Tag Archives: SOE Fan Faire

SOE Live 2014 – What Are You Wishing For?

Currently I am not very invested in any SOE games.  I pay some attention to changes in EverQuest, with occasional glaces towards EverQuest II, based mostly on nostalgia for the “good old days,” but otherwise there isn’t much in their current lineup that thrills me.  Landmark has some potential once it gets closer to being feature complete.  EverQuest Next has raised some enthusiasm, but exists only as a blur on the horizon at this point.  And the other remaining titles aren’t really my thing.

But here it is, the week of SOE Live, the time for announcements big and small.  Yes, whatever Smed says during the Thursday night keynote will likely be overwhelmed in the news cycle by Blizzard’s big Warlords of Draenor announcement planned for earlier in the day… I think the timing was more to head off the subscription numbers news than to stick it to SOE, but they seem to have gotten a threefer on that one if you include the SWTOR hit as well… plus there is Gamescom this week as well… but some of us will still be paying attention to SOE.


And because it is that time, I am asking myself what I would like to see and what I expect come out of the event.  SOE Live can bring with it some very big news.  Last year had a lot of people talking about EverQuest Next.  What will we get year?

What I Expect

  • Some firming up of the Landmark timeline, with some more details about specific features, but no real “go live” information
  • Expansion announcements around EverQuest and EverQuest II, though as the F2P years roll along I am not sure expansions have all that much impact any more unless they raise the level cap or add new AA features
  • An open/paid beta plan for H1Z1 with an estimated date for access that will be off by at least a month
  • Something about fixing whatever woes are currently afflicting PlanetSide 2
  • Some more screenshots and in-game video from EverQuest Next, but nothing playable and no concrete details

Things I Would Like to See

  • A date for Landmark to be feature complete and generally available for those who didn’t pony up for a pay-to-test package. (Even if it is off by 3-6 months.)
  • Something solid, tangible, and new about EverQuest Next
  • Or just something that ignites some hope that EverQuest Next will be a game I want to play

Things I Fear Might Be Communicated

  • Closing down PlanetSide… well, that might not be a fear for me, but I do wonder how it is still running
  • Little or nothing about EverQuest Next
  • A draw down of content for EverQuest, no more expansions, limited content updates on a vaguely expressed timeline
  • That some new game is dedicated to the dispossessed players of another SOE title that has been shut down (e.g. The planned science fiction biome in Landmark is really dedicated to former players of Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures)
  • Some new technological dead end like SOEmote or SOE Launcher to eat up dev cycles for no real benefit or follow through (cue Sony Olfactory Enhancements or some such)

Dreams Likely to be Unfulfilled

  • Something about the next EverQuest nostalgia focused server, progression, classic, or otherwise
  • An announcement that an EverQuest II nostalgia focused server… original content, steeper leveling curve, more difficult mobs, or whatever… is in the offing
  • Something that might otherwise revive my interest in either EverQuest or EverQuest II… but I don’t know what… what is the “fix these games for Wilhelm” plan?
  • An open/paid beta plan for EverQuest Next with an estimated date for access… this I might pay for… maybe
  • Something about hats… no… wait…

From Left Field on Bizarro World Unlikely

  • The Agency being revived on the PlanetSide 2 platform ala H1Z1
  • The return of any dead SOE game
  • A new game announcement
  • The EverQuest Next plan being completely revised from last year’s announcement
  • EverQuest Next being cancelled
  • A ship date for EverQuest Next

So those are my various lists.  What do you want to see, expect to see, or fear might come from this year’s SOE Live?


Projecting on to EverQuest Next

Enough about internet spaceships for the moment and on to a topic that will loom large this week.

We are going to hear a lot about EverQuest Next very shortly.  The clock is running down and SOE Live (formerly SOE Fan Faire) will begin this Thursday.

Freeport Next? I guess not!

I am hoping for new pictures this week

The big news will be whatever John Smedley chooses to reveal about EverQuest Next.  Everything else will pale by comparison.  And the reason it will be big is that just over a year ago it was reported that SOE was throwing out their current plan, which included some very basic lessons learned, and going for a much more dramatic change.  A year ago everything you knew about EQN was declared wrong.

So now we all wonder what we shall see.  And I am sure that we all have some hopes or wishes.  I have teased Keen about investing himself in the idea of the new game, and I see Wolfshead has come out of hibernation to issue a list of demands, which I tend to agree with in spirit if not exactly on a point by point measure.  The heroes bit resonates with me especially.

So I too have been thinking about what is coming, but it is tough to know where to begin.

There is the word “sandbox” that gets thrown about, even by Smed.  Especially by Smed.  That has been his opening.  But “sandbox” can mean so many things in so many circumstances that I am reluctant to hear get invested in that idea until I hear what the SOE definition of “sandbox” is.

And along with that, there are the realities of the SOE business model.  They have completely declared for free to play.

Well, who hasn’t, aside from Blizzard these days?

But free to play brings with it certain requirements.  A high amount of churn is expected.  A lot of people will try the game and for them to become paying customers, the game has to welcome them in and hold their hand for a bit, and presumably not just to guide them to the edge of a cliff so as to be better positioned to push them over into the abyss, ala a certain internet spaceship game I said I was not going to write about.

So EQN cannot be EverQuest of old, letting you create a character then dropping you on the doorstep of Qeynos with a pat on the back and a “have fun!”  There is a certain lowering of bars to be expected for the opening.  In free to play you cannot frustrate people straight off, you do not have their money yet!  You have to get them pointed in the right direction, teach them how to play, how to group, and how to interact. (Who does the last two nowadays?)

And then there is the StoryBricks angle.  StoryBricks announced at one point… and then turned around and denied everything… then got permission from the right people so they could announce it… that they were involved with EQN, which would be ‘the biggest sandbox ever designed.’  There is that word again.

Anyway, StoryBricks, if I can borrow a phrase from somewhere, is about bringing NPCs to life.  So, one might presume that we can expect a more complex relationship with the world of Norrath and its permanent citizens when we get to EQN.  Quests are unlikely to go away or become less common, but one would hope that we might be asked to dine on more than the common staple of ten rats.

I don’t know if we’ll get the salesman of Waterdeep or some sort of crazy Eliza interpretation, but it should be different.

And then, despite the rework of the system, I suspect that what previously seemed to be the lessons learned from previous games will still have influence.  I recounted them 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”

A single seamless world sounds so “2004” at this point, but I think it is important and I hope they stick to it.

Instanced dungeons will be controversial.  Some insist that this kills the worldliness of a game.  Frankly, some of my fondest memories at this point are of dungeon crawls with just our group without other people in chat, trying to rush past us, stealing mobs, or otherwise turning a group adventure into a bad trip to the mall.  I think there is clearly a place for instanced content.  It should be special and rare and have a connection to the full world.  The instanced dungeons in World of Warcraft lost their charm for me when they ceased to be part of the world and, with the introduction of Dungeon Finder, became a way to avoid the world.

Low system requirements and stylized character models I think are pretty non-controversial on the surface.  Not that SOE couldn’t screw this up and makes us hate it, but it could be good.  And, with free to play in mind, it is probably a requirement.

Fewer classes relative to EQII.  I have to agree.  24 classes at launch was too much.  Adding a 25th years later was interesting, but not all that helpful.

PvP from day one and “done right” scares me.  PlanetSide 2 hasn’t had a charmed existence in my world.  I hope that “sandbox” doesn’t mean slaughter and fast respawns.  It doesn’t have to.  But SOE and PvP has something of a checkered past to my mind.  I hear it was good in Star Wars Galaxies at launch, but what have they done since?

So given all of that, what dare I wish for?  What would I like to see come to pass with EQN?

I would like to see a a lot less emphasis on levels and content that goes obsolete when you out level it.  We have had Band-Aids applied to that problem in the form of various mentoring and leveling down schemes, but they have all been unsatisfactory to my mind.  Yes, you have to have some sort of progression and character advancement.  That is part of what drives many of us in MMOs.  But our addiction to levels has to stop.  They start off great, but always betray us in the end.  They are a dead end street.

I couldn’t tell you how to replace levels, or even de-emphasize them sufficiently, but I hope that SOE has come up with something.

I want long, multi-stage quests like the heritage quests in EverQuest II.  I realize that WoW does similar things with long chains of quests, but the start and stop breaks the concentration for me.  Heritage quests are long term commitments, things you do not get done in a day, and which often require a group a various stages.  I want that again.

While we’re on quests, and as a nod to my gripe about levels, I also wouldn’t mind seeing quests get out of the experience delivery business.  They ought to reward items or equipment.

I want live, open world group content. I do not want to be able to solo every mob in the world.  I do not want to have to go into an instance for every group experience.

And while we’re at it, I do not want to get punished for grouping.  EverQuest had this about right.  WoW did not.  EQII started down the right path and then screwed up open world grouping completely. Trying to run our instance group through New Halas was an exercise in frustration because the whole thing expected you to solo.

I want my weapon choice to mean something.  If I choose a sword over a dagger or an axe, I want that to mean I gain some benefit at the cost of something else.  The damage per second calculation should not be my only factor in weapon choice.  Lord of the Rings Online tried this, but I do not think they went far enough.

I want weapon skills back.  I do not think I should spend ages swinging a sword and then suddenly pick up a spear and find myself equally adapt.

I would like to see crafting materials handled more in line with how EVE Online does things (sorry, internet spaceship reference again), where the materials do not change every ten levels.  I want to be done with this sort of thing.

LOTRO Ore - Most Wanted

LOTRO Ore Variety

I want some staples that are in high demand and which anybody can harvest.  And these should be good for making basic things.  Then I want some rare items to mix in that can be used to create special things.  And when I say rare, I mean rare.  Special things should be special.

I want crafting to be a bit more… I don’t know… organic?  Is that the word I want?  Organic to the game as opposed to being something of a side effort where you make 38 blue silk hoods to level up your tailoring skill and then just vendor them because nobody wants them because the auction house is full of them being sold at under cost.

Speaking of the auction house, if you give me buy orders as part of things, you will probably exceed all my expectations.  My view of such things is pretty low in the fantasy MMORPG realm.

And… and… and… well… a lot of things.  I could ramble on ad nauseum about the minute and trivial.  Basically SOE, make this all fit together with UI conventions that make sense.  And what Keen said about stories.  Mostly.  You can tell me stories.  You can make me part of stories.  But just remember that my own stories about what happened to me and my friends, those are the ones that really matter.

So I am waiting to hear what Smed has to say.  I realize that there are going to be compromises.  They have a business to run and we live in the world of free to play where fantasy MMORPGs are over abundant.  And I am going to hate some of the things he says this week.  You watch.  I know it will be true.

But I will be happy if I hear something new or different or exciting.  It doesn’t have to be from my alternately vague and oddly specific and somewhat emotional list above.  SOE is full of smart people.  Hell, SOE has brought back some people who made EverQuest lately.  They get it.  They played TorilMUD and decided to bring that sort of experience into a 3D world.  Find some of that essence for me.  Combine the mundane into something beyond the sum of its parts, into something magical.

Make me believe again.

Is that too much to ask?

I will be watching EQ Next Wire for news about the game.

How about you?  What do you want to see?

EverQuest Next and Lessons Learned

The SOE Fan Faire went off this past weekend in Las Vegas.

One of the things that came out of the coverage of Fan Faire was EverQuest Next, the future MMORPG that will be based in the EverQuest universe.  Massively and Complete Heal have decent coverage of the event.

Norrath will live again!  Exciting News!

They even showed some concept art.

Freeport Next?

Kelethin Next?

Remember, concept are is just a vision of what may be.  Your Mileage may vary.

And what I have read so far about EverQuest Next features ends up making something of what I will call a “lessons learned” list.  This list includes:

  • 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”

Not a bad list.

You might remark that, aside from that last item, it sounds a lot like lessons you could learn from looking at World of Warcraft.  That isn’t a bad thing.  Nothing says that those items preclude making a successful MMORPG.

On the other hand, a list of lessons learned can be a deceptive thing.  We need only look back six years and compare the products that SOE and Blizzard shipped that were both heavily influenced by the original EverQuest.  Both EverQuest II and World of Warcraft became things because of EverQuest.  Their very design were obvious responses to the lessons learned from the EverQuest experience.

If we look back at what EverQuest II brought to the table as a “lesson learned” from EverQuest some were pretty much right one the money, some needed some work to be viable, and a few were just wrong.  These are my own recollections of some of the aspects of EverQuest II that seemed to represent in some way, lessons learned from EverQuest:

Zoning is Okay – In EQ when you hit a zone line you had to sit and wait for the next zone to load up.  The world was chopped into zones.  There ended up being dozens of them.  And each time you hit one, you waited at the loading screen.

EQII kept that same idea, changing it only in small details.  For example, the invisible zone line fun in the middle of a places like the Commonlands or the Karanas was done away with.  In EQII you at least knew when you were going to zone.  But you still had to wait at that loading screen.

Who Needs A World – One of the things I most remember about starting off in EQ was that Norrath felt like a big, connected world.  You had to run a long time to get across it, and you could even take different routes as you went from zone to zone.  Travel time though, that became a drag.  If you were in Qeynos and your friends were in Kelethin, just getting to them could blow your whole evening.

EQII seemed to take on the whole travel problem by destroying the world.  That was the theme of the game after all, a planet rending cataclysm. But they also managed to destroy the feeling that Norrath was a single world.  We got the ever shifting system of bells that would teleport you to a new location.  As the game expanded we got ships to carry us from island to island, but post-cataclysm Norrath never had the feel of “place” the way EQ did.

Reduced Death Penalty – The EQ death penalty, coming back naked, often many zones from where your corpse lay with all your equipment, losing a quarter of a level of experience and perhaps even dropping a level, that played okay in MUDs, but in a huge world of Norrath it was, frankly, a royal pain.

EQII removed the naked corpse run.  Rather than losing experience your equipment was damaged and you accrued about a quarter level of “experience debt” that you had to work off and which effectively reduced your experience gains by 50% until they were paid off.  Remember when the whole group shared in the debt when any member of the group died.  That made for some fun, group sundering times!  And even that level of death penalty was toned down until today it is about 2 mobs worth of experience debt.

Group Play – In EQ playing past level 20 really required a group unless you were content to grind at an incredibly slow pace.  It was a group focused game, something it inherited from its DikuMUD roots.

EQII started out with the idea that there ought to be a solo play path, but it was clearly not the primary path.  When you got out to the Thundering Steppes or Nek Forest, solo time was tough.  That all changed later, but for a while you really needed a group to get along in the game.

Quests Needed – Quests in EQ?  There were some.  They were not as arcane as the Diku MUD days of questing, but they were not a big focus either.  You spent most of your time grinding mobs, hoping for a decent drop.  Sometimes you would have a quest for a really nice piece of gear and you would spend a huge amount of time camped, waiting for a critical mob to spawn.

EQII was all about quests on day one.  There were lots of quests.  Those of us from MUD or EQ backgrounds still tended to go find a corner of the world with big mobs and just grind.  But the days of those groups being the main path for advancement were over.

Twinking Is Bad – In EQ, you could bum a high level buff or three from a friend, spirit of the wolf from somebody else, some really good gear from your main character, and run out and solo huge mobs to speed up the level grind.  If you were in luck, a healer friend would sit around and keep you healthy while you tore though the Aviak village in South Karana.  Twinking at its best.  Get things going right and you could take out that wandering cyclops while you were at it.  Good times.

This seemed to annoy the devs (and certain forum dwellers) quite a bit, because when EQII came out, it felt like SOE had spent more time coming up with ways to stop twinking than they on, say,  travel or how to sell via the broker.  We ended up with buffs you could only cast on group members, buffs with very, very short duration, equipment with level restrictions, and equipment that changed stats depending on your level.  Do you remember that last one?  Do you remember equipment with stats that were tied to your level?

And then there were locked encounters, a system where by once you started a fight with a mob, nobody outside of your group could damage that mob or cast beneficial buffs on you.  Cumbersome is the only way I can describe this.  Sure, it defeated kill stealing as well, but you could have fixed that with a “who hit it first gets the exp” system. (In EQ, it was the person or group who got the killing blow who got the exp and the loot, which lead to… abuses.) This was all clearly designed to thwart easy leveling with the help of high level friends.  Gone were the random buffs of kindness.

Player Housing Is ImportantEQ is finally getting player housing in the upcoming expansion, House of Thule.  17 expansions after launch and you can finally get a place of your own.

EQII had player housing.  Guild halls took ages to arrive, but you could have your own home on day one.  It is an important part of the game to a lot of people.  And while there is some debate as to whether it pulls people off the streets and makes the game feel less populated, it is really part of the EQII experience.

Crafting Should Be Really Complicated – In EQ crafting was… difficult yet simple.  You bought your components from an NPC vendor (unless you were cooking, in which case you could use some drops from mobs… rat meat, yum!), put them in the crafting station, pressed the button, and you either got something or you lost all your stuff.  There was no recipe, so it could go either way.  They changed that later on.  And they changed it so that you could make useful items.  But initially crafting could be a money wasting crap shoot.  But it was simple and quick.

SOE took that lesson to heart.  In EQII you could craft useful items.  Very useful.  But the crafting game was much more complex.  There was harvesting, of course.  Lots of harvesting.  And then the actual manufacture, which was set up so that which ever trade skill you chose, you likely needed pieces and parts from other professions.  The idea was an integrated economy.  It was a disaster, unless you were an alchemist.  I made stuff everybody needed.  A chunk of my modest fortune was made through chemicals.

Three major revamps later, the crafting system is now manageable and, I must say, more fulfilling than the WoW model, though I am still not fond of playing whack-a-mole, which is what production of items ends up simulating.

So What?

Where am I going with this?  Do I have some point I want to make or is this just a rambling Grandpa Simpson post?

A little bit of both, I suppose.

But mostly to bring up a list of things that probably like good ideas… or at least reasonable plans… some of which were and some of which were not just to illustrate my statement early on in this piece that you do not always learn the right lesson from things.

And to ask a question.

What so you think SOE should take away as lessons learned from EverQuest II and apply to EverQuest Next?

The Official SOE Podcast #44

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this SOE Fan Faire recap episode of the SOE Podcast.

  • Set up…
  • Late night LON
  • Thursday Night Reception
  • Friday Activities
  • Saturday Activities
  • Vendors
  • Sponsors
  • Karaoke!
  • Hamster Preview
  • Recap
  • A Thank you
  • Welcome to the Jungle
  • Best Banquet ever
  • Flickr page for Fan Faire pics
  • Out Takes

The show is available on iTunes as well as from the official SOE podcast site.

The show was recorded on August 14th and runs just under twenty four minutes.

The Official SOE Podcast #34

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this episode of the SOE Podcast, with Jason “Pex” Ryan reading the news.

  • SOE Game News
  • Listener Emails: Joseph
  • Podcast 32 Follow Ups
  • Fan Faire count down
  • Top 10 reasons you know Alan is cranky and Top 10 pathetic excuses for having to miss a Raid
  • Interview with Robyn Vallee, the Community Manager for the Volunteer Guide Program
  • Vanguard Update 5
  • Interview with Vanessa “Eovania” Barrera (German) and Midori “Momochi” McDaniel (Japanese) from the international community team
  • The Love Doctor
  • EQ2 House of Commons Chat
  • The 3rd annual SOE Block Party – July 26th
  • TV and Movies
  • What are you playing?
  • Out Takes

The show is available on iTunes as well as from the official SOE podcast site.

The show was recorded on April 21st and runs just under one hour and twelve minutes.

The SOE Community team is also asking that if you enjoy the show, if you could take a minute and go Digg It on Digg.com.

The Official SOE Podcast #33

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this episode of the SOE Podcast, with Old Man Gamer “Dellmon” reading the news.

  • SOE Game News
  • Follow Ups from Podcast 32
  • Listener Emails: Dennis, Louis and Jason
  • Dramatic Rant Reading from Auroz on the Station Forums
  • Inside SOE – The Tale of SOE Fan Faire 2008 (Vegas again!)
  • Interview with Laralyn McWilliams Lead Designer for Free Realms
  • Interview with Hubert the Hamster
  • EverQuest Game updates
  • EverQuest II Game Update 44
  • EQ2’s Day
  • Brenlo’s 41st Birthday (April 8th)
  • TV and Movies
  • What are you playing?
  • Out Takes

The show is available on iTunes as well as from the official SOE podcast site.

The show was recorded on April 9th and runs just under one hour and eighteen minutes.