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.

  • That’s ashamed, I know how excited you were about these titles.

    They seem to be following a WoW line of marketing development only in a rapidly accelerated time frame.

    As Blizzard relied upon their early adopters’ money to get them to a point where they could safely abandon them for the larger casual demographic, so has SOE has cash-grabbed from their most enthusiastic supporters and now shifted direction to what sounds like a more accessible jack of all trades themepark approach.

    Perhaps an important difference is that WoW morphed into its current form less by planning at its inception, but more out of realization of what it could be as years passed by. With the Landmark series we can safely assume this transition has been part of their corporate road map all along.

  • Can people still get their money back or has that deadline passed?

    It would be exceptionally unprincipled if they pitched it to their most faithful taking their money with the assurance of a money-back satisfaction guarantee, and waited to shift design focus until after the refund deadline.

  • I’m not really looking at it like it was something malicious or that I need to get my money back. They haven’t turned it into a themepark or anything. It’s all just… weird. Their brand management is weird, the direction Landmark is taking — well, there isn’t a direction. EQNext is so ambiguous and undefined, and there isn’t much for real fans to get excited about yet.

    This is more of me, a true fan, trying to preempt a problem I’ve seen coming for the last 6 months and now in retrospect look back at this past year as questionable for them.

    H1Z1 has a plan. It has carved out a niche. There’s a direction and a vision. The EverQuest franchise is lacking that in a big way.

  • That would be unprofessional of them. I would naturally assume that a well-established corporate division whose sole purpose was to design games would have a solid road map for development. After reading Bhagpuss’ detailed description it sounds like things have taken a significant turn for the worse.

    I am not sure which would be the worse accusation, that they purposely mislead the initial fanbase with their post-refund (I ended up Googling it and I think it is past the deadline) shift away from their originally promised game design, or they are just a bunch of stumble-bums utilizing a Brownian-motion approach to game design?

    Once again I will rely on you to test the waters and report back, as I no longer believe in the pre-purchase option for most games (I say most as I sometimes roll the dice on STEAM sales on alpha products under $10).

    😛

  • I’m not really sure what the complaining is about, landmark was always a one trick pony and they have acknowledged that it’s a testing ground for next. You can still build stuff, but the bemoaning of their attempts to test out other mechanics seems silly to mon the other hand, I have not paid for it, nor do I play it s I do t have the time for that kind of grind. I love building and creating, but harvesting materials is just not my forte. Too much to do iin a day for me to devote the hours needed to.get the good stuff.

  • They’re radically altering their approach to developing these games, and what started out as a great and open form of development has slid backwards into a rut. The brand is being damaged as a result. They’re doing odd things with the combat and in the process of using Landmark as a testbed, they’re reaching out to other demographics and abandoning their original core fans who are the only ones who care enough about the namesake to truly invest themselves into this longterm.

  • Hate to point out the obvious, but myself and many others saw this coming a long way out. Not happy about it, just another sad example of hype and BS PR leading to more harm, and probably much more harm, than good.

    Funny how quickly the storyline can change from how responsive and great a company’s interaction with fans to despair and anger. Keen and others were raving about the launch of Landmark and the way SOE was providing constant feedback. Now, not so much.

    If I was a betting man, which I am from time to time, I’d bet against EQ Next bombing if ever launching. Not happy about it, just got that feeling, especially ever since the Landmark launch and basically not a hint of discussion on EQ Next.

    Maybe SOE is playing it smart knowing the game is years, 2-3 from launching, and not wanting to build hype which as we’ve all seen now can be more deadly than good.

    This is also another example of how early access can be a miserable failure. No one really wants to play a half, or way less, finished game, despite what they might claim. Let this be a lesson for the H1Z1 early access launch…

    Hold faith, because that’s all EQ Next fans have. Or, hope that another game like Patherfinder might fill the void…

  • Thanks for the linkage. We certainly seem to be on the same page over this.

    I think Ald Shot First in the comments on my piece has it spot on – SOE really aren’t interested in what original or longtime Everquest fans think about either Landmark or EQNext. We are absolutely not their target market.

    I absolutely do not believe that the version of EQNext we are beginning – dimly – to see shake taking shape is a game most of the people working on it want to play themselves, unlike H1Z1, which you can clearly see IS from the unfeigned glee of the developers on video talking about it. The background to EQN is that they have already scrapped several years of development on a least two previous iterations (I’ve read suggestions it was more than two).

    The project is already the most expensive one the studio has ever undertaken (as per that SOE story guy’s interview at a con as reported by Azuriel a while back). There is just no way they can pitch this project at the relatively small audience who are already interested in another MMO set in Norrath. They are pitching it for a mass market and also, I would assume, a console market.

    All well and good. Arguably we’ve had two bites at the EQ cherry already and done very well out of it entertainment wise. Moreover, the first two EQ games are still up and running and in reasonably good health. So, go for a new audience and don’t worry too much if the old guard aren’t on board. Except, as you so rightly point out, everything is happening sooooo slooooowly and so little of it seems coherent or well-planned.

    At this rate we’re going to get two games (LM and EQN) squarely aimed at video-gaming trends popular in 2013 only by the time the games arrive those trends will be three years out of fashion. If you’re going to jump a bandwagon you have to be nimble and QUICK. That’s if we ever get them at all.

  • @JJ: Their landmark communication is still excellent. It’s just not on point. As Bhagpuss points out they are targeting some other market that certainly isn’t me. The message and delivery are all wrong for me. It’s EQNext that they are silent on, which is fine except for how Landmark is being managed. It paints a very bleak picture for me.

    @bhagpuss: Yeah, I agree with you completely.

  • I feel like the iteration for EQNext that SOE scrapped was what the original fanbase was looking for. 40 classes within a trinity and focused on PVE tossed in with some world building.

    Around the time of GW2’s release and it’s initial success i feel is when they scrapped all that and decided to ride on Anets coat tails. Now don’t get me wrong, i feel GW2 did a lot of things right but group PVE was not one of them.

    Until SOE proves me wrong i see EQNext as a product aimed towards Minecraft/MOBA’s kids with little to no resources tossed towards complex and meaningful PVE.

  • GW2 flopped hardcore in the PvE department and only marginally — barely — scraped by in other areas. I can’t imagine why anyone would look at GW2 and say, “that’s the model we’re going with for our game.”

    Complex and meaningful PvE has been the hallmark of EverQuest. To do anything else… just blows my mind.

  • I agree that these developing games lack direction. For Landmark at least, this was never ever in question for me. (EQN is another story).

    What do I mean by that? Landmark was never a GAME. When I originally read about it, it was quite literally SOE EQN Developers giving users access to their own in-house world building tools, in order to hype EQN because the “best most amazing and accurate” user creations could be incorporated into the EQN world. While that idea sounds cool, it was nothing to “Wmgz!” about. Basically a 3D paint program.

    Only later did they start discussing and alluding to it becoming more and more “Minecraft” in nature, with resource gathering and maybe even some pve! And then they started to really tip the handle and start claiming it was basically going to be an MMO.

    Now I don’t claim to be a genius, but that was an obvious “wtf” moment for me. Why in the hell would a company create a product in direct competition with its other product? Why make an MMO twice using the exact same engine and models/characters/everything? There is no reason.

    The sad simple truth is that their idea to hype EQN by getting end-users involved a little in developing the world (and I really do mean a little) spiraled into a marketing campaign for a product that had already basically soft-released. And during that time EQN was being thrown back onto the drawing board to rework, instead of becoming launch ready.

    I don’t claim this was done maliciously, but it certainly was a fumble at the design level.

    As far as H1Z1…. I’ve seen plenty of studios with Dev’s that are gung-ho about making a game they would actually want to play.

    … I’ve yet to see one of those release as originally intended.

  • I have felt for a long time this development lacked direction. It seems to flounder around not knowing exactly what it wants to be and trying to be all things to all people. I was very excited about EQNext but not anymore. The current development or lack thereof of Landmark is disgraceful. Months and months with only minor updates. Sad.

  • They just announced that Tunare died to a Chaos Magic Monster in Kithicor Forest. They previously announced you could be all of 40 classes on a single character. No holy trinity. Disney styled characters. More of a twitch action styled combat system.

    Everquest Next was supposed to have been a sequel to Everquest I. The sequel a lot of fans have been waiting a very long time for. It was supposed to be a game designed for adults. A challenging game for those of us who play these games as a hobby and not as a casual enterprise.

    It is clear to any long time fan of Everquest that Everquest Next will be Everquest in name only. I feel that the entire design team should be removed, including Mr. Smedley. Sony has a valuable gaming platform with Everquest and it will be a terrible shame to watch it all go down the drain.

  • The difference between the two never made much sense to me and when they added combat and pvp to landmark it made even less. I suspect EQ next is either already dead or is dialing an ambulance as we speak.

  • An adversarial and essentially meanspiritied sentiment in competitive business is that combination of glee in seeing the failures by another company and the determintiation to not do likewise. This can be reinforced if the competing company started out successfully. I’m thinking these sort of dynamics, ArenaNet and GW2 as the focus, could be feeding into how other outfits, like SOE/EQetc, have been operating. Yup, there’s plenty of PUG failure out there in recent AAA products, for example. “Oh, man, we better re-examine how we’re designing this…”

    Thing is, company environments can get terrible narrow focused and self-absorbed, too. A lot of work can get done before key players teams or management stick their nose up for air and realize that everybody is way off track. As Bhagpuss points out, “…you have to be nimble and QUICK…” From SOE, I’m not feeling that necessary quickness. I think they’d like to be but, aaahhh… no. “Flailing” seems more like it.

  • They should just get Brad Mcquaid back and let him make another EQ with a good engine.

    Seriously though my hopes are NOT up for another EQ because of a simple theory I’ve come up with. If the studio making “X” mmo is a triple A studio, the game will appeal to a broad demographic which directly affects “X” mmo from being anything like the original EQ. EQ will never be remade because the genre has evolved or as I think is more fitting, devolved, into a marketing cash grab catering to the masses.

    The only hope that a game will ever come to rival EQ will be from an indie studio or a crowdfunded project. Someone that is willing to take a risk. Not a AAA studio like SOE that won’t take financial risks due to shareholder politics.

    The sad but true facts of the matter unfortunately.

  • SOE has the talent. Many employees worked on the original EQ and EQ2, or are big fans of the games. The issue is that they aren’t making those games. I don’t know if they are making the game they want to play.

    There’s still tons of hope. Tons. They just have to make the decision to actually make that game.

  • I hate to be a pain, but it seemed pretty obvious to me at the time that Landmark was a tech demo spinned off into crowdfunding to fuel EQ Next. I never expected it to be a full game and I was under the impression it would be shut down within months of the launch of EQ Next with a nice PR spin.

    I may not be up to date, but there’s not a lot of information available for EQ Next. I can understand the frustration about a slow development and lack of communication.

  • @Maljjin: You’re not a pain. 🙂 They’ve never really pitched Landmark as a tech demo… more of a tool to aid in the public’s participation in the development process. I definitely haven’t felt that they would shut it down close to EQN’s launch either. Maybe, though. I won’t rule it out.

    There’s lots of information about EQN but none of it is real game information that will help anyone truly understand whether or not the game is fun. It’s more of alluding to a general idea instead of the details someone like me wants. Clearly there’s a limit to what can be said early in development, but the game can still be marketed from a lore and overview level in such a way that the EverQuest side can appeal to the EverQuest and MMORPG fans over the “destructible environments” and “minecracft/moba” crowd.

  • @Keen
    I’ve been thinking a bit more about this and I came up with another theory. From what I get from your blog post, you’re disappointed because the game so far isn’t close enough to the old EQ you liked. Maybe that’s the entire point of EQ Next. SOE could be building a completely new game, target a new young audience, but strap an old familiar name to get a good bunch of nostalgic people playing.

    It could be even worth a shot. Gamers talk the talk, but rarely walk the walk. The only real way to show your support or disapproval is with your wallet. Unfortunately, way too many gamers are still paying for game/product they shouldn’t based on past information (eg : someone didn’t like Adventures of the Little Pink Pony Episode 1 or Episode 2, they have complained a lot about it, but still, they will buy the Episode 3 just be sure they can crap on it. ) Gamers in general need to be more rational with their money. How many gamers will buy EQ Next regardless of their past disappointement with SOE, the Everquest franchise or recent MMO ? Way too much. 😉

  • Yeah I do want it to be like the old EQ I love. I’m hoping they aren’t just using the name to rope in people like me. I have always, always, struggled with the idea of voting with my wallet. Writing a blog post right now on the subject.

  • For me, killing off Tunare, especially in such a really lame way, was the decider for me. I spent years fighting for Tunare on the Sullon Zek server. It was tons of fun and the roleplaying which centered around our chosen deity made it all the better.

    Everquest was tremendously popular. Why not build on to that. Use Everquest I as your base game and build onto and deepen the Everquest I game systems. That plus current high quality graphics and sound. I bet that would hook gamers again for a very long time.

    A couple examples:

    Crafting system: With the computing power available today, I don’t see why they could not expand upon the original crafting system. Add more layers, such as weather systems, seasons, ability to grow crops, ect… Add that to the base Everquest tradeskills system and you would have a very sophisticated and fun sphere to work on when you did not feel like adventuring or dungeon crawling.

    Factions: I knew a lot of Everquest players who would spend hours and hours trying to max out what must have been hundreds of factions. The factions were deeply intertwined. It took experience and knowledge to know which quests or which creatures to kill in order to raise the faction you were focusing on. Factions did not just go up, but also went down. I bet they could expand on the faction system, make it even more ingrained into the social fabric of the gaming world. This again would be something fun to work on when you did not feel like adventuring or dungeon crawling.

    So from my vantage point, you don’t design a sequel that has nothing to do with what came before. If you intend to dream up something completely new, that’s fine, but don’t call it Everquest. Everquest was known for its deep, group focused, highly challenging gameplay. Gameplay where unskilled or reckless gamers did not progress. A game where when you finally achieved something you had been working on, it provided a deep sense of accomplishment. Think of the original epics and how you had to organize groups of players to help you and the commitment that was required to see it all the way through. It is that type of challenge that keeps players engaged in the game. It is what builds gaming communities. People often times complain, oh its too hard or oh I don’t have the time. But if you give in to those types of complaints, you end of with a very casual game that most people can master without much effort. Those games quickly become dull and boring and fail. That is what you repeatedly have seen over the last several years. If people like the game, even if they have jobs and a family, they will find the time to log in and play. It was always that way with Everquest I.

  • Just came across your article today after I happened to read about Omeed’s resignation from the team and SOE. I was curious as to know what had happened since I played last months ago after I got tired of the direction they’d been going with the game and marketing, etc.

    I was one of the adopters that had played it on day 1, and for a few months, I loved it. The community was amazing and it seemed like the perfect collaboration between the devs and the players but something along the way got lost and I noticed that the forums were being commented by devs less and less and posts there had more and more just become banter between people playing the game.

    They focused more on twitch, streamers, their own live streams and tweeting stuff. All things I was not into playing Landmark for in the first place. The list of things that seemed to be going wrong is too long to list here really but it’s sad. I’m not even an “original” EQ player but started with EQ2 years ago. Even so I had a great respect for the franchise and now it seems with Landmark it’s a formless creation now without direction, I fear for the future of EQ, myself.

    I must say to their credit that they were trying something completely new, they were trying to be pioneers in the area of MMO gaming and that is nothing to sneeze at. With that huge endeavor comes great risk of doing something wrong and ending up where they are now. I hope they can regain some semblance of continuity with the original design of EQ. I still watch, check forums and everything from time to time, I still hold out a little hope that it will turn out ok but it’s waning.

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