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Interview with Maelstrome26 - developer of PS2Alerts and the DIG leader

Posted by:  Charoplet 20.10.2020

Today our website was visited by Maelstrome26 - one of the leaders of Dignity of War and a developer of PS2Alerts - the project that became the main platform for Outfits and players to showdown who is the best. In this interview, you will know about Mael's experience in Planetside 1, when we could expect the return of Fluttyman, reasons that push Maelstrome to create the PS2Alerts project. We will also touch on some information that is under NDA and will know why people who think that "Wrel is some sort of maniacal idiot with a vendetta to destroy this game" are wrong.


Charoplet: Hello! I am very happy to see such an interesting person as an interviewee. Not often it is a possibility to talk with an Outfit leader that has the biggest impact on the battle flow on the Miller server. So tell our visitors about yourself - where you from, what's your hobbies and interests, do you have a family or DIG is all you care about?

Mael: Thanks for the opportunity! Can't wait to read more of these, they've been pretty interesting thus far. For myself though, I'm a 28-year-old crumpet-noshing tea-gulping typical British "northerner". My hobbies are playing games such as PS2 (just about the only FPS I play), strategy games such as Crusader Kings 3, Hearts of Iron 4, Supreme commander, and various others. I also like to program in my spare time and keep my skills sharp - professionally I'm a DevOps Engineer and an AWS Cloud specialist. In a small sense, DIG is like my extended family, but I do indeed have family members.


Charoplet: What would be the story of your character in Planetside 2? When did you know about the game and did you play in the first part of the game (Planetside 1)?

Mael: Many, *many* moons ago I used to play on TR within Planetside 1. Forget the name of the outfit, slept since then, but I remember that game really pulling me in with the sandbox FPS genre and the fact there was quite simply (and arguably, still) never anything like it before. I started playing Planetside 2 during my spare time at uni in 2013, at the time playing with Emerald Immersion (ELMD back then, EDIM now). I became their co-leader, I had disagreements with the leader at the time MrKoronas, formed a splitfit, then eventually merged into our now distant cousin outfit DIGT, and that's where my story with the wider DIG community began.


Charoplet: What is the story of DIG outfit on Miller in Planetside 2? Who were the creators of Dignity of War? Do you have the Main leader whose vote is decisive or you have a Council of leaders with equal rights?

Mael: DIG was originally formed by Dignity, amongst others who felt that a large outfit was required to rally the masses. There were also other community heads such as Shaifel and Bishop, who were heads of the community for many years until a certain incident happened regarding spending community funds for internet spaceships without approval (Star Citizen) resulting in their forced retirement. Since then, both the community leadership and subsequently the outfit leadership had been reformed and such things of that kind have never reoccurred.
The DIG outfit operates by the "rule of three", as in there is never always one leader in charge, there's always three. We have a pool of officers helping the leaders run the outfit day-to-day, these are our most trusted and effective platoon leaders, community leaders, etc. We also then have our platoon leaders and then squad leaders who help "professionally cat herd" the masses in a mostly structured and organized way. We're not perfect by any means, but over the past 6 months, we've rapidly improved how DIG operates, mostly driven by the current leadership team. I'm hoping those improvements are being shown.


Charoplet: What was the goal when DIG was created? Did founders think that you will have the biggest Outfit on Miller both in numbers and in influence on the fights?

Mael: I can't comment on the creation because I wasn't there. However, being in DIG for the past 6 years now, both the community and the DIG outfit itself has seen quite rapid changes in its structure. When I joined DIG, they were already quite large, however, now we are the biggest on Miller, and bigger than most outfits in the entire game.

It's quite an interesting feeling knowing you have a ton of battlefield influence at your command, even more, so that all of those numbers are actual people. I've never known anything quite like it, yet, it's something that's unique in the gaming industry, the ability to command people around, and then directly get involved and jump in with your troops. Perhaps Battlefield 2142 was kinda close with its Commander system, but nothing remotely close to the scale of PS2.


Charoplet: BTW, lots of people are interested in what happened to Fluttyman and when we could expect his return?

Mael: Fluttyman is taking a well-deserved break from the game, as he ran the outfit pretty much on his own for 2 years. A combination of real-life, burnout and playing other games with his RL friends is keeping him happy, as long as he's happy, we're happy. He may return, but it's entirely up to him, and we're keeping the seat warm for him should he return. To clarify, he is not banned, before that rumor mill starts.


Charoplet: During 8 years of Planetside 2 history lots of actions happened on our server. What was the crucial moment for Miller in its current state in your opinion - merge with Woodman, when some big outfits like KOTV and ELME joined Miller, new Escalation Update which revived lots of old players and outfits, maybe something else?

Mael: The merge with Woodman was certainly an interesting turning point. It brought in a lot of new players, and for a while, not going to lie, it was a bit chaotic. DIG itself was at battle stations due to KOTV, and there were worries that they would absorb everyone, and DIG would die into irrelevancy. Thankfully, the two outfit's relationships have been fairly civil, being friendly rivals at the time. Now, we treat ourselves more like sisters on very good terms, often communicating on command chat to batter the likes of CTIA and MM (wink) into the ground during alerts.

The Escalation update was a very important one for the game. It made leading outfits actually desirable, whereas before it was purely out of the goodness of our hearts. Structured correctly, war assets also provide an incentive for people to lead others into battle, whereas before it all felt a bit pointless.


Charoplet: As far as I know both TR and NC factions on Miller have some Alliances of big outfits. What about Vanu Sovereignty? Do you have some Alliance with special TeamSpeak or Discord for Outfit leaders or you coordinate in a command voice chat? We are interested to know that because Vanu usually wins most of the Alerts during Prime Time, usually being in an underpop.

Mael: This is an interesting question, the VS used to have an alliance called "The Vanu Accord". Back in 2014-2016 that was pretty much in force and always worked well. However now, while there have been multiple attempts to revive it, TVA is dead. There is no official alliance between the VS outfits, I'd say probably primarily due to the fact we don't have multiple outfits who wield the battlefield power to make much of a difference, so it often lies to 5 primary outfits (DIG, KOTV, VCBC, EDIM, occasionally DIGT) who need to talk to each other over command comms to win battles. Otherwise, it's pretty quiet.

However, when we do talk, we co-ordinate extremely well. Very little bickering occurs in command comms, and it's mostly quiet for a reason, people are trying to play, and is only used for coordination purposes rather than shit-talking that you see on other factions / servers.

Also, as long as the cont pop is 33/33/33, good fights are to be had. While VS populations have been low for whatever reason recently, the faction still remains very healthy.


Charoplet: Talking about the alerts... You are the Creator of ps2alerts.com - the website which was a scoreboard for all Planetside 2 outfits and players during a long period of time. How did you get the idea to make this site, what were the problems during development, and why it became abandoned?

Mael: The primary reason why I made this website in the first place was to have players record the alerts and attempt to correlate a pattern in figuring out when alerts triggered. Back in 2015 when I started making the site, there was no "real-time" streaming API to use, it was solely dependant on player submitted data. Alerts back then were also seemingly random, and I wanted to attempt to reverse engineer the pattern. Relatively shortly after, we got an API with a wealth of data, in real-time, so I set on the journey to make PS2Alerts as it's been known in the past.

I decided to ax the PS2Alerts project back in October 2017, there were three primary reasons for it:

1) Territory / facility alerts vanished and became anomalies. My system was entirely engineered around territory control, which was a massive blow for me. The API also didn't support metrics for the new anomalies, and I believe didn't offer events to say "this person killed an ESF in this anomaly", hence why I couldn't support them.

2) Shortsightedness of the system. The original "WebSocket" script I created for PS2Alerts was a massive single file 4133 lines long. It was a monstrosity and very hard to maintain and adapt to new changes. It was also very heavily dependant on a 3rd party system another member of the community made which was like a data hydrator for the real-time API, which also stopped functioning correctly. The system was not flexible, buggy as all hell and I felt like I needed to shoot it in the garden to end its suffering.

3) Time. In midway through 2014 to the end of 2014 I had lots of time, after that, I got my first proper web developer job and launched my career, and the first thrust into adulthood, and the concept of "free time" started to dwindle, the stress started to build as I was heavily involved with Planetside Battles at the time as their Tech Admin - if you've seen any of the server smash matches, the overlay they use is entirely my work - which itself was very taxing. After about a year of it, I had enough, and decided to sunset the project, until recently.


Charoplet: I know you are now in the process to revive ps2alerts.com and as I understand you are going to launch it very soon. Why did you decide to do that and what help do you need for now?

Mael: Three main reasons really:

1) The alerts reverted back into the territory control metagame, which I understood already and know what to do for it. I'm also confident that should they change again, dev support with the API is in a better position as there is a higher demand for it than 3-4 years ago. Alerts now are also a lot more meaningful, they give you rewards (certs, ISO, etc), whereas before many didn't care due to the little impact they had except locking a continent.

2) Upskilling. With 6 years of programming experience under my belt, I'm now able to bang out complex projects like this one without questioning my own sanity and reasoning why I'm bothering to do this. At the time I wrote the original version, I had less than 6 months of experience, and boy did it show.

3) I missed it. The project is certainly a passion project, not only does it keep my skills sharp, but it allows me to experiment with new technologies (the new version I'm using probably... 10 things I've never used before) and I strongly believe that the game is in need of a "big picture" meta game beyond the endless fighting with no meaning. I've had many players come to me saying "I play alerts to win because of your site, it gives the game meaning for me" which was very rewarding in itself.

Currently we've finished all the "backend" stuff required to make the project work, we're now working on the final piece of the puzzle, the website itself. If you're familiar with VueJS, frontend frameworks in general, or you're a front-end web designer, come talk to me on our Discord: https://discord.gg/vJpYBDe or check out our GitHub: https://github.com/ps2alerts.


Charoplet: Great to hear that we will have such an amazing website back. Let's talk about questions that could be under NDA... You are the leader of one of the biggest outfits in the game. Do developers communicate with you or maybe consult in some questions?

Mael: The developers don't reach out to me directly, however, I believe I'm ok with saying when I discuss matters of the game with them, they do at least listen and take my feedback seriously. They have made adjustments based on my feedback (particularly with the game's API). Two things I can think of they directly changed were: 
1) Improvements to voice chat, I was in discussion with them for a solid month over that and they implemented the "voice status window" you see today with the ability to properly reset the voice comms (there's still some work to do!);
2) the confirmation dialogue when you promote a platoon leader - too many times I've given away platoons to ransomers I intended to boot.

I used to be part of a community feedback group for which I had to sign an NDA waiver, which was certainly a privilege to be a member of. To my knowledge, they're not running this feedback group any longer, which is a shame as a lot of great points were raised there.


Charoplet: Is there any tips you can tell about the process of sending feedback to Rogue Planet Games - is it better to use Twitter, phone calls, chatting somewhere in Discord or you need to make a thread on Reddit and ask your outfit mates to upvote it so it could get over 1000 likes so developers pay attention to it? :-)

Mael: My #1 recommendation to anyone when talking to the devs: Respect. They are human beings. They have feelings. Many people might think Wrel is some sort of maniacal idiot with a vendetta to destroy this game, but under the hood, each and every developer has their own opinions on things, and players expressing hostile or even outright impossible suggestions is will be noise to anyone who has to read through it all. People are also too drawn towards the negatives of a situation, and often forget to praise the developers on the positives. We as an entire community need to improve our approaches towards them.

Building a relationship with the developers is a key point if you want to even remotely influence the game in any way. If all you do is spout suggestions which have no relevance to the game as it currently is, or go off on rants or present them with a wall of text, they're not going to listen. That's not down to the developers "being bad", they just quite simply don't have the time.

Occasionally I have to "prod" Andy on emails I send to him, he's a very busy man, he often apologies for late responding. Respect their time, and they'll respect you in return.

Less than humblebrag: You don't get a weapon named after you if you're a knob to the devs.


Charoplet: Yes, that's true - one of Planetside 2' weapons is named after you, could you tell us that story and how much money did you spend on Planetside so devs rename that gun to V26 Maelstrom Turbo Laser? And by the way, what is the history of your nickname?

Mael: Ha, I haven't spent an exuberant amount of money in this game. In this case, it's not about how much money I've spent, it's more of my contributions to the game.

The gun was originally called the "Hailstorm Turbo Lazer", which they renamed to the "Maelstrom Turbo Lazer", but they poorly communicated it to me that it was renamed as a nod to me at the time, so I never realized. It was in a recent dev stream that Wrel revealed that the gun was in fact named after me, even though I didn't have a clue. I PMed Wrel on Twitter confirming that was the case, expressing that I had no idea. He confirmed it was, and he said he'd change the gun's name to make it more obvious, hence why it's now known as the "V26 Maelstrom Turbo Lazer"!

About my nickname... boring story really, I used to run under the mantle of "Commanche26", waaaay back in the day. I didn't like the name all that much, plus it was a typo (had to get the name in EVE Online annoyingly) so I renamed myself to Maelstrome (I was playing a lot of Star Trek: Bridge Commander at the time, and it was set in the Maelstrom region there), then added 26 on the end for uniqueness.


Charoplet: OK, let's talk about latest and upcoming updates. What are your thoughts on the Shattered Warpgate? It seems community was very divided after Patch hit live servers, but statistics shows, that the population slightly goes up after the patch. What do you think about new Campaigns and Missions? Do you think Planetside 2 will get the second Campaign or the Shattered Warpgate would become the only one Campaign in the game?

Mael: The patch - while slightly rocky at the beginning - is going to provide a solid foundation for future changes to the game. Many critics of the campaign system fail to realize its potential - lore. This game has a tendency to become stale after a while, providing something else other than "shoot planetmen, spawn, repeat" is only healthy for the game. Yes, admittedly, this patch had issues (space carrots anyone?) but massive sweeping changes like that *always* has something go wrong. Tbh, I'm amazed we don't have bugs like the old PPA "MY SHOTS WILL BLOT OUT THE SUN" bugs of old. In my opinion, the devs patched the issues out quickly, all it required was patience. Thankfully, this system allows you to do other things in the meantime! I believe we're on the road for many changes coming up, so it's very exciting indeed.


Charoplet: Next big Update would be focused around Outfit Wars. Miller outfits sent to devs giant feedback after second Outfit Wars. Right after that Outfit wars were frozen and are waiting to big changes. Do you have some information about what we could expect or it is all under NDA?

Mael: I have no information to share RE Outfit Wars at this time. However, my two cents - the system needs to be bracketed. DIG automatically won or was in the top 2 for each season, and we didn't really do all that much, whereas some sweaty outfits (WUHAN) were up all night cheesing the system to attempt to overtake the big zergfits. The qualifiers also caused massive leadership and participant burnout across the board, KOTV seemed to got hit quite hard by it from what I recall.


Charoplet: What global changes Planetside 2 needs in the near future to become a more interested and more popular game in your opinion? Any ideas for developers on how they could improve the gameplay or core mechanics, CAI-2 maybe?

Mael: There need to be more "community goals" stuff to do, akin to Alerts. It's obvious and been well proven that if your session has an objective to do (which is why I think the mission system is working reasonably ok at the moment), you're more likely to spend longer on the game, which only benefits the game itself. For example, many games have a monthly goal to contribute towards.

An example - Elite Dangerous has community goals where you have to fight in a certain system for a faction of a star system, winning it influences the system in one way or another, e.g. a certain faction might conquer the system etc - we could have a similar approach, where every time we lock a continent we get a certain amount of points or a "resource" which can only be acquired after all the warpgates have been locked down (cont lock), the winner of which gets some sort of buff or nanite income for a time or something like that (very much spitballing here).


Charoplet: OK, thank you very much for the fair answers. It would be cool if you say few words to all Miller players, maybe to some Outfits or even factions. You are free to tell whatever you want (just without trolling please)...

Mael: I will say the Miller community seems far less toxic as of late, which is fantastic to see. We used to be known as a group of elitist toxic shitters, but in recent months certain toxic individuals have stopped playing resulting in more dynamic and higher spirited discussions within the community.
A shoutout to CTIA (and R18M, by extension) as you guys often give DIG a run for its money with your skill suits! Enjoy my orbitals though, I certainly do ;)
Lastly, if you managed to get to the bottom of this gigantic wall of text I've produced and you're reading this, thank you! If you'd like to know more about DIG itself, by all means, come join us on our Discord at https://discord.io/DIGPS2. Have a good day!


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