SOE Community Address 2007
by: Tony "RadarX" Jones
In an unusual and unprecedented event SOE's CEO John Smedley addressed the attendees of this year's Fan Faire giving us the first ever Community Address. He began by stating this was the largest Fan Faire attendance they had ever had, and over a 7+ year history that is saying something. Stating they wanted to "make Fan Faire the focal point for new product announcements" it seems they are looking to reward the loyal fans who come to Fan Faire, by giving them a taste of what kind of projects are in development.
Now, in fairness all the projects but one we saw tonight has already been announced or seen at SOEs Gamer Day but it was nice to see an official announcement of Free Realms which we will discuss in a moment. This address gave people a close up look at what they are working on with comments from the producers who are designing them.
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Right off the bat Pirates of the Burning Seas from Flying Labs was brought on the screen showing us a brief movie with actual gameplay. This unusual pirate theme MMO won Best in Show at E3 and appears to be poised to surprise many with its interesting gameplay. Smedley moved into a discussion explaining there were over a hundred PvP ports players could utilize for combat. While that might not appeal to everyone, it will provide untold hours of entertainment to many. In addition to this Smedley added they have parrots. Yes sir, they do indeed.
We transitioned to a demonstration movie of Gods and Heroes, which I believe was shown at E3. After watching creatures like Medusa and Chimera being pummeled by players Smedley began to discuss the benefits of squad combat and what youll be able to do in the game. There are over 1500 quests that help you discover the ancient mythology of Rome he stated. He also added that Beta testing would begin soon using the infamous development phrase. Im assuming he means large scale beta testing because theyve already done a few rounds of beta invites for the game. All attendees received a card with a beta key so its apparent theyll have plenty of volunteers ready when beta does get big.
Next on the list was a interesting game SOE showed during Gamer Day, the unusual and whimsy Free Realms which will be aimed at younger players. We want to take the MMO market and do different things. He said, We dont want keep just putting out the same kind of game. We really want to change the way MMO games are played. Free Realms is attempting to create an environment where people can socialize and play little mini games, versus the typical choices you get in MMOs of combat or combat. That isnt to say Free Realms wont have combat he made sure to add, it just wont be as much of the focus as we typically see in other games.
As the name states, the game will be free. Free? Stop raising your eyebrows, its not completely free obviously. Much of the environment will be available to anyone who downloads the client but there will be a subscription fee for additional content and special items like clothing or house decorations can be purchased as well. Its definitely an innovative product that might not appeal to the traditional MMO player, but the industry will be watching it carefully.
We moved quickly from the very light and fun Free Realms to the more edgy recently announced game The Agency. A brief trailer showed this spy themed MMO full of action, adventure, and espionage. Gunplay, stealth, and even spy cars have been promised to make this an incredibly unique experience. Looking for a cross between 24, Alias, and James Bond youll be using numerous outfit to for different abilities and even make your own agency.
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Legends of Norrath
Everyone loves Star Wars Galaxies. Ok, ok stop laughing. We were shown a very dramatic demonstration of everything that has been had accomplished over the last year. Coming soon developers will be putting a new expertise system that allows players to strengthen their characters by training in two different specialized paths. Another interesting feature was the Storyteller feature allowing characters to create customized stories through a series of missions. All this is coming to a galaxy near you.
SOEs foundation game was up next, boasting over a dozen expansions and being one of the most recognized names in MMO history. EverQuest Senior Producer Clint Worley took the stage to talk a little about the expansion Secrets of Faydwer coming out in November. Set in the world of clockworks, this will increase the level cap to 80, provide new AAs, 15 new zones, and interestingly enough gnome catapulting. Yes, youll actually be able to launch gnomes at an island. In response to player demand, Worley also announced that SOE would be providing complete retail compilations with every expansion release to allow new players to catch up.
Not to be outdone by EverQuest's expansion, EQ2 Producer Scott Hartsman took the stage to discuss the impending expansion Rise of Kunark. What followed was a demonstration video showing the new Sarnak race and a number of the zones going in. While he pretty much let the video speak for itself, he promised more would be discussed the following day in a session dedicated entirely to the expansion.
Finally, the moment many had been waiting for had arrived. John Smedley returned to the stage and announced an EverQuest themed trading card game. What could possibly be exciting about another trading card game? First, the game fits seamlessly into EverQuest Live and EverQuest 2 allowing for cross game matches. If that wasn't enough, loot cards will be available in the decks and can be claimed for ingame items. For those who don't necessarily like to spend their cash, they can expect booster packs to actually start dropping as treasure in the very near future. This was an interesting move by SOE which may very well pay off by allowing them to add content to both games very easily.