Goodbye EverQuest Next

I don’t have much to add to the EverQuest Next wake that hasn’t already been said, except for this possibly controversial thought:

I’m kind of glad they cancelled it.

Wait, wait, let me explain. We’ve known all along that Landmark was the prototype for EverQuest Next. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was dreading the day that they released Landmark with Norrath assets and called it EQN, because Landmark is not a very good game. There’s no doubt in my mind that EQ1 and EQ2 fans would have hated it.

Imagine how bad it would have been for the MMORPG industry if they had pushed out the next, long-awaited, highly-anticipated EverQuest game and it had been the same dismal failure that Landmark is.

On The Radar For 2015

Last time I did this.

Note that some games aren’t on the following list because I have either a) forgotten about them, or b) never heard of them.

MMORPGs I’m Looking Forward To

These are games that I’m still anxiously awaiting the opportunity to play, because I haven’t yet seen or heard anything to wreck my enthusiasm.

Black Desert. I keep seeing good things.

Skyforge. I keep hearing good things.

Otherland. I have enjoyed some Tad Williams books in the past, so surely a game based on some of his books I haven’t read would be good.

MMORPGs I’m Ambivalent About

I’m not excited about these games per se, but I’ll probably buy or try them because of hype and/or boredom and/or peer pressure.

GW2: Heart of Thorns. I’ll play it, but because it’s GW2 aka. The One RPG Without Meaningful Rewards I’m anticipating that I’ll get bored quickly.

Crowfall. To me, this isn’t even an MMORPG, and I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed by that after the hype wears off. My latest concern is that the ambitious class customization plans will result in PvP balance issues that will ruin the game. (Everyone will keep chasing that one overlooked combination that is bugged and overpowered, resulting in an endless cycle of nerfing disappointment and forum rage.)

EQNext. I’m not burdened by EQ nostalgia, plus I have no reason to think this game will be good. (Where is ACNext Turbine??)

Pathfinder Online*. I’ve never played the tabletop version, and the gameplay appears uninteresting (and the animations are terrible), and it’s open world PvP. When will they learn?

Camelot Unchained*. I hear a lot of buzz about this game but it doesn’t look that great to me. That YouTube video honestly makes it look like the most boring thing in the entire universe. Given the way the devs talk about it, I get the impression that this game is more about being a game engine technology demo than a game.

MMORPGs I’m Undecided About

These are games that are on my radar, but I don’t know enough yet to form an opinion about how much I’d be willing to spend on them.

Shroud of the Avatar*. Seems to be flying under the radar. I hear little or nothing about it, but the gameplay looks tolerable.

Gloria Victis*. I like the look of this game but, you know, it’s open world PvP so it will mostly be a game of staying in town or hiding from people.

Wander. Saw it on Steam. It looks cool. It’s not clear to me if this is a PC game or not though.

MMORPGs I’ve Lost Interest In

These would probably have to be free or sold at a deep discount for me to even try them, unless I start to see a lot more positive buzz.

Star Citizen*. Honestly I’m not sure what this game is right now, but anything targeted at EVE players probably isn’t for me, plus we all know this is vaporware, right? (Just kidding! Don’t freak out!) But seriously, I think the smart money is on this game self-destructing from too much ambition.

Life is Feudal*. I thought there might be something to this game, but so far it looks like a plain old survival building game, and the models and animation need serious work.

Das Tal* and Albion Online*. Overhead views plus open world PvP. Why, god, why?

Pantheon: Something of Something*. Seems unlikely this will ever see the light of day, but if it does, only those handful of people who backed it will delude themselves into thinking it’s fun to replicate late-1990s mechanics. Sorry but this game looks awful right now.

H1Z1*. I don’t even consider this an MMORPG.

Pre-Launch MMORPGs I’ve Already Bought

Trove*. (I think it’s still technically beta.) I like it. Good casual game.

Landmark*. Meh. Just meh. Do we really need a game that’s a thinly-disguised 3D modelling program with a 1980s-style UI font?

The Repopulation*. I haven’t played enough to know what to think of it. But I feel like it’s probably trying to do too much and it’ll never capture that SWG feeling.

Advice To Game Developers

Please perfect your basic artwork assets, models, and animations before releasing anything to the public. It’s a huge turn-off to see placeholder models and animations that make your game look like a high school project. It’s literally the first thing I evaluate to determine if your development effort is serious business or you’re just a bunch of kids messing around in somebody’s basement. Great results can and do come from people’s basements, but honestly not very often.

* These games can be bought and played now in some early access form or another. (I think. Don’t hold me to it.)

Storybricks and The Nature Of The Internet

More alarming news about SOE/Daybreak/EQNext.

Speaking as a gamer, even if EQNext had launched with the Storybricks AI (and I use the term “AI” loosely) included, it almost certainly wouldn’t have been as impressive as it sounded (see this demo), and it probably would have ended up being a non-factor in the game like that UO “artificial life” thingy. I’ve been very skeptical of SOE’s claims of “emergent behavior” ever since they first started talking about it.

Speaker as a software developer, my guess is that they jettisoned Storybricks because it wasn’t working right, and it was creating a roadblock for getting the game released. There is nothing more annoying than problems in third-party software that you have no control over. By removing that dependency, Daybreak can probably move forward with a lot more speed and confidence.

Speaking as an alarmist, it could be that Daybreak is imploding and we’re all doomed and we might as well just reformat our hard drives and forget about playing PC games ever again.

In any case, there is basically no chance that EQNext won’t get hammered as a bad game now, regardless of what they actually do. They’ve been pre-judged and anything short of the best game of our lives will be viewed as a failure by the gaming literati. (I know, I’ve pre-judged it too, but it’s because of actual evidence… i.e. Landmark.)

Daybreak Firings

I wanted to believe SOE being bought out might be–well, if not good news, then at least not bad news. But now I guess it’s okay to officially start with the doom and gloom over Daybreak. I hope everyone affected by these layoffs finds another place soon. (I’m going through my own job placement stress right now so I feel for anyone with any uncertainty about their job.)

While this news doesn’t affect me personally the way it does others–I don’t have the nostalgia for EverQuest that most people do (I was an Asheron’s Call guy and hardly ever played EQ)–based on the dour mood around the blogosphere it’s easy to see that this is a tremendous blow to the spirit of the genre. Besides that it just generally sucks to see people losing their jobs for no apparent reason.

In a desperate effort to find some hope in this, I offer this: I realize it’s brutal to say this, but changing the path that EQNext was on might be a good thing. Based on what I’ve seen in Landmark, I’m already pretty scared that EQNext is/was well on its way toward being an unimpressive game with considerably more hype than it deserves, and if the next game that has the “EverQuest” name on it turns out to be a dismal flop, that’s going to be pretty bad for the genre. Especially when EQ2 is… well, it’s not great. Not bad, either. Just average. Maybe Columbus Nova saw that too and decided to step in. That’s probably wishful thinking on my part, though, and they just swooped down with a callous mandate to “do more with less,” like money-grubbing corporations often do.

On the other hand, even an EQNext that’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread is better than no EQNext. No disrespect to its fans, but I’d prefer they cancel Dragon’s Prophet if they’re going to close one to save money. It’s not bad, it’s just… average.

Something Witty Like: SOE’s New Daybreak

Breaking News! (Not.) SOE is turning into Daybreak.

I don’t read as much doom and gloom into this news as SynCaine does, but if Daybreak intends to take a more cross-platform stance, it could mean EverQuest Next will end up a lot more controller-friendly than we PC MMORPG gamers might like. You can already sense it with Landmark actually. You’ve got a left button ability and a right button ability and that’s about it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with fewer abilities, if done well–Neverwinter comes to mind. Sadly last I checked–a month or so ago? Did I write a post about that? It’s probably still in my Drafts somewhere–Landmark had a long way to go before the quality of its combat came anywhere near the level of fun and polish in Neverwinter.

On the other end of the controller spectrum would be something like FFXIV, which brings all of the hotbar complexity of your PC MMORPG right to your controller buttons, and does it better than you might think. I’d prefer it if they went that direction for EQ Next. (Honestly there isn’t much that could be stolen from FFXIV that wouldn’t be a solid winner.)

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens after Daybreak. Hyuk hyuk.

(I keep wanting to call them Dawnbreak instead of Daybreak for some reason.)

Year End 2014

In most Steam sales, I have a fairly strict cut-off point of avoiding anything unless it is under $10. Over the past year or so, I’ve rarely found anything meeting that criteria that I don’t already have, so I was a bit surprised to find myself buying nine games in this Winter Steam Sale, including Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, The Walking Dead Season 2, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Democracy 3, Contagion, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Dominions 4, Thief, and Transistor. All less than $10.

Not to mention the fact that Origin had its own Winter Sale so I picked up Mass Effect 3 for a single-digit price, too.

Of course it will probably be years before I ever play any of those games, if ever. (I looked at Dominions 4 briefly but it was a bit confusing so I put it away again after about 15 minutes.)

I intended to finish Dragon Age II and then head into Dragon Age: Inquisition, but I stalled out after the second act. I was getting antsy for an ending so I could move on to something else, and then I went and bought Elite: Dangerous.

Elite: Dangerous came along at a great time because I was getting tired of story-driven gaming in general, and there were a bunch of Netflix shows I was falling behind on. For me, it’s rather difficult to watch television and cut scenes at the same time. But Netflix and Elite: Dangerous make the perfect combination.

Someday I’ll write more about Elite: Dangerous but in a nutshell I enjoy it. I have a hard time seeing it as an MMO though, because I’m playing it entirely in the “Solo” mode, and it doesn’t feel like I’m missing anything without other people. Space flight is an inherently lonely sort of activity, so it seems natural to me that there aren’t other people around. In real life I would only expect to see other people in the same ship that I was in, or after I landed on planets.

I don’t have much to say about the year 2014 in MMO gaming. I’m not much into trends. ESO and WildStar weren’t bad games in my opinion, but I didn’t get enough out of them to pay for a continuous subscription. I’d happily jump back into them again though. ArcheAge was a bit of a disappointment, although I could still see myself going back to it from time to time if–and only if–my progress were not destroyed by losing my property, which will eventually happen when my Patron status runs out.

As for 2015, one day I want to write a blog post about this, but I am going to call it now and say that EQ:Next is going to be a terrible game that will shatter the hopes of many people. There is an abundance of evidence for this conclusion in what we can already see in Landmark.

Making Sense of EQ Landmark

I’m trying to wrap my head around this EQ Next/Landmark thing. If I’m understanding this correctly, what we’re buying in Landmark is the toolset that a game developer would use to create an MMO game world. SOE must have looked at their tools and said, "You know, these tools are so fun and intuitive to use, maybe we could polish them up a bit and sell them, because people really seem to like building virtual things."

EQ Next will apparently be the content that SOE builds using Landmark. The rest of us will be making our own content, and if SOE happens to like something we do, they’ll just grab it and stick it in EQ Next. Because to use Landmark, I’m sure we’ll have to sign away any intellectual property rights to whatever we build.

So is that a cash grab? Obviously. :) We as consumers should be offended and insulted and outraged at the prospect of getting taken advantage of like this. We’re not just unpaid contributors to their game, we’re actually paying to contribute to their game.

So um, yeah, I pre-ordered the Trailblazer’s pack too. Because in the big picture, $100 is a drop in the bucket if it buys you even a single month of entertainment, and this could be something that evolves over years.

Also, I have long thought that MMOs need to move toward embracing player-created content to survive in a world where gamers consume years of developer work in a matter of days. There are hordes of players out there willing to slave for endless hours creating additions to games. (Neverwinter is trying this with their Foundry, although I personally think that there should be some editorial standards for user submissions. Most of the Neverwinter Foundry modules I’ve seen are rather silly and exist only as loot and xp dispensers.)

You might be wondering why a person who has never gotten into player housing would even consider buying a Landmark Founder’s pack. It’s because everyone’s doing it. :) Nobody likes to be the last one to get the new MMO shiney.

What Is EQLandmark?

I read on Inventory Full (still an awesome blog name) about this thing coming out called EQLandmark. I do not know what it is, but it sounds like some kind of new game in the EQ universe.

Bhagpuss then mentioned something about making a Heroic character in EQ2, and I got sidetracked. Because I have some EQ2 characters too, and I figured I’d better log in and make my own Heroic characters, too. Because everyone’s doing it apparently. Well, one person is. I don’t know why I needed one, because I haven’t played EQ2 in years, and found it only a fair game while playing it, and I don’t even know what a Heroic character even is, but if somebody else is doing something in an MMO, obviously there must be something cool going on there that needs to be checked out. MMO players have a herd mentality, and they are perpetually looking for “the next new thing.”

So I went to click on the EQ2 icon and get patched up, except I hadn’t played it in so long I didn’t even have it installed. A couple of hours later, I was looking at my character selection screen.

I saw where I could make a Heroic level 85 character from scratch or “upgrade” any of my existing characters to 85, at a cost of a bunch of SoE currency. I didn’t have nearly enough. (I probably still have the default amount you that you got at the beginning.) It was not at all clear why I would want to have a Heroic character, except I assume to get right to the level 85 content. Seeing as how I haven’t seen anything above around 40, I don’t see why I need to zoom ahead to 85.

Then I looked closer at my characters. What happened to them?

Dohashio, the weird-faced

I do not remember Dohashio looking so weird in the face. I never would have picked that face. Did somebody punch my dude? Did he fall in an acid vat like the Joker? Is it a mask? Did the game models change? I have no idea. Anyway. While I was there, I logged in, and found myself standing in a wooded area that was completely unfamiliar to me.

Some Woods

I mean, I remember spending a lot of time in a wooded area similar to that, but not that exact place. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I had some stuff in my quest log, but I didn’t feel comfortable risking death just then. Besides, I had to invert my mouse again–who knows what other input challenges I would have had to face to beat a monster.

So instead of moving, I marveled at how bad EQ2 looked. Sorry. Maybe I need to adjust my settings, but it was like logging into the year 2000 again. I was never keen on EQ2’s sort of washed-out watercolor look to begin with, but at least it was tolerable. But now, having just come from FFXIV, it looked awful. The ground looked like a pixelated 8-bit Minecraft thing.

So I logged back out.

Then I got back to that EQLandmark thing, which I probably should have done first instead of wasting all that time logging into EQ2. I see what it is now. It’s a way for SOE to crowdsource building their EQNext game world. :) It sounds a bit like Minecraft, except you build pieces for an MMO game world. Some people are probably drooling about the prospect of doing that, but to me it just sounds like a ploy to exploit gamers for free labor.

Naturally, I signed up for the beta.

I’ve thought for a long time that any MMO that finds a way to allow players to add things to the world will be wildly successful, because most games that allow gameplay mods or addons usually have a lot of longevity (like, say, Counterstrike). And MMO players are always ravenous for new content. Neverwinter made an attempt to do this with their player-made modules, but I thought it fell a bit flat. EQNext looks to be trying to do something along the lines of a player-alterable world, and EQLandmark looks to be their first step in that process.