Category Archives: Game Industry

So have you heard about Ashes of Creation?

One of the greatest things about blogging for a longer period of time is followers coming up to you saying “you’re wrong about that” or “you forgot this”. This is genuinely beneficial and helpful in so many ways even if it ends in heated debates and disagreements sometime. At the best of times, we discover new viewpoints or just new THINGS we never heard of – and new games! So it happened with my last week’s post where I researched upcoming MMOs in 2017-2018 to get excited about. Shortly after, a friendly person on twitter poked me to ask:

Have you heard about Ashes of Creation?

I admit that I hadn’t up to now! I am aware of few titles from the more distant future, like Amazon’s New World, but I missed last December’s news on the big Ashes of Creation reveal and first look video on environments. So it appears there is another big scope classic MMORPG title in the works currently, by former SOE and Daybreak MMORPG developers no less – who knew? After some research, it does not appear that Dave G. is part of the crew however, in case you were wondering!

ashes of creation first look

An Ashes of Creation First Look

Ashes of Creation development started 2016 which means the title is still a long way off and additional crowdfunding via kickstarter is planned to go up at some point. At a first glance, the game aims to follow the classic fantasy MMO formula, doing a little bit of everything with a focus on dynamic world building. This was something promised in EQN and we’ve yet to see a bigger title actually deliver on this front, so color me interested. Another feature that jumps out immediately is Intrepid Studio’s approach to housing which, according to their FAQ, is going to be both open world as well as instanced –

Q: Can I own land?
A: Our land owning system has an integrated personal housing and farming system to allow players to claim land in the open world. This land is the same static size for all players. You may then acquire blueprints for structures to build on that land, such as a home, stables for animal husbandry, crafting stations and more. In addition to open world housing, you will also be able to own homes within a Node itself; these homes will grow as the Node does, from a small cottage to a sprawling mansion! Certain Nodes will also have instanced housing. (source)

While there’s no definite word on the 8 different races and classes as of now, the different info on the housing and node systems make me wonder if there will be full non-combat classes? Many open questions like these are likely to be answered in the coming months and it’s worth checking out MoP’s interview with lead designer Jeffrey Bard as well as MMOGame’s recent interview with founder Steven Sharif for further inside info. From the many provided answers, I definitely prefer the below one from Syp’s interview:

Q: How will this game differentiate itself from everything else that’s out there or that is in the making?

A: Our hook is deeply integrated gameplay. When players first log in, they’re going to see Creation, beaten and broken. Outside of some few outposts of huddled masses, civilization doesn’t exist. It will be up to the players to invest life into the world, and bring villages, towns and cities into being. At the same time, they will need to protect what they’ve built, from the creatures they’ve disturbed in returning civilization to the world, as well as from each other. (source)

ashes of creation first look

It’s the one million question: How is your MMORPG different from those that came before it? Considering how 99% of all MMOs start their player journeys the same way, the above statement is great news! Maybe Ashes of Creation will be the first title to really tell a story from the other end – from a world of destruction and desolation that’s waiting for players to rebuild and heal the land. Too often have we started our journeys in the sheltered lands of Elwynn Forest, Queensdale or The Shire, only to meet our inevitable Mount Doom as endgame progressed. How many times can we stomach traveling from soft greens and golden colors to black, brown and lava red?

To hear a developer say “we’re flipping the coin” is actually pretty exciting! It’s early days but yeah, consider Ashes of Creation added to my list of hopefuls. I guess they need to come up with a new shorthand though, AoC is already taken folks!

Which MMOs to look forward to in 2017 and beyond?

I mentioned in my recent New Year’s post that I no longer look forward to any upcoming MMORPGs in 2017 and beyond. In fact, I have a hard time remembering many titles and the ones I do know, aren’t exactly my cup of tea. Judging from the reactions within my twitter verse, I am far from alone in this sentiment.

Now others have pointed out of course that gaming has never been more diverse and better than today and that is completely true. I can return to established MMORPGs and still find a lot of content to play through and get busy with. But with way fewer new projects on the horizon, I will still miss the excitement of looking forward to something new, diving into unknown worlds with other people. That’s just something I have always loved, that newcomer feel and collective excitement.

This encouraged me to actually go and do some research on upcoming MMORPGs for 2017 – 2018. As expected, it’s a different world from few years ago but I still managed to identify a few titles that may pique my interest in time:

Chronicles of Elyria

elyria01

There’s been some buzz around this title for a while now and I admit some of the developer’s ideas, such as aging and living through several lifespans with your characters, sound interesting. As a kickstarted project it’s got a lot to prove but there’s no harm in following what already looks like a fairly promising indie project. Release date estimated at Dez 2017 earliest, so double that probably.

Pantheon, Rise of the Fallen

pantheon

I know next to nothing about the great Everquest legacy and its associated heroes but I’m reading “high fantasy open world” and “focus on social and group play” and yeah you got me, I’m desperate! Bhagpuss has recently brought this title to my attention again and I’ve always trusted his savvy on the classics such as EQ and Vanguard, so color me mildly interested in Pantheon (once I got over the graphics, anyway)! Alpha/beta testing to be commenced in 2017 – release date who knows!

BLESS

bless

BLESS is a Korean title set in a medieval fantasy world, composed for by legend Hans Zimmer which has caught my attention in the past. While the game inhabits the crowded space of “very pretty looking, grindy Asian MMOs with ingame shops” together with upcoming Revelation Online, its overall aesthetic is significantly more mature (no colorful wings either which is good news). Like Revelation Online, BLESS is another F2P title, so I may or may not find myself downloading the client at a very weak moment of MMO desperation. That is, if it’s actually available sometime – a somewhat curious topic of late!

….Aaaand that’s it! This is already the end of my list for 2017 – 2018 MMOs and this summary frankly hasn’t done much to lift my spirits. Granted, I am a fantasy MMORPG traditionalist, so PvP titles like Camelot Unchained or Crowfall are missing. These are no doubt interesting titles to a select audience but they ain’t mine. Are there any other upcoming games I should know of – and if so, where are they hiding??? :halp:

So Amazon is Making an MMORPG

You might have heard by now that Amazon Game Studios, yes from that Amazon, have finally revealed three major game projects currently in the works: a MOBA title, a sports brawler and god help us all, a sandbox MMORPG called “New World”!

Amazon is Making an MMORPG

Internet retail giant or not, I was more than a little stunned to hear Amazon chose to take on the plague that is MMOs for their debut in video game development. Haven’t they heard there’s no money in MMOs these days – or do they know something we don’t? The project sounds ambitious enough judging from the marketing blurb and early sneak-peeks, but I’m with Endgame Viable here that it’s all buzz words at this point, from the “open ended sandbox” to “emergent gameplay” promises. I’m also not remotely interested in in-built twitch features but that’s me.

Still, along with Sypster and Mersault, part of me is excited to hear there’s a new player on the MMO market and one with unlimited funds at that. New World present a new hope, something to look forward to with some curiosity, whatever your reservation. It’s also good to hear there’s veteran developers on board, given things weren’t always looking that rosy at Amazon’s game division.

In this current dried out landscape of AAA MMO titles to look forward to (thanks Blizzard and SOE!), New World sounds like a mythical beast right now. I’m not going to get my hopes up but it’s fair to say I am intrigued – and I will be following things much more closely from here!

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and the Legacy Server Question

In the wake of the much discussed Nostalrius server closure, Gamespot published an interview with Blizzard’s Overwatch team about the great failure that was Titan, as part of a history feature for Overwatch. Titan having been this great hush-hush project for so long, with only a single Kotaku article shedding some light on its demise at the time, I found both the timing and takeaway of this new interview quite fascinating. It is rare for a developer of Blizzard’s caliber to come out and talk about screwing up projects of such magnitude in candid fashion, with notable commentary by Jeff Kaplan and Chris Metzen. Yet if youtube comments are anything to go by, it was another smart move on their end in terms of marketing Overwatch and generating some more trust and curiosity within the player base.

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and Legacy Servers

What the Titan interview is too, is a rather ironical look at the long-lasting after-effects of the monster that was created in 2004 – World of Warcraft, proclaimed hero and villain of mainstream MMORPGdom depending on whom you ask. Over the years many a case has been made against WoW for hijacking the creative diversity of the genre, causing a plethora of unfortunate clones or ill-budgeted AAA-titles crashing in one treacherous MMO bubble. What isn’t discussed nearly as often however are the negative side-effects of WoW from within, for a company and creative enterprise. WoW may be the best thing that ever happened to Chris Metzen and Co. but it “happened” to them in the same bewildering, unforeseen and uncontrollable way it happened to the entire market; a child of chance and momentum as much as creative genius and industry know-how. An alchemy that defies simple re-creation.

That fortuitous chain of events led the team at Blizzard through the same process it would lead anyone that could not be prepared, from a time of unstoppable force and hubris to a place of shattered dreams and identity crisis when it came to Titan, crushed under the real MMO giant that remains World of Warcraft. The irony is strong in this one. WoW casts its long shadow to this day and left the staff soul-searching and scavenging Titan’s remains to come up with Overwatch, a completely different, much smaller game to complement their genre palette. Thus a team used to the dizzying successes of the past stood humbled, as Chris Metzen points out in the Gamespot feature.

The Long Shadow of World of Warcraft: Titan and Legacy Servers

Among MMO bloggers there goes the saying that “there is no WoW killer other than WoW” and indeed, nothing can seem to affect this title’s weight, not even the next Blizzard MMORPG. This must create a challenging emotional ambivalence even among those closest to WoW and most blessed by its many rewards. And I can’t help but think it also plays a role in Blizzard’s unaltered disregard for WoW legacy servers; something that surely makes sense business-wise and in terms of fan service. But if we then consider a crew of people who are simply tired of old WoW and eager to create new experiences, experiences not continuously outclassed by a 12 year-old zombie that just won’t stop rearing its insistent head, well then we can empathize more with that decision.

You run legacy servers when you’re actually happy to keep the past alive. At this point, I don’t get the feeling Blizzard are content to be defined by the successes of WoW’s heyday and this weighs heavier on their mind than a couple more subscriptions.

Straight Talk: Tired of Social Rants

Important notice: This is a rant about rants, wooo! Also: I have adjusted some of my opinions on this blog over time, as some of the links provided illustrate. That’s because I am old and fickle!

One of the great MMO blogger evergreens is the (anti-)social debate; with the genre becoming ever more accessible and mainstream since its earliest beginnings, players new and old keep musing on the pros and cons of MMO gaming allowing for increased flexibility and playstyle variety. Stuff like removing role restrictions or shared loot, are dividing topics. Depending on where you stand, your “more social” is someone else’s “anti-social” and it’s very difficult to reach any kind of consensus. I hold with what I’ve said in the past, that the two approaches to MMOs can’t reasonably co-exist. A lot of this stuff is mutually exclusive and even when it isn’t, solutions are usually too complex for practical application. LFG tools in many MMOs are ‘optional’ but we all know what happens once they are introduced: they impinge on everybody.

Roger recently deliberated whether he has become a more anti-social gamer over the years. This struck a chord with me because I find myself in the company of many 35-45ish players who have at some point gone through that stage of self-evaluation. As commented in Roger’s thread, I personally do not believe he’s become more anti-social; what I believe is that MMOs have stopped enforcing planned cooperation via game design. I have made this case before at length and I still don’t buy into the whole altruism spiel, nor will I ever. Being “social” is absolutely an intrinsic quality – you either are or aren’t social. The rest is facilitated gameplay.
Then today, Eri followed up with a similar post, professing her disdain for shared loot in GW2 and the “entire shift” to self-centric gameplay in MMOs. I’m rather sure that even in my most hardcore raidleading days, I was pretty darn self-centric in pursuing my dreams of raiding and loot and whatnot. I faintly remember removing players who weren’t up to the task. But anyway, these posts made me realize something: I am so done with the (anti-)social rants. It’s like we’re stuck and never get beyond them.

darklegacy01

Year 4 in “A Decade of Love and Hate” – the natural progression of the MMO player.

I carry as much MMO nostalgia with me as the next veteran player, heck sometimes I miss the good old, bad days. They were bad a lot more than good but I am not always rational. In truth, I understand why things are different today and like so many older gamers, I need them to be different. My investment choices like anyone’s, shape what MMOs may or may not become. Inevitable fact: MMOs that are trying to survive, have to be financially viable. MMOs that introduce gatekeepers, forced grouping, fixed setups and any variation of limiting factors, are very likely not going to make as much profit on today’s saturated market. And no, don’t look at WoW – look at Wildstar or ESO instead. I am sure all of us would prefer having both: the freedom/flexibility and the social bonding experiences but it doesn’t work that way. Not in the traditional sense we are so used to anyway, where game design pushed us into talking to strangers, grouping up with strangers, cooperating with strangers longterm until they were strange no longer. Maybe in this new era we need to explore different ways, make more conscious efforts?

There’s a significant percentage of 30+ players populating MMOs today, players with bigger pockets, and they need gaming to fit around their lives, not vice versa. That’s okay! I’m not saying I like quiet party chat or mass-zerging so much either but any solution to these issues will have to either address that reality or remain fictional. If you’re against the social shift in MMOs, great! The solution however, will need to be more original than returning to what we already had. Today is not going away.

P.S. Don’t miss the full strip on “A Decade of Love and Hate” over at Dark Legacy Comics!

Fig: A better Way to kickstart Games? [#Blaugust 26]

In case you haven’t heard yet, there’s now a new crowdfunding platform exclusively for games and it’s called Fig (yes really). As reported on Wired, Fig’s advisory board includes indie studio heads and kickstarter heavyweights such as Tim Schafer, Brian Fargo and Feargus Urquhart. Besides focusing on games only and a highly curated, much shorter list of available projects at any given time, there’s namely one other big difference between Fig and KS:

‘But the biggest difference is Fig will combine rewards-based crowdfunding with equity investing. Fans can support Outer Wilds to get rewards, but accredited investors can get a share of revenue once the game is released. Fig CEO Justin Bailey, who was the COO at Double Fine, says campaigns eventually will be opened to non-accredited investors, meaning anyone could become an investor in a game and reap the rewards.

“Look at what happened to Oculus,” he says, referring to the pioneering VR company that started as a Kickstarter project. “It was sold to Facebook for 2 billion dollars, and the people who were involved, the superfans who were getting behind Oculus to make that possible, they didn’t see any of that. It would seem like they should, since they had a pivotal role in that coming about.”’ [source]

As someone who only ever kickstarted something twice in her life, supporting friends on both occasions, I don’t know that I have an opinion on this new crowdfunding option for games. What happened with Occulus Rift was definitely a low if not foreseeable act, so from that point of view Fig is a response that should appeal to enthusiast funders with bigger pockets. I’ve come across negative voices in a few places too, sarcastic comments about gamers requiring their own platforms for everything far away from all other media and culture, isolating themselves like the weird bunch they are.

I wasn’t aware how the variety of products on kickstarter meant such an awful lot to some people but maybe I’m missing something. Anyway, do you think Fig is a good addition to videogame crowdfunding or should games remain on generalist sites like kickstarter, together with comic books, combat kitchen ware and towel shorts?

Today in P2W: Gamers are getting older and that’s okay!

Today I came across this passionately one-sided opinion piece over at Massively OP which makes a somewhat poor case against the ever-rising pay-to-win model for videogames (yeah, am still reading about MMOs and stuff!). I admit it was a disagreement between Isarii and Scree on twitter that made me aware of its existence, so like every curious MMO blogger I was drawn to the drama – and there is always drama when players discuss pay to win.

Now before I address the Massively article, I’ll say this: I am personally not a fan of P2W games. I don’t play any and they tend not to interest me in the slightest. I gave Candy Crush 15 minutes of my life once, out of obscene curiosity and recoiled in disgust after the first of many enforced time locks popped up. That being said, I am not afraid of P2W games either; while their market share may be growing, I don’t believe them to be an imminent threat to more traditional games or gamers since they do not cater to that target audience. We all know that gaming as a whole is getting bigger and the really significant growth of the last few years belongs to social or “casual” as well as mobile gaming. – Geeky and niche MMO gaming? Not so much. Still, we have little to complain about compared to our humble beginnings. So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t fear P2W games any more than I fear that WoW has destroyed the MMO genre when really, WoW created its own market and if anything, helped other MMOs along (midterm copycat fails or not).

Of course one can take a moral approach and try analyze how (un-)ethical P2W models are. There may be merit in that discussion, although personally I am not prepared to have it (and my liberal stance on f2p is hardly news). Too often does it come down to players defending what they know versus what is new and still unfamiliar ground. Or worse, everyone starts sounding like a wanna-be psychologist and umm gaming addiction and save the children. There are some shades of grey, may-be, but essentially all videogame ventures and business models are looking to make the most money in the most effective way possible, triggers included. There have always been players at the shorter end of the stick of whatever business model. How exactly is this such a great “truth” we never heard of (in reference to the Massively article)? So while I understand some critics’ concerns and where they come from, I tend to agree with Scree on this one. The times they are a’changing and maybe we need to keep an open mind and try sound less like our at least proverbial grandparents.

olddaysbla

We’re getting older, oh noes!

My immediate reaction to the Massively piece was, passionate rant or not, that it’s incredibly condescending towards anyone within that “older gamer group with disposable income” who dares to play games differently and enjoy them differently. Jef Reheard even goes as far as saying that P2W players don’t actually play the games – no, they “pay their way through instead of playing it through”. This is also clearly not fun! That makes you wonder why the heck all these weirdos keep paying money for something that surely is objectively horrible but wait, there’s the answer to that as well: they are lab rats that act out of compulsion rather than umm, the righteous and sound enjoyment of the non-P2W advocate. Yep…that really is the gist of the article, I’m afraid. You got some jolly “no real gamersss”-disdain, mixed with the old “not fun”-trap and some pseudo-psychology spice to top it off and make this one unsavory cocktail to drink.

It’s no longer about the fun or the escapism of gaming; it’s about capturing a bite-sized piece of those bygone days when they had time to play, and of course it’s also about satisfying those psychological skinner box urges[…]

I snorted. And then I self-cringed too because I’ve had my share of “why achievements and instant gratification are destroying my MMO”-rants and malcontent on this here blog. I still hold to the journey is the reward (for_me). However in hindsight, and also really whilst writing, it’s apparent that dramatic rants were dramatic. I think us MMO explorer types can live alongside the achievers or killers just fine for the most part, heck some of us even like one another despite our different playstyles (<3)! And none of us have gone out of business.

But back to P2W: as a general rule, all panicky reasoning is bad reasoning. And sure, you might find P2W cheap or cheaty and that’s alright, but obviously there are many ways to find pleasure in games. I’ve played MMOs in the past just to dress up my characters and yes, buy exclusive clothes from an ingame store. Likewise, P2W-players do very much also play the games they invest in, duh – it’s not like they’re just paying money and then never spend any time on actual game play. They just play differently. Maybe they want to skip stuff they don’t consider fun (like grinding!), maybe their sessions are shorter. Either way, it seems reasonable there should be a market for such a customer. It also seems contradictory (and patronizing but let’s forget that) to say the model is dangerous for the weak of mind and spirit and then make a point out of how it’s a more mature and financially stable target audience that sinks money into P2W games like World of Tanks and ArchAge?

And gamers are OK with P2W in large part because they’re getting older and they’ve outgrown gaming. They have mortgages, multiple jobs, kids, and a dozen other excuses for circumventing game mechanics with real money.

Ah pardon moi! I did not realize gamers needed “legit excuses” for the way they play games at all. As far as I am concerned, an aging player base with more disposable incomes and diverse tastes in gaming is brilliant news for the videogame industry. We are entering uncharted waters still with the first generations of videogamers advancing through their middle age; this process is far from over. Games, genres, markets, business models: they are far from being fully explored or formed or finished. I’m not sorry for growing older or changing my spending ways – what a silly argument to even have.

myworldischanging

Many changes, handle it!

I’ll make it a simple summary: whatever rants declare (good old) gaming is dying or getting worse or going under for reason “XY” are wrought with fallacies. Cathartic at times maybe or endearing in their zeal, still wrong. Don’t trust them, don’t worry about it. The only truth is change. Games change. Audiences change. It all changes constantly. Sometimes you’ll like it better, sometimes you’ll like it worse. Most likely, it just means we’re getting more games and different games and more diverse, specialized markets and business models. We’ll see things come and go, over and over because such is the paradox of time (green is the new green!). And some games you really should avoid, ideally without preaching to others (too much).

Yesterday a still studying co-worker of mine showed me an interview he did with a 60-year old pharmacist who happens to train apprentices. The topic was “today’s youth” and communication, or something. It was basically an old fart talking about how young people cannot concentrate anymore, constantly use their mobile phones for wasteful activities and other weird things the old man (old because of his ways) clearly did not come close to grasp. He had zero understanding of this new generation he was supposed to teach, in fact he had no interest to learn about their world at all. It was a most tedious read for me, also because I have worked with young people and count myself among the digital age children. I fucking love the internet and over-sharing on twitter.

That’s why I am somewhat radically over the ever-fearful, judgmental whinging of fading generations, in all walks of life. I hope one day I’ll be a better old person (with a cool hat). There is a new world born every day and I am ready for the next adventure.

(…and I’ll still tag this post under ‘rants’ because :IRONY:)

On Rock Paper Shotgun and “that” Molyneux Interview

Over valentine’s weekend, the gamesphere was busy dissecting and criticizing what went down over at RPS recently when John Walker interviewed Peter Molyneux on the whole Godus debacle (for details check Aywren’s article) among other past failings. In the wake of the “ethics in game journalism debates” of last year, I was hoping to read more blogosphere opinions on the matter. Now, I will say this: I am for the most part a fan of Walker’s work at RPS and his often candid and brutally honest writing that hasn’t made him the most popular videogames journalist in the past. I hold neither grudge nor particular awe for Peter Molyneux who seems to be notoriously overselling games ever since the wane of the Populous fame and making petty, snidy remarks about more successful developers like Notch – which is what got me to unfollow him years ago on twitter. He is, as far as my interests are concerned, a somewhat silly figure but I’m not a Godus backer, so I don’t harbor any ill will against him for screwing with my money (also, some of that is a risk you’re taking with KS).

As for the interview itself, at some point I wasn’t sure I could continue because it’s so bloody long and extremely awkward. You can’t possibly not feel some degree of empathy for Molyneux who is starting to disintegrate halfway through, appearing less and less credible and informed about his own projects, until he arrives at the inevitable (sulky) conclusion that maybe he should not be giving press interviews anymore ever. And maybe he shouldn’t – it wouldn’t be the first time a genuinely enthusiastic and creative person isn’t fit for the whole business and marketing aspect of their enterprise. Anyone more PR savvy should have stopped giving an interview after being asked “are you a pathological liar?” and yet he did not, he walked right into it and once more, talked himself into another pickle for one and a half hours. If he’s not in fact pathological as Walker suggested, he is either too narcissistic to understand what’s happening or kindly put, a little out with the fairies.

So yeah, I kinda feel for his romantic optimism but I don’t feel sorry for Peter Molyneux – a man with lots of resources at his hands who doesn’t understand why “I really believed with all my heart this would be successful” (half of his defense paraphrased) doesn’t quite appease his crowdfunded investors. There needs to be a degree of transparency and accountability when you operate in the field of selling promises. I’d rather not imagine him working in investment banking.

And no doubt, John Walker delivered the most insistent and unwavering line of questioning in a developer interview I have ever read. He conducted the interview at eye level, emancipated from the type of crippled “fan interviews” we get to read all the time by grateful enthusiasts. As a professional, he was adamant to get his points addressed without much wiggle room. The opening question was an aggressive and ironical double bind because strictly speaking, if you’re not in fact a pathological liar, “yes I am” would be the best way to prove you are not. Given that this wasn’t a cross-examination of a witness in court, Walker came across as accusatory but hardly malicious. There are two sides to this debate and generally speaking as a consumer, I would want my advocates to be as thorough and unceremonious as John Walker. Accusations of him “kicking a puppy” in this interview are frankly ridiculous and not very respectful towards Peter Molyneux, who is not a victim.

Gamers need to check their softened up standards when it comes to the “heroes” of their hobby; do you want videogame journalists to seek accountability or stop and smile (as so many do) whenever it gets uncomfortable? In the games industry especially, the power balance between producer and consumer is still askew. Opinions welcome.

At Daybreak you shall know their True Colors

It took no more than 10 days for Columbus Nova, new owners of the late SOE, to announce their first layoffs at Daybreak consisting of former MMO staff members from Austin and San Diego studios, including figureheads such as director of development Dave Georgeson, lore expert Steve Danuser or CM Linda “Brasse” Carlson.

I am perplexed. There go knowledge authorities and community figures that have steered the hype train for this next generation of Everquest games and especially Landmark, for months and months. And sure, it takes many excellent people to develop MMOs but let’s not kid ourselves – when you remove the lead singer, drummer and lead guitarist of a band your fans have come to love and follow, you are basically leaving that audience with a corpse. And you don’t care.

If there was any trust left in me when I wrote about my EQN misgivings yesterday, it has been shattered with the layoffs of Dave G. and team, people who tirelessly engaged with the community on the forums and signalboosted Landmark builds on twitter ever since alpha. They all deserved so much better than this.

This is another dark day for MMO players. Anyone who believes this could be a potentially positive thing for Landmark and EQN’s development (because the guys calling the shots behind Daybreak have all these “awesome and fresh MMO ideas”?) will sadly come to regret it, I fear. Nobody who has earnest plans to continue a project and legacy like Everquest and gives a damn about the community would just lay off the know-how and trust owners of the franchise. Re-asses strategy? – Okay. Re-organize management level? – Okay. But the fact that core team members are not kept around to consult on further development is all you need to know.

I’ve been an unwilling herald of bad news lately and so be it: I foresee no future in which the EQN that we’ve got presented at SOE Live 2014 will come to completion. Daybreak will cut their losses and either really release EQN status whatever “in the near future” as announced, or this project will be shelved Titan style within another three to six months, maybe to be disemboweled and re-purposed. And by the gods of Norrath, I hope I am wrong!

So, should I still look forward to Everquest Next?

Chatting with comrades on teamspeak the other night, the topic of Everquest Next came up along with “vaporware” and equally unflattering comments. I admit, I really wanted to believe in EQN; SoE sure made their other upcoming MMO(RPG!) sound and look exciting before the launch of Landmark. And really, what is there left in the AAA-segment after EQN? THIS NEEDS TO BE A THING!

EQNlogo

That notorious green picture of many years.

I get how the Everquest veterans feel about this title however, which has become a running gag of sorts ever since the early days. One day, some day sure, there will be a next Everquest! And by now, I am not feeling it anymore either, I certainly don’t expect to see it launch this year and god knows what the whole acquisition by the grey men might mean for the future of these MMOs. All the more surprising therefore that official press statement, referrring to EQN’s more imminent launch:

“Sony Online Entertainment, newly rebranded as Daybreak, is a great addition to our existing portfolio of technology, media and entertainment focused companies. We see tremendous opportunities for growth with the expansion of the company’s game portfolio through multi-platform offerings as well as an exciting portfolio of new quality games coming up, including the recently launched H1Z1 and the highly anticipated EverQuest Next to be released in the near future” [Jason Epstein, Senior Partner of Columbus Nova]

Now ‘near future’ is a vague enough term but it still suggests things happening in under a year or so. May be that a senior partner of an investment company with a career in venture capital doesn’t have a clue about MMO development speed, may be that it’s just the usual corporate marketing speech to appease the masses. Or maybe they really intend to release EQN on a set date in the near future no matter what, which would add another chapter on catastrophe to the great book of MMO mishaps.

Ever looking for an upside, I wish it was neither of these options; I wish that EQN was farther ahead in development than SoE let on until now and that they’ve just kept things quiet – which makes no sense whatsoever really and is not how they are typically handling their pre-launches.

Call it vaporware, call it getting the Titan vibes, what’s pretty clear to me by now is that holding out for EQN as the next great thing requires a considerable effort in wishful thinking.