This year, about 2000 fans converged on Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas for SOE Live. Judging by the number of people at the keynote presentation, many were there to hear about EverQuest Next, SOE’s nebulous heir to the EQ throne. When all is said and done, we came away with information on three new classes. Sure, there were additional panels with AI demos and combat discussions, but when it comes to real meat-and-potatoes substance what we were served was more like one of those flashy plates prepared by a five-star restaurant’s celebrated chef — you know, the kind with a 3 oz. piece of unrecognizable protein surrounded by fancy greens and some abstract dashes of decorative sauce — than anything we could really sink our teeth into.
SOE gets a high marks for presentation, but did we all leave hungry?
“We’re Building It Right in Front of You!”
SOE loves to tell us that EverQuest Next is being developed right before our eyes in Landmark. They’re not lying — Landmark truly is where the magic is happening. This quote from Dave Georgeson, Director of Development, was his opening riff for the EQNext keynote:
“The number one question that we've been getting for the entire last year is, 'When are you guys going to start building EverQuest Next?' And the answer is, we are building it, and we're building it right in front of you, and we've been doing it the entire time. There's a reason why MMOs are not real prevalent, there aren't tons and tons of them around, and that's because when you want to simulate a whole world of action you have to build a whole lot of systems. You may not realize it, but we've been making those systems that we need for EverQuest Next, and we've been doing it right in front of you in Landmark. You see, the new Norrath needs to be a real wonder to adventure through.”
He went on to describe the necessary systems for creating this amazing world, things such as a landscape ripe for exploration, a robust player economy driven by crafting, and social systems like guilds and hubs that are accessible outside of the game (such as the Landmark Gallery). He told us that land needs to be a “highly prized reward” in EQN, so that creations such as guild halls can arise with “intense player cooperation.” Landmark, he said, is the basis of that, and the foundation that will allow SOE to fulfill their dream of building the new Norrath cooperatively with players.
"All of the stuff we just introduced [in the Landmark keynote] is completely useful in EverQuest Next," he said. "Every single bit of it."
But there’s a problem with SOE’s stock line that they’re building EQNext in Landmark.
Gamers Don’t Get It
I happened by the EQNext subreddit today and saw a thread where the OP linked to the official page for purchasing a Landmark founder’s pack, saying:
“I'm guessing this is for landmark and not the actual game? This is probably a very dumb question but I just wanna make sure. I've never played EQ before or have any clue about this company.”
But, you see, Landmark is an actual game. Unfortunately, there seem to be a ton of problems with helping gamers understand how Landmark relates to EQN, the game they really want to play. Is it an alpha test for EverQuest Next? A separate game? A vehicle for creating content? Something SOE threw together to fund EQN’s development?
Over the weekend of SOE Live, Dave Georgeson and crew expressed frustration over having to repeatedly answer the question, “When are you going to start developing EverQuest Next?” But I think they’ve overestimated the attention span of the average gamer. With few exceptions, we don’t want to have to search out information on what a game is, and where it’s at in its development cycle, we just want to see progress. And taking the wrapper off three new classes (none of which contained many surprises) after a full year of development doesn’t feel like progress.
Fixing the Perception Problem
Here’s the thing — with the exception of the hardcore fans and early adopters, nobody really knows what EverQuest Next is, what its relation to Landmark is, or where it’s at in the development process. SOE tells us to look to Landmark for evidence of progress on Next, but that’s a half-hearted solution. SOE is assuming we care enough to do some research and make the connections. Some of us do — we’re the evangelists for this game — but many can’t be bothered. Fixing that could be as simple as adding more information to the EverQuest Next official site. If we’re too lazy to care on our own, then SOE has to make us care. Don’t require us to track down information on fansites and social media; put it right there in our faces so we can’t miss it.
Things I’d Love to See on the Official Site...
- Class overviews and videos on their own pages
- Lore breakdowns (simple and short — the novellas are great, but give me a Cliff’s Notes version)
- Announced races with overviews
- A regular progress report (“We developed X system for Landmark. Here’s how that’s benefiting the development of EverQuest Next.”)
I created this guide to the differences between EverQuest Next and Landmark for EQHammer. It’s been our number one traffic-earner by a landslide. Why? Because few people understand what these two games in development are all about, and how one relates to the other. SOE needs to work harder at making those distinctions clear. In fact, if they gave potential fans a one-stop resource for information on EQNext’s progress, rather than asking them to tag along on social media like Twitter in order to get scraps of information, they might find that there’s less confusion over their brand.
If you’ve taken the time to read this column, then do me a favor — in the comments below, finish these sentences:
EverQuest Next is _______________________________.
Landmark is _______________________________.
Be honest. Give the very first thought that comes to your mind. Let’s call it a social experiment.
And if you do happen to find yourself intrigued by the two games, you’ll find lots more information on EQHammer.