It's been long, it's been painful, and for the development team - it's been very necessary. However, I'm still firmly entrenched in the concept that the majority of us probably didn't need this experience. I know the immediate rebuttal is that nobody forced me to buy a trailblazer pack (a purchase that for an eventually free-to-play game I still don't fully regret); but that's an unfair assessment, and anyone else who watched the 2013 SOELive debut can probably relate.
Watching Dave & company announce and describe EverQuest Next was an unveiling like no other. Sony Online wasn't just announcing a new product, they were showing us a revolution. Specifically when then-titled EverQuest Next: Landmark was later declared they might as well have been handing us all rifles and marching orders. Instead of watching the battle, we were offered a chance to take part in it. Unfortunately the whole process hasn't been anything like I imagined it would be.
I want to say that's my fault, but how could I really know?
The Evils of Early-Access
I couldn't, and the majority of players and your average gamer and franchise fan probably couldn't either. The reality is that very few players have any idea of how the game development process works. Much worse, when you're sitting on the outside of the command center getting orders passed down from on high without any true insight into what is happening or why, soldiering on becomes much more of a painful grind than I think the developers really knew they were offering us.
But that's just how real life works, doesn't it?
Everything always looks and sounds better and more glamorous than it really is, and the Landmark open-development process is an exclamation point on that fact. No doubt. I know there are a small percentage of people that still actively play and an even smaller percentage of that who are actually contributing to either the workshop or the testing and feedback process... but as a future AAA title that place is a complete ghost town.
That's not necessarily a slight on the developers or the development team... but at the same time, they had to have some idea of what they were asking from us. I've said it many times, but I feel like I need to reiterate that you can't offer Early-Access to players and not expect about +75% of your most dedicated and enthusiastic fans to jump on board (whether or not they're actually equipped for that kind of journey). Just because I understand the logic in why they chose to do it, that doesn't mean that I agree with it.
The Ends Justify the Means
For the SOE/Daybreak team, the open-development of Landmark and all the benefits of doing that must have outweighed the many negatives we have and are still currently experiencing. Aside from the uplifting results displayed on the weekly Workshop Show (where players are literally investing their heart and souls and many long hours into those builds), the whole thing is kind of depressing.
The rare occasion that I hear of or come across "news" relating to Landmark or EverQuest Next I feel like I should cringe. It's rarely news at all, and senior Producer Terry Michaels made a wise decision in cutting back the amount of face-time the team will be doing when there really isn't much they are able to show. In all honesty, I'm not quite sure the team properly estimated the amount of deep research and development that would be going into this title. If they did... well, then they did an awfully poor job of communicating that to founders.
Scary as it may sound, we've still got many months (and likely multiple years ahead of us) before enough progress is made on EverQuest Next that it can actually separate itself from Landmark as a title and game of its own.
A Dangerous Gamble
EverQuest Next now runs the risk of emerging amid a sea of future "next-gen" titles rather than trailblazing the path ahead of everyone and coming out first. While they are trailblazing, all their hard work may be for naught if other publishers and developers come sprinting out from the path behind them with better, more foundationally sound games - and it wouldn't be the first time that's happened.
The most painful part of it all is that most everything so far has been fairly necessary.
I was excited to see Jean "Druidsfire" Prior ask Terry about future lore (a subject which I have invested quite a large amount of time, analysis, and work into breaking down) in her exclusive interview on MMO Central. The departure of Steve Danuser had me worried that Drake's conclusion to the Teir'Dal exile would be the last of the lore-books we'd ever see. I actually got to thinking about the lore and I had an epiphany.
Veeshan has been working diligently these past two years, constructing all the order of the future Norrath via Landmark and all its organization, systems, and coding. It is the foundational structure of EverQuest Next. It is the order of that future world. It's the part of the story that we already know. We've drank our fill of these linear, guided, orderly MMOs where everything is predictable. We don't want Veeshan. We want Kerafyrm.
Bring on the chaos. Bring on the unpredictability. Show us the underlying core of this world that will really bring it to life. Kerafyrm is the answer. He is the beating heart of Norrath itself, and EverQuest Next will only be a shell until the primarch of Chaos is woken from his slumber. Until that happens, the world will always feel lacking, hollow, and incomplete. We've had that all before and it's boring.
We Want Chaos
Anything short of that for EverQuest Next would be a complete disappointment.
As a dedicated fan of the EverQuest franchise, I have to say that I don't want to hear about Veeshan anymore. I don't want to hear about the order of the world, or about systems of landmark that only function as the framework to a much greater story to come in the future. None of that is news-worthy to me, nor is it interesting anymore. Veeshan was cool at first, back when she was creating the dragons but now she's just irritating.
I want to see Kerafyrm's creations.
I want to see a living, breathing world (or at least signs of it). I don't care about combat systems (even though they may play a part in the chaos). I care about seeing Norrath turned upside down. Veeshan has already played her part. For me personally, Landmark is on the shelf (and it already has been in so many ways for the past several months). Like Kerafyrm himself, I'll be in hibernation for a while, at least until the game I want - the game we were shown - truly starts becoming a reality.
I won't blame the development team for my burnout either, it's actually extremely common for Early-Access programs (which I now know I'm just not cut out for). Fortunately I am patient. So I will definitely be waiting for when EverQuest Next finally rolls around. I just wonder how many people will fall by the wayside and give up hope on this game (a game which was probably unveiled way too early - for many logical reasons that would take another full article to really examine).
In short, I'm done with Veeshan and her legacy in Landmark.
I want Kerafyrm's Chaos and the core of this new Norrath to finally emerge. I want to see the EverQuest Next we were teased with almost two full years ago. That product doesn't exist without a living and ever-changing world; two things that Landmark does not have, and may never possess. Voxelmancy feels like a detriment to EverQuest Next in my opinion; as it has nothing to do with the core concept we were presented in 2013.
I want to see a crazy, intelligent, and unpredictable world - not a beautiful, safe, and editable one.
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