After Action Report: PlanetSide 2’s World Record Attempt

I’m being flown westwards in a Galaxy dropship transport along with the 11 other players in bravo squad. A couple of dozen friendly fighter planes pass below us, heading north east, moving to support another battle elsewhere. Red tracers begin to fill my screen as we take fire from enemy flak positions supporting a battle in the north. Veering left, our pilot moves to approach our destination from the south.

I ask for a sitrep: delta squad have arrived in advance, and are watching enemy positions for activity. Alpha and charlie squad leaders report that they now have ground support vehicles en route. Seconds later I arrive with bravo and we drop onto our objective; a small building in the east of this base. Alpha and charlie squad begin finding placements for Sunderers (mobile infantry spawn vehicles) and I see another platoon drive up with support vehicles, take up positions and begin assaulting the western side of the same base.

Over half an hour ago we broke the world record for the largest number of players in an FPS battle, but there’s still an hour of laser war left in Planetside 2.

The match started in a sedate manner. In order to avoid large concentrations of players causing problems, each of the three factions was given three starting locations and players were asked to be waiting within transport vehicles. The start of the match is announced and we take off. This will be the quietest 30 seconds of the next two hours.

Our first target is Genesis Terraforming, a medium sized base at the centre of the eastern front. Our faction (the purple spandex-clad Vanu Sovereignty) already owns this base at the start but losing it would open up multiple paths to smaller, easier to capture bases behind our lines. I send one squad to each of the three objective locations at the base and ask delta to hold a building in the middle of the base. 30 seconds into the match, and half way to our first fight, we are told that there are 1,098 players online.

We arrive at exactly the same time as our Terran opponents. My squad members fall from their Galaxy dropships right next to the enemy. Just before I drop myself I see a couple of friendly pilots simply plough their aircraft into the Terran dropships after delivering their troops. The first engagements are frantic and short lived as players land on the roofs of buildings, immediately facing the enemy.

As we are killed and respawn, for the first of what will be dozens of times, I ask alpha and bravo squads to begin deploying Sunderers at the centre of the base so we can gain a foothold, but enemy vehicles that have just started to arrive make this difficult. Charlie squad manage to hold after their initial drop slightly longer than most of us, but are soon pushed out by a force twice their number. I send an order to all platoon members to re-group in the spawn room of the base. We then begin to sweep the base, moving as a large mass with our sister platoon from one objective location to the next, clearing each building of enemies in turn.

Our first objective is secured, and the Terran forces here have gone elsewhere. We move to an adjacent base, which is under attack by entrenched Terran forces. It’s not safe to move out, so we gather together, waiting to move as a group. Those of us in platoon two are joined by platoon one and I find myself crammed into a tiny room with just shy of a hundred other players. Looking through the shimmering force fields that protect us, I can see our opponents; they are spread out, they have the high ground and they control the choke points. On a count of ten I relay the command to go and we spew forth from this little room and charge towards our objective on the other side of the bridges that span the road below. Overlooked and with little cover many of us fall almost immediately, revived by medics and then charging again, maybe making it a few more meters this time. We have no time to pause and return fire; it’s simply a matter of providing more targets than the enemy can deal with and closing the distance. This is trench warfare with lasers, and I’m ordering the players over the top.

I’m in command of platoon number two, consisting of 42 players from Miller (one of Planetside 2’s European servers). Each of the four squads under my command is headed up by its own squad leader, including one squad comprised of the men and women of the RPS community. I’m working alongside the leader of platoon one and together we constitute the forces of ‘Area 1’; the eastern front. Our area commander sits alongside other area commanders, the leader of ‘quick response’ forces and the commander of our air squadrons. They, in turn, take orders from the overall of the force command team. There are few games of a scale where one player can be in charge of fifty other players working together, and there are even fewer where that player is just a cog in an even larger machine.

After another successful defence I take my platoon one base to the west to prise it from the hands of the Terrans who have set themselves up there. Given that this base is connected to where we are, this is simply a matter of waiting for a ten-second ‘redeploy’ timer and then selecting this base as the next spawn option. The fight turns out easier than expected, and we quickly rout the enemy. I get my platoon loaded into Sunderer transports and begin a push into enemy territory, but we are soon asked to reinforce the western front. Much like Genesis Terraforming acts as a gateway in the east, Fort Drexla does the same on our western front against the New Conglomerate faction, and those at the top want to make sure we take it. I ask each squad to get themselves into a Galaxy drop ship. Acting as mobile spawn locations for your squad, it’s a simple matter to have a pilot head towards a destination whilst their squad mates load themselves into the back of your aircraft mid flight. Redeploy, Sunderer and Galaxy movement abilities tend to make large, coordinated fights in Planetside 2 a matter of juggling the movement of infantry players en masse, sadly foregoing any sweeping vehicle battles. We spend the next 20 minutes jumping between Fort Drexla and nearby bases.

The format for the world record attempt is simple: Three factions vie for control of bases across a continent. Where the previous world record set by ‘Man vs Machine’ took place in a game designed specifically for the purposes of setting the record, there are, in practice, few differences between this world record attempt and what happens everyday on the Planetside 2 servers. Though the endless war has been shortened to a two hour match. Of the four available continents, the chosen site for this battle is the swampy continent of Hossin as it offers the closest to a three-way symmetry for a competitive scenario.

We’re almost an hour into the match and though the Vanu have managed to hold onto key strategic bases, we’ve lost five smaller ones and made few gains and so we’re lagging behind on the score. This is actually all as planned; our force commanders wanted to avoid taking an early lead and attracting the ire of the other two factions. A switch to a heavy offensive push is announced. We are dug in at Takon Storage, near to Fort Drexla, and take it from the New Conglomerate with relative ease. Takon Storage is one of five bases captured in rapid succession, putting us back in the running (as can be seen on this recording of the match). Fort Drexla is the final of these five bases, and we are one of four platoons sent there to secure its capture. Tasked with being a heavy infantry push I get the platoon kitted out in armoured ‘MAX suits’ or wielding Lashers; the Vanu special weapon which excels at suppression. The base itself is accessible only from the north, with sheer cliffs on all other sides. The northern approach is bordered by towers, and walls, making vehicular assault difficult and pushing infantry assaults through chokepoints. I gather the platoon outside the walls, at the base of a tower. Pushing through the gates we climb a tower on the edge of the base and hold it as we group up. We then move along the walls towards the western edge of the base, all the while firing streams of plasma through the windows of overlooking buildings.

With four Vanu platoons assaulting this base and a commensurate response from the New Conglomerate, it’s at this point that latency starts to become a real problem as extra players put an exponential strain on the servers (explained by the Planetside creative director here). With easily over 200 players in the space no bigger than your average deathmatch map, the limits of SOE’s technology becomes apparent and we are having to deal with latencies of 1,500ms and above. As it turns out, the Lasher – with its continuous stream of area-of-effect damage – is very forgiving in this high-latency environment and we eventually hold the base.

After securing Fort Drexla we can finally return to our initial battle front in the east, where the Terrans have been making headway. We are tasked with taking Gourney Damn; a base near the centre of Hossin built around an objective point in a confined underground space surrounded by open areas and – appearing for the first time for Planetside 2 on Hossin – the FPS staple of insta-death goo. We quickly set up multiple Sunderer spawn locations around the base and move to take position inside the objective building. Terran forces circle our position from outside, lobbing grenades down the stairs. But with our medics keeping us alive and our Lashers suppressing the stair entrances, we simply wait for the Terrans to run out of grenades. For a couple of minutes this seems like a comfortable position, only having a minute left on the countdown before we capture the base. But we are finally dislodged as the Terrans go all out with their own version of the MAX suits. Foregoing infantry support, three squads of these armoured players charge into our position, the chatter of their chainguns drowning out the wub-wub of our Lashers. We manage to take down a third of them before we are over-run. I report in; “PL to Area Command, that’s a wipe.” This re-secure by the Terrans works momentarily, but it is a close last-minute save and this is apparent as they have not had time to remove our vehicle support beforehand. It’s a simple matter to re-group at our nearby Sunderers and counter with our own infantry push. Gourney Dam becomes the first base for which RPS’ own outfit gets the credit for capture, and it puts the Vanu Sovereignty into the lead for the first time in the match.

The last half hour of the match is spent on the back foot. We’re being pushed hard by both the Terran Republic and the New Conglomerate, and are unable to hold onto our short lived lead. Our final stand is a capture of the Ziggurat. Far to the east of the map, it’s the only base that we can capture in the time left. Realising this, hundreds of Vanu descend upon the base to ensure that last small victory. The New Conglomerate win, with 36% territorial ownership, the Terrans and 32% and the Vanu at 30%.

Over 4,000 players signed up to take part, and the final count for the world record, officiated by Guiness, was set at 1,158 players. Although according to Matt Higby, SOE’s creative director of Planetside, this record had been broken over 70,000 times since the game’s launch in 2012.

Planetside 2 is free to play, the RPS Planetside community organises itself on the RPS forums. If you want to play with either the Vanu ‘giraffes’ or the New Conglomerate ‘traitors’, simply find us on the RPS Mumble and join in.

22 Comments

  1. Tom De Roeck says:

    Good to see another good read, Nick! Keep it up!

  2. Hunchback says:

    Reinstalled this yesterday, i was craving some FPS action that you can play casually as well.

    I used to roll with WASP, a great outfit, but sadly a bit too serious for my current lifestyle of a working dad, etc…
    Still, we’ve had so much fun with combined arms organised epic platoons, complicated TS coms and all the jazz, i even used to squad lead and all.

    Planetside 2 is quite great, even if it’s kinda ugly and the gunplay is shit.

    • Canazza says:

      Ah you missed out. There were 4 WASPies in the WR I think, myself included. We were pushing center lane with JNJ, CONZ and the like.

  3. FreeTom says:

    according to Matt Higby, SOE’s creative director of Planetside, this record had been broken over 7,000 times since the game’s launch
    Yeah, I had thought that must be the case. I wouldn’t be surprised if the real record was actually the night of the RPS Call to Arms…
    link to rockpapershotgun.com

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    Sinomatic says:

    The scale of the organised matches in PS2 is something that no other game comes even close to matching. The match was great fun to take part in too, even though the aforementioned lag monster was out to kill us all.

    • Dominare says:

      I take it you’ve never heard of EVE, where a battle involving 1k people would be considered a fairly minor skirmish. I believe the current record for participants in one fight there is around 7.5k, known as “the bloodbath of B-R5RB”.

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        Sinomatic says:

        I was talking very much in FPS terms (and I doubt there’s anyone who isn’t aware of EVE at this point).

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    SputnikSweetheart says:

    I really do need to give Planetside 2 a proper go. This was a great read. Just the scale of the game makes it seem so unique.

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    teije says:

    Good read thanks. Not something I’ll ever play, but that’s a big reason I visit RPS – to read great articles about all these interesting games that aren’t my cup of tea.

    • Owl Mark says:

      Well, this is what I thought half year ago. I don’t play FPS, but I am hooked on this game. I spent about 100 USD on this “free” game, but I got much more fun out of it.

  7. Wytefang says:

    Broke the FPS record but Planetside so….

  8. Duke of Chutney says:

    Good words Cooper, you give a good narrative. The RTRS squad mostly played a lag laiden redeploy side for two hours. We were in fort drexla 3 or 4 times but kept getting redirected. Perhaps that was a good thing. We had a good fight near the end and captured some base at the top of the map, can’t remember which one. Tiger (our commander in chief) did a good job of swinging it late. Also some guy played a funny song on his guitar across the Team Speak channel afterward, that was probably my highlight.

    Also Coops, why do you wander around the corridors of my uni department? Shame we’re moving building soon, the new place doesn’t look like good loitering ground.

  9. cpt_freakout says:

    Great read! I’m a sucker for PS 2 stories. I played for a few months and absolutely loved it, but since I only played about once (max twice) per week the three guilds that had recruited me kicked me out. It’s stuff like this that makes me want to go back, and if I do I’ll make sure to join the RPS outfit this time. :)

  10. SomeDuder says:

    Fantastic description of what I want from this type of game. Genuine question to current PS 2 players – does it really play like this? Or is this something from like the best of clans (or outfits, I think they are called)?

    Because if the story told is a common thing – not in numbers obviously, but in the way battles are done – then I’d sign right back up!

    • Thurgret says:

      I haven’t played in over a year now (primarily due to computer issues way back, rather than the game itself), but yes, you can expect more of this sort of thing rather often, going by my own experience.

    • Rizlar says:

      This sort of play relies entirely on the efforts of platoon leaders. Strategic play and inter-outfit cooperation is pretty common though and you will often have several platoons coordinating with each to try and win an ‘alert’ (in-game event that lets you remove a continent from play by grabbing enough territory).

      So yeah, it does happen regularly! And as people above have noted, these sorts of numbers are hardly unusual either, the pop cap on live servers being only 63 fewer than at this event. Though on live it will only be a segment of the population coordinating strategy rather than everyone being plugged into the command structure, as at these events.

      • SomeDuder says:

        Excellent, thanks folks, I’ll definately give this another try. Coordinated battles like the one described in the article are very much my kind of shit.

        I can’t even remember why I quit in the first place, but I think it had something to do with the bad performance. This was during beta/early release though, so I’m sure a few patches will have helped things (And I’ve got a new GPU).

  11. Rizlar says:

    Great read for someone that plays PS2 and glad to see it’s not completely lost on those that don’t!

    PS2 really is amazing in it’s scope for huge strategy. Bring on the resource revamp and inter-continental lattice.

  12. Jakkar says:

    Hoping this event and coverage encourages some new joiners for the group, we need more men, women and other on the field! >:l

  13. SlimShanks says:

    This record attempt is very cool, and Planetside 2 is very impressive, but I am surprised by how unbalanced the game still is. You know things are bad when your K/D is 5.5 and you still aren’t having fun. Between the cloaked SMG users, C4 bombers, total sniper dominance, total Vanu dominance, one man base caps, and incredibly confusing character decorations, everything is just kind of a mess. And it is absurd to be in the middle of 100 teammates and get stabbed in the back. I loved this game but it didn’t love me back.
    The silly thing is that the game could be balanced in like, a week. But people like it how it is, so on it goes…

    • ddm999 says:

      Man, I wish PS2 was somewhat balanced.

      Whenever I can I get a trial of the NS-11C and get at least a 7 killstreak in the 30 minutes.
      Then I go back to the default TR weapons (after 60 hours playtime) and get maybe one or two kills if I’m lucky.

      And then the fact that half of your deaths, no matter what, will be to Infiltrators. It’s like SOE looked at TF2 and thought that the Spy/Sniper situation where Snipers can basically lock down an entire area if they’re good, but a Spy counters very well, and thought “Y’know, if we make a class which is both of those things it’ll work, right?”
      It’s worst than most badly made class-based games where a sniper can only be countered by a sniper. Because the sniper now has the ability to be close range as well. Oh, and invisible snipers isn’t broken, right?

      I literally attempt to avoid all Vanu contact like it’s the plague now I actually know what I’m doing.

      The unbalance in PS2 meant I left the game a month into the BETA. I started playing it again maybe 2 months ago. The only thing that keeps me playing is the fact that once in a blue Higby moon, I might Higby ing actually have some Higby Higby fun.

      “I send an order to all platoon members to re-group in the spawn room of the base. We then begin to sweep the base, moving as a large mass with our sister platoon from one objective location to the next, clearing each building of enemies in turn.”
      This statement sums up the entirety of casual PS2 play, except the platoon is actually 2 seperate platoons in contact over Teamspeak, and the building of enemies is maybe a publicly open squad, or a couple of friends.
      Basically, it’s 100 v 20 to 40.

      You get steamrolled over, so you go to another place. Wait. By that I mean you respawn at a warpgate and get an airplane to crash into the ground after reaching the place you want to go because all players who use aircraft properly own 3000 certs worth of items for them (aka. £60 / 300 hours playtime). Then you reach the base and engage in 12 v 12 combat if you’re lucky. 3 v 3 if you aren’t.

      Then you go and click “Instant Action” (or the “Either Help Ruin A Few Squads Days Or If You Aren’t So Lucky, Your Own” button as I like to call it) and you get whisked off to a group of 100 players on your side and 20 players on theirs because the game notices the 120 players and thinks “OMG BIG FIGHT HAPPEN MAKE PEOPLE GO THERE”.

      • Rizlar says:

        The two of you, honestly. If you are obsessed with maximising your K/D and bored, perhaps stop just trying to maximise your K/D? In a game like this of course you are gonna get insta-gibbed by a C4 fairy or a headshot+knife infiltrator, it’s not a lack of balance, it’s the fact that you are in a fight with hundreds of other people, using all sorts of vehicles and equipment.

        Imbalanced fights are a real issue though. But again it’s absolutely what you make of it. Sick of getting farmed by five times your pop? Might be time to get the [valued friend] out of there. The strategic play described in this article is one way people find engagement with the game. Playing a strategy, using game mechanics only as tools at your disposal can be interesting and rewarding in itself. But most of the time people just look for a good fight, without too much pop disparity. Or just try to find somewhere to have some fun doing what they want. Some people even enjoy just trying to maximise their K/D in otherwise pointless fights (who knows why)!