Category Archives: EverQuest Next

H1Z2 or The Daybreak “Divide and Something” Plan

SOE, in cleaning up its act in order to get sold off and become Daybreak, cleared its decks of a number of titles.  The list of titles Daybreak has today is substantially shorter than what SOE had on offer just few years back.  Since 2012 it seems like they’ve shut down a lot more titles than they have launched.

It follows you as you move about the room!

The eye seems angry today…

I’m not sure how many people really miss Wizardry Online or Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures or a few of the other titles that have fallen by the wayside.  But Free Realms had a following and I have to think, with the current emphasis on nostalgia in Norrath, that closing down the EverQuest Macintosh Edition server rather than making that the basis of a classic server usable by a Windows client must be wistfully regretted in some corner of their office.

Anyway, once the company became Daybreak it had rid itself of a lot of baggage, but also had less to sell… and then proceeded to get rid of Dragon’s Prophet.

Meanwhile, new titles are few and far between.  EverQuest Next, more than five years since it was announced, seems no more likely to ship than it did two years back.  Landmark continues is desultory existence.  Planetside 2 remains dubious.  DC Universe Online, which just passed its fifth birthday, is getting ported to XBox One.  That was the big liberating factor in becoming Daybreak, that Smed would no longer be limited to the Playstation, but I am still dubious as to whether or not this will be a huge win.

The only bright points over the first year of Daybreak’s existence (we heard about the merger just about a year ago) have be the super awesome legacy Norrath team, which runs EverQuest and EverQuest II, and which has worked hard to give players some things they have been asking for, and H1Z1, which managed to sell a million units in early access.

So I guess the email note I received while in Hawaii shouldn’t have come as a great surprise.

CUSTOMER SERVICE NOTIFICATION
Notice Regarding Your H1Z1 Account!
Hi
On Wednesday, February 17, 2016, H1Z1 will be branching off into two separate games: H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill. Since you previously purchased an Early Access copy of H1Z1, your account will be upgraded to include both H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill.
Your existing keys, crates, and items will be also duplicated and available in both games.

H1Z1 is splitting into two games, H1Z1: Just Survive, which is the zombie horror survival game, and H1Z1: King of the Kill, which is an arena cash cow that Daybreak has convinced itself is going to be some sort of esport.

On the bright side, at least you get a copy of each if you already purchased H1Z1 via early access.  Of course, there is one more unplayed game in my Steam library because, while the base H1Z1 had some comedic co-op survival charm to it, Daybreak’s whole “pay to compete” battle royale thing had no appeal to me whatsoever.

I think we can safely predict Daybreak will have to change the name of one of these games in a month or two once the whole brand confusion thing finally dawns on them.  My own pick would be H1Z1 and H1Z2, but even those two might be too close in name to avoid the inevitable confusion.

Was this split a surprise?  I suppose so.  It certainly wasn’t without a bit or irony, at least when compared to this motivational quote from the Daybreak web site.

Was this a left turn then?

Was this a left turn or a risk then?

But in hindsight, I guess trying to package the different needs of the two modes of play together might have become an obstacle to one branch of the game or the other.  I doubt, however, that this split means that there will be any more people working on the combined projects, despite the statement about two development teams, so one branch will likely languish as the other gets attention.  My bet is that Just Survive will see its advance towards release… whatever that means to Daybreak these days, since they put our a press release indicating that H1Z1 had already been launched a year back.

But the act of splitting titles in order to beef up their catalog isn’t exactly a new thing at Daybreak.  We of course had the EverQuest Next and Landmark split, where Landmark was just going to be a dev tool for people to use to make things for EverQuest Next, but which got turned into an early access project as well as all we’ve ever really seen of the EQN code.

And H1Z1 itself started life as a branch from the PlanetSide 2 code base, a way to use work already done to make a new game… though I am not sure if the time that has gone by says more about the state of H1Z1 or PlanetSide 2.

I might even argue that DC Universe Online being ported to XBox One at this late date is something of a split, since it will be its own code base by necessity, will draw of resources from the other branches, and won’t be able to play cross-platform.

Finally, we are seeing this sort of thing in what I would consider the core Daybreak, the legacy Norrath team, which has gone from something of a tepid relationship with special rules servers to embracing them fully.  There is now a pretty clear divide between the free to play servers and the subscribers only, special rules servers, splitting up the audiences for both EverQuest and EverQuest II.

That sort of split was something SOE decided was a bad thing back during the EverQuest II Extended experiment.  But there you had two different client applications and the fear that the old servers would wither and die because all new players would be steered towards the free version, from which they could not transfer.  Now the spin is different, with the free servers being the old news and the shiny new special rules servers drawing off a significant percentage of the long-term fans of the game.

Aside from a hunch about the two H1Z1s needing more distinct names, I am curious to see how this will play out.

Of course, the hidden bit of news in the FAQ is this little gem:

At this time, we do not have any plans to make either H1Z1: Just Survive or H1Z1: King of the Kill Free-to-Play titles.

I knew that early access was simply too lucrative for them to let go of to depend on free.  “Free to Play. Your Way” seems to be dead at Daybreak.  H1Z1 is not a free to play game.  It will be buy to play, with a subscription, and an overbearing cash shop, complete with lock boxes.  Expect no less from anything else coming out of Daybreak.

At least they will be dropping the early access moniker this summer, or so the FAQ alleges:

H1Z1: King of the Kill will be coming out of Early Access and will launch on PC, the PlayStation® 4, and Xbox One in summer 2016

We shall see.

Others on this topic:

Daybreak to Port Five Year Old Title to New Platform

If you want to win that “cynical headline of the year” award, you have to start building to it early.

Men in Tights
Daybreak announced this week, in conjunction with the 5 year anniversary of DC Universe Online, that they would be porting the game to the Xbox One platform.

This makes sense for a couple of reasons.  First, being able to work on other platforms in general, and the Xbox in particular, was part of Smed’s happy dance at no longer being part of Sony.  It would be, at a minimum, odd if Daybreak did not take advantage of this particular upside that came with their alleged independence.

My reaction to this was, and still remains, a bit skeptical that not being able to develop for XBox was what was holding SOE back from fame and fortune.

But at least they made good on this threat/promise/goal.  Nice when they do what they say they are going to do!

The second reason is more game specific.  Smed had previously announced that DCUO was doing pretty well on the PlayStation platform, claiming that it was the largest revenue generator across the PS3 and PS4.

The PS4 was still sort of new at that point, so I am going to guess that being early to the show helped DCUO with the whole cross-platform aspect of that.  How many titles were there both on PS3 and PS4 at that point?  The pool of games that in that category was probably still pretty small.  But at least it seemed to be doing okay on consoles.

So, presuming that DCUO is still doing okay on PlayStation… and we likely wouldn’t be talking about it if it wasn’t… moving it to XBox One makes some sort of business sense.

The question then becomes, what else will Daybreak attempt to move to Microsoft’s console?

PlanetSide 2 seems to be a dubious choice, given the word last year that the title was “really struggling” both on Windows and PlayStation.  I can think of no reason that the game would do better on XBox, the platform not exactly being short of first person shooters, and reinforcing failure is not a path to success.

H1Z1 is a candidate, as it is supposed to be on the PlayStation 4 eventually.  However, given that it is about to pass its first birthday in Early Access and doesn’t seem close to going live, it may be a while before it is on any console.

EverQuest Next is also promised for the PlayStation 4, a fact that makes the game likely to seem a betrayal to the current EverQuest installed base based on UI considerations alone.  And, in any case, EQN isn’t even in the purgatory of Early Access yet, so that is likely much further out that H1Z1.

And after that candidates for consoles start to thin out pretty drastically.  I suppose they could attempt to port Landmark, but is that really suitable for the limited console UI?  Meanwhile, EverQuest and EverQuest II aren’t going anywhere unless there is a new version of Windows released.

What else could Daybreak have for XBox or other platforms.

Sixteen Predictions for 2016

It’s a brand new day
And the sun is high
All the birds are singing
That you’re gonna die

-Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog

We actually sing that song at our house, because we’re like that.

But it is a brand new day opening up on a brand new year.  Cue new 2016 graphic my daughter made.

Blog2016

I asked for a spaceship and got a pink kitty.  Such is the way of things.

And so we have… long standing tradition… every year… yadda yadda yadda… predictions.  Obligatory history links:

Again we stand on the edge of the abyss… erm… a new year and, having arrived yet again at this arbitrary point in time where we need a new calendar, I will gaze into the middle distance and try to predict things that might come to pass as we make our way around the sun once more.

In reading this, I ask readers to remember that these are predictions as to things that I think might happen, not a wish list of things I hope happen… except for that part about Project: Gorgon, because I want that to do well, and Diablo IV.  But not the rest… for those, I would be happy enough being wrong.

So with that in mind, I present my last minute load of crap deeply considered peek into the year 2016.  Here are 16 predictions for 2016:

1WoW Legion will ship on August 16th, which will give Blizzard both one of the fastest expansion release cycles in its history along with one of the longest content droughts, leaving few happy.

2WoW Legion will be heavily criticized for the small amount of content it delivers at launch.  It will turn out that Blizzard can’t figure out how to make any more content than usual, so the plan will be to dole it out in more, but smaller, chunks over the life of the expansion.

3 – The Warcraft movie will be a modest success, though after it settles down somebody will calculate that more people have probably played World of Warcraft than saw the movie in the theater.  The movie’s impact on the game will be negligible.

4Diablo IV will be announced at BlizzCon.  Really.  This time I am serious dammit!

5 – Daybreak will get a new head honcho who will be selected from another company and will have little or no experience with the fantasy MMORPG genre that has kept the team in San Diego funded for most of its existence.  Expect this person’s past experience to be the hammer and any Daybreak problem to be a nail.  They’ll be just like that VP we once hired from Oracle, for whom every solution required a database.  So if, for example, they have a history with first person shooters on the XBox, you’ll know what to expect.

6 – It will be more tough times and harsh realities for Daybreak.  The EverQuest/EverQuest II teams, which pull their own weight, will be safe so long as they can sell expansions, but everything else will be up for grabs.  As a result I expect two of the following to happen:

  • EverQuest Next pushed out prematurely for early access dollars.
  • EverQuest Next and Landmark merged back into a single product/project, but you have to buy it again it you bought Landmark.
  • Legends of Norrath shut down.
  • Legends of Norrath turned into a stand-alone iOS and Andoid game, where it fails and gets shut down.
  • PlanetSide 2 shut down, relaunched with a new name as a buy-to-play title for consoles only, old version not compatible with the new one.
  • DC Universe Online shut down on Windows, left running on PlayStation.
  • H1Z1 basic package launched as a buy-to-play title, but seriously gimped unless you are a Daybreak All Access subscriber or plan to spend big in the cash shop.
  • New, console-only project announced.

7 – Turbine needs a splash in 2016 with LOTRODDO rolls along as is, sharing the Dungeons & Dragons license with Neverwinter.  But the contract with Tolkien Enterprises for LOTRO wraps up in 2017.  While a renewal seems pretty likely, barring a complete disaster, it would go over much better if some additional cash were flowing in.  So, after a couple years off… and perhaps learning from the market… a big expansion will be announced that will bring us to Mordor.  Cirith Ungol or maybe just to the main gates, but the end of the journey will be in sight.  Expect a special Blessing of the Valar level boost to be bundled in with it that will get you stuck straight into the new content.  Yes, I know this isn’t in the current 2016 plan for Turbine, but this will change before the end of the year.

8 – In EVE Online, citadels will be big. (Ha ha!)  Everybody will want one, which will cause a boom in construction and a spike in mineral prices and a rise in concurrent users.  It will be the new shiny.  This will wane as the close of summer comes to an end and we all figure out the flaw in the citadel plan and the game grinds to a halt while we argue about how CCP should fix it.

9 – CCP will either close down the CSM or change it so drastically that it is essentially a different beast.  We’ll get CSM XI, but it will carry on the now familiar tradition of institutional animosity from certain sectors within CCP, something that won’t be helped by the fact that most CSM veterans will decline to run for election, leading to a fresh CSM with Xenuria and DurrHurrDurr (or a reasonable facsimile of the latter) as the permanent Icelandic duo.  That will force CCP to act.

10 – The return of The Fountain War Kickstarter will succeed when it kicks off in March, being better thought out.  Drama will be way, way down compared to the initial run.

11 Black Desert, the new anticipated hotness, combining an Asian MMO import with the word “sandbox” yet again, is going to be a replay of ArcheAge, with a big rush, overcrowding, disappointment and recriminations, before settling down for the core audience that will remain after everybody who pinned sky high hopes on it storms off in a fit of pique.

12 Project: Gorgon, after being in the shadows for so long, will have a banner year in 2016, with early access success on Steam leading to the game going live for real before the year runs out.

13 – NCsoft will announce that WildStar is closing down, it’s free to play conversion having been a brief flash in the pan.

14 – Despite all the back and forth and talk of lawyers and lawsuits and who is going to sue who for what and where, the Derek Smart vs. Star Citizen brouhaha will fade away without a metaphorical legal punch being thrown.

15 – Somebody will buy Funcom… for cheap… to rescue a couple of their titles, but Anarchy Online won’t be on the list of the saved.  LEGO Minifigures Online is the prize there.

16Crowfall, will still be in development, allowing only limited access for backers by the end of 2016.  It won’t really be a thing until 2017.

Special Bonus Prediction – A big Pokemon announcement to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the series on February 27, 2016.

Big 2016 Question – Will VR be interesting enough to spur people to spend money upgrading their systems in order to spend more money to buy an Occulus Rift rig?

So there are my predictions.  feel free to agree, disagree, correct, discuss, rage, or storm off in a huff.  We shall see how the year develops.  Next December, when I score this, each item will be worth 10 points, with partial credit available.  In the mean time, we wait.

Others with Predictions for 2016:

Looking Back at 2015 – Highs and Lows and Things in Between

Here we are, the end of another year heading towards us, as unstoppable as an oncoming freight train, reminding us yet again of our own mortality.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

And yet, before the express labeled “2016” strikes us head on, I am going to indulge in my usual end of the year “looking back” at what was wrought in 2015.  This is an ongoing tradition, and past posts may be found here:

2015 has been an interesting year, and while some of the news still falls into the usual Highs and Lows categories I traditionally use, there has been a couple things that have fallen in the middle for me, so I am going to inject a new heading where appropriate.  And, of course, these are Highs, Lows, and in between as I see them.  Not all highs are equally high, not all lows are equally low.  You may view them differently, the contents may have settled during shipment, and your mileage may vary.

Sony Online Entertainment/Daybreak Game Company

Highs:

  • Hey, they finally figured out nostalgia sells.  Special, subscriber-only servers for EverQuest and EverQuest II appear to be popular.
  • Expansions are back for EverQuest and EverQuest II.
  • EverQuest II server merges were probably past due.  They went off as well as could be expected.
  • Despite the occasional gaff (like that no raids for casuals thing and some odd poll interpretations) Holly “Windstalker” Longdale has done about all one could hope for with the EverQuest and EverQuest II franchise.
  • PlanetSide 2 finally hits a console platform, launching on PlayStation 4 at last.
  • They shed Dragon’s Prophet, which was probably more of a distraction for a company that really needs to focus.

Lows:

  • Layoffs.  Always expected after an acquisition, but never fun.
  • It is a good thing the EverQuest live franchises have Holly Longdale, because the remains of the community team seems to be of the “remove posts, lock threads, delete forums, ban people, and push everything possible onto Reddit” persuasion.  Sort of the anti-community team.
  • Nostalgia is popular for now, but how long will it last?  Rolling out the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers for EverQuest basically killed the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak servers.  Maybe they were done, but it does bring up how these sorts of things should be handled, especially since we just got another special server in the form of Phinigel.
  • What does nostalgia cost?  The Stormhold and Deathtoll servers on EverQuest II were purported to have drawn off a lot of already subscribed players from the live servers.  Raiders couldn’t raid on some servers because their guild mates were off on these new servers.
  • Segmented player base.  One of the reasons that SOE merged EverQuest II Extended into EverQuest II and went full free to play was the folly of having essentially a free server, where all the new players would show up, killing off the live servers, which looked like they would stagnate and die under that scheme.  A couple years down the road, these special servers look to be testing that idea again.
  • Also, the Drunder server?  How is that working out?
  • Who in the hell thought they shouldn’t do expansions in the first place?  Another SOE-level mistake where they ended up at the right answer, but only after publicly committing to the wrong one.
  • PlanetSide 2 has been live for three years now and it still feels like a work in progress.  Getting on PlayStation is fine, but is that going to make it better?
  • H1Z1 seems to have sold a lot of early access slots.  Money money money.  But what is the upside of launching the game if it makes money in beta?  I expect it to spend a long, long time in this “released but not released” state.
  • EverQuest Next?  Hellooo?  Are you still out there somewhere?
  • Landmark?  Is that still a thing?
  • Still not used to calling them Daybreak.  SOE is still a more recognizable acronym than DGC.

Middling:

  • With the buyout the team in San Diego is no longer at the whim of the stumbling Sony colossus.  However, it is now under the thumb of Columbus Nova Prime, an investment group that will treat Daybreak as exactly that, an investment.  Independence is an illusion if you need to pay up every quarter.  Yes, Daybreak can make games for XBox now, but is that what was really holding them back from success?
  • The departure of John Smedley came under unfortunate circumstances, but satisfied some who were calling for fresh blood in Daybreak management.  I hated to see him go out under a cloud, though it was pretty much written, in my experience with mergers, that he would have to go sooner or later.  I am sure he got his golden parachute and, in California, non-compete clauses are unenforceable, so he can do what he wants.  Still, he facilitated EverQuest and helped it become a thing,  I am sorry to lose that part of him.  But he was also the PvP child in a company where PvE paid the bills.  PlanetSide was always his baby, so his focus at Daybreak appeared, from the outside, to be just that and H1Z1 and getting games on XBox, things that held little interest for me.  So I am left wondering if his departure will be better for the things that interest me, because Columbus Nova Prime could just hire some ex-Zynga exec who will throw all development into exploitative trash.

Turbine

Highs:

  • They live yet under the thumb of Warner corporate leadership.
  • Lord of the Rings Online has been getting some much needed maintenance level attention, including server upgrades, merges, and attention to long standing gripes from the player base.
  • The LOTRO team has also clearly backed off the “raiders and PvP players don’t matter” stance that reared up at one point during 2014.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online seems upbeat from all I have read.
  • More resources are clearly being applied to the long running MMOs, DDO and LOTRO.
  • Server LOTRO merges were good.  The reality of the game population made this a necessity if Turbine wanted to keep an active player experience.
  • Hey, wow, we’re also getting server hardware upgrades.
  • Minis Tirith!

Lows:

  • Infinite Crisis was stillborn after sucking up so much dev time.  Money down the drain and development time that could have been spent elsewhere that can never be retrieved.
  • A bunch of internal issues aired by Aylwen back in March, confirming a lot of negative views of Turbine, including how screwed up the Infinite Crisis project was.
  • Turbines’s only new project: An exploitative second tier iOS knock-off to promote another studio’s game.
  • Another company decided that expansions aren’t worthwhile for their MMOs.
  • Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 plans appear to have come to naught and both feel like they are one major server issue away from being shut down.
  • Asheron’s Call looked to be at that fatal server issue earlier this year.  Somebody managed to fix it in their spare time, but the writing is clearly on the wall.
  • LOTRO is feeling its age these days.  The character models were never great, and more than eight years down the road they feel even more awkward.
  • 2017 and the end of the LOTRO licensing agreement for Turbine looms.
  • You have to ask if MMOs have a future with WB?

CCP

Highs:

  • A real attempt to change up how things work in null sec and shake up the status quo!
  • Running with Reavers has been a lot of fun over the last year and has very much helped keep me invested in New Eden.  There are actually people I fly with who know who I am.  Amazing, right?
  • Some cool new ships in EVE Online.
  • A return to expansions, with Citadel coming this spring.
  • I think CCP finally got it right with the ship SKINs thing.  I am seeing a lot of SKINs in fleet these days, especially when mixed in with the capital ships.
  • Let go of White Wolf, and even got a bit of cash for it, so is no longer holding back any World of Darkness MMO.
  • EVE Valkyrie looks good and appears to be a bright star in the VR market, getting bundled in with the Occulus Rift starter kit.  A big win for CCP there.
  • EVE Gunjack showed up out of nowhere and became CCPs first shipping VR app, to good reviews.
  • The community, or communities, or whatever, was still mostly happy, positive, and invested in the game.
  • EVE Vegas was fun!

Lows:

  • I’m not sure we ended up where CCP expected in null sec.  Mechanics that people predicted would be bad well in advance turned out to be as bad as predicted.  Some small changes have made things a bit better.  A lot of people decided the new system wasn’t worth the effort while the larger powers still do what they please.  The Imperium, the Russians, Provi Bloc, and -A- still abide, but there are cracks in even those once stable edifices.
  • Reavers is a lot of work for Asher and the other SIG leaders, so can only be deployed for short stretches.  But those deployments have spoiled me and now being with the main fleet seems like a chore at times.
  • I am just waiting for the exploit that gets command destroyers nerfed into oblivion.  Still, it is fun watching people used them to snatch ships off an undock and whisking them 100km away to their death.
  • To get back to big expansions we did have to get through… what was there, 15 or 18 of these mini expansions… few of which I can even remember two months after they’ve passed.  And I am still not sure if the small expansions are gone.  December’s was called the “December Update” at one point and then the “Operation Frostline” release elsewhere.  Anyway, they became a blur, which removed some of the special from them.
  • Need more SKINs.  Need better SKINs.  Need brighter SKINs!  Orange and Pink SKINs!  Need to fix T3 cruisers so they can have SKINs.  Need to fix the Manticore so it looks as good with a SKIN as a Purifier.  Need to figure out how to make SKINs look better on rusty surfaces for the sake of the Minmatar.
  • Well, I think the CSM is pretty much dead as an institution at this point.  I could never figure out what its role should have been, a problem I seemed to have shared with literally everybody, CCP included.  Another “nice” idea brought low by reality.
  • The Fountain War Kickstarter community war thing.  Whoa, Nelly.  CCP gave an official endorsement to this project, and presumably was set to get paid a cut.  And then it was badly launched, badly attacked, badly defended, and became an incredibly ugly internecine conflict as people got right down to “community is what I say it is, no more no less” level of attack.  Who needs Derek Smart when we have us?  No side came out of that still bubbling cringefest looking very good.
  • Also, that charity, shoot the titan event where the ISK for charity instead went to fund an EVE casino.  Okay, not really a CCP thing, but again we players not looking very good.
  • Speaking of good, did anything good come from CCP owning White Wolf for all those years?  Anything?
  • As cool as EVE Valkyrie looks, VR is still an expensive addon for expensive, top tier gaming PCs.  Being good is one thing, being the killer app, the thing that will get people to throw money at an expensive upgrade just to play it, that is a whole different level of good.  Not sure EVE Valkyrie is THAT good.
  • I didn’t meet as many in-game people as I should have/could have at EVE Vegas.  Being quiet doesn’t help, but that is just who I am in person.  Also, few of us look like our in-game avatar it seems.  Who knew?
  • DUST 514?  Helloooo?  Didn’t even get a keynote at EVE Vegas.

Blizzard

Highs:

  • Still makes money like no other.
  • World of Warcraft sails into 2015 with the Warlords of Draenor expansion and more than 10 million subscribers.
  • The WoW Token thing now gives people a way to buy in-game gold for real money or buy game time with in-game gold.
  • Flying in Draenor
  • WoW Legion expansion announced.
  • Overwatch got a launch date, Heroes of the Storm finally went live, Hearthstone got more cards, and the final chapter of StarCraft II shipped.
  • Diablo III seemed to still be selling pretty well and even got a couple major patch updates.  The 2015 game is really good compared to what was there at launch.
  • Word that Diablo II and StarCraft will be reworked for modern machines.

Lows:

  • The lion’s share of the loot still comes in from Azeroth
  • Warlords of Draenor Garrisons: All the negatives of housing about which Blizzard warned us for years, without any of the satisfaction that actual, decent player housing can bring.
  • Subscribers down 45% with more than a year to go until the next expansion.  How’s that flying working out?
  • WoW Legion expansion announcement was clearly earlier than they had planned, done in order to counter news earlier that week of WoW subs dropping to 5.6 million by the end of Q2.
  • WoW Legion appears to be on the same old development track as all past WoW expansions, so the Draenor dry spell will be as long as any past content drought.
  • Punting on even talking about subscription numbers anymore.
  • Diablo III, the game they keep telling us has sold more than 30 million boxes… no word, no plans, no expansion, no nothing.  Completely ignored at BlizzCon.
  • Also, Diablo III being always online, even for single player, is still dumb.
  • A high likelihood that Blizzard will charge too much for those reworked classics. Still, I’ll probably buy Diablo II yet again.  I think I own three copies already.
  • The realization, with the acquisition Candy Crush Saga barons King.com, that Blizz and King operate in very similar fashions; they steal somebody else’s idea, polish it up, and sell it as their own.  At least Blizz hasn’t tried to trademark “World of” or anything really egregious.

Middling:

  • I’ve started to suspect that Blizzard has a secondary motive for no longer quoting subscription numbers for WoW.  Seeing as it still brings in a mint, they can do more of their BS bundling and say things like, “WoW and Hearthstone made a billion dollars!” or some such.  That might mean WoW is less doomed, but it would also mean more meaningless metrics in the Blizzard part of the financials.

Other MMOs and Devs

Highs:

  • GuildWars 2 got the long anticipated expansion.  Expect to see a spike in revenue for the game in the 2015 results.
  • WildStar went F2P, which was good for fans of the game, because it really looked like it might just get shut down given its revenue collapse.
  • The Edler Scrolls Online went F2P as well, but at least had some console sales to bolster it as well.
  • Project: Gorgon sees Kickstarter success at last!
  • Star Citizen gets a little heat, which I think was good.  If your project can’t take some scrutiny or address its skeptics, then there is a problem.  The first two Derek Smart posts could have been played into a way to highlight progress being made.
  • Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar both making lots of progress.
  • World of Warships actually turned out to be pretty neat and more accessible than World of Tanks in my opinion.

Lows:

  • The team at ANet seemed bent on annoying their core base, giving away the GW2 base game with the expansion, then making it free altogether, taking a different focus on content, and even going after the raiding demographic.  Of all the GW2 bloggers I read, only Ravious wasn’t grumbling about something or another during 2015.
  • WildStar is still dead.  Preview of my 2016 predictions: WS won’t last the year.
  • TESO isn’t doing all that well, laying off support staff and such.  F2P cannot make your game better, only less expensive to try.
  • Star Citizen takes a public beating from Derek Smart, exacerbated by Chris Roberts and company reacting badly.  Throwing Smart out of the club then trying to hurl mud back was sinking to his level, something guaranteed to keep him in the fight while making the exec staff look petty.  So we’re into something like eight Derek Smart posts, that article at The Escapist, wild talk about lawsuits, and more coverage of the whole thing than there should have been had things been handled better.
  • Camelot Unchained and Shroud of the Avatar… and Star Citizen for that matter… are nowhere near making their Kickstarter launch estimates, to the point that I think Kickstarter should put a big red warning sign, “These estimates are clearly bullshit,” on any MMORPG campaign project.
  • World of Warships still didn’t do much for me in the end.  Played it for a week and moved on.  Still longer than I spent on World of Warplanes!
  • Need for Speed: World was given the EA treatment and shut down.

Non-MMO Gaming Things

Highs

  • Finally discovered Minecraft, which became the binge game for the second half of 2015 for me.
  • Nintendo gets another Wii U selling hit in Splatoon.
  • A revamped 3DS XL shows that everybody’s favorite Pokemon platform is still going strong.
  • A Nintendo commitment to put games on other platforms, specifically iOS and Android.
  • Sony still supporting my PlayStation 3.
  • Steam is still a good platform, and Steam sales keep me looking for things to add to my wishlist.
  • My iPad 2 is still rolling along, I still use it daily.  The iOS 9 update didn’t kill it completely.
  • I got my copy of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls… only two years late.  Kickstarter.
  • Still really looking forward my copy of A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online.  I have heard nothing but great stuff about it.

Lows

  • I think my Minecraft enthusiasm is drive in large part by my MMO malaise.  I’m happy enough to let the ten rats live most days.
  • The Wii U is nearing the end of its lifecycle, isn’t it?  I know some analysts said that the Wii U/PS4/XBone generation would be the end of consoles, but when are they ever good at predicting anything besides the past?
  • 2016 is the last year for PlayStation 3 support.
  • No new mainline Pokemon RPG for the 3DS platform.  All we’re getting is a new Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (Pokemon as a Rouge-like) and the ability to play the original three Pokemon titles in time for the 20 year anniversary of the franchise.
  • Of course, I haven’t finished Alpha Sapphire yet, so I am not sure I need a new Pokemon game, right?
  • Also, a Pokemon download event at McDonald’s?  My Wii Fit wept.
  • The combo of Steam sales and so many unplayed, or underplayed, games in my library has effectively become a deterrent to my buying any new games.
  • The iOS 9 update initially did kill my iPad 2, or nearly so.  Fortunately I delayed that update long enough that 9.1 came out two weeks later, fixing the worst problems.  I think the end is nigh for support of my old slablet.
  • I’ve only heard great stuff about A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online because I haven’t got my copy yet because the project is late.  Maybe that red warning sign I mentioned previously should apply to all Kickstarter backed creative ventures.  The latest update say I should get the book in February at least, with direct sales coming to Amazon on March 8, 2016.

Blogging and the Internet

Highs

  • Hey, I made it through another year and am still blogging away, with 353 posts in so far for 2015.
  • I still quite enjoy having a record of my thoughts and activities over the last nine years.  Doing the month in review post and looking back a year and five years is a high point of every month.
  • Speaking of old, I think the average age of the MMOs I write about went up again this year.  I think the newest thing I write about is Minecraft, and that is four years old at this point.  Play in with the blog title I suppose, which I guess is good.
  • We still have something of a happy, healthy MMO blogging community in this little corner of the internet.  Just look at Blaugust.  We had such fun then, right?  And there was another NBI!
  • Massively Overpowered and Blizzard Watch and MMORPG.com and MMOGames even occasionally pay attention to blogs.
  • Somehow I managed to accrue 500 followers on Twitter.  I am halfway to being able to enter the community relations area at CCP.  I even got two retweets from CCP_Seagull this week.

Lows

  • My posting is down.  At the same point last year I was at 375 posts.
  • Traffic is still trending down.  After a peak in 2012, things have been down some every year.  The big drop in 2013 was largely attributable to changes made by Google, but since then things have just tapered off.  The audience is smaller, the games I write about are no longer what people are searching for, I write less, and all of that.  It looks like 2015 will ring in at about 65% of the traffic 2012 had.  Traffic doesn’t make me write, but it does make me think.
  • As I play less new games, I end up writing about fewer games over time.  Even this yearly post used to look at a couple more studios, like Trion.  Haven’t played anything from them in ages, so haven’t paid much attention to them, so I don’t have much to say.
  • My being stuck in something of an old school a rut is reflected by how many links I get from other blogs.  Bad enough being a generalist MMO blog, so game specific blogs often look past me, even if I am writing about their game, but now I don’t even play the cool new games like Ark, World of Warships, or Final Fantasy XIV.  My lacks of relevances, lets me shows you them.
  • NBI numbers were pretty low this time around, and blog mortality remains pretty high.
  • AOL dumping Massively and WoW Insider was a blow.  At least the archives haven’t been deleted yet; they’re hanging out under the Engadget banner for now.
  • Man I hate that new “Moments” tab in Twitter, since they put it where the “Notifications” tab used to be, so I click it on accident a lot.
  • I keep going to /r/eve and expecting to be better.

Media

Highs

  • A new Star Wars movie that is at least unequivocally better than the prequels.  Lots of debate as to where it ranks (which is a good sign) but I haven’t seen anybody say “I > VII” yet.
  • Mad Max was the most visceral on-screen event I have seen in ages.
  • SyFy is exploding with new SciFi shows.

Lows

  • Farewell Leonard Nimoy.

So that is what I have, sitting here in December, and looking back at 2015.  Not as bad as some of my lows might make it seem.  It wasn’t the best year evah, but good times were there to be had.  Memories were made, posts were posted.

Still, I am sure I have left some things out.  What did I forget from this past year?

And so we look forward towards 2016… erm… okay, I did that last week.  I guess I got these posted in the wrong order.  Anyway, I think we’re done here.  Bring on the new year!

Some others looking at aspects of 2015:

Reviewing My 2015 Predictions

Here we are, approaching the back half of the last month of 2015, making it about time for a few “I do this every year” posts.

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

A graphic with the number 2015 on it!

First on the list is predictions.  Back on January first I published a post with a series of guesses at events of the coming year.  The first set were about specific things I expected to come to pass.  Each was worth 10 points, with partial credit possible.  How badly did I fare there?

Predictions

  • At BlizzCon we won’t hear about the next World of Warcraft expansion.  Blizz is going to avoid the year long run up to a new expansion and focus on what we’ll get in Draenor in 2016.  That’s the plan going forward; a shorter run up to the next expansion, more focus on the current one, same two year gap between launches.

Well, I was way off on that.  Due to the way that Warlords of Draenor was failing to hold the user base Blizzard couldn’t even hold out until BlizzCon for the announcement, so the year long run-up to launch remains, unless they launch a lot earlier than they have said.  Zero points.

  • Blizzard will also punt on its PLEX-like item idea as foes of the idea in the forums will keep screaming “Diablo III real money auction house fiasco!” until the idea is put back on the shelf.

Wrong again.  Blizz decided they were good with the idea, so WoW Tokens are a thing.  Zero points.

  • BlizzCon will also see the announcement of a new expansion for Diablo III, breaking the “one expansion” trend for Diablo games.

This should have been.  Instead the Diablo franchise was barely mentioned at BlizzCon.  Zero points.

  • Heroes of the Storm will go live, at last, after BlizzCon.

Well, HotS did go live… just about five months before I predicted.  Zero points.

  • Overwatch, though, will stay in closed, invite-only beta in 2015.  We’ll hear good things, but we won’t get anything until next year.

Okay, I seem to be on track with this one at least.  Invite-only beta and not going live until Spring.  10 points.

  • EverQuest Next will not ship in 2015.  At least not by any definition I would consider a real release.  Rather, it will enter the “pay to play our unfinished free to play game” state that has haunted Landmark for the last year.  And it won’t even get to that state until after SOE Live.

I wish.  No word on EverQuest Next… and no SOE live either this year.  Zero points.

  • Push is going to come to shove at SOE, with EQN and Landmark drawing on more in-house resources but not necessarily providing more revenue.  One of the two Norrath games,EverQuest or EverQuest II, is going to get shorted on the expansion front this year.  There will be a virtual box to buy, but it will really be just a features and fixes expansion with no new levels, races, classes, or overland zones.  A few dungeons/raids and the usual set of AA options will be all somebody gets.

You know, this one looked like it was going to be spot on… my prediction wasn’t even dire enough, as SOE-cum-Daybreak was ready to abandon the expansion idea for Both EverQuest and EverQuest II at one point.  And then sanity… and a desire to make money… returned and both game got an expansion.  Zero points.

  • Also on the SOE front, Dragon’s Prophet will get the axe in 2015 and some new Asian import will get its chance.

Well, Dragon’s Prophet got the chop, but no new Asian import has replaced it, so half right.  5 points.

  • GuildWars 2 is going to ship an expansion in a box, virtual or otherwise, that will be the classic “give us money and get new content” exchange that we are all quite used to.  It will be a big win, hugely popular with the fan base, have many jumping puzzles, and ArenaNet will grumble all the way to the bank about how NCsoft made them do it.

I don’t know if there were as many jumping puzzles, but I wrote that just to tease Syp.  Otherwise, I think this is mostly on track, enough for 8 out of 10 points.

  • WildStar will go free to play.  NCsoft has a deal for the China market, so they can’t shut the thing down just yet.  But to get to China I am going to bet they have to go F2P.  And if you’re going to do the work for China, you might as well apply it in the west as well.

This one seems like “well duh” at this end of the year, but back at the end of 2014 things looked pretty dire for WildStar.  NCsoft just shutting it down seemed like a reasonable guess.  10 points.

  • CCP is going to break sovereignty in null sec in 2015 and cause a great upheaval in EVE Online.  Most sov will effectively be dropped and chaos will ensue.  Much mocking will come from other quarters of the game, until the wise realize that all those null sec players need to go somewhere, and it is either leave the game or bunk with them.  Soon the cry to fix null will be universal, just to save the game and everybody’s sanity. CCP will take one of their full five week dev cycles to fix it, but there won’t be any roll back.  Instead they will have new sov mechanics in place and will declare a null sec gold rush/thunderdome.  Hilarity will ensue and it will become one of the great legends of the game we tell to new players.  Meanwhile, the sov map will look pretty much the same at the end of the year.

Okay, nothing that bad happened.  And yet there is a thread of reality in the midst of all of that.  Certainly some old null sec alliances bailed on the whole idea of holding space when Fozzie Sov rolled out and made it far to easy to troll.  And some of them did end up in low sec space, the face of which changed as well.  But the map does look different here at the end of the year.  I’ll give myself one point out of ten for that thread of reality.

  • CCP will sell, transfer, or otherwise hand off responsibility for DUST 514 to Sony, including the employees left working on it.  It will remain connected to EVE Online, so orbital bombardment will remain a possibility, but Sony will be running.  It will end up in the laps of SOE in San Diego which will prompt another round of “SOE is buying CCP!” hysteria.  (But that won’t happen until 2016.)

Nope.  Instead White Wolf got sold off.  DUST 514 still lingers on at CCP.  Zero points.

  • The Elder Scrolls Online will muddle along in 2015, fixing bugs and waiting for the console version to ship.  The console version won’t ship until after summer however, and things will seem somewhat grim as the push to get it out becomes an “all hands on deck” development task, leaving the Windows version to drift for a couple months.

The console versions shipped on time.  I really don’t have a feel for how grim things may or may not be, or if they are muddling along, going downhill, or have seen a resurgence.  Zero points.

  • Funcom will also be in a bit of a muddle as LEGO Minifigures Online continues to under perform.  This will cause a replay of the LEGO Universe fiasco, with LEGO HQ wresting control of the software from Funcom, as they did with NetDevil, leading to about the same result as LEGO runs the thing into the ground and shuts it down.

The Lego Group hasn’t yanked the license from Funcom yet, but LEGO Minifigures Online has continued to under perform.  3 points.

  • Hacking and cyber attacks will be on the rise, and a major MMO studio will be kicked completely offline for a full week at some point during 2015.

I think we got past 2015 without this happening to a major studio.  Zero points.

  • EA’s claim that Star Wars: The Old Republic’s earnings are disappointing is a sign of something.  I expect less voiced content, if any, and more features like Galactic Starfighter, things that can boost cash shop sales.  Double credit if they use my droid battles idea from last year.

EA has taken the opposite tack with SWTOR and is pushing story and trying to force people to subscribe again.  I suppose that says something about the fickle nature of cash shops.  Zero points.

  • At Turbine, things will go as they have been for the last few years, with a slow retreat into its core money making items.  Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 will go the way ofEverQuest Mac the first time they need an update for a vulnerability.  A WB exec will order the plug pulled before the end of 2015.  They will be gone along with the pipe-dream promise of running your own server.

I thought this one was in the bag at one point, with AC down for a few weeks.  But somebody fixed it in their spare time it seems.  Their days still feel numbered, but for now, zero points.

  • Likewise, it will be a slow year for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online unless Infinite Crisis is a break-out success in the MOBA world.  It looks like it will be lining itself up against Heroes of the Storm, so that looks like a vain hope indeed.

Well, Infinite Crisis went down almost before it was actually live.  Content wise, it has been a slow year for Turbine.  On the LOTRO front we got a bit more of Middle-earth, but work seemed more focused on server merges and a new data center.  Still, that was more than I expected.  2 points.

  • Brad McQuaid, failing to find a reliable source of suckers funding, will throw in the towel on Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, leading wags to ask if this was supposed to be the rising part of the prophecy or if it was still part of the fall.

Brad soldiers on, continuing in his quest to relive 1999 yet again.  I just hope he has set his sites on a small target… a world that will feel alive with a few thousand people and a business model that will work for a similarly small number, because it just isn’t 1999 any more. Zero points.

  • Project: Gorgon will finally catch a break and gain traction via early access at Steam.  Some money will come in and allow development to move more quickly.

Well, I am going to declare a win on technicalities on this one.  Project: Gorgon did get green lit on Steam AND some money did come in… it just came in when the third Kickstarter attempt finally paid off.  For that I am claiming 8 points.

47 points out of 200 points possible.  Not a very good set of predictions.

No Shows

The other set from the predictions post was about which titles you might fully expect to ship in 2015, given past statements or promises given, which wouldn’t make it.  Those were five points each, pass/fail.

  1. Line of Defense
  2. Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue
  3. Camelot Unchained
  4. World of Warships
  5. H1Z1
  6. Star Citizen
  7. EVE Valkyrie

Of that list, I think only World of Warships managed to go live in a form we would all agree upon.   Everything else on that list is still in some sort of alpha or early access or some form of not being actually done yet.  And of those that did not go live, EVE Valkyrie seems most likely to ship next, since it will be bundled with Occulus Rift when it ships.

The rest… I would be hard pressed to guess as to which one would actually cross the barrier and become a live, shipping, salable product.

Anyway, that gives me 30 out of 35 points there, for a total of 77 out of 235 overall.  Not a banner year for my guesses.  But that likely won’t stop me from making more when the new year comes again.

How did you do on your predictions?

The Perils of PlanetSide and Payment Models

The game is really struggling, and it isn’t just on PS4 to be honest, and we are actively looking at things that can try and help change that in the short term. I hope everyone will be open minded that in order for the game to have a bright future and be supported it needs to not only retain people but find ways to generate revenue to support the team’s efforts.

-Jens Andersen, Daybreak Executive Creative Director, Reddit AMA

The big news item that came out of the Reddit AMA with Jens Andersen was that PlanetSide 2 is “really struggling.”  That is MMO press headline material and fodder for blog posts. and not great news for a game that is just turning three and purportedly had plans for other platforms.

Mental image of my expectations...

Mental image of my PS2 expectations way back when…

That wasn’t really shocking news.  PlanetSide 2 has always had its share of problems, not least the one it shared with its predecessor, the proliferation or aim bots and other hacks in the game, some exacerbated by the F2P business model.  Banned for hacks?  Download an update to the aim bot and make a new account!

Add in the fact that it is a mediocre shooter at best… is anybody throwing over Call of Duty to go play PlanetSide 2… that smacks of pay to win, that also doesn’t really scratch the persistent world MMORPG itch for people either, and so sort of sits between genres, neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat.  All the dubious records in the world won’t fix that.

Clearly I am not a big fan, but my FPS days tapered off back with the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942 more than a decade back, so you’ll have to allow for my bias.

Still, not really news at this point.  H1Z1 seems to be the money maker in the FPS MMORPG, selling early access boxes with a cash shop already selling power and lock boxes, and, more importantly, giving people a decent, co-op survival experience.

The interesting bit for me was another quote, which Bhagpuss pulled out and used in his post, which had to do with getting people to subscribe:

You know what is funny? No matter how many things we heap into membership on all of our games, it makes no difference in the appeal of membership to non members. This is something we saw on DCUO for sure. The amount of benefits to DCUO membership is staggering, but people don’t take advantage of it. It’s just not a really good strategy for us to keep trying to lead horses to water that do not want to drink. And the fact is, current members already get huge benefits from the monthly fee they already pay.

Basically, there are some people who will simply never opt-in for your subscription model, no matter how cheap you make it nor how many benefits you heap on.  And, likewise, there are some people who will subscribe so long as some minimum threshold of benefits are given… just “let me just play and not worry about having to buy or unlock anything” in my case… after which diminishing returns kick in pretty quickly.

I recently… on Tuesday if I recall right… cancelled my Daybreak All Access subscription.  As part of that they sent me an exit survey which I filled out.  One of the questions asked me to stack rank the importance of five subscriber benefits.

My top choice was the rather open ended “Game Specific Benefits,” which to me is the whole “just let me play” aspect I mentioned above.  That is why I subscribe.

I did choose “Monthly 500 Daybreak Cash Reward” as the second in the stack, because I am at least aware of that.  I still barely buy anything from the cash shop… I think I bought a character rename potion this last time around… so the Daybreak Cash tends to accumulate.  But I know it is there and my approximate balance (12K).

The remaining three I ranked as follows:

  • 10% off Marketplace Items
  • Special Member Only Promotions
  • Membership Forum Badge

I vaguely recall that you get a discount as a subscriber, but since I so rarely ever buy anything from the cash shop, that doesn’t really play into anything.  Member only promotions… I cannot recall one off hand.   Maybe some special discount on The Rum Cellar at some point?  And the forum badge… well, I don’t post to the forums, and when I go read them, the special snowflake badges kind of annoy me.

And I suspect that my stack ranking of things is not totally out of line when it comes to how most subscribers feel.  Maybe I lack the insight, but I cannot imagine anything ranking ahead of the “Game Specific Benefits,” at least when it comes to the core games like EverQuest and EverQuest II.

Which doesn’t mean Daybreak could take anything away easily.  They tried to take away those 500 store credits at one point and people blew up because that was actually a tangible item and because they now felt entitled to it, having gotten it for several years up to that point.  So the compromise was that you have to log in and claim those credits every month.  People grumbled about that as well, though at least that had some precedent.  Turbine only gives you your VIP stipend if your account has been active recently.

So where does that leave Daybreak?

Here is where I chuckle a bit at people who were so happy that they were going to be an “indie” studio now, able to do whatever they wanted.  In fact, they are owned by an investment firm that wants their cut every month, so they have to keep Columbus Nova Prime happy in ways that they probably never had to under the semi-benign neglect of Sony’s bureaucracy.

So the emphasis, starting in the latter half of 2015 and likely to continue in that direction for some time to come, will be to make more money.  And it looks like everything can’t be about the cash shop.

As we saw with EverQuest and EverQuest II, expansions are back.  This is most likely because you can get away with charging $140 for a “Premuim” edition loaded up with virtual items, the production of which is probably covered after the first five copies are sold.

Prices

Premium prices for virtual goods

That will likely continue, though I suspect that they will still try to slip in a spring DLC pack as well, bringing us back to the old “one good expansion, one half-assed rush job” that some will remember from the good old days of EverQuest.  This time the rush job will be appropriately priced though.

I imagine that nobody thinks selling early access is going to go away.  Landmark did okay on that front, and by all accounts H1Z1 has been a rousing success selling those on Steam.  Expect more of the same when it comes to any new titles.

The change I do expect is an end to “Free to Play, Your Way” for future games and a return to selling boxes.  Virtual boxes, to be sure, but boxes all the same.  If a million people will pay $20 for a half-finished version of H1Z1, why would you start giving it away for free?  You don’t have to make it $60 at launch.  $20 is fine.  You can work with that price and what a value it is, and that gives account bans some bite… but not so much bite that some people won’t just buy another copy.

Expect the same for EverQuest Next, whenever that should be, and whatever the secret new title is.

Meanwhile, on the classic Norrath front, it feels like reality has set in and the team has finally admitted that the cost of attracting new customers far outweighs the economic benefit they bring.  They won’t say “no” to new players, but  we have seen a renewed focus on the installed base with new nostalgia servers and bringing back old favorites like the Isle of Refuge as both a prestige home and the starting zone on the Stormhold and Deathtoll servers.  I expect that to continue to be the theme going forward.

Despite an unfounded rumor earlier this month, I do not expect Daybreak will attempt to revive any old games.  No Vanguard revival, no reskinned SWG, and no adults only FreeRealms.   What is dead cannot die… it just remains dead.  I also expect that once Dragon’s Prophet is finally shut down, that there will be no more half-assed Asian imports.  You can find an audience for any game, but finding a big enough audience to make these ventures profitable has clearly eluded SOE/Daybreak.

Finally, with Smed gone, I suspect that the original PlanetSide will be shut down and, barring any new revenue stream discovery, support for PlanetSide 2 will dwindle over time.  It is tough to go back and sell access when you’ve been giving it away for free.  And it certainly does not seem like a candidate for conversion to XBox if it isn’t a money spinner on the current platforms.

With no Daybreak equivalent of SOE Live in the offing, I don’t know when we’ll see announcement about the various project going on at Daybreak.  The nice thing about a regular convention is that it does put some pressure on the company to come up with some actual news and details about things.  But that is where my gut says things may be headed.  Subscriptions are good, cash shop sales are okay, but boxes are back.  Get some money up front.

EverQuest Next Five Years Down the Road

EverQuest Next — which is a totally different beast — has no current timetable. It could release in 2015 or 2025 for all we know right now.

Massively, Leaderboard: EQN vs. EQN Landmark, Jan. 2014

I was doing the month in review post for August when I ran across the fact that EverQuest Next was officially announced at SOE Fan Fest… as it was called before being changed to “SOE Live” a couple years back and then to “Daybreak Doesn’t Do That” earlier this year… five years ago.

Freeport Next? I guess not!

Not destined to be Freeport Next

Meanwhile, that quote at the top of the post is about as true today as it was when it was published nearly two years back.

Five years back the whole EverQuest Next plan… back when EverQuest Next was a fine placeholder name, but laughable as an actual end result… was based around what seemed to be the lessons learned by SOE at the time.  I summed them up in a post at the time as:

  • Single world without the need to load zones
  • Instanced dungeons
  • Low system requirements
  • Stylized character models
  • Fewer classes, relative to EQII
  • PvP from day one and “done right”

I the contrasted that list, which aside from the final point sounds a lot like WoW, with what seemed to have been the lessons learned after EverQuest that went into the way EverQuest II appeared to us on day one:

  • Zoning is Okay
  • Who Needs A World?
  • Reduced Death Penalty
  • Group Play
  • Quests Needed
  • Twinking Is Bad
  • Player Housing Is Important
  • Crafting Should Be Really Complicated

Missing from that second list is “open world dungeons,” but only because that wasn’t a change from EverQuest, though by the time EverQuest II launched with such dungeons the original game had already learned its lesson on that front and had gone to instanced group content because players will become horrible people if left to compete over limited shared objectives, and no amount of wishing for the “good old days” will change that.

Anyway, most of that is neither here nor there at this point.  EverQuest II changed its path over time and the people SOE realized that their EverQuest Next plan sounded like yet another WoW clone and tossed it out the window.

Then we started hearing words like “sandbox” from Smed as SOE Live approached back in 2013.  I started projecting what I wanted to hear, but even if I did not get most of it what we did hear was pretty exciting.  EverQuest Next was going to be a brave new vision.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

There was a lot of excitement after that announcement, with some of the take away talking points being:

  • No Levels
  • Limited Skills Available
  • Skills Specific to Weapons
  • 40 Classes and Multi-classing
  • Six Races
  • Destructible Terrain
  • Parkour-like Movement
  • Combat Roles beyond the WoW Trinity
  • Emergent NPC AI
  • Sandbox nature
  • World Changing Quests

There was all this plus some sort of dev tool they were going to let us play with called Landmark, with a hint that maybe we could make stuff that would actually go into the game.

Heady days back in early August of 2013.  The game had already won an award by that point. But I was wondering even a week later if SOE could keep all the enthusiasm and good will they built up going.

And then things got quieter.  SOE gave us EverQuest Next Landmark, and by “gave” I mean “sold” as in the dubious early access scheme we have seen so much of… erm, sorry, it was “closed Beta” for no definition of “Beta” I would ever be able to use with a straight face.  But at least work there meant work was being done on EQN as well.

Eventually EverQuest Next Landmark simply became Landmark and things remained pretty quiet on the front as Smed bounced on to H1Z1 as the game he talked about most, though the company couldn’t seem to agree if it was an MMO or not.

Last August there was some more talk about EverQuest Next at SOE Live.  We saw some rough demos in a very dim dark elf zone along with some more concept art.

Dark Elf Female

Dark Elf Female

There were some shiny, exciting bits certainly, but the big question of “when” wasn’t even glanced at sideways by the team.

And since then I haven’t heard much about EverQuest Next.  There was a brief mention by Jason Epstein of Columbus Nova Prime about EverQuest Next being released in the “near future” as part of the puffery around the acquisition of SOE from Sony.  But given that he also said that H1Z1 had already launched in the same sentence, I am going to guess he wasn’t really concerned about accuracy compared to what sounded good at the moment.

Since then most of my attention has been on EverQuest and EverQuest II when it comes to fun times in Norrath.  Holly “Windstalker” Longdale has done a better job at getting and keeping attention to the games in her part of Daybreak than her predecessors (or the remains of Daybreak community team), though she does have that convenient nostalgia card to keep playing.  Special servers for EverQuest again along with a pair (well, three if you count THAT one) for EverQuest II that even included the surprise return of the Isle of Refuge have provided more fodder for news items and blog posts than EverQuest Next has managed.

EverQuest Next is still out there.  There is still a vision on the official site and some Workshop videos coming out now and again and a report of some internal play testing starting at SOE, though oddly that came as part of an announcement on the Landmark side of town.  But in that part of Daybreak they are trying to push everything to Reddit.  And in any case, internal play testing comes a long, long time before even Daybreak would considering throwing the game up on Steam and declaring Early Access.

Without the Daybreak equivalent of SOE Live in the offing, there isn’t much making news with the game five years since it was announced.  And with the reality of the transition to being Daybreak, I wonder what sort of game we will end up with.