How the Playerbase Affects EverQuest Next’s Development - Ratonga Rodeo #1
How the Playerbase Affects EverQuest Next’s Development - Ratonga Rodeo #1
By Karen "shayalyn" Hertzberg on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 10:58 AM
Last week, we asked EverQuest Next fans and fansites to join us in our first Ratonga Rodeo, a weekly quest that challenges you to editorialize on our topic of the week. Last week’s topic asked: How is the EQ community affecting EverQuest Next’s development? We’ve rounded up your responses, and now we’re sharing them in one easy-to-find location.
It wouldn’t be much of a rodeo if we didn’t ride our own bull, so let’s start off with my responses to a tricky question...
Give It a Chance, or Give it a Rest
The EverQuest community--those who started exploring Norrath as far back as 1999 and have never forgotten the joy of the game that was, for most of them, their very first MMO--is a vocal one. They’re also the earliest adopters of EverQuest Next, the kind of people who had their boots on the ground at SOE Live back in August for the game’s reveal, or sat tuned to the live stream waiting for SOE President John Smedley to announce the game they’ve been waiting on for years, the game promised to be “the world’s biggest sandbox.”
For some, Smed’s announcement, followed by Director of Development Dave Georgeson’s presentation, was exactly what they’d been waiting for. They were excited by what they were hearing, and eager to hear more, and they’ve been vocal proponents of the game ever since, as well as a great source of feedback for SOE. For others, however, the chimes of doom started ringing the moment they saw the cartoony graphics, or heard words like “no holy trinity,” “no levels,” and “fast travel.” It’s these folks who’ve been decrying every decision SOE makes that doesn’t fit their model for the perfect new EverQuest experience.
The haters and worry-mongers are a smaller subset, but they’re out there, and they’re loud. They’re the ones who’ll jump on topic threads declaring that EQN is “WoW Next” (Ten Ton Hammer had one guy on Facebook who posted it in every single EQNext thread for a while) or that its combat is going to end up like just another Guild Wars 2 DPS zergfest. When SOE said there would be fast travel in its related building game, Landmark, to allow players to get from point to point across leylines, the EQ-or-die crowd was there shouting, “Fast travel will ruin the game!” Death penalties? They’ve got to equal XP loss and corpse runs or they’re just not hardcore enough--you don’t learn if you don’t fear death.
I don’t completely disagree with some of their opinions, because I loved the community-building aspects of EverQuest myself. I liked how players relied on one another for things like teleports, the only fast travel in EQ in the early days (and only available to two classes.) As frustrating as XP loss was, I appreciated how much it made me work to stay alive, and how much the fear of dying increased the adrenaline rush while playing. But...there’s a difference between me and the EQ-or-die crowd--I’m willing to give EverQuest Next a chance.
All we have, for the moment, is wild speculation. And, while speculation may be fun, it’s like masturbating--intense while it lasts, but ultimately unsatisfying.
You see, SOE has honestly revealed very little about EverQuest Next. And what they have revealed, we’ve yet to see in action. We’ve learned that combat will be heads-up and active, AI will be not only smart but super-smart, and that everything we’ve known to date about how MMOs work is about to be turned on its ear by this brand new formula. We have yet to see it in action, however. All we have, for the moment, is wild speculation. And, while speculation may be fun, it’s like masturbating--intense while it lasts, but ultimately unsatisfying.
My advice to the hardcore EQ crowd is this--give EverQuest Next a chance. Stop shouting down every new idea and concept until you’ve had a chance to see it work. You don’t have to leap on the Rainbows and Butterflies bandwagon and wholeheartedly cheer for everything SOE does with their game, but prophecies of doom at every turn aren’t doing the community any good, either. Provide honest feedback, but ditch the negativity. It’s okay to be skeptical--Dave Georgeson himself has said many times that players should be skeptical and that we should expect SOE to prove themselves--but spewing derision every time you hear something you don’t like isn’t very productive. If you don’t like something, feel free to explain why, but don’t accuse more positive-minded fans of being delusional or drinking the Kool-aid.
If you’re an old EQ player who appreciates old school mechanics like I (for the most part) do, try to remember that with EverQuest Next we’re looking at an entirely new beast. What SOE is proposing for EQN hasn’t been done before--at least not with all these new components coming together in one massive game. Until we see it, or hear a lot more about it, we’re going to have to rely on cautious optimism, or maybe even hopeful skepticism, if there is such a thing. It’s okay to say, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but then you actually have to wait to see it before you decide whether it’s working or not.
Around the Community
Our friends over at EverQuest Next Junkies talked specifically about the Round Table and SOE’s reliance on community feedback in the development process. Here’s an excerpt:
I think that the development of EQNext and Landmark are greatly influenced by the playerbase. Hell, [SOE] designed the roundtable specifically as a method for us to influence the design of the game. I think it goes deeper than that though. I think the roundtable is merely a method of getting conversations started on a specific topic. I believe they look far beyond the polls. They read their own forums, they read reddit, and undoubtedly read other fansites and forums for their opinions as well. I don’t think they limit the design fluxes simply to the topics of their polls either. I believe that Landmark was originally designed not to have combat/AI scripting to be specific, but an outcry from the community made them decide to toss it in. Great thing for the game, that I believe was brought forth by the community.
The Junkies Nation wasn’t the only one to reply with a discussion of the Round Table. Although our friend at EQ Nexus, Fantomex, was out of the writing loop this week because his family added a newborn raid party member (congratulations!), community member Fingers responded to his forum post asking for member submissions.
I don't feel like, at this stage, there's any real means of measuring any impact the community has made on Everquest Next's development, when you consider how little information or tangible evidence of progress on this particular game there's been since reveal.
RT feedback often feels like little more than the summary of the poll itself and an uninformative discussion on whether the poll was surprising, mixed or definitive. At times the rambles feel like the sort of discussions you might see on a forum thread, only less interesting. It feels like a gimmick to keep the hype rolling, a means of interest retention. Sure they encourage discussion, but topics such as fast travel, classes and races as well as class restrictions, crafting, combat and customisation will always be common subjects on MMORPG forums - there's little or no value in provoking discussion on topics that are no doubt well under way on a myriad of forums anyway.
EQ Nexus member Cirolle had a different take:
I feel there is a bit more to this question. It is a little loaded, because there are a lot of negatives coming from old EQ fans (or it seems so.) It seems like there are a lot of people that are for the old ways (EQ). But I don’t think that is actually true. I don’t think they want a game that plays like EQ, but they do want a game that sucks you in, and make you feel a part of the world. Many don’t seem to realize that that is what they really want, so they talk about corpse runs and limited fast travel (and the darkest night). The point is, that there have been very few MMOs that have made us feel like we are actually playing in a world, and it is very hard to put your finger on what would make us feel that way.
On the EQHammer forums, JustaGuy, a professed old school EQ-er was a little more blunt about the subject.
Let me start off by setting this record straight--I played EverQuest. In fact, I played it for years and I loved it. I raided (although not as much as some) and I've got a good deal of nostalgia for the game. I liked getting MGBs of KEI in PoK. (For those who don't know, that's a mass group buff of Koadic's Endless Intellect--a mana regen buff that all casters needed--in the player hub, Plane of Knowledge.) I have fond memories of selling my stuff (and buying other players' stuff) in the East Commonlands tunnel. I liked how EQ made you rely on other players for everything from buffs to transportation to grouping (unless you played a soloable class or were okay with leveling slowly and dying a lot.) So, let's get this straight. I'm one of you.
And now that I've said that, you need to quit being a bunch of whiny bitches, and here's why. You're scaring off the noobs, the people who have yet to be initiated into the EverQuest franchise. Now, I know a bunch of you are crying, "Well, tough sh*t! We don't want them in our game, anyhow!" Do I really need to tell you what an entitled, elitist attitude that is? You're saying, basically, "Hey, SOE! Make this game especially for me and people like me, and ignore everyone else."
If you missed this rodeo, never fear--there’s another one this week and every week. And you can still have your say in the comments below. Do you have a great Ratonga Rodeo topic you’d like to see us ask the community? Email your suggestion to Shayalyn.