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Interview with Andy Sites, Executive Producer of PlanetSide Franchise

Posted by:  Charoplet 25.10.2020

Today the guest of our website is Andy Sites, Head of Rogue Planet Games and Executive Producer of PlanetSide Franchise. There's no need to introduce this person to the community, so let's start the interview and try to get some information about the RPG Studio, the latest and upcoming updates, and many more!

Charoplet: Hello, Andy. I am very excited to get this interview. First, it is a great honor to me that you agree to answer my questions and second it means that our Planetside 2 news website is ready to go from beta as I dream to announce its launch starting with this interview. So... Andy Sites, Head of Rogue Planet Games and Executive Producer of PlanetSide Franchise, who are you outside of work? What are your interests and hobbies? I saw that you support San Diego Padres on your Twitter sometimes. Are you a baseball fan?

Andy Sites: Hey there! Thank you very much for your support and helping provide feedback from the RU PS2 community over the past several months. While we’ve been able to begin expanding the development team for the first time in several years, unfortunately, we do not have in-house fluent Russian speakers. So the numerous RU-specific reports you’ve compiled and sent me have been incredibly valuable. We look forward to continuing this relationship for many years to come.
As for me, I’m just a game developer that is lucky enough to be part of a game as amazing and unique as Planetside with such a great community and a team of talented people that share the same passion for the game at Rogue Planet Games 😊

Charoplet: Thank you for these kind words, it is a pleasure to help you because players see that your team listens to our feedback. Also, I need to say that players from the Russian community are very pleased that RPG have added Russian localization into the game. We have lots of new and old players who joined the game because of that.

So let's talk about your work, tell us the story of how you obtained your current position - when did you join Daybreak Games (or maybe it was SOE), what projects were you working on and how did you become Head of Rogue Planet Games?

Andy Sites: I’ve been working in games for quite a while. Most of that time has been on MMOs (EQ, EQ2, Free Realms, Planetside2, and others). I’ve worked on several single players games as well, massively multiplayer games specifically have been what I enjoy working on most. I was part of SOE, then transitioned to Daybreak in 2015 and earlier this year was given the opportunity to lead the Rogue Planet Games studio.

Charoplet: Many players noticed that after Daybreak Games divided their studios into three different departments, their performance and overall quality of games have increased. Could you tell me about this process - was it painful for RPG or have you got full support from your publisher?

Andy Sites: To be clear, Daybreak is still the parent company of Rogue Planet Games and we are not a fully independent studio.  When the announcement was made public, many players assumed it was merely going to be a name change and nothing more. However, the way the sub-studios are structured (RPG, Darkpaw, Dimensional Ink, SSG, and Cold Iron), Daybreak has effectively given us full creative control of Planetside 2 and has allowed us to run the business as we see fit. As Planetside 2 has seen a resurgence this year, Daybreak has been incredibly supportive with helping us continue to expand the development team and provide additional financial support to further improving the game.

Charoplet: What was the state of Planetside 2 when you worked with your team back in January 2020 and what is the state nowadays? Were you able to achieve the goals you set?

Andy Sites: For the past 3 years or so, Planetside 2 was very lightly staffed due to competing project priorities at the company. The team was actually able to do quite a bit for how small it was, but we all knew that the Planetside 2 could be much better if the game had the proper support. So it was actually late October of 2019 that we began forming the new sub-studios *internally* and expanded the Planetside 2 core development team. From there, we laid out our development plan for 2020 and started work on the Escalation update. In January 2020, we publically announced the creation of Rogue Planet Games and the other Daybreak sub-studios.      

Charoplet: Back in the past, the Rogue Planet Games team consisted of 29 people. Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the development of the game, could you save the core of the team, and do you continue to work remotely?

Andy Sites: The Covid-19 situation has definitely changed our development process, but fortunately the team adapted very quickly once we started working remotely. I would say that the most challenging part of this has been not being able to work together in person each day. Our previous development area was open and just about every person could speak to one another from their desk, or a short walk at most. Now, we need to initiate a vid-con call or type a message. We miss each other 😊
At least for the next few months, we will continue working remotely.

Charoplet: I know that most patches are planned long before they hit live servers. When did the work on the Escalation Update begin? What was behind the idea to add Campaigns and Missions to Planetside 2 in your latest major update?

Andy Sites: For major game updates, like Escalation and The Shattered Warpgate, we typically allocate a small group of the team to begin the foundational work if the game system(s) does not exist. They will typically take anywhere from a few weeks to a month or more to create this framework. While this is happening, the rest of the team is working on other game updates, QoL improvements, etc. Once the new system is in place, we will begin shifting more development team members to begin refining it, creating content, etc. So an update like Escalation actually started in late Oct/early Nov of 2019. But with all of the preliminary iteration and redesign continued until early Dec, when the foundation of the update was solid and most of the dev team shifted over to work on it full-time. One of the reasons we wanted to introduce the Campaign system was so we could continue evolving the game, but in a much better way contextually than just suddenly seeing a dramatic change in-game and the only explanation is given in the release notes.

Charoplet: On your latest Dev Stream, you mentioned, that your next big update would be focused on Outfit Wars. Can you give us any hints on what players and outfits could expect?

Andy Sites: Well, not too much, because we plan to do another live stream in a few weeks where we will reveal much more detail 😊
But I can say that after the first two “Alpha Cycle” Outfit War events, we learned a lot about what was needed to further improve it. It was enough work that we decided to assign a small portion of the dev team to begin a major overhaul to the Outfit Wars system while everyone else was helping finish the Shattered Warpgate update. It includes much more competition automation, the ability for more outfits to participate, rewards, etc.  

Charoplet: Cannot wait to see what you have prepared for players. By the way, talking about future development - do you have some sort of Road Map, and what are the plans for 2021?

Andy Sites: We have our high-level plan for the next 18 months and are actually in the process of finalizing our more detailed 2021 roadmap. As you can imagine, with a game like this, priorities can change over time, so even with our 2020 roadmap, I would say roughly 50% was completed as planned. While the rest was modified based on many different reasons; new features/content work better or worse than expected, we came up with better ideas, etc.

Charoplet: Every day on the Planetside 2 Reddit lots of players offer to introduce something new for the game. The variety is simply amazing - from adding a new weapon skin system that could work as armor skin system allowing designers of Player Studio to add not only new armor models but also weapon models, finishing with the idea to turn Bastions into a playable area for infantry players so they could storm the interior rooms. Is there any way players could send their ideas to your team? What about Planetside 2 Ideas' Contest like it was a contest for content creators back this May?

Andy Sites: That’s actually a great idea. We have the Player Studio program, but the system is pretty archaic and in need of an overhaul. There are actually a few community members that we work directly with and either accept submissions (like armor, weapons, etc) directly, or we contract them to build specific assets. But at this point, the biggest challenge is that we don’t have enough resources on the team to process all of the submissions throughout the year. Maybe it's time to do a contest as you suggested…  

Charoplet: That would be great, I'm sure such a contest would be very popular among the players. In my latest interview with Maelstrome26 - the creator of PS2Alerts - he said that he used to be a part of a community feedback group that helps developers with the game. But to his knowledge, you are not running this feedback group any longer. Are there any plans to revive this group or perhaps Maelstrome26 is wrong and such a group of players still exists?

Andy Sites: With all of the various lines of communication (Twitter, Reddit, official forums, /bug reports in-game, people that have our direct work email, etc) we are constantly combing through new suggestions, bug reports, and all kinds of general feedback. Typically when we have a major update, we have a private group where we invite select members of the community to provide feedback, playtest on a private server, etc. We started this with the Escalation update in January and it was very successful. They listened to our presentation for the Escalation update, then spent weeks playtesting early versions and providing feedback. At one point, we had over 300 participants, and everyone managed to keep it a secret! While we haven’t done this for the past several months, we plan to begin doing it again soon.    

Charoplet: Lots of players from my outfit have noticed your team's activity in social networks this year, especially on Twitter and I think it is the right direction to become more open to players. The previous two big updates have taken a different approach to the development of the game. In Escalation, completely new playable zones were added, such as Sanctuary and Desolation. On the contrary in the last update, the already existing continents Esamir and Indar were reworked. What is the vision of your team for future development locations and play areas?

Andy Sites: Planetside 2 is going to be celebrating its 8th anniversary shortly and one of the reasons for its longevity is our ability to keep evolving the game, but not disrupting the core of what makes it so compelling and unique. 
Going forward, we plan to continue evolving existing maps, introducing completely new continents, vehicles, classes, and gameplay. But rather than just have these suddenly appear in an update with little to no explanation, we would introduce them in a much more thoughtful, lore-driven way.     

Charoplet: My last question will be about the metagame within Planetside 2. In the last letter from Wrel, your team admitted the importance of Alerts as a metagame for players. For 2021 are there any plans to improve and deepen the goal to play as a team for teamplay players and outfits or do you plan to focus on Campaigns and Missions adding new lore, new campaigns, and new goals to solo players?

Andy Sites: We know the importance of teamplay in Planetside. We consider it a cornerstone of the game. The Shattered Warpgate campaign showcased the system’s capabilities in its infancy and was just the beginning. The design team has already started to expand their mission functionality and plan to incorporate more team-focused missions and gameplay.    
It's also worth mentioning that Planetside 2 offers such a wide variety of playstyles, and we need to ensure that they are supported. Whether it's team play, solo, pilots, drivers, snipers, etc. We plan to continue introducing mission types that support them all.

Charoplet: Thank you very much for your interview, I want to wish luck to you, your team and hope that such openness during this interview could show players that your team works very hard on our beloved game trying to make it better every day!

Andy Sites: Thank you again for the opportunity to answer these questions. We are excited about the future of Planetside 2 and look forward to chatting again!

  1. 25 October 2020 23:28 write to news
    You can leave your comments here BTW 😉

  2. 26 October 2020 18:18 write to news
    Great interview!
  3. 31 October 2020 04:44 write to news
    Thank you for interesting interview
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