EQN: The next big AAA disaster

In case you don’t want to sit through the EQNext showing, here are the cliff notes:

“If someone should do it, it should be EverQuest. Again” (UO…)








How do you like it? :mild applause:


Hyper linear paths with specific animation events, insert buzzword: “ parkour ”

:Summing up the GW2 character system as something new. Classes with weapons = abilities, zzz:

Destroying pre-set levels in pre-set scenarios

Grail 3: the UO living ecosystem (maybe this one will make it out of beta?) “You will be making change!” read: players will butcher everything until it all stops spawning and the system is removed.

Grail 4: Public quests, now stretched out for 2-3 months. (side-note: guy almost slips up and says your alt could repeat the content if you make the same choices. Sorta goes on to correct himself)


Talks about Everquest Next Minecraft – a world of penises (at least until devs start deleting them)

More talk about having the players create content for the devs

(Final note: Do SOE fans just not know when to clap, or was the presentation just not all that… jazzy? Awkward silence city.)

One has to wonder what SOE scraped prior to going with what they showed. Game must have been nightmare fuel. Terror wondering aside, what they showed was… something. I almost typed ‘meh’ but that best describes the latest Elder Scrolls Online gameplay video (Short summary: watered down ES gameplay + some MMO aspects = generic game with ES skin on top). What SOE showed was really more classic SOE; delusion and a misguided sense of greatness from the studio that is still living off its one hit title (EQ1).

First, EQN looks EXACTLY like Kingdoms of Amalur / Copernicus graphically, which is nice; at least all that work found a home. It still looks like a knockoff Disney movie, but I’m sure the kids will find that appealing. Plus anything is an upgrade over EQ2, by far the ugliest MMO ever.

As the cliff notes above point out, a lot of what was presented has already been done/tried. We know what happens when you allow players to full shape the world; the goons create a rain of penises (Second Life). We know what happens when mobs move around based on player actions; everything is farmed to extinction (UO beta). We know what happens when you sell the concept of a dynamic changing world without it actually changing long-term (GW2).

Now, can SOE take all of the above and make it work? Sure. Will they? Of course not, otherwise they would not be SOE. I mean, we are talking about the same people who included the ultra-lame “Do not stand in the red box” boss crap in their “we are awesome and totally new” trailer.

EQN will go in one of two directions IMO; it will either be somewhat close to DDO in terms of very linear ‘levels’, which will allow for solo or small groups to fully see the destruction, changes, and make it easier to hard-code all of the parkour bits. I think honestly that’s best-case for EQN; it won’t be the big bad sandbox SOE is trying to hype, but it could be a game that ‘works’ well enough for those looking for something like that.

The other direction is a fully open world that changes like GW2 changes; short-term and on a very noticeable and gameable loop, plus dev-driven updates that herd players from one content ‘hotspot’ to the next every few weeks/months.

This is the far more ambitious direction, and the one that will lead SOE to far more issues and broken gameplay than anything else. The presentation and ideas live in an ideal state; the reality of an MMO is you must always assume the players operate under a worst-case scenario. The dream is players will build great-looking castles that add to the landscape; the reality is players will blow the entire world up because they can and rebuild it as a giant penis. The presentation was very much a dream. If the game is also built around these dream-state expectations, hilarious disaster will follow.

Beyond that, nothing shown moves the genre in a good direction. Even if the parkour is amazing and works exactly like the dream-state sells, was anyone asking for that? Will it add anything to the genre besides a few new animations? Was the class/weapons/skills bit anything new, or even a side-step above the norm? The system is pretty meh in GW2, and THAT was a step back from GW1, so what exactly is SOE selling here? I’ve covered the destructible terrain already; that’s lose/lose for SOE. Give players true freedom, and they will bury you. Restrict it enough to keep the bad stuff out, and you likely restrict it to the point of non-factor.

The hardest part of making a sandbox is balancing the freedom you give to the players with creating an environment that is still enjoyable on a large-scale. Nothing that SOE showed suggests they get it, or have a good answer to any of the issues that come with such a design direction.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in DDO, EQ2, EQNext, Guild Wars, Mass Media, MMO design, Rant, The Elder Scrolls Online, Ultima Online. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to EQN: The next big AAA disaster

  1. saucelah says:

    Well, at least you put in UO instead of GW2 — the comparisons to GW2 seem completely uninsightful to me.

    Though I’m not seeing it as a sandbox either — seems the sandbox elements are safely confined to Landmark, so they’re still taking the easy way out. Other than that, much of it might work similarly to your PvE sandbox article — so I’m not writing it off until I see this claim in action.

  2. R says:

    I loved your post. I miss non DF posts.

    Would it be possible to have your views on the direction Anet has taken GW2?

  3. bhagpuss says:

    When you criticized WoW for being the medicine ball denting the trampoline you had an excellent point. Railing against Blizzard’s design choices was fair game because their success drove decisions being made across the board.

    You don’t believe any other AAA MMO has been a success, not TOR, GW2, any Next Big Thing. You don’t think EQNext or TESO will be either. They’ll all fail, struggle, lack any kind of relevancy. None of them can possibly have the distorting effect on the genre WoW had; only huge, inarguable, overwhelming commercial success confers that level of influence.

    Does it matter if EQNext is another failure on your terms? If it does no better than GW2 or TOR? If it doesn’t move the genre on? You have Darkfall, you have EVE. Any reason other people shouldn’t have MMOs they like that you don’t, provided they remain sufficiently unsuccessful not to distort the whole genre the way WoW did?

    • SynCaine says:

      I would not put SW:TOR and GW2 in the same sentence. One is a spectacular failure, the other failed to live up to the promises, but does well-enough to continue being what it is.

      That aside, there is still a market for ‘more of the same’, and that’s fine. TESO might be generic and safe enough to pull in a GW2-sized crowd; maybe EQN will too. SW:TOR wasn’t.

      The problem is the devs are on stage telling us everyone is doing the same old, but they are revolutionizing the genre. They’re not, because they don’t have talent to do it. SOE never has. EQ1 was MUDS with a graphic skin, nothing more. UO was defining a new genre, EQ1 was setting it back. EQ2 did nothing. EQN won’t either.

      I get that a reveal is 99% hype, but my expectation is that the 1% is truth, not blowing smoke up peoples asses and hoping they don’t notice. Sadly for SOE, even in a crowd of self-admitted SOE fans, their sell-job fell flat.

      • bhagpuss says:

        The crowd reaction was fascinating. If active EQ/EQ2 players, who presumably make up the great majority of SOE Live attendees, want a new Everquest MMO at all, which many of them definitely do not, they probably want another just like the one they already have only with prettier pictures. Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson is also deeply unpopular with a significant segment of the EQ2 playerbase.

        They certainly weren’t reacting positively or spontaneously and that’s almost certainly because they didn’t like what they were seeing or the guy who was showing it to them. Reaction on the EQ2 forums has been more than flat – it’s been mostly non-existent with a dash of hostile. Hardly surprising. The game’s not being made for them or marketed to them and they resent it.

      • Jenks says:

        Your views on EQ are retarded. EQ wasn’t defining a new genre, but UO was? If you want to talk about setting something back, UO took the sandbox mmo pvp from 3d in 1995 backwards to 2d in 1997. But yeah I’m sure the isometric view was so much more immersive (to someone who was playing their first MMO).

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  5. kalex716 says:

    You are correct in outlining the various design problems this team is faced with. And theirs a great chance all these interesting features, and idealistic principals WILL get cut on the development floor. They’ll likely be replaced by easier to understand, focus tested approved safe design choices. Leveling bars, quest helpers etc.

    However…. At least they’re trying. Its a big budget company thats come out and shown us that they have some tech to give them at least a good enough shot at this time in realizing some great ideas to show us.

    You know Wurm isn’t full of dicks, and its a voxel style world too. The problems are not unsolvable… They’ll just have to make demographic concessions to do so. Will they do it? Again, unlikely…

    But I think you’d at least give these guys some credit for showing us that theirs at least a pulse. It could just be another early 21st century iteration on WoW, but they’re really trying.

    • SynCaine says:

      Wurm has a tiny population, and the crafting aspect is especially hardcore. It works thanks to that (mostly).

      As for trying, you don’t get a trophy for trying.The hype says they are moving the genre forward, just like the hype says EQN is a AAA sandbox. I’ve yet to see anything to really support either statement.

      If they pull it off, hats off to them. But if I was to put money down on it, I’m taking the under.

      • kalex716 says:

        The tech they’ve shown us so far is quintessential to a sandbox model.

        Its far more than enough to support the statement up to this point for me and I work in game dev. These are not the same old earmark wrappings from a big MMO press release, and perhaps thats why you didn’t hear an applause. The average gamer doesn’t even know what to think of this yet. They can’t even process it. They still probably want “!” marks.

        Sure, that tech is just what is under the hood at this time. A prototype. To build a design around a world like that from here is going to be a monumental task. Maybe even impossible.

        No one should be handing out any trophies yet, but to brush off the significance of the potential here seems trite to me. I didn’t expect to see a big budget pub try anything even remotely this off beat just yet.

  6. Rob says:

    It’s nice to see the occasional site not buying into the hype.

  7. Ravious says:

    God, I love you so hard.

    You are right on most points though. Until we see it working when it has 1000’s of players thrown at it… for now a modded Minecraft has virtually the same things.

  8. spacepilot says:

    I’m skeptical too, but this post leaves out the fact that SOE has built an incredible AAA sandbox already (SWG, which was for all intents and purposes UO2 with an unfortunate Star Wars skin).

    As for the fan reaction, that was utterly predictable and obvious to anyone who knows the SOE/EQ/MMO community.

    The reason they weren’t responding positively to it is because typical EQ fans are grindbot themepark players. They don’t give a crap about sandboxes or emergent gameplay, they want more loot lotteries, treadmills, and gear porn.

    I can’t believe SOE has the sack to kick these people to the curb with EQN, but I’m glad they’re trying it.

  9. Ahtchu says:

    Barring some Sinatra-esque tap-dancing on the topic of multiclassing AND class-swapping (https://twitter.com/DaveGeorgeson/status/364405306425487360), all of this title’s great ideas will be dragged down for lack of the very thing all us ‘old farts’ long for most in gameplay: meaning, and hence, roles. The more exclusive, the better defined, the better the game!
    As of right now, based purely on what’s been shown, and the direction in which they’ve directed the hype, this will flop.
    I love the world generation. I love the emergent AI. I love the concept of crafting organization. I love a lot of these other things on paper that I have no doubt they will deliver at least 50% of the promise. But the lack of depth in combat is unforgivable.
    It’s too much like WoW to win over the WoW-babies. It’s not enough like EQ1 to win over the falsely described ‘rose colored glass wearers’ from said era. By attempting to win the hearts of both demographics, they will fail utterly. Divide and conquer? They’ve divided their focus, and conquered their own ambition.
    I’m still waiting to read the follow-up explanation, and withholding judgement until then, but this is the formed opinion so far. Proverbial ball in their court.

    • Quin (Not Real Worlds) says:

      This is my problem with it too. I don’t want everyone to be able to do everything. Pick a class, commit to it.

      • Whorhay says:

        For me it really depends on how they do it. If the skill system is similar to SWG or UO where any player could have any skill but you could only have so many at one time then I am in. If it’s everyone can have every skill at the same time then I want no part. Being able to mix and match was a lot of fun and made for much more interesting gaming. Especially if they have a one character limit or something so that you have to rely on other players more. Those kind of systems can still have classes of a sort, they are just more loosely defined.

    • saucelah says:

      Strangely enough, and it seems to go right over the head of some people who love GW2 and play all the time, GW2 dungeon content still needs roles. I wouldn’t say it’s the holy trinity, as tanking is not one of the roles, but in my experience, without at least two characters capable of healing, crowd control, and condition management, you’re gonna have a bad time. Damage seems to take care of itself, but I think that’s because the average player specs for damage.

      They’re not clearly defined roles, and one character can handle most of them, at the same time but they’re still roles.

      My prediction is that the explanation will be that one character can do it all, but one player cannot do it all at one time. Honestly, that seems so obvious to me, with the limited number of abilities, that I’ve been surprised it’s not obvious to everyone.

  10. Tierless says:

    I saw, I thought, SOE is gonna SOE, its what an SOE does. It reminded me of GW3 wint minecraft player made real money transfer, you make it, you buyt it, we win. /shrug

    • Mekhios says:

      Let me translate.

      “I watched the presentation and after much thought SOE will continue to release an updated EverQuest. It looks like a future Guild Wars 3 and MineCraft cross. They will charge money, make the game, I will buy it, and I will win. I shrug my shoulders.”

  11. Mekhios says:

    It looks like they are really trying to raise EQN to GW2 level of graphics and playability. The stylised graphics do look nice and what little I saw of the landscape is a vast improvement over EQ2’s barren wastelands.

    The question is will there be any meat behind the pretty graphics and will this become yet another 3 month tourist MMO with an in-your-face cash shop.

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  13. Kyff says:

    The graphics and animations go in the wrong direction imho. There is no improvement to EQ2. They are not as eye-bleeding cartoonish as WoW but the arms of the Vah Shir (or whatever the cat is supposed to be) are way to ape-like.

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