Sony Online Entertainment’s EverQuest Next: Landmark is set to be released in the coming few months. While SOE’s public activity has increased, the flow of information has been painfully stagnant, resulting in a lot of hype surrounding message boards.
There’s nothing better than hype for a game’s sales, but unfortunately the lack of information from SOE has allowed fans to come to many conclusions that could be quite damaging for the game. Twisted interpretations of sparsely spoken words can be very destructive for a game not yet released. The very hype that builds success can over inflate and crush a game right out of the gate.
So in the spirit of bringing everyone back down to Earth; let’s talk about what SOE is capable of, what they are responsible for, and what they have done thus far.
What we all know now as Sony Online Entertainment began in 1995 under the name Sony Interactive Studios America or SISA. John Smedley, working for SISA, hired on Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover while in charge of development of an RPG that would eventually be known as EverQuest. During production, SISA went through a couple of name changes (989 and RedEye Interactive), and eventually became Verant Interactive. After the successful release of EverQuest in 1999, and a subsequent expansion, Verant was absorbed into it’s parent company, now known as SOE.
In 2001 Brad McQuaid resigned as Chief Creative Officer for SOE, to form Sigil Games Online, taking with him many of the original developers working on the EverQuest project. Mcquaid then went to work on Sigil Games Online’s only project, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Vanguard would eventually become a colossal failure, after being released with a half functioning world, no end game content, and a whole host of bugs that sometimes made it entirely unplayable.
During this time, despite losing the majority of original staffers and subsequent decline in EQ subscriptions, SOE was able to produce Star Wars Galaxies; A moderately successful MMO that would peak in 2005. However, SWG would see it’s fall that year after a poor development decision changed virtually every aspect of the game, leaving veteran players feeling alienated.
Adding to the stress, the release of a highly anticipated more modern MMORPG known as World of Warcraft would usher in a new age for the MMO, leaving EverQuest, with aged graphics and conflicting lore, in a constant state of declination. The same year as World of Warcraft’s release, SOE released EverQuest 2 with more modern graphics and systems in place in attempts to compete with Blizzard’s new hit. EQ2 was released to mix reviews and rather than bringing in a whole new set of players, it seemingly divided the EverQuest player base, fragmenting an already declining community.
In the following years SOE would release a number of lackluster attempts at reclaiming the MMO market. Some met with moderate success (PlanetSide 1, PlanetSide 2, EQ Online Adventures), and some embarassments (The Matrix Online, Vanguard, Bullet Run, Pirates of the Burning Sea).
As a veteran EverQuest player of 13 years, I have to be optimistic about EverQuest Next, in hopes that it’s player driven world can rekindle some of the enchantment I felt years ago when exploring the unknown in EQ1. We have to remember that Sony didn’t destroy EverQuest after getting it from Verant. They were Verant. We have to remember that the rise of World of Warcraft changed the landscape for MMO’s all over. Not for the worse, but established a much larger audience and more competitive model, leaving EverQuest unable to recover.
However, we have to remember how quickly SOE can try to over-monetize and water down a game. We have to keep in mind that what they have done with some of their MMO’s hasn’t exactly given many of us the impression that they think highly of their players. Most of all, we need to remember that this is their game, no matter what they tell us. They will do what they want to do, despite what players say, for better or for worse. Let’s keep the hype down.
Listen to what they say. Don’t jump to conclusions, and don’t over analyse. Let’s let this one be a pleasant surprise, instead of a let down of our inflated hype.