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PlanetSide box

Developer(s) Sony Online Entertainment
Publisher(s) Sony Online Entertainment
Release date(s) May 20, 2003
Mode(s) Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: Teen (T)
Platform(s) Windows

PlanetSide is a massively multiplayer first-person shooter computer game published by Sony Online Entertainment and released on May 20, 2003. The number of players was over 40,000 in September 2004.



After traveling through a wormhole, the Terran Republic, a highly centralized oligarchic galactic government which has unconditionally ruled humanity for the past 1,112 years, discovers the planet Auraxis. Found to be suitable for colonization, the Republic send expeditions through the wormhole to colonize the planet. Shortly after arriving, the colonists discovered the remains and technology of a lost and ancient alien race - the Vanu. This technology, at first an enigma, proved to be so complex and powerful as to barely be conceivable to human minds, involving levels of energy previously thought to be physically unquantifiable. It allowed for quick colonization of the ten continents of Auraxis, the creation of power sources and vehicles for the use of the colonists and, most importantly, rebirthing technology. This nanotechnology allowed the humans to deconstruct and reconstruct their own bodies, allowing fast transportation across the world. Later on, it was discovered that dead workers could be brought back to life using the technology.

Shortly after the rebirthing technology was discovered, the wormhole collapsed, cutting the colony off from the Empire. Dissension in the ranks, the result of a loss of faith in the power of the Republic, which had always presented itself as infallible, caused the populace to split into three very distinct factions and a war over the technology ensued. As an inhabitant of Auraxis, you must choose to fight for one of the three factions:

  • The Terran Republic (, a conservative, authoritarian collectivist nation who strive to regain contact with the homeworld and re-unite the warring factions. Their leadership is a public oligarchy known as the Overwatch, composed of various representative officials and their associated Ministries, who regulate allotted portions of society in accordance with their own expertise and the collective will towards favorable outcomes. They feel that authority is the bastion that protects humanity and that in a truly free society, with no Big Brother to watch over citizens, misery and suffering will quickly be visited to all. Furthermore, they regard the Vanu technology as dangerous and unstable, a volatile force threatening the stability of their righteous order, and only begrudgingly do they utilize it in warfare. Their vision of the future is one of peace restored through their benevolent rule, and humanity reunited by the reopening of the wormhole. They stand by the view that the Vanu were extinct by their meddling with orders of power the magnitude of which was to be found in their artifacts, and they fear groups such as the Sovereignty will drive humanity to a similar fate, causing as much damage to reality as possible along the way. They rely a great deal on the brute strength of their armies and fleets, and the ruthless application of their superior firepower.

  • The New Conglomerate (, a militant separatist faction composed of anarchists, libertarians and liberals determined to remain free of the controlling and domineering Republic, as well as to liberate the rest of humanity from the Republic, whether or not they share the Conglomerate's theories. As a rebel group, their leadership lies with the Revolutionary Command, a visible cooperative of military experts and leaders who direct the liberation efforts as a whole. They feel that any form of control is oppression and that a miserable free man is better off than a contented slave. Consequently, they view the Vanu technology as a potential tool of control, and the Vanu Sovereignty as technocratic tyrants, would-be dictators like the Republic, only under the banner of science and probably much worse. Their view of the future is one of freedom and self-government, where every man elects his own path and flourishes in what ways he sees fit. They rely on the strength of their numbers, and their ability to move quickly and attack fast with light vehicles and infantry.

  • The Vanu Sovereignty (, a loose Transhumanist cult of academics, intellectuals and technology worshippers who believe that their collective destiny lies in the further development and exploitation of the alien technology. Their leadership is the clandestine Sovereignty Council, the composition of which is unknown without itself and the existence of which is utterly obscured to those outside the membership of the Sovereignty. They see the Republic as pedantic and outmoded, a restriction on the continuing ascendancy of the species through the synthesis of man and machine. They also see the New Conglomerate as a savage band of thugs, possessed of mob rule and desperately afraid of technology they cannot understand and the future it promises to the far-sighted. Their view of the future is one of scientific perfection and purity. They believe that the Vanu used the power of their advanced sciences to transcend their corporeal limitations and the mundane world, ascending to a superior state of being, and ultimately, a higher plane of existence. They envision humanity following suit, first through the enhancement of the human condition by science, and eventually, by the replacement of human beings altogether. They are the most reliant on alien science and technology, and often more than compensate for their shortcomings through the superiority of their engineering, utilizing mind bending physics and high-energy arrays to defend themselves.

These three factions now fight on the surface of Auraxis, none able to gain the upper hand, and the dead soldiers forever being reanimated by the alien nanotechnology. Within the game there is a great deal of casual discussion as to which sides are ostensibly good and which ones are bad. Some claim the Republic are intended to be the villains, due to their theoretical similarity to Fascism, although it may be argued that neither the Republic nor Fascism necessarily are evil, given that both feel they are doing the right thing on the whole, and that it is their duty to protect the people from their own incompetence. These same people largely tend to claim the New Conglomerate as the heroes, although this is also contestable, as the Conglomerate are also rabidly anti-everyone and they see no room for other beliefs aside from their own, and also because of the fact that, living in a Liberal Democracy, one might be pre-inclined to see the idea of liberty as paramount to other concerns anyways (this may explain the large number of NC players, as most PlanetSide subscribers live in the United States). Often it is a common claim that the Vanu are at least partial villains, due to their embrace of many technologies today seen as immoral, and their intentions to replace human beings with machines. This also may be contested on the grounds that morality judgments on issues of technology are largely relative to public understanding of that technology, and that currently, public understanding of such things as cloning, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and cybernetics is very much limited to the contents of the latest science fiction film. Ultimately, it may be argued that all sides make valid points in one form or another, however they are all too fanatical and one-sided in their beliefs to be taken seriously as a point of political debate (excepting the Vanu Sovereignty, who feel that if it were not of the utmost importance that the technology fall into responsible hands, the war would have no other purpose and would be promptly broken off).


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A vehicle squad is repairing a Lightning tank and a Thresher buggy.

At any one time, each of the three PlanetSide servers host thousands of players fighting a persistent war on foot, in ground vehicles or in the air across desert wastes, icy mountains, lush forests or dank swamps. The goal is simple: each faction must attempt to capture as many facilities as possible on the surface of the planet whilst denying them to their enemies. There are many strategies and opportunities for tacticians to divert the flow of battle and learning the intricacies and depth of the game can take many months. The player controls his chosen character from a first-person perspective and can travel about the vast environments on foot or in one of the many available vehicles. Combat is fast-paced and does not suffer from the 'hands-off' feel of many other Massively Multiplayer Online Games.

Leveling and Experience

While a first person shooter at heart, PlanetSide does have a rather basic experience/leveling system. Earned experience is divided into two categories: Battle Experience and Command Experience.

Battle Experience

Battle Experience is gained from exploring and interacting with the game world, elimination of enemy soldiers and from the capture of base facilities. When enough experience is accumulated, the character will increase in Battle Rank. When the character increases in Battle Rank, a certification point is awarded. The higher your Battle Rank, the more certification points you possess. These certification points allow the character to acquire new vehicle, weapon and armor classes. Newly created characters begin at battle rank 1 and can reach up to battle rank 23 (battle rank was initially limited at 20). Benefits of reaching higher Battle Rank include uniform upgrades and character implants.


Currently, there are ten implants available for use. Players can have three implants at any given time, however they may be exchanged for other implants at Implant Terminals. Implant Slots are awarded at Battle Ranks 6, 12 and 18. Each implant offers an upgrade for your character. Each implant varies in it's benefits and disadvantages, such as Advanced Targetting to view enemy health, Personal Shield which drains your stamina instead of health and armour when you are hit, at the expense of stamina. Most implants use stamina, and can only operate when you have enough stamina to maintain it. Leaving an implant on that drains stamina will exhaust your character and force you to walk until you rest.

Uniform Upgrades

Awarded at BR 7 and 14, Uniform upgrades merely change your appearance on the battlefield. In most cases, the character goes from a darker color to a brighter one, supposedly to make them more lucrative targets on the battlefield. The most drastic change is that of the New Conglomerate, which start with a dark blue uniform only to progress to a very bright gold uniform.

Command Experience

Command Experience is gained from leading a squad/platoon in a successful base capture. (Currently, experience is not rewarded for tower captures.) When enough Command Experience has been accumulated, the character will increase in Command Rank. When the character increases in Command Rank, new command abilities are made available. In addition, special uniform modifications are awarded. The breakdown by Command Rank is as follows:

  • Command Rank 0(CR0):
    • All characters start at this command level. No special abilities are available.
  • Command Rank 1(CR1):
    • The ability to place four (4) waypoints on the overhead map is awarded. The waypoints are visible to all members of the squad/platoon that the CR1 is leading.
    • The command /sitrep becomes available, which reports to the Command Rank above you. Example, CR1s sitrep to CR2s. The text received by the next highest CR is preceded by [Situation Report].
    • A shinguard (or spat for the Vanu Sovereignty) is added to the character's uniform.
  • Command Rank 2(CR2):
    • Characters at CR2 are given access to use the Command Uplink Device (CUD), which enables the use of higher level command functions. At CR2, the 'Reveal Friendlies' option, which allows the user to reveal friendly positions on the planetary map in a small radius, is the only available option.
    • CR2s have access to Command Chat, a separate chat channel that will allow them to speak with CR2s on the same planet.
    • SitReps now report to CR3s.
    • The uniform upgrade for a CR2 is a second shinguard (or spat for the Vanu Sovereignty).
  • Command Rank 3(CR3):
    • CR3s are given the ability to use battleplans, enabling them to draw on and label the planetary maps. (Note: this ability will function ONLY if the CR3 is the Squad/Platoon Leader.) **Additionally, the CUD may be used to emit an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) in a small radius around the player, which disables implants and vehicle weapons.
    • The radius on the 'Reveal Friendlies' option is increased.
    • Command Chat will now speak to all CR3s on the continent.
    • SitReps now report to CR4s.
    • A bracer is added to the character's uniform.
  • Command Rank 4 (CR4):
    • CR4s are given access to the Orbital Strike command, accessed through the CUD. Deployed from space stations orbiting the individual planets (known as Orbital Stations), the Orbital Strike is a devastating attack that can turn the tide of a battle.
    • The 'Reveal Enemies' option becomes available through the CUD. It functions in the same capacity as the 'Reveal Friendlies' option.
    • The radius on the EMP is increased.
    • The radius on 'Reveal Friendlies' is increased.
    • Command Chat will now speak to all CR4s on the continent.
    • SitReps now report to CR5s.
    • A second bracer is added to the character's uniform.
  • Command Rank 5 (CR5):
    • CR5s have the ability to perform 'Global' Broadcasts to every player on every planet on the server. Additionally they can 'Global' to individual continents, including the Sanctuaries.
    • CR5 Command Chat is 'Global', meaning that CR5s can communicate with all CR5s regardless of location.
    • The radius, coverage area and damage of the Orbital Strike are increased.
    • The radius of the EMP, 'Reveal Friendlies' and 'Reveal Enemies' are increased.
    • SitReps report directly to CR5s, with the heading 'Situation Report'.
    • A Communications Pack is added to the uniform of the character. Commonly referred to as 'The Backpack'.


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Galaxy Dropships en route to a combat zone. Raids such as these are commonplace.
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The PlanetSide package as of 18 October 2004.

While players can experience the game solo, the best way to succeed in PlanetSide is to join a squad. A squad is an ad hoc group of up to ten players led by a squad leader. Two or three squads can form a platoon, for a maximum group of thirty players. Benefits of being in a squad include the sharing of experience (resulting in a speedy rise in Battle Rank) and the results gained from working as a team.

Like most online games, a player can create or join an outfit, PlanetSide's implementation of a clan. Whereas a squad is a temporary group, an outfit persists even if all members are off-line. Outfits are managed through a panel in-game, allowing players to be promoted/demoted. Outfits have eight possible ranks, with the top four being officer ranks, allowing members to invite and kick players to and from the outfit. Outfits can range in membership from ten (the minimum number required to form an outfit) to an infinite number. (The largest outfits have upwards of 600 members).


As of 2005, the game is actively supported by Sony Online Entertainment. New content and patches are released about once per month, usually focused around an in-game community event. Like other online games, the PlanetSide developers allow access to a 'Test Server' which hosts the next proposed build of the game for users to test and troubleshoot before it is pushed to the 'Live' Servers.

Core Combat

On October 27, 2003, SOE released Core Combat, the first and only true expansion for PlanetSide. Originally, the expansion created six new 'cavern' areas, each of which took on the characteristics of the continents which lay above them. (This was changed in later patches. The caverns now operate on a timer with two open and four closed at any given time, with random links to planet/continents.) Also introduced were new Ancient Technology (AT) weapons and vehicles. In order to use these weapons, vehicles and new game spaces, one was required to purchase the expansion.

Also included was the new 'Module Benefit System'. This system encouraged players to travel down to the caverns to retrieve modules that could be installed in surface bases, granting them special abilities such as 'Pain Fields', Advanced Base Shielding and the ability to purchase AT weapons and vehicles from surface bases.

The Bending

On August 14, 2004, possibly due to experiments with Ancient Technology, the planet Auraxis has undergone a process known as The Bending, and has been reconstructed as a system of smaller planets scattered throughout the cosmos. These planets are still linked by the original warpgate system. One of the main islands of Auraxis has been destroyed and replaced by a series of small 'Battle Islands'.


On October 18, 2004 SOE released "PlanetSide: Aftershock". While some refer to Aftershock as the second expansion, in actuality it is merely PlanetSide and Core Combat repackaged together, using a new build of the game that introduced Battle Frame Robotics (BFRs). These are essentially large, heavily armed walking vehicles not dissimilar to those found in BattleTech:Technology.

Proposed Expansions

While nothing has been set in stone, several proposed expansions are regularly discussed on the PlanetSide forums. The most likely step is a 'space' themed expansion utilizing Orbital Platforms and the technology associated with the High-Altitude Re-entry Transport (HART) Buildings found in the Imperial Sanctuaries.


Currently the game contains 27 vehicles.

Terran Republic (TR) ground vehicles

  • Prowler (3 seat medium tank)
  • Marauder (3 seat buggy)
  • Raider (multi machine gun amphibious APC)

New Conglomerate (NC) ground vehicles

  • Vanguard (2 seat medium tank)
  • Enforcer (2 seat AV buggy)
  • Thunderer (amphibic APC with relatively high AV)

Vanu Sovereignty (VS) ground vehicles

  • Magrider (medium AV hover tank)
  • Thresher (2 seat fast hover buggy)
  • Aurora (amphibic APC with relatively high AI splash area)

Common Pool ground vehicles

  • Wraith (unarmed cloakable atv)
  • Basilisk (machine gun atv)
  • Fury (rocket atv)
  • Lightning (1 seat light AI tank)
  • Deliverer (5 seat amphibic Armoured personnel carrier)
  • Sunderer (light artillery and APC)
  • Harasser (2 seat stealth machine gun buggy)
  • Skyguard (2 seat AA buggy)
  • ANT (unarmed harvester)
  • AMS (unarmed mobile infantry spawn location)

Common Pool air vehicles

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A 3-seat Liberator bomber is followed by a Lodestar vehicle transport.
  • Mosquito (stealth scout, AI and dog-fight aircraft)
  • Reaver (ground attack aircraft)
  • Galaxy (dropship for infantry, MAX units and light vehicles)
  • Liberator (3 seat bomber)
  • Lodestar (heavy vehicle transport and ground repair station)

Core Combat ground vehicles

  • Switchblade (deployable hover atv)
  • Router (teleporter)
  • Flail (long range heavy artillery)

System Requirements

These are the minimum system requirements, as listed from the packaging:

  • Windows XP, 2000, ME or 98
  • 1.0Ghz processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 64MB video card
  • Internet Connection

Much criticism has been made regarding PlanetSide's system resource consumption. The game uses, on average, over 450mb of RAM while running. The game is considered a system hog. This being said, even with the minimum specs met, most gamers agree that the program is unplayable. Recommended system specs are as follows:

  • 2.0Ghz processor or better
  • 1GB RAM or better
  • 128MB Video Card or better
  • High-Speed Internet Connection

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