SOE Killing PlanetSide 2′s Free Player Grind

By Nathan Grayson on November 17th, 2012 at 10:00 am.

And I will name it Barney. After the character from The Flintstones, of course.

By and large, I’m very glad that free-to-play exists. It’s brought many fine, exceedingly hi-fidelity games back into the PC gaming fold, and I can’t argue with the option to jump in without spending a cent, coin, point, spacebuck, gorgle, or smarnx. Well, except when I can – and usually, that’s when the subject of unlocking comes up. The reason? It’s almost always excruciatingly slooooooooooow. Because naturally, those darn developers – who apparently need to eat occasionally and sleep under roofs (the nerve!) – want you to drop a few extra dimes to speed up the process. It is, then, somewhat shocking – but no less appreciated – that SOE’s taking steps to buck that trend with PlanetSide 2. Or at least make it a bit less of a bitter pill to swallow.

SOE took to its forums to explain the decision, which mainly involves some fairly drastic changes to cert gain rate and cert costs for weapons. “Our goal here is to reduce the overall time investment for weapons by about 30% on the top end weapon unlocks,” said lead designer Matt Higby.

In order to accomplish that, SOE’s opening the floodgates on cert points, doubling the speed at which you’ll earn them going forward. That said, the cert cost on everything aside from weapons – abilities, attachments, etc – will also double, thus canceling out the change. The Grind Reduct-O-Ray, then, is mainly being aimed at weapons – some of which will take 50 percent less time to unlock thanks to cert gain increases and reduced costs.

These changes will go live when PlanetSide 2 launches on November 20th. That’s, like, two minutes from now. And also some days. Will you be enlisting? Do you have what it takes to join The RPS Army(s)? Because if you do, you should, you know, do that and stuff.

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80 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Luringen says:

    I bought the beta pack, and I hope I don’t have to be pained by the slow unlock thing too much. Last time I checked it took hours to unlock a basic scope for one class.

    Edit: Can anyone access the forums? I cant find a link, and the main page just shows the countdown.

    • Premium User Badge

      DeVadder says:

      Then again it could be considered a MMO.
      And it is quite common for MMO to take a while before you have everything unlocked. And why would it not, unlocking more stuff is a good reason to play. So they certainly do not want you to run low on more stuff to unlock.
      Despite the time it takes beeing quite high, i think the unlocks here are very fair. Cert gain does not slow down with levels and in just a few days you can be quite competitive in one aspect.
      Of course, beeing good with 3 different infantery classes, Sundys AND fighters will take ages. But decide on one and you can have most of the unlocks within a week at most. And if you decide you want something else, just do it, you lost nothing for skilling something you dont want anymore. Except of course the time it took you.

      • Vorphalack says:

        ”And why would it not, unlocking more stuff is a good reason to play.”

        Or unlocks could be viewed as a crutch, used when developers cannot find compelling reasons within the core game play to keep people logging in. Whenever i’ve played similar games, and reached the point where i’m consciously just slogging on to get the next item in the list, it’s time to stop because i’m not having fun with the game anymore. If SOE are banking on the unlock system to keep people interested long term, they might be in for a shock when people start getting bored with it and they have nothing else to offer. My reaction at that point would not be ”well, better pony up for dem gunz!”, but more so ”well, next game please”.

        • Taidan says:

          What Vorphalack said.

          If you’re logging in because you’re having fun, then you are playing the game, and all is good with the world.

          If you’re logging in to spend time working towards “that next bit of kit”, then the game is playing you, and it’s possible, if not likely, that “fun” will soon give wave to “frustrating grind”.

          Compulsion loops are at best bad game design, and can verge on exploitative when it comes to F2P games.

          • PopeRatzo says:

            Any game developers out there, please read the above coupla comments.

            It’s the difference between us loving you and hating you.

          • xenogrant says:

            horseshit, the reason wow has 10 million players is because of compulsion loops.

        • Premium User Badge

          FriendlyFire says:

          And yet some people can’t actually enjoy a game for what it is. They need unlocks to stay interested.

          I don’t understand it, but there’s a significant demographic for whom playing is irrelevant, it’s unlocks and gear and abilities that matter.

          • Herkimer says:

            Why can’t I have both? I enjoy the core gameplay in PS2 (or else I wouldn’t play it), but I also enjoy the drip-drip-drip of OMG NEW STUFF!!! Indeed, I consider that part of the core gameplay. I think it’s uncontroversial to say that the game is balanced, in part, around the unlocks.

            Now, it’s true, if the shooting stuff part is lousy, the most finely-tuned unlock system isn’t going to do a thing to fix that. But a well-tuned unlock system can add to my enjoyment of the shooting stuff part.

            If nothing else, if I’m having a particular bad evening (which is often), then at least I can have the consolation of “oh hey, now I get to bolt a laser to my gun at least, that’s good”

          • Nic Clapper says:

            @Herkimer Exactly what I was going to say. If the game is already fun w/o the unlocks, then gaining those as you play is just a bonus. A bonus that I quite enjoy :)

        • Shooop says:

          So much right with this comment, I want it to be posted on every game’s website everywhere.

        • fish99 says:

          That may be true in a game you already paid full price for like COD, where the gameplay is very repetitive and unlocks really have no purposed apart from to keep you playing after you would otherwise have become bored, but in a F2P game it’s all about getting you to spend money.

          And FWIW the core gameplay in PS2 is probably the most varied you’ll find in a competitive multiplayer shooter.

        • DazedByTheHaze says:

          Gameplay needs to be deep.

          The learning curve steep.

          Please god, tell that to the unlock-loving sheep.

          If it doesn’t take 1000 hours to master.

          I don’t take out my blaster.

      • alilsneaky says:

        What is wrong with you? A reason to play?
        Find a different hobby.

    • aircool says:

      Cobblers… Once you’ve got a grip on the game (say, after a few evenings play), you can rack up cert points very quickly (you’d have no problem in unlocking a tier one scope in under an hour). Of course, skill and good situational awareness will help you to increase your cert point gain, and that’s something you can’t really buy in the station store.

  2. Premium User Badge

    AlwaysRight says:

    This raises an interesting talking point regarding the pre-order scheme (Alpha Squad).

    Say you’ve already bought your way into A squad, does this grind reduction lessen the value of your purchase?

    Discuss:

    • Premium User Badge

      Luringen says:

      I don’t think so, free players shouldn’t be pained by the unlock system, that would mean they would stop playing, and then we no longer have huge battles. I expect us paying players to get some advantages in terms of unlocks, but not massive. We start out with an extra weapon for every class for every faction right?

    • Lord Byte says:

      A 10% increase is a 10% increase, if everyone gets their shit faster you still get it 10% faster. Everybody wins with more diverse choices! (Yes I paid. Yes I did find that the last few patches with the huge price hikes, and reduced ticket rates stuff did get a bit too expensive, so this is a welcome change).

    • Premium User Badge

      DeVadder says:

      Well, not really, when i purchased Alpha there were no Soe Cash price tags on anything, meaning i had no idea how much i was saving anyways. So i do not care at all.
      And yes, i would prefer if free players get the same stuff as me and my purchase is considered a donation. Better experience for free players means more players means better experience for me.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      Depends if they doubled the SC cost as well as the cert cost. In which case your station cash is only going to buy you half as much now.

      Also, I wouldn’t exactly say SOE’s bucking the trend of grind with this little PR soundbyte, given that they’ve increased costs by more than 30% recently and halved the cert gain a couple of weeks ago, it’s still getting more grindy overall.

      • fish99 says:

        The article is kinda misleading if that’s the case. Really it’s like a retail sale, where they put the price up a month before the sale starts so they can then drop it and claim there’s a huge discount.

  3. Carbonated Dan says:

    Hats are always the answer.
    Particularly when the game’s default costumes were designed by a colour-blind disco-loving peacock who drinks only mescaline and monster energy

  4. codename_bloodfist says:

    >It’s almost always excruciatingly slooooooooooow. Because naturally, those darn developers – who apparently need to eat occasionally and sleep under roofs (the nerve!) – want you to drop a few extra dimes to speed up the process.

    That’s not really true though, is it, Nathan? Almost every multiplayer game, with or without initial costs, now has microtransactions. Even when it might seem absolutely absurd, e.g. Assassin’s Creed 3, they’re there. Why don’t we just phrase it the way things really are and say that occasionally somewhere along the way someone wants a new Lamborghini instead of a Porsche Boxster. If you know that your game is good, but not WoW good, and has a lasting appeal, why not milk the users past the 60 bucks they would pay for a complete game.

    • Nathan Grayson says:

      I definitely agree. That’s becoming a thing, and it’s certainly problematic in some cases. But development costs for major games keep rising, so I imagine that it’s also becoming necessary for some. I haven’t actually played AC III, so I don’t know how overbearing its microtransactions are, but as a general rule, they don’t mesh particularly well with games that weren’t designed around them.

      If nothing else, I’m glad that developers like SOE are starting to pay close attention to the inconveniences their microtransaction systems can cause. Hopefully that’ll create an expectation in players, and other developers — whether their games are F2P or full-priced — will be forced to follow suit.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Should we be asking why “development costs keep rising”? Is there an answer besides, “Money makes the games more good”?

        Considering tech workers are being paid less and less, I would like to know why game development costs are rising. Are pixels getting more expensive?

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Marketing and advertising.

          • Greggh says:

            (Poor) Marketing and (mass) advertising.

            FTFY! ;D

          • random_eddie says:

            Marketing and advertising don’t increase costs, they reduce costs. Promotional spending increases sales and generates more revenue than is spent on promotion. It is a profitable activity.

            Otherwise, companies wouldn’t do it.

            EDIT: I should qualify this: “presumed to be a profitable activity”. It’s entirely possible that the decision makers are overestimating the effect that their promotional efforts are having, so that marketing and advertising are actually losing money rather than making it. But I doubt it. They look at this stuff VERY CLOSELY.

          • derbefrier says:

            Your all forgetting the biggest cause. The cost of running a business never goes down only up. The cost of keeping one employee is ever increasing, increasing taxes, higher cost of living means employees need more cash and guess what all this gets passed to the consumer in this case in the form of microtransactions. So yeah pretty sure marketing has little to nothing to do with it.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            @random_eddie
            They might increase profits but spending more on marketing is still a bigger cost. Reducing costs is a different thing.

            @derbefrier
            Rules like that tend to have so many exceptions they’re about as useful as “I before E except after C”. Improving technology reduces costs, sometimes dramatically. Market changes can see drops in the costs of any raw materials. Even for the cost of employees, taxes can and do go down as well as up and living costs can increase less than inflation.

        • Nate says:

          The pixels don’t each get more expensive, but there are certainly expectations for more and more pixels.

          It takes more time to develop a 256×256 texture than it does a 128×128 texture. (Not quite 4x as much time, granted.) It takes more time to create a bump map and a specular map. It takes more time to create a model with more vertices, more frames of animation. It takes more time to create a destroyed version of a model.

          Modern warfare cost ~US$40M to make– for a 16gb install. Those are 16 billion hand crafted bits sitting on your hard drive. When developers only needed to create a couple hundred mb of data, it was obviously quite a bit cheaper.

    • Low Life says:

      Microtransactions in the multiplayer portion of a full-priced game is one of the silliest things I’ve seen in games in recent years. Now we’ll just have to wait for the first game to do the same for singleplayer. “Want to ghost this level in Dishonored? Only $2 for the key to unlock this door and you can bypass the guards – or buy the key bundle, with 6 keys for $10!”. Oh and please don’t tell me if there’s a game doing this already, I’d rather live in ignorance.

      Also, I’d like to know the percentage of players who buy a game like ME3 or AC3 for multiplayer only or wouldn’t buy them if they didn’t have multiplayer. There’s a part of me that thinks that they’d make more money if they released the multiplayer as a completely separate f2p game. But I guess they’ve crunched the numbers..

      • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

        Borderlands 2 is getting close with its gold keys.

      • BarneyL says:

        The multiplayer in games like ME3 isn’t there to sell it to people who want a multiplayer game. The profit I suspect is in forcing you to activate the game online in a way that shuts out the 2nd hand market.

        • Low Life says:

          But they already had that in ME2 (in the form of the Cerberus Network thingie), which was single player only.

      • Moraven says:

        That is how a lot of Mobile F2P games are. Basically paying more to beat the game, cheat it, get a higher score. Sadly its in the design of the game or no one would pay money. A couple F2P mobile games now are starting to just goto pay because unless they really try to hinder the player, none will play (and usually the vanity stuff is meh).

  5. Setroc says:

    The other unlocks which they aren’t changing the cost of are a bit nuts though. I did a quick calculation based on my current cert gain (which appears to be pretty average from looking on forums), and it’s going to take me 190 hours of play to unlock the abilities I want for the one tank (magrider) that I am hoping to use. Note that this isn’t even maxing out those abilities, but just getting them to a good level.

  6. mrmalodor says:

    “That said, the cert cost on everything aside from weapons – abilities, attachments, etc – will also double, thus canceling out the change.”

    Then what the hell is the point of this change?

    • Low Life says:

      Let me quote the next sentence of the article to answer your question:

      “The Grind Reduct-O-Ray, then, is mainly being aimed at weapons – some of which will take 50 percent less time to unlock thanks to cert gain increases and reduced costs.”

    • aircool says:

      To stealthily increase the amount of real cash you have to pay for each upgrade.

      • Premium User Badge

        Aerothorn says:

        Uh….no. The station cash costs are remaining unchanged. This only addressed the speed at which it takes to unlock stuff for free.

        CONSPIRACY THEORY DENIED.

  7. Xzi says:

    This game is not ready for launch by any measurable standard. I wish I could say otherwise. The most glaring flaw is an obvious lack of optimization, and that’s going to drive away anybody with a not newly-built PC. I can run anything else DX11 max settings at 60+ FPS, and Planetside barely delivers 35-45 with some settings in the medium range for me.

    That alone is fairly deterrent where a high-octane shooter is concerned, but not the final nail in the coffin. No, that honor goes to any one of the ten to twenty common bugs which WILL get you killed on any random spawn. Just as an example, in the very latest beta build, I would occasionally jump out of a window or move over a hill, and my character’s weapon would get stuck in a held-up position. This would entirely remove the crosshairs from my screen until my next spawn and leave me no chance of eliminating a single enemy.

    Even that was more fun than spawning a vehicle and immediately falling through the game world to the suicide screen, however.

    It’s hard to say why they’re rushing this release. Given that it’s an entirely new engine, you would think this would be something SoE would want to take their time with. Maybe development went over budget and they need to start bringing in revenue from the project right now. Were that the case, however, releasing the game in its current state seems counter-intuitive. Even the least discerning customer will try out what’s available for free before even glancing at their cash shop. And what free content there is to be experienced will change their mind about spending money on this game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      I would have said the same thing a month ago, but I think it’s fine for a F2P release, although I would have preferred an open beta transitionning to release a couple of months down the line. I built my PC for a grand in Jan 2010, and it’s running PS2 beautifully. The metagame is there, if lacking. The crucial elements are all in.

      It’s not going to blow anybody away, but it’s a great start.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Why are we setting a lower standard for F2P games? They’re all taking our money one way or the other or they wouldn’t be doing it.

        If a game’s got microtransactions, I’m expecting higher quality than your average triple-A title, to make up for the nausea I get from microtransactions.

        • BruceFnLee says:

          I agree. Let’s not forget that we’re talking about SOE, the most seasoned triple-A MMO developer out there. They have taken a step back and it’s either the cause or the result of their new F2P model and “player-driven approach” to developing games. My imagination reels at the thought of what kind of abomination the next Everquest could turn out to be. A year from now we’ll be able to see the new EQ and well be sure of what the fate of PS2 will be.

    • Lagwolf says:

      I was in the beta & it crashes for me once an hour-ish which is pretty lame. I think it has been poorly optimized & Sony doesn’t seem to understand the myriad of rigs out there. Certainly not worth being part of Alpha Squad & a game to check on in a few months maybe.

    • Stochastic says:

      I have to echo this sentiment. The game is okay in it’s current form, but I feel that it could have been/could be so much more with another 6 months or so of polish, tweaking, and refinement. If SOE continues developing the game as they have been after release then I won’t mind the early release so much, but I fear that they’ll either have to take a more conservative approach to development now that the game will be out in the hands of paying customers and/or that players will be put off by the game’s general bugginess come November 20th.

      • Shralla says:

        They said they’re planning for a lot of development post-release. Things like empty continents where players get to choose where to place bases, as well as new regular continents and more weapons, etc.

    • gritz says:

      Other cool bugs left unfixed at the end of beta:

      -Unrepairable base defense generators and terminals
      -Unusable infiltrator cloaks and light assault jetpacks
      -Invisible vehicles
      -Ridiculously huge friendly fire hitboxes for vehicle collision
      -Phantom corpses that can’t be rezzed but still show up on your medic’s HUD
      -Zero reward incentive to fly a Galaxy, ever.

      And, though it’s not a bug and they’ve tried to fix it with “tug of war” mechanics, the amount of time to cap a point is still absurd. If anything, the tug of war makes it even worse because it means ~6 players have to do nothing but stand on the point for over 10 minutes- they can’t even participate in the ludicrous spawn camp that has become so integral to the game.

      It’s too bad this game is so fun, because so much of it is absurdly broken.

      • Shralla says:

        The Galaxy thing bothers the shit out of me. Galaxy drops are so important and nobody does them just because there’s no real personal benefit other than knowing you had a job well done. I imagine that in the organized outfits there will probably be galaxy pilots but even they’re going to begrudge their job because the rest of their outfit is going to be earning xp and certs while he flies a boat.

        • MadMatty says:

          yeah, its only really usefull for a fast lightning strike air drop- some other players will have to drive the AMS up to the attack location.
          Hopefully they will have time to make the Galaxy carry vehicles like Planetside 1

    • 0positivo says:

      Can you really tell the difference between 40 and 60 FPS? If so I’m seriously impressed

      • jalf says:

        On a 60hz monitor, I’d be surprised if you can’t. It’s kind of noticeable that some frames stay on screen twice as long as others.

        Also, some people are (much) more sensitive to high framerates than others. And most people can see the difference between 30 and 60 fps, so I’d be surprised if no one in the world could tell the difference between 40 and 60.

  8. namad says:

    lolz for me and everyone i know uninstall.exe for planetside 2 beta does not work at all!

    is this because the release version will patch off the beta version? or is it because sony is a jerk and doesn’t love kittens?

    • Aaarrrggghhh says:

      Given the two choices it’s the later one. Players will not be able to update the beta client to the full release version. You have to redownload those 7+ gb again.

  9. Arkhonist says:

    Too bad the game is a million miles from being ready…

    • hunsnotdead says:

      Original release date was set late 2012(december)-early 2013(january). God knows why they opted for an early release. I think it was a rather bad choice.

      • aircool says:

        Has there ever been any MMO that was ready when it was released? The best effort I can think of was Rift, but even that took the usual 6-12 months to iron out the bugs and imbalances etc…

  10. Seafort says:

    No the beta has to be uninstalled as you have to download a new client for release.

    Just delete the folder and shortcut as Smedley suggested.

    Poor planning by SOE. We should be able to update from the beta client like most other MMOs. There is no preload either so we’ll all be downloading 9+GB on launch day.

    Gonna be a right clusterfrak :P

    • Fox89 says:

      Aha! Not for me! Because Virgin Media are ‘upgrading’ their internet, my internet is terrible until they finish! So I won’t be downloading anything until at least two weeks after launch, thus missing the clusterfrak of launch day.

      This officially makes me the luckiest person evarz.

      • Koozer says:

        Doubling your speed type ‘upgrade?’ For me that’s meant throttling by at least 50% during peak hours, so I can enjoy speed of…wait, no, my highest speed off-peak didn’t actually change much. Thanks VIrgin.

        • Donkeydeathtasticelastic says:

          All hail Richard Branson!

          (I just get major traffic for no explicable reason. Oh, well.)

    • Smarag says:

      You can preload using Steam.

  11. Sayori says:

    Couldn’t care less…
    They first should focus on fixing the hoard of bugs and balance.

  12. Tei says:

    Its a F2P mmo. Having a grind that goes away if you pay is the bussines model.

  13. aircool says:

    Well… from my beta experience you can compete right off the bat (and I only joined earlier this week). Even as a lone wolf medic or light tank driver you can compete and earn respectable cert points, as long as you go where the fights are (kinda obvious I know).

    As for unlocks, the only one that made a significant difference upon aquisition was the 4x scope for the medics rifle, and that about an hour to unlock, including all the time spent farting around with the interface and keybinds etc…

    For a F2P game, you cannot complain at the cert gain rate, and as for grind… well, you can’t really call it grind when it’s so much fun to play. It took a long time in the original to get enough unlocks to a decent level of versatility, and you had to pay a monthly sub for the privilege.

    Want to get yourself a pimped out flyer with all the gucci kit? Then shell out real cash for what you want. It won’t help you one bit if you haven’t learnt how to fly first :)

    • BarneyL says:

      Can I complain as a paying customer?
      Some of the upgrades make a huge difference, why learn to fly that non pimped out flyer when the default gun is virtually useless? Ditto for bolt action sniper rifles, shotguns, a second anti air gun on a MAX, upgraded vehicle weapons.
      It can sometimes be fun to play unupgraded but certain classes and playstyles need a significant investment either in time or money (based on the hints on pricing I doubt an alpha squad player will have much change after getting a vehicle kitted out).

      • MadMatty says:

        i still use the standard bolt action sniper rifle, 100 hours in now. I get massive streaks sometimes, i dont see the problem.
        As for Shotgun, maybe a little low on damage but allright-ish if you employ it properly.

        the main flier gun is SHIT tho, ill give you that.

        • BarneyL says:

          Only one faction has the superior bolt action rifle as standard, for the other two it’s a 1000 cert cost upgrade. That’s probably three weeks worth of play time for me to earn.
          I’ll have them all from the start though as they’re apparently amongst the 12 unlocks paying £30 for Alpha Squad earns you but good luck to anyone trying to play for free.

  14. fish99 says:

    Biggest change I’d like to see is to unlock the vehicle FOV, it’s very very low and isn’t affected by the FOV slider. It’s hurts my brain how little peripheral view you get, even from the 3rd person view. I’d be surprised if it didn’t make some people nauseous it’s that low.

  15. smg77 says:

    Sow how long before Planetside 2 gets the NGE treatment?

    • BarneyL says:

      Planetside has the exact opposite problem that Star Wars Galaxies had, Galaxies had a great meta game and broken core mechanics. Planetside has the foundations for a great game but leaves you with little feeling of purpose or opportunity to create your own.
      I do expect that there will be big balancing changes though and much anger from those who suddenly discover that the equipment they’ve paid real money for no longer provides them with the value it once did.

  16. fish99 says:

    Spent 3 hours playing this last night (4 hrs total now) and reached the point where I pretty much know what’s going on and how to contribute but … man do I suck at it. Probably getting killed 4 times for each kill I get. That’s a combination of being new at the game, being in the wrong place at the wrong time (i.e. getting out numbered), and the tiny target recognition delay which means I get beat to the punch, in a game where you die in half a second from sustained close range fire.

    The game is fun and addictive though, I just need to figure out how to get into an organized outfit and I’m sure things will go better.

  17. Mekhazzio says:

    This article is completely backwards – what actually happened is the reverse. What’s missing is the context of the last few days of beta immediately prior to this change. This “doubling cert gain and reducing weapon price by 30%” happened AFTER they halved cert gain and increased the price of weapons by anywhere from 0% – 1500%. The net change is that progress gain is actually significantly slower than it was for the last two months of beta. For example, the price of a shotgun, when you adjust for all the interim currency changes, went from 48 certs to 1000.

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved the beta and I’m fairly stoked for PS2, but its grind rate is absolutely not something to be praising it for. It’s a pretty brutal grind, with even core gameplay mechanics like surface-to-air capability being priced at ~25 hours of upper-performance play. Most of weapons, as of the last day of the beta, don’t even have a different skin or sound effect. Overall, it makes Tribes: Ascend look forgiving.

    • fish99 says:

      TBH I’m getting used to this with RPS – the need to read the comments section to get the accurate story. Staff should really consider reading the comments too (and not just straight after the piece was posted, but a day after, and again several days after, and then again a week after) and updating their original piece if it turns out to be misleading, like in this case.

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  19. OfficerMeatbeef says:

    Mekhazzio is absolutely correct above, and I feel the need to provide more information to back him up, which will hopefully illustrate how misleading SOE’s statement is here.

    For context, I got into the beta two weeks ago and played it a LOT since, much more than anything I can think of in recent memory, and certainly the most time I’ve put into a multiplayer game where I wasn’t playing with friends in ages. As such, although I make no claim to being an expert in Planetside 2, I feel that I have become familiar enough with its foundations and the interplay between the various units to make the statements that follow. That said, I really really like PS2 overall; it feels in many ways like what I always hoped Battlefield might become when I was playing 1942 for so many hours, which it seemed to make great strides towards that in BF2, before they finally decided to go console-centric and removed or outright destroyed many of those exciting evolutionary elements.

    So here’s the perspective of someone who was thrust into the last days of the beta, loved so much of what he saw, but was left with some serious concerns about that “free player grind” that are at exact odds with the positive tone this article presents, and in fact makes the article itself feel actively misleading, though I know that was absolutely not Mr. Grayson’s intention.

    Indeed, at my first glance those two weeks ago, PS2 seemed to be avoiding most of the common “unlockathon” pitfalls. Hey, all the classes are unlocked! They seem to have their essential tools! I can spawn and use any of the game’s vehicles right off the bat! Then after a little time in deeper, you start to notice there’s still some things you can’t do until you earn the certs for them, but generally the entry levels to obtain basic access to them were, at least) pretty reasonable, if I recall correctly. I believe cert rate at this point was 1 point/500XP, but it’s fuzzy because I was still coming to grips with the game. But as the days went on and the updates started to deal with making the game ready for launch (a.k.a. ready to actually monetize), things started to look a lot more troubling.

    Here’s a prime example that I feel best sums up this very real issue: the Lightning tank’s “Skyguard” turret. The Skyguard is a pure anti-air turret, and is worthless against other vehicles and infantry. If you take out a Skyguard, your role is now exclusively to keep the skies clear. In fact, a Lightning with a Skyguard is the ONLY dedicated AA vehicle in the game. From the very first hour I played, Skyguards were being used as essential parts of any convoy. This gun is a “sidegrade” in the purest sense of the word, but also invaluable for the unique role it plays. Now the maths.

    When I started playing, unlocking the Skyguard took 48 certs. By the end of the beta (I’ll use this as reference because I actually had the mechanics down and was thus able to perform somewhat reasonably) I was earning maybe about 40-50 odd certs per 5 or 6 hours of play, at 1 cert per 500XP. Now, in the final days of the beta, they rolled out what I assume were meant to be final cert prices, and at the same time, they bumped cert gain to 250xp/cert. The Skyguard now cost 725(!) certs. They decided the new cert rate was too high after a day or two, and changed it back to 500XP/cert. Finally, upon closing of the beta, they settled on the supposed “grind killing” measure detailed in this article: back to the 250XP/cert, up all the upgrade cert costs, AND up weapons a bit more so they’d still be (technically) cheaper to get with the new gain.

    The final cost for the Skyguard upon release: 1000 certs. So assuming I can now average about 100 certs/5 hours of play with the new rate, getting access to a Skyguard will now take me 50 hours. Well, that’s certainly better than the almost 75 hours it would have taken if they had simply doubled its price, so… thanks for that? Keep in mind, this is if I literally spend certs in NOTHING ELSE for the entirety of those 50 hours. No upgrades. No accessories. Nothing. Also, I’m bored and unemployed at the moment so this is hardly “casual” play. And since I would like to occasionally swap between a character in each faction (they all play different, you know!), I have to repeat that for each character, as well.

    Now to be “fair”, could I undertake measures to maximize my cert gain? Probably, but that would mean not getting to focus on the things I actually find the most fun, like (ironically) shooting down air forces or long-range tank duels. Now that I say that, I realize again how it just highlights another failure of the unlock system: my ability to unlock this crucial anti-air unit is only peripherally related to my ability to actually deal with air units. Rather than granting it after a certain amount of air kills or assists, which would at least be somewhat interesting and intuitive, one has to use the same generic “unlock points” as anything else. Hypothetically, if someone is excellent at shooting down air units but poor at everything else and thus very slow to gain certs, why should they be locked out of a role that they could excel in? At that point, you might as well just be locking down entire classes.

    Here’s a few other things I can think of off the top of my head that I feel should absolutely NOT be locked away, because their lack of availability completely prevents a player from responding to some tactical situations if they haven’t gained access to them: the Heavy Assault’s Anti-Air Missile Launcher, the ONLY true countermeasure a squad of pure infantry has against air without spending resources to spawn a MAX suit. Speaking of MAX suits, by default you can use an anti-infantry weapon in one arm and either an anti-armor weapon or anti-air “Burster” in the other. Once again, the Burster is the ONLY infantry-based countermeasure against air a player has access to by default (seeing a pattern here?). A single Burster can do a decent amount of damage, but in case of a serious air assault with no friendly air support or AA turrets around, a MAX with a second Burster is more or less considered an absolutely essential unit of its own, and heavy air assaults are hardly uncommon. The cost for the AA Missile Launcher, or the second Burster? When I started playing the beta, 96 certs and 48 certs, respectively. For release? 1000 certs each.

    Or how about C4? Most classes can use it, but the Light Assault in particular is unique in that it has an equipment slot that is empty by default; one has to cert into C4 to use it in this space. Having C4 gives the Light Assault the capability of devastating enemy vehicles at close ranges (instead of having literally no anti-vehicle capability whatsoever without it) and with no tradeoff in doing so. Well, except for the 4 certs it would cost you when I started the beta. Now? 200 certs.Not as bad, but since it’s a class certification and not a weapon, you’re going to HAVE to spend certs on it; no buying this one.

    You could buy a shotgun though, as Mekhazzio said! It’s the only type of infantry weapon that does not exist as a default for any of the classes, so unless you unlock it even the “lowest-tier” shotgun is out of your reach. Another situational weapon that must be purchased for only 1000 cert points, or whatever the real money cost is going to be for any of these 1000-cert things, which at this point seems to be just about everything, despite a dev assurance that they were only going to make the “highest-tier” stuff so expensive.

    So I’ve glossed over the fact that you can buy a lot of this stuff for real money. Yes, it’s free-to-play, and they have to make their cash somehow. Well, right now, having just done those calculations for the first time, I’m wishing more than ever that it wasn’t. I would happily pay full retail for the game as it existed at end of beta with accessible weapons and abilities. It’s buggy, and incomplete, and probably shouldn’t be releasing yet, but all that will get sorted out soon enough and it’s a lot of very unique fun as is. But I’m afraid every time I’m stuck trying to defend an outpost while air power continues to bombard everything in sight, and I’m left scurrying impotently about because I haven’t scrimped and saved for days for even just one of the anti-air weapons, I’m just gonna tick one increment closer to walking away in disappointment.

    But I really really want to be wrong. Maybe the cert costs really aren’t complete, or the currently provided costs are inaccurate, or will be adjusted. Maybe the cost in real money to equip a soldier in each faction with the essential kit or to get a experience boost that significantly reduces the time investment will be a fair, equivalent cost to a full-priced title. I want to believe this, but I have my doubts. Again, I don’t mind paying into a game I enjoy like this, but it’s a simple truth that I find paying a lump sum for a reasonably complete experience just feels orders of magnitude less… questionable than piecemeal equipment bits, and I don’t know if that’s something I’ll ever get over. Though it seems more and more likely I’ll either have to or give up on the whole bloody hobby.

    The bottom line is, all SOE’s announcement is saying here is “after the day we introduced our horrendous cert costs, we’ve reconsidered and adjusted them to be merely terrible”. And it might just be me, but I will be much, much more likely to support the game well into the future if I don’t feel like I’m being gouged like hell for essential items right out of the gate.

    • BarneyL says:

      A great breakdown of the problems, I’ll defend SOE a little by saying some of the cert costs originally were probably too low and there was little balance amongst them you could get great weapons for an evening’s play and terrible ones for a month’s.
      This brings us round to another core issue, there is no way to test a weapon and no refund system so every purchase each of which is a major investment for your character is a gamble. Perhaps you save that 1000 certs and buy the Skyguard, you’ll find that following it being “balanced” it’s now next to useless. One MAX with two AA guns (costing the same 1000 certs) is enough to stop an aircraft hovering in place attacking your squad and probably kill it. One skyguard is enough to give the pilot an annoying pinging sound and a barely noticable dent in their armour. If you picked the wrong one then those certs (or station cash) are gone for good.
      That’s just one example, there are multiple other examples of items that are virtually worthless or don’t do what you think they will and no real way to know what they are.