A Conversation with Storybricks

The collaboration between SOE and Storybricks to create a new way of telling stories in MMOs is probably the most highly anticipated of all the promised features of EverQuest Next.

When you get right down to it, a new way of delivering story means a new way of delivering content, fundamentally changing the way players interact with the world. Players have been asking for an end to content that more closely resembles a box-checking exercise than an adventure for years, and Storybricks is confident it can deliver.

Your Next: Selfish Gamers

Being part of SOE's development of Landmark and EverQuest Next has so far been a strange and unique process, at times it feels like watching a Rube Goldberg machine assemble itself. We don't understand how everything fits together because we don't know yet, it's never been done. Frankly, I doubt that SOE knows how it all fits together; opportunities emerge as they build the tools to make the platform to build the tools. Opening the crate with the crowbar that's inside it.

SOE Live offers a convenient point of punctuation—it’s a great time to look back and take stock of how far we've come in such a short time while looking ahead at the ever clearer path in front of us.

Over a year ago during SOE Live 2013, I became hopelessly enamoured with the idea these games represented. Whether it's a case of cognitive bias or not, I must say being part of this experience has so far exceeded my expectations and I am consistently floored by the innovation of this unprecedented project.

Of course there's a long way to go, but right now I'm glad it's happening at all. Those of you who follow the news of the industry at large will be aware of the awful events of the last couple of weeks. We all know an unfortunate side effect of the anonymity the internet provides is giving a mouthpiece to people who don't think some other people's experiences are valid. So called 'gamer culture' has provided a breeding ground for these hateful fantasists, the themes and marketing strategies of the AAA game industry tend to play into their delusions.

So we must endure the death throes of this weak and petty bunch, all the while maintaining our superiority, because we are selfish enough to want others to be included.

Did I say selfish? Surely they are the selfish ones? Don't worry, it's just a trick – read on for the delightfully hyperbolic rhetoric!

When discussing accessibility in MMOs, I often refer to my selfishness. Because I am selfish, I want other people to enjoy playing the games I do; I want them to be knowledgeable and competent and feel empowered in the way that I do because improving their game experience improves my own.

It's the same with the game industry as a whole. I want all types of people to feel included, respected and valued because I am an awful, selfish man who wants games to be the best and most interesting they can be.

This is why I tend to champion instances of user generated content, social cohesion and player agency in games. I think it makes them more challenging, interesting and ultimately exciting. It might not always make them better, they might not be any more fun and judging by suggestions on forum posts we can expect more misses than hits.

EverQuest Next: Classes and Combat

According to the EverQuest franchise Director of Development Dave Georgeson, “EverQuest Next is going to launch with 40 different classes that you can find, collect, and use.” Even though you’ll have to select your starting class from a shortened list of around eight, it’s clear that there will be many multi-classing opportunities as you progress through the game.  Last year at SOE Live, the Warrior and Wizard classes were introduced. This year, SOE is giving players a closer look at the Warrior and Wizard as well as introducing 3 new classes: the Elementalist, the Cleric and the Tempest.

SOE Live: Landmark and EverQuest Next

 

This week, we're on the ground at SOE Live!

We've been getting a close look at the latest news on Landmark and EverQuest Next. Between a press briefing and an interview, we've learned a lot. Below is a compilation of everything we've found, so take it all in!

Your Next: Genre Defining

As some of you know, I'll be getting married next week. She's cool—you’d like her. At times like this one's thoughts can't help but turn to the nature and idea of commitment.

It's something that's always struck me about the MMO genre, if it is a genre, these games are made with the hope that we'll be playing them for years to come. Many of us have, or still are.

We're all aware of how much competition there is for our valuable free time these days. With the rise of quality free-to-play titles, the Steam Sale and the Humble Bundle, the barrier of entry for the best gaming has to offer drops lower by the day.

It seems like an insurmountable task for a developer to create one game that could hold our interest for any length of time, let alone years.

Could this be it? Could MMOs soon be relegated to a niche curiosity with the odd nostalgia product aimed at an aging, dwindling crowd?

Landmark Livestream: Recap and Highlights

LockSixTime, and background commentator Cyliena, recently discussed Landmark with Sony Online Entertainment's Senior Producer Terry Michaels and Director of Development Dave Georgeson during our July 29th Twitch livestream. If you don't have time to check out the full hour-long recording, here's a recap and highlights of everything discussed!

Your Next: Where's the Game?

In my part of the world, we don't do summer very well. The buildings are made to keep the heat in and the rain off, and my people turn a frightening shade of pink in the sun. But I cannot complain, because when I feel the sun on my face or shift uncomfortably on my leather desk chair, I think of the Mojave Desert.

In less than a month, the lucky and privileged among us will be in the costume-jewel of the desert, the shrine to the arrogance and hubris of humankind they call Las Vegas. We are called to hear the word and spread it throughout the unholy land.

The word, of course, of EverQuest Next.

It's been almost a year since the big reveal, and despite the world of EverQuest Next being built before our eyes, with weekly updates and above-and-beyond levels of community interaction from the developers, we still don't know much more about how the game will play.

What will a day in the life of the EQN player be like? We have a good idea of what it will look like, we have a pretty solid grasp of how our characters move and react to our instruction, but what about the game?

So far in Landmark, we can build, we can play, and we can absolutely have a lot of fun – but in my opinion it's still not really a game. Let it be known I am not using the word 'play' in a derogatory way, I'm not saying playing a game is somehow 'better' than just playing.

In my own personal universe, playing a game is about accepting challenges and working to overcome them. It's the challenges and the specific goal that transform the activity from play to playing a game. Inventing and playing games comes as naturally to humans as telling jokes or adultery, so how could we not wonder when the 'game' would begin?

We've talked so much for so long, it's tough for those of us without experience in making games to put into perspective how much progress has been made, how close the rock is to the top of the hill; when are we going to tip over the edge and feel the exhilaration of the downhill stretch?

What do you want to see in Vegas? What are your hopes for the EverQuest Next keynote? Dave Georgeson on the iWalk will be a sight (get well soon!), but what of reveals, announcements and surprises?

Your Next: Story Time

Another week in the development of EverQuest Next and Landmark goes by. Some nice new additions to Landmark keep the slavering horde at bay until SOE Live, the culmination of the Dark Elf Workshop and the Kerran winning the vote – leaving the Dwarves sidelined once again. Progress is being made, even in this lull before the information overload we can expect from SOE Live.

Just when you thought it was safe to coast along with the weekly updates, a partner of SOE has been making waves elsewhere.

Your Next: What About EQNext?

As someone who closely follows the news and updates around EverQuest Next and Landmark, it can seem a little odd that there is still a group of people out there who are simultaneously interested and unsure of the differences between the two games.

I'm still working on my shorthand answer; it seems difficult to do justice to the innovation and originality of thought behind these new titles in a concise manner. We don't have the vocabulary yet, and describing them in the context of games that have come before can lead to an existential crises.

In Landmark, you are playing an MMO in which you can gather, craft and build in order to create various types of content to be played within not only Landmark, but also potentially in EQNext. The toolset for Landmark is intended to be the toolset used to build EQNext, and SOE wants us to be able to make what they can make.

In EverQuest Next, you are playing an MMORPG in which, through various new technologies, you can interact with the world in unprecedented ways against a constantly and permanently shifting backdrop.

That's what I have so far; they just seem to leave so much unsaid. The first description usually leads to a response of 'so, like Minecraft?' and the second will be met with a healthily skeptical 'we've been sold that line before'.

As regular readers will know, I have a lot of love for Minecraft and I will always encourage skepticism when confronted with the hype train, but I wish it was easier to convey what these games have the potential to be. I'd settle for conveying even what they are intended to be.

I'm sure many of us have encountered this, and it was while pondering this unprecedented obstacle that I started to realize we have the opposite issue as well.

The 'I'm not interested in Landmark, give me EverQuest Next!' crowd.

A strange breed, and one that I'm sure is a smaller group than the amount of cage-rattling they generate would suggest.

Sometimes, a brave soul will approach with the intention of helping them understand the significance of Landmark. We all know how this interaction will end, but hope springs eternal (even online).

So how does one explain? We can point to the development of oceans in the game, explain how eventually liquid physics will mean flowing water. That means we might be changing the course of rivers in EQN, or flooding underground caverns, with lava. Isn't this the kind of information that should amaze and delight players? Imagine the repercussions of this ability—even as a technological feat, it's impressive enough to be noteworthy.

Speaking of underground caverns, how about those caves? We know there will be caves under Norrath as well, and now we can start see what they'll look like. Just imagine, procedural content in an MMO! Worthwhile exploration, moving through an unknown and hostile environment in search of treasure instead of farming the same scripted instance over and over. With the slightest effort of extrapolation we can see the planned purpose of these systems.

Soon we'll see AI systems, some combat and movement abilities, mounts, guilds, VoIP, SOEmote. All of these developments have a direct impact on EQNext, and I'm sure there will be more that we'll be hearing about soon (39 days, not that I'm counting...).

That's not to mention the workshop, where we can learn about the planned aesthetic for different races in Norrath (and not just the visual).

SOE Live 2014 Panel Schedule Posted

Coinciding with the final day to get your SOE Live All Access badge for $149 (you can get it here) is the release of this year's panel lineup. Since player panels have not been announced, they are not on the schedule yet, and what content will be livestreamed is still unknown. The full schedule is available here and notable panels are:

  • Welcome Ceremony: Thursday, August 14, 7-9pm PT
  • Closing Ceremony/Costume Contest: Saturday, August 16, 8-11pm PT
  • Brunch w/ the Dev Team: Sunday, August 17, 10am-Noon PT
    • Must have paid pass upgrade option to get in
  • EverQuest
    • Expansion Keynote: Friday, August 15, 1-2pm PT 
    • Q&A Part 1: Saturday, August 16, 11am-Noon PT
    • Q&A Part 2: Sunday, August 17, 2-3pm PT
  • EverQuest II
    • Expansion Keynote: Friday, August 15, Noon-1pm PT 
    • AMAA Part 1: Friday, August 15, 1-2pm PT
    • Systems: Saturday, August 16, 1-2pm PT
    • AMAA Part 2: Sunday, August 17, 1-2pm PT
  • EverQuest Next
    • Keynote: Friday, August 15, 10-11am PT
    • Tech Evolution: Friday, August 15, 4-5pm PT
    • Combat & Classes: Saturday, August 16, 11-Noon PT
    • Storybricks: Sunday, August 17, 2-3pm PT

Continue after the jump for Landmark, H1Z1 and miscellaneous panels of interest.