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Dear SOE: EverQuest Next and Landmark

Dear SOE,

I’m one of your original players back from the EverQuest days. I played the original EverQuest for many years, and I have continued to follow and play just about everything you’ve released. I am a true fan of the EverQuest series and have been eagerly awaiting and watching for all things EverQuest Next. I’m writing you to express my concerns regarding the direction I see you taking this beloved franchise.

My confidence in EverQuest Next is faltering. Development for Landmark has come to a weird crawl, and when something new is announced or implemented it’s taken in a bizarre direction that none of us really expected. I started playing Landmark back when it was all about the adventure of exploring a world, finding resources, and building things. Now the Landmark name is becoming associated with awkward live streams, building contests, and …. battle arenas?

I feel like you do not truly know what Landmark is supposed to be anymore, and as a result neither do your fans. Players like me, the original core fans, saw what we wanted to see months ago and stopped playing and testing because of the lack of communication aimed at keeping us interested in your progress. The focus was lost and shifted more towards this amalgamation of appealing to a different demographic and testing marketing tactics.

I’m not sure what has happened to the EverQuest brand over the past year. I feel like the brand is truly being mismanaged. What used to be a highly-regarded fantasy MMORPG brand portraying a very dignified and mature approach to building virtual worlds is now feeling like a ‘hey look at me, I’m the class clown who will dance and tell fart jokes to get attention!’  I have to be honest… I’ve stopped watching the live streams unless it’s just Dave Georgeson or Terry Michaels or Steve Danuser on the screen, taking themselves seriously, talking about real game-related things.

I have a question for the older crowd at SOE — the men and women who love(d) the older EverQuest games — Do you guys believe in the game(s) you are making? Are these the games YOU want to play? I’m starting to question that… and it concerns me.

Hope is not lost. I’m not jumping ship. I’m still a megafan. I just need to see more from you guys showing me that EverQuest Next has substance and isn’t just another game being made for the MOBA or minecraft generation of kiddies — heck, at this point I just need to see that the game is still going to release; Some out in the blogosphere think EQNext is going to be vaporware if Landmark can’t get its act together and H1Z1 takes off.

Gaining back the confidence of the core crowd of EverQuest fans is going to take a big change in the way you convey information. Utilize your website more and release written material with well-made pages, images and clear descriptions of features — things we can get excited about. Pull back on the reins a bit with the silliness in your live streams and ways you interact with the public. Get us excited about being in Norrath again. Leverage the nostalgia factor! No one from the generation and market you’re currently targeting knows or cares about the name EverQuest, so you’re going to have to either make people care by doing something huge or get the true fans of the name to start doing it for you — you won’t get that without convincing us that you’re still making EverQuest.

EverQuest Next needs to feel like it has a clear direction and vision behind the game. It has to feel like an EverQuest game. Landmark lacks that entirely right now, and as a result the general consensus among fans like me is that it’s floundering.

Thank you for creating worlds I have loved to live in. I respect and admire many of you. I want to be in your world again, just show me that you’re creating something I can care about.

Video Games Aren’t Sports

John Skipper, President of ESPN, commented on Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch.tv for roughly $1Billion by saying that video games (eSports) are not “real sports”. I tend to agree.

I’ve never thought of video games as a sport, just like I do not think of poker, chess, Magic the Gathering, or even Nascar as particularly sporty. When I think of sports I think of what’s in the Olympics or Soccer, Football, Basketball and Baseball. While some might disagree completely that racing cars is entirely sport-like, I think that still leaves a very large gap for DotA 2 to traverse.

To say that video games are not a sport doesn’t denigrate the games or the act of playing them — even competitively. Video games are a competition, a hobby, and entertainment — the best available, in my opinion. I’m not sure why players or those who enjoy watching eSports feel the need to vehemently defend the label. Does it make video games any less fun or enjoyable to watch because we can’t put them in the same category as a bunch of guys in shorts running back and forth throwing a ball into a hoop?

Skipper is getting flack for the comment because ESPN does indeed cover events like MTG, chess, Poker, and even DotA 2. Even though Skipper doesn’t see video games as sports, ESPN still sees them as something worth showing on their network. That alone says something and should be all the validation people need to continue calling this competitive show of skill, even “eSports”, whatever they want.

They’re not sports. Really, they’re not. But in the end they are awesome, take enormous amounts of talent, and clearly carry with them the ratings and the interest to be worth billions.

Survival Games Need Survival

h1z1 zombie survival

I’m really looking forward to SOE’s upcoming zombie survival game called H1Z1. With MMOs completely failing to live up to what I want in a persistent world that I can log in to for hours and days on end, I’m really starting to crave a great jump-in-jump-out persistent game that won’t require the commitment but will still provide a meaningful experience. H1Z1 is looking like a great candidate.

One of my biggest complaints with survival games in general is the player’s complete lack of regard for anything around him. When you spot another player there’s no reason to let that player live. Kill that player immediately because he has stuff you want — the goal is to get stuff. Here’s why it’s so easy to kill other players in DayZ:

  • Zero environmental threat
  • There’s really nothing else to do but kill other players

h1z1 base building

Survival games have to incorporate reasons to let other players live and not simply kill them on sight. Zombies or nature itself has to be a greater threat. Seeing a zombie should terrify the player so much that if another player runs by the two of them desperately want each other’s help. People should want to gather together to pool resources and survive.

Common goals are important. Surviving can be a common goal. Crafting and trading can also be common goals. Communities can form around the idea that players go out and find things and trade amongst themselves. Creating a base can be a common goal.  If there is no common goal then the goals will be created by the individual, and chances are that goal will involve killing everyone else out of boredom.

As alluded to already, there has to be more to do in a survival game besides killing zombies and other players. Eventually players will tire from shooting NPCs and turn on each other. Base building is a really cool idea if given the proper attention and fleshed out to be a meaningful and rewarding goal. Whatever features are added, there needs to be depth to these games or else they’ll simplify to the least common denominator: Trolling each other.

As my chosen title notes, survival games simply need survival. Animals, Zombies, weather, sickness & disease, fatigue, hunger, thirst, shelter, etc., can all be elements of surviving. What the player is having to survive against can still include other players, but if the environment isn’t a huge part of survival then the game is simply PvP.

What Kind of Gamer Am I?

What kind of gamer am I? I’m reflecting on this question and my gaming habits more and more lately. I know the kind of gamer I used to be when I was younger. I used to play games all day every day at what many would consider hardcore or even unhealthy levels. I scaled it back significantly to what I would classify as a “serious” gamer while in college, and somewhat serious after that.  Now, things are starting to change.

I’m a picky gamer. I’m a particular gamer. I might even be a gaming snob. I know what I like, and I no longer need to play games just for the sake of having games to play. Games are my greatest passion, my beloved hobby and pastime. I would absolutely return to the days of playing games for hours on end and loving every second… if there were games to be played that I could enjoy for that long.

I can consume games like Assassin’s Creed. I can casually play games like Minecraft and Civilization on and off. If I could pick one style of game I love the most it would be MMORPGs. I love the immersion, the world, the social dynamics, and the progression over an extended period of time. I can play MMOs for years. What I can’t do anymore is justify being the tourist bouncing around MMO to MMO. That’s why I stopped playing WildStar and I’m skipping games like ArcheAge.

Settling for and buying every new MMO just isn’t in me anymore. Why bother? I can think of plenty of other activities I’d rather do than act desperate and throw myself at every promise. I’d rather be extremely picky and overly critical.

I think the best way I can describe myself as a gamer now is ‘unemployed’, ‘unoccupied’, or ‘idle’. The part of me capable of devouring games is hibernating and waiting for something to change. The only game I play now is the waiting game. Something will eventually come along. Something always does.

Has your way of gaming changed over the years? What kind of gamer are you?

Should Do

My friends and I are once again in our go-to game: Minecraft. We have a server up and running on Feed the Beast Monster which contains like 100+ different mods and all sorts of crazy addons. The biggest problem I run into with modded Minecraft, especially with so many mods, is an overwhelming sense of having no idea what to do. I feel like there’s so much to do, and so many options, that I spin my wheels and almost do nothing because I can’t decide what I want.

I said to my friends, “I don’t know what I should do first,” to which one replied, “There is no “should do” in a sandbox.” Fascinating concept, and at first I felt like that was totally true and chastised myself. Now the more I think about it, sandboxes or every game for that matter need a ‘should do’ even if it’s a loose direction. Sometimes that ‘should do’ is a little hard to identify — that’s okay. Thinking over Minecraft, my ‘should do’ is gather resources and accumulate resources like electricity and power. In a MMO the should do is advance my character (whether a prescribed way or however I choose).

There’s a balance in there somewhere. Too much and it becomes a themepark leading you by the nose to every objective. Too little and it ceases to be gamelike. All of that said, I’ll err on the side of less ‘should do’ and more freedom any day. For me it’s all about having something to constantly work toward and achieve. Once I identify what that is, or I can create my own objective and it’s truly meaningful, I’ll play for years. As soon as that objective seems pointless, like a stopping point, or too easy to obtain, I’ll put it in the ‘why bother’ category and move on.