Player Studio Hits Planetside 2 – Tramell Isaac Interview
Questions by Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), MMOHuts/OnRPG General Manager
Answers by Tramell Isaac, Senior Art Director of Planetside 2
At this time last year I stumbled upon a truly intuitive and revolutionary system while attending SOE Live and Vegas. No I’m not talking about Wizardry Online, Dragon’s Prophet, or Everquest Next but rather a supplementary program called Player Studio at the time designed to allow players of Everquest and Free Realms to build their own imagination into their game. This wasn’t your typical player-made skin mod overlays but rather official content adopted by SOE to be included in future updates of the game.
My initial reaction (and I’m sure I wasn’t alone) was “Well what’s next?” Planetside 2 and DC Universe Online were top of my list but as soon as I asked I pretty much got the cold shoulder of “Oh sure, someday.” So when I hopped on a phone call with Tramell Isaac and Raquel Marcelo yesterday to learn about the next Planetside 2 update and was told it had already soft launched and would be open for testing throughout the US by Monday, I was speechless.
Below is a paraphrase of how the conversation went.
DizzyPW: I feel like every time I’ve asked about Planetside 2 being incorporated with Player Studio in the past, I’ve gotten a begrudging ‘maybe someday’ response. I imagine a game on this scale isn’t as easy to connect to Player Studio as say Everquest and FreeRealms. What primary challenges held it back from the initial studio launch?
Tramell: It wasn’t so much challenges holding it back as the fact that Planetside 2 was newly established and in need of building a solid playerbase. This was not the case with Everquest and Free Realms so priorities were shifted. First we needed to stabilize Planetside 2 in the early days to ensure lag-free MMOFPS gameplay on a global scale. Establishing a presence in eSports and launching in China were also major hurdles that slowed this process. With the successful Chinese launch last month, we were finally ready to run down the home stretch for next Monday’s US launch.
DizzyPW: That said, surely this wasn’t throw together in a month’s time. How long has incorporating Planetside 2 with Player Studio been in the works?
Tramell: Planetside 2 launched with Player Studio in mind. We’ve had it in the back of our minds the entire time and feel we have a much more solid product on our hands as a result.
DizzyPW: Will the PlayerStudio tools be familiar to users of the software from your other titles?
Tramell: The main difference is users will have to utilize existing Planetside 2 textures rather than building their own from the ground up. It may be a bit limiting compared to Everquest’s only limitation being size requirements, but we feel it will help make a seamless world in which new players won’t know the difference between our in-house designs and Player Studio creations. This goes back to our focus on keeping the memory print of the game low for those playing on older PCs so Player Studio doesn’t turn their favorite game into a lag nightmare overnight.
That said, we have a hell of a lot of textures to work with and I challenge our players to make their dreams a reality within this system. You’ll be pleasantly surprised just how unique you can make a helmet look from others. We’ll of course also be offering plenty of samples for players to copy, tweak, and reinvent.
DizzyPW: What elements of the game will players be involved with designing? I imagine vehicles and weapons are the obvious choices but I’m curious how deep you’re going with it?
Tramell: No turns out vehicles and weapons are not on the table, at least in the beginning. We’re starting out slow to make sure we don’t break anything and intend to expand once we have our users acquainted with the basics of the system. For now though you can mess around with creating decals, hood ornaments, helmets and suits, cockpit logos, and various camo patterns. There might be some other items but that’s what comes to mind without looking at the full list.
These types of designs should be simple enough for everyone to get involved with as a deeper level of character customization. But for the advanced Player Studio artists itching to push the systems limits, we will have a few 3D designs and models they can mess with. Just be patient as it takes a bit longer for them to get through the approval process.
DizzyPW: That’s something I was curious about. Is Player Studio’s approval team going to expand to accommodate for the influx of Planetside 2 submissions?
Tramell: These designs will go straight to our core Planetside 2 development team for approval. We’ll be incorporating the designs alongside our own content in future patches. They’ll be checking the forums on a daily basis once things get rolling so expect a lot of interaction and guidance from the early stages on how strong they think your designs are.
DizzyPW: Will players designate designs for specific factions or is that something that will be decided after the submission?
Tramell: You can create whatever you want so long as it fits into the Planetside 2 theme. Some designs will be specific to a faction while others will be more universally adopted and that’s all based on the design itself and how well we can seamlessly integrate it into our lore and world. For those not catching my drift, I’m saying don’t expect chicken heads and afro helmets popping up all over the game any time soon. Not to say we won’t ever take comical designs, but it’ll be a much slower and stricter approval process. Luckily you can get feedback at even the earliest levels of the design process so we can prevent you from wasting time making intricate joke designs that never get implemented into game.
DizzyPW: Are there plans for any competitive faction designs to celebrate the Playerstudio launch?
Tramell: That’s a good idea! We absolutely should. But not next week. I want to get Player Studio in the hands of a more worldwide audience including Europe and Russia before we start holding any faction versus faction competitions. I wouldn’t want to leave so many important members of our playerbase out of the fun.
DizzyPW: Any juicy tidbits you wish to share to get players pumped to test out this new feature?
Tramell: Starting Monday we’ll get people into the forums to acquaint them with the process. If you want to be a first adopter you had better not miss the opportunity to get in on this! Also keep an eye out over the weekend as we’ll be selecting a few key members of our community to beta test the tools.
DizzyPW: Thanks for the time and for pushing the industry forward with this one-of-a-kind system Tramell!