Sony Online Entertainment is hard at work on the free-to-play MMOFPS PlanetSide 2, but that didn’t stop Creative Director Matt Higby from taking a little time out to answer our questions about the game.

You’ve been revealing various roles (“classes”). Are those “hard-wired,” or just “suggestions”? Basically, how much freedom will players have to customize their character’s skills and overall capabilities?

Within each class there will be a tremendous amount of variability; weapons, tools, abilities and more that can be customized. Classes will contain discrete abilities that won’t be shared cross-class, though. For instance, you can’t outfit your Heavy Assault class with the Medic’s healing tool, but within the Heavy Assault class there is a lot of room for varying loadouts and switching up your play style based on the situation or the battle you are heading into, as well as the needs of your squad, platoon or outfit.

So if I wanted, could I just decide all I ever want to do is drive a tank and build up all my tank skills and basically nothing else?

Yes, there will be extensive customization available for each of the vehicles, so if you wanted to dedicate yourself purely to tank driving you will definitely be able do that.

How will advancement work? Will I advance/unlock new skills by racking up kills, taking installations, winning missions, etc.? Will there be offline leveling?

In PlanetSide 2, advancement takes the form of unlocking “Certifications” which require Cert Points. As a player you’ll earn Cert Points by playing the game, defeating other players, accomplishing goals, working with your team, etc. You’ll also be able to earn Cert Points while offline if you meet certain requirements.

How easily will a new player be able to fit into the game against veterans who have all the skills, gear, perks, etc.?

One of our overarching goals for PlanetSide 2 is to make a legitimately competitive FPS experience. That means making it so that a five-minute and five-year player are able to compete with each other. To that end, we’ve ensured that ranking up, unlocking certs, and acquiring new weapons give you access to more play styles and breadth rather than more power and depth. So, although that five-year player might be more versatile than you, in a straight-up firefight, you’ll be just as likely to kill him as he is to kill you. Additionally, if you come into PlanetSide 2 as a great FPS player, you’ll be successful regardless of your “noob” status.

Will there be any kind of long-term goals in place? Killing each other and taking territory is cool, but do there need to be bigger strategic goals?

We have an extremely robust strategic meta-game, especially for a shooter. Taking territory does more than just change which flag is on the flag pole, it gives the presiding empire access to specific resources and denies those resources to the others. Cornering certain types of resources to deny access to enemy empires create the need for strategic choices before you engage in major battles, giving additional dimension to the fight.

How often do you think you’ll add new maps/continents? Will it be along the lines of most games’ small-ish “free updates” (every three to five months or so) or more like big, expansion-sized updates (every one to two years)?

We’re hoping to release new content on a regular basis; which may include additional features like new vehicles, weapons, continents, etc. Although, we don’t want to add new content too often because in a competitive game such as PlanetSide 2, adding new vehicles and weapons requires a certain degree of relearning the rules of the game. So rather than having those switch-ups every week or two, we’d prefer to have them a little more spaced out so the gameplay has a chance to settle in between additions.

How do you plan to stop hackers in the game?

One of our biggest and best weapons against cheating will be 24/7 dedicated customer service staff who will be working to ensure that the game remains hack-free. I asked our Technical Director Ryan Elam to share some details about our anti-hacking strategies, and here’s what he said:

“Security is a huge concern for PlanetSide 2 specifically, and all SOE games in fact spend considerable time creating and implementing security and anti-hack/anti-cheat features.  However, just like if you went to your bank today and asked them to detail how they’re protecting your money, I’ll tell you that one of the ways we protect our code is to not discuss how we protect our code.  We have code that has been worked on for over a decade to secure the gameplay of our customers and we will continue to vigorously do so.”

In PS1, players sometimes felt little accomplishment from taking over bases, because the bases you took over just got back-capped by single stealthers. Is that changing in PS2 and are there large enough incentives to defend against back-capping?

Yes, the territory control system we’ve designed for PlanetSide 2 changes a lot of the mechanics about base capture and “back-capping.” Back-capping (the act of capturing a facility behind enemy lines) will still be possible but will require concentrated effort from groups of players rather than just a single player circumventing the major fight and being a nuisance behind your front lines. Defenders will be able to respond to back-capping a bit more easily, since capturing a base that’s surrounded by enemy territory will take an extremely long time and re-securing a base that’s surrounded by your own territory will be very quick.

Any idea when the beta will start?

Sometime in the future!

We can’t wait. Thanks Matt (and Ryan) for your time!