frontlines a bit, allow dropping in behind enemy lines and such. If they make the Galaxy cheaper and more easily obtainable to offset the lack of spawning, then it allows dynamic battlefields anyway. We already have deployable spawn beacons to allow this to an extent, though those are currently a bit too easy to find and neutralise.

        • MrUnimport says:

          I think the ability to airdrop 12 guys into any battlezone isn’t as huge a deal as it was in PS1 when each soldier only takes a couple of bursts of machine gun fire to drop. The main upside seems to be the strategic benefit of getting a squad of players into the battlezone where they can start to spawn at nearby AMSes, rather than the tactical benefit of insertion on top of a base or inside the walls or whatever.

  15. Deadfast says:

    I hated the Galaxy spawns so so so so much. Once they landed they were pretty much invincible. Two guys with a nanowrench and you couldn’t dent the thing with a nuke.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Tom De Roeck says:

    Where is the freeness of this game? or is it still in beta?

    • Unaco says:

      It’s still in Closed Beta.

      • Premium User Badge

        Tom De Roeck says:

        ahhh.. so Jim is essentially dangling a carrot in front of our noses… thanks :D

        • Premium User Badge

          felisc says:

          yes and it’s a bit painful. but hey, tons of games are coming out this month, so yay.
          I can’t wait for Planetside 2 to be available and fight amongst the elite troops of RPS, though.

        • Unaco says:

          There were, literally, hundreds of thousands of opportunities to get into the Beta… They had a big, big splurge of keys for a month, starting 2 months ago, handing them out in many different places… Twitter, on Livestreams, from websites. Ample enough opportunity to get in if you’d wanted in.

          There are a large number of people currently in the Beta, to whom this will be directly relevant. Not really dangling a carrot to them, is it?

          • Premium User Badge

            Tom De Roeck says:

            True enough, I guess I was a tiny bit bitter towards jim for leaving Perp Online to greener pastures, for me to join the P2 beta :D

    • Ta'Lon says:

      Well, Smedley (President SOE) said yesterday that they would invite a new round of beta testers and give everyone that is already in an extra key after tonight’s patch.
      So there’s a good chance there will be a few keys around in the next days ;)

      • Premium User Badge

        Tom De Roeck says:

        As long as the nature of its MMOness is similar to Tribes and Retribution, Im interested.

        IE: interesting enough base game, with growth possibility.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        That’s awesome. I signed up for this ages ago and even created a twitter account to beg them for a key, but I never got one. I’m actually tempted to pay for access, but I won’t because of XCom/Dishonored.

  17. Tei says:

    Sunders can’t replace gals. Because of this experiment the game has become very stale (still fun to me) with frontiers changing rarelly and returning to the original position later. I think gals make the game more fun by moving these frontiers quickly and having this slow huge target that everybody want to shutdown.

  18. Poet says:

    I hate to say it but it seems as if the Dev team is stuck in the same rut the original one was. Here they have this great idea for massive combat on a scale no one has ever done before but have no idea how to actually implement it properly. Now I have no idea either but I do have some complaints. :)

    The map is HORRIBLE to traverse and do vehicle battles on. I spend half my time in ground vehicles just trying to get to where the battle is and then when I finally manage to get past all the impassible terrain I end up in some bottle neck where I cant even get past my own guys and them I’m dead.

    Why are there so many things in the map that hang you up?!?! I’m using a jet pack but half the time I get stuck on the lip of something and can’t get over it. Or how about not being able to walk over a six inch curb?! The map is like this everywhere. See that hill over there, I can climb it almost to the very top and then……oh well cant make the last 5 feet and now I gotta go around.

    The main gripe though is much like the first planetside, whats the point? Everything feels like its pointless to me. No winning conditions, no reward for kicking x empires ass, ect ect.

    • Gnoupi says:

      At some point, I was driving a Sunderer, with 5 passengers. We were going to an hex close to the end of the map.

      I missed the road when turning, after the group captured the point. And the Sunderer began sliding in a crevice. I tried to get everyone out of it…. but it was no use. The more I tried, the faster it was sliding.

      Please have a thought for those men, who trusted their driver to save them. Those men are now floating in the nether, as they fell out of the map. Their driver jumped before the end, though. And there is not a day passing for him, without the image of those soldiers, sliding to oblivion in a sunderer.

      • Premium User Badge

        Tom De Roeck says:

        That is an awesome story. Does the game lend it to emergent gameplay like that then?

  19. Jengaman says:

    I wish they would add this: When a conflict ends at the base, whoever captures or defends stays alive, and the losing teams just gets wiped the fuck out. Like the base emits some pulse that kills them. Make the win mean something, and stop these endless base fights. Assaulting a base never feels like an assault, its just feels like a meat grinder.

    And i wish deaths meant something. 3 sec spawn is down right silly. I’t doesn’t feel like a war, it feels like a bunch of games of codface spread out on a big map.

  20. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Can’t wait to make time for this. Will be awesome.

  21. Heliocentric says:

    Is the Flying skip (AKA lodestar)in Planetside 2 yet? Its the transport of kings.

  22. stillunverified says:

    I’m glad, I was getting pretty sick of a galaxy showing up out of nowhere, planting itself on the roof and then an engineer or two repair-tanking any damage we throw its way while guys spawn out of its backside and keep coming back 10ft away from where they were killed over and over again.

  23. Premium User Badge

    Jackablade says:

    I’m not overly familiar with Planetside beyond what’s been written here on RPS and some old tales of glory from folks I went to uni with, but by the sounds of the comments here, I’m wondering whether its the engineers that need to be reworked rather than the vehicles. If this Galaxy ship was more vulnerable, it sounds like many of the issues wold be solved.

    On another note, I remember a friend telling an amusing story about griefing on the first PS and dumping a mobile spawn point at the bottom of a deep lake. Based on the article here, I’m wondering whether that was actually something that would have been possible.

  24. MadMatty says:

    First off the voice comms work perfectly fine over here, audibility is not an issue, its just that some people have to turn their mic-input down a bit in options. once thats done once, there arent any problems anymore.

    Second, i think the proximity based Squad indicators work fine, not cluttering up the main HUD too much… if you are wondering what your squad is doing across the map, you can open the map and see their indicators.

    As for the territorial zone control, i dont know. I kinda like the new system…..but as you say its very easy for a one man team to take several bases very quickly if they are undefended….

    Got a 3-knife kill hattrick on thursday, while recapturing the Zurvan Tech Plant haha i lol´ed

  25. MadMatty says:

    Proximity based mic-chat is incredible!! just walk up to a bunch of guys and start coordinating without having to type (and get 11-shotted by a sniper while typing).

    It sounds minor, but its really completely awesome in practice!