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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 September, 2003, 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK
Online ambitions of sci-fi game
The multi-player online universe of the game, PlanetSide, is a fascinating world, finds Daniel Etherington of BBCi Collective in his weekly games column.

Screenshot from PlanetSide
PlanetSide is set on the alien planet Auraxis
PlanetSide is ambitious, the environment is epic and - aside from some lag issues, a cruel learning curve and wasted time getting from A to B - the gameplay can be intense.

At a glance, PlanetSide has elements of games like Halo, with first-person shooting, armoured soldiers, drop-ships and jeeps.

But it is actually a significantly innovative blend of the first-person shooter (FPS) with a massively multiplayer online game, like EverQuest.

It is an "MMOFPS", building on the foundations of other online shooters where the number of players has been limited.

Digital strangers

The PlanetSide battleground is set on the alien planet Auraxis, where three factions fight it out for control of bases on 10 continents.

There are already 50,000 subscribers in the US and 20,000 in Europe.

Avatar from PlanetSide
I am self-conscious about my shoddy game-skill levels for starters

It is filled with the avatars of thousands of people, two thirds of whom will be gunning for you and your compatriots.

Now, for someone who is never especially got into the massively multi-player online gaming thing or multiplayer shooters, a video game that combines sci-fi first-person shooting action with something of the strategising of the board game Risk is a compelling prospect.

Aside from the above-mentioned issues, PlanetSide is remarkable and, when the action kicks off, it is frenetic and exciting.

However, you cannot get on here if you are shy as this is a teamplay game. But I am perturbed by the challenge of bonding with digital strangers.

I am self-conscious about my shoddy game-skill levels for starters. Odd, possibly, considering I am hiding behind a pseudonymous avatar.

Personally, I have always been more inclined towards one-player, narrative-based adventures. PlanetSide, however, is pointless as a solo experience.

There are no one-player missions and there is no narrative, just the ebb and flow of terrain being conquered then lost, then taken again.

Sony's landmark game is a constantly evolving proposition, however. Patches and tweaks are constantly being added, and the first expansion pack is already due out in October.

I doubt PlanetSide will ever be suited to us go-it-alone types, though, so I will really have to work on my massively multi-player online shyness.

Daniel Etherington writes for BBCi Collective, exchanging views on gaming, music, film and culture.

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