EQN: Leading off with your best

When someone states their MMO is doing something different from everyone else, which of the following innovations would you rather see:

WAR’s Public Quests, changing how you go about getting into a group to do group content.

Or

EQN’s “parkour”, adding an animation for going over (certain) rocks?

If you think the above example is silly and unfair, I agree, but I’m not the one in charge of putting together the agenda for the big EQN reveal, and that was one of the first items emphasized. Right after lighting, lighting, lighting, and lighting (which, btw, looked average at best, and won’t have any impact on gameplay, unlike say the lighting in Darkfall or Skyrim where shadows actually matter).

I bring this up not just to mock SOE, but to emphasis a point about “advancing the genre”. You don’t do that with fluff, which parkour very much is. You also don’t do it by fully voicing your quests, which is why SW:TOR was easy to declare DOA in 2010. When your big selling point is garbage, it’s not because you are hiding the really good stuff for later, it’s because everything else is even worse garbage.

Now yes, there was more substance to the EQN showing than JUST parkour, but apply the test; was anything else shown something that will have the impact of even WAR’s PQs? (Which is not a high bar, just one simple example) And if you come away with anything in the ‘Yes’ column, will any of those ideas actually work as fun MMO gameplay? A crazy new idea is still garbage if ultimately it’s not fun or outright fails.

Predicting when a new idea that impacts gameplay is going to work can be tricky. Identifying fluff garbage pitched as advancing the genre is easy, as is the reason why someone would present that over solid ideas or innovation.

34 Responses to EQN: Leading off with your best

  1. Darcness says:

    One might think if EQN wanted to prove its sandboxyness, it would announce player housing will be a central part of the game. Given the release of EQNL, hyping housing and giving people tools to experience would certainty drive a ton of attention and fan fare. I take the lack of announced player housing as a clear sign they cannot figure out how to implement housing successful. I can understand this, given there has been one, maybe two, MMOs which have successfully implemented player housing as center pieces of game play.

    Don’t want to completely write of EQN, but I’m with the camp that will be decidedly skeptical until much much more information is provided.

    Also, wanted the over under for a EQN release date? Mid-2015 seems more realistic to me than late-2014.

  2. Spents says:

    I think the biggest feature or innovation of EQN is their AI, if it’s like they are saying and it’s pulled off correctly. Granted, UO had immergent UI back in the day but it was simplistic at best. If EQN can really infuse their mobs with intelligent AI (natch) and make it work in an MMO environment with thousands of players running around, that will set the bar for future MMOs.

    Everything else ranges from neat (destroy everything) to interesting-but-done-before (server wide events that last months…hi2u Horizons) to quirky but cool (parkour, as you mentioned.)

      • saucelah says:

        I never realized Azuriel was an SOE designer working on the AI.

        I think this is a case of “might be hype and no substance” — no one knows one way or the other.

        You’re depending on a lot of assumptions. For example, using the failure of UO’s attempt at an “ecology” to claim that EQN will have the same results assumes that EQN is using emergent AI to create a closed ecology. They haven’t said that, if anything, the comment that they “release orcs into the world” might contradict that — if they’re releasing orcs into the world, orcs may be released when the server thinks the population is low, and that works just fine even if every orc is dead.

        That’s an assumption too, but it isn’t difficult to imagine. A slight change in perspective about the unknown, such as a willingness to imagine that they are doing an old thing in a new way rather than placing walls around that previous method and insisting it’s the only approach or result, leads to a different outlook on the same.

        Why? Because it’s unknown.

        I think cynicism and bitterness are justified in the MMO community. But I thinking you’ve gotten a little too jaded — to the point where these posts feel like clickbait and not really useful or insightful.

        • SynCaine says:

          People said the same back in 2010 when I was talking about SW:TOR. My track record for predictions is pretty solid here.

          As for Az, his post is based off comments from EQN designers. Not a lot of guess-work on his part.

        • saucelah says:

          I was with you on SW:TOR, but I don’t think being right about something at any given time makes your next prediction untouchable.

          I’ve read Az’s post. He uses the Dev’s words to back his assumptions; each time his assumption resting on how it was done in another game or on the word choice by the devs — it’s an even greater stretch than your own posts and not something I’d be proud to cite.

          Personally, though I am now more in business than in my field of study, I spent a good chunk of my life studying how words have many meanings, and that the same sentence can be used to support two disparate ideas. In the words of Barthes: “We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.” Az draws from the centers of culture he finds most compelling (namely repeated disappointment with MMO promises and an apparently pessimistic outlook) then he (and you apparently) assigns a theological-esque meaning to those words, without providing—as indeed such can never be provided—any proof that such a singular interpretation was the intent of the speaker, and not allowing for any examination of other possibilities.

          That’s bound to be wrong as often as it’s right, and it is based almost entirely on the assumption that what can be done has already been done, and that if something similar has been done before, it can only be done the same way again. That’s actually rather sad — in the sense of pitiable.

          And that actually goes double for you: if emergent AI ends up working as advertised, the MMO world gets a good step closer to that PvE sandbox design proposal you put so much effort into. In fact, from my Twitter, my first reaction was “someone at Sony was reading Syncaine”

        • SynCaine says:

          People at SOE do read this, and maybe the dev comments in question can be taken in different ways and EQN’s emergent AI is indeed closer to what I wrote back then. I’m not seeing it, and if I was putting money on it I’d go with Az, but we won’t know 100% until beta or at least more info.

    • spinks says:

      AI in mobs is a wash. Even if they did it, there’s no reason to think it would be more fun than programmed behaviour.

      • João Carlos says:

        I think you need look at this guy blog (http://psychochild.org/) and read about Storybricks. He cannot say anything about EQN however, contractual obrigations, and after they made public they are working for SOE for make the EQN mob and NPC AI, the info about Storybricks dried.

        You too can look for more information about Storybricks at google. You will find old news like http://massively.joystiq.com/2012/05/14/storybricks-demo-and-interview-with-brian-psychochild-green-an/ and http://massively.joystiq.com/2012/05/10/storybricks-alpha-web-client-goes-public/. But as I said, the info dried after SOE partnership started.

        The dev from the EQN presentation used some storybricks terms: NPCS will have “likes” and “don’t likes”. The hypothethical example they give for the public quest (that they call “rally cries”) is a more advanced example for the use of Storybricks than the one you can see at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3b_3UGc7Es

        IMHO, Storybricks is a tool for make easier create advanced AI for NPC and mobs. I too have the impression that some kind of emergent behavior* can arise with the use of storybricks.

        So, let’s wait and see. While the people from SOE come from Vanguard, so they have a story of fail, the people from Storybricks is a new bleed.

        * look http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence

      • kalex716 says:

        Ummmm, better AI can’t not be programmed behavior. Ever.

        And it is no doubt a system ripe for change in games these days.

      • Redd says:

        Agreed.
        Mob AI is fluff to me. Players will soon figure out the pattern and get bored. Ironically, players also hates unpredictable (i.e. luck-based) things when it comes to AI. The most intelligent opponent is your fellow players. Give us non-consensual pvp (with consequences of course).

        • João Carlos says:

          “The most intelligent opponent is your fellow players”

          so, it is a bad thing that storybricks AI can learn… I fear they will not need a lot of time for be more inteligent than our “fellow players”….

        • SynCaine says:

          Much like with GW2, I think you are being blindly optimistic about EQN Joao. The hype vs delivery of that game should have taught you something, and SOE is no Anet.

        • João Carlos says:

          @Syncaine, that is the point that you refuse to see.

          EQN AI is not being developed by SOE, it is being developed by Storybricks. This guy is one that is working at it http://psychochild.org/

          With relation to GW2, I continue to play it. However, I quit Darkfall forever.

        • SynCaine says:

          Pre-release you were telling us GW2 was going to revolutionize the genre, get bigger than WoW, and how their PQs were nothing like WAR PQs. I told you the opposite. GW2 is out, its a genre footnote, the PQs are basically WAR PQs with stages that loop.

          You are doing the same thing now with EQN.

        • João Carlos says:

          GW2 is the second most played MMO. What position is Darkfall?

        • SynCaine says:

          Based on what data?

  3. Matt says:

    Voxel-based world means real construction by players is actually possible, with the only caveat being whether SOE will allow it to happen or shove it off into a corner because it interferes with the developer-inserted gimmicks. Probably the latter, but there’s a real possibility there for anyone who is watching.

    • saucelah says:

      With Landmark, it really seems like they’re pushing it into a corner. Which was personally a big letdown.

      • Milady says:

        When they announced Landmark I got the impression that they were misdirecting the attention of the builders towards this ancillary game, so as to be able to say: ‘We’ve got player housing! It’s called Landmark!’

        I was corrected later on – they had announced they intended to implement player housing (in the main game, I assume). Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if they carried out this evasive manoeuvre.

  4. Milady says:

    What about the bigger issues that we’ve been talking about on the blogosphere for a few years now? I’m referring to the social texture of these increasingly single-player MMOs.

    I haven’t seen anything on the topic of guilds, group content, ‘soloability’, player-driven content. As you pointed out, they led with bullet points that completely missed the mark. They seemed to be addressing concerns about the ‘game’ aspect of MMOs (by adding an improved AI) when the fact remains that people do not care about AI as much as they care about finding a way to play with each other consistently.

    Now they want each player to be able to fend for him/herself (down with the trinity!) – yet another sign of how they want their game to be gamed and not to be lived in cooperation with others.

    P.S.: I remember having read a comment somewhere that claimed that what we wanted (old curmudgeons) was a face-painted EQ1 with an improved UI. Well, yes, that’s exactly what I want. Perhaps a few quality of life improvements that do not harm the community would be nice too (no to LFD, yes to double-spec, or at least a viable way of pulling some damage as a tank or healer).

    • kalex716 says:

      I’m very concerned with how we as users will engage with the overall community in playing in a game like this as well.

      However, a complex AI system, could likely demand more from users in how we play together, conquor content, plan, organize and interact with the over all game space. Traditional expectations of roles might be going away, but they could possibly be replaced by new demands.

      similar to how you might ship up in EVE for specific fights, then switch ships for a different job later. You might just not be locked into them the same way you were in old school games where you have to re-roll to fill different needs.

      Here’s to hoping we’ll learn more about engagement moving forward.

  5. Feliz says:

    Ever the optimist I read the entire EQN release show as pointing out that they are at least one year away from public release. They haven’t been talking much about game mechanics because they just aren’t there, yet.

  6. kalex716 says:

    I don’t think either of those things are all that compelling.

    What is compelling about EQnext is the voxel engine its being built with, and the toolset they’re releasing with the potential to leverage a userbase for content creation. This could revolutionize user interactions in the game space. I know we should all be skeptical, but big risky ideas should always start out with skepticism. I’m skeptical.

    But nevertheless, these two fundamentals above indicate a product thinking much bigger than anyone with this much money behind ‘em has ever thought so far. I really think you’re missing the point.

    They don’t have a game yet, but they have the foundations for one at this time. They can’t talk about too many specifics of that yet because their still figuring those out. This is a good thing, because if they were cookie cutting existing games, and giving us a basis for discussing and comparing beyond some initial tech, it would mean they’re just planning to deliver the same old drivel anyway.

    I’m surprised you of all people are even getting hung up on stupid stuff they brought to try and wow people at a press conference with.

    Its very significant.

  7. Xmas says:

    When SOE did Star Wars Galaxies, they had some interesting development around player housing and structures. But that game…I dunno what the problem was. Advancement was to slow, travel was too hard. Some of the look and feel wasn’t quite star warsy enough.

    A good sandbox game needs to have functionality that allows players to affect the landscape and environment. But at the same time, some players will do their worst to affect the environment in negative ways.

  8. Jenks says:

    You are so lost.

  9. Seriah says:

    Trying to use reason to point out the flaws in Syncaine’s argument is worthless. It isn’t EVE and it isn’t Darkfall. If it doesn’t fit either of those design molds, it will never be something he stands behind. Even if it is something he enjoys in passing (Guild Wars 2) it will still be the subject of ridicule. Such is the Syncaine way. I also have a sneaking suspicion he enjoys when people get riled up. ;-)

  10. tithian says:

    Why does it have to be OR, when it can very much be AND, in your opening statement there?

    You are somehow thinking that “not-really-exciting feature X” detracts from the overall experience, when in reality the sum of those features may very well add to it in ways you cannot expect (i.e. players scaling terrain to assault n otherwise unreachable pvp target).

    I fthey do manage to “advance the genre”, it will be through the voxel-based gameworld and the mob AI. They even hinted at underground content that you will need to dig to, Terraria-style. I fail to see how these are “fluff garbage pitched as advancing the genre”.

    I think you’ve become too jaded when talking about anything not-DF and are just nitpicking, when in reality you should be asking yourself how the really major features will impact future gameplay. The irony is, that when I was reading about all the EQN details, I kept thinking “could this be the PvE Sandbox Syncaine was talking about”?

    • SynCaine says:

      It’s an OR because dev time is not unlimited. While SOE was working on parkour for EQN, they were NOT working on housing/PvP/combat/etc.

      I’ve covered voxels and the mob AI. It’s SOE, until proven wrong, I’ll assume they will blow it, like they pretty much have in every game since EQ1.

      It’s funny people are thinking this sounds like my PvE sandbox design, but I suspect that’s just wishful thinking. Wait and see, then link back to the posts ala SW:TOR.

      • kalex716 says:

        One thing compromising another is not always an entirely accurate assertion though. In game develpoment, you can’t start working on particular mechanics until you have your fundamental, core systems in place.

        That means, game architecture, movement, base network layers, core rendering systems etc. So what they featured as parkour, is really just part of the prototyping phase of pre-production where you find out how the user will move/interact with the world. All the other cool game mechanics and features you want to see that relate to an actual video game, come later.

        Its okay to be more interested in that stuff, we all are. I rarely disagree with you on things, but I will go ahead and make my prediction and say you’re trying to call this one too soon.

        You may never like this game, particularly because its a big publisher product and they will undoubtedly have to tow the line on a lot of decisions to try and get a bigger piece of the pie, but I believe its going to represent a big shift in MMO’s nonetheless.

  11. […] and reactions from the blogging community have managed to crystallise some things for me. Syncaine is not impressed with the new announcement and is predicting a SWTOR level of fail. Azurial is less […]

  12. […] recently took to looking for other blogs about EQNext, and came across this gem; Syncaine trolls mostly in his EQNext post about SOE leading with “Parkour” styled movement in […]

  13. […] and reactions from the blogging community have managed to crystallise some things for me. Syncaine is not impressed with the new announcement and is predicting a SWTOR level of fail. Azurialis […]

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