Could EverQuest Next and Landmark be held back by their IP?
At the time of writing, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen has raised a little over half of its target on Kickstarter with only 24 hours remaining. After a well managed and well publicized campaign, over 3000 backers (including myself) will be disappointed by the result. Of course, that pales in comparison to the feelings of Brad McQuaid and the team at Visionary Realms. All is not lost, however, as the team is committed to seeing their vision come to life. Perhaps Rise of the Fallen will turn out to be an apt name indeed.
So how did we end up in this situation? After the success of Kickstarter campaigns for other MMOs with old-school flavor, one helmed by a titan of the genre like McQuaid seemed to be a sure thing. Maybe that was the problem, perhaps potential backers are just burnt out, unwilling to shell out with so little tangible game to show, or maybe the star billing had the opposite effect on some.
Maybe, just maybe, there aren't that many people who are desperate to play a new game that is just like EverQuest.
Why should there be? People who love EverQuest play EverQuest, don't they? For all of the cries on MMO forums for a return to 'hardcore' values—limited fast travel, death penalties, player co-dependence, when push came to shove, where was the support?
Everyone remembers their first game, many of us look back fondly, and most of us move on.
This is the trap of nostalgia; as humans we remember emotional peaks and troughs. We long for the joy we felt as we discovered the world of our first MMO. Unfortunately for us, like our first rock concert or the first time we drove a car solo, we can't go back. This doesn't stop people hoping for something that will make them feel the same way, ironically looking for it in old experiences rather than new. Whitesnake is still touring, if you're interested.
This is the problem; the game in their head cannot possibly exist, as it is a construction of moments and experiences that cannot be repeated. Even if you could repeat them, they wouldn't have the same effect again for you or for anyone else. On the other hand, we can move forward, so hold on to that thought.
Could this fallacious notion hinder the development of the EverQuest Next games? With SOE constantly looking to the community for feedback and direction, could the players cause EQN to fall short on its promise? The forums are abuzz with the usual merry-go-round hot-button discussions, all firmly framed within the context of existing design paradigms.
The issue again, nostalgia, trips us up. When asked what we think of certain features or ideas, we immediately frame them in the context of the MMO we have in our heads, the one constructed of all the high points we remember from playing 15 years ago. Instead of asking 'how can we make an MMO like the one we loved 15 years ago' we could instead be asking 'how can we make an MMO we'll want to play for the next 15 years.'
A subtle difference, and a distinction that will not be apparent to some, but as we saw on SOE President John Smedley's Smedsblog this week, it's at the forefront of the philosophy of SOE. He talked about how gaming is becoming more and more a part of our everyday life, how it brings generations together in new ways and gives us opportunities to see the world from so many angles. In fact, he goes as far as to say it forces him to see the world from new angles, as the world that EverQuest Next will be born in is very different from the world EverQuest discovered.
The developers of EverQuest Next and Landmark are putting innovation right at the center of their design, using cutting edge technology to build their worlds and shape their inhabitants, while never shying away from bold new ideas. Of any criticism levelled at Landmark in its current state, you could never accuse the team at SOE of being unoriginal.
When Director of Development Dave Georgeson said at SOE Live last year 'enough is enough—enough of the same game already', many of us cynical types rolled our eyes, as we'd heard it all before. It turns out we were wrong to expect the same old story.
It reminds me of my first game.
On the other hand, maybe by Saturday afternoon all the people out there in MMO-land will prove me wrong and Pantheon will make a sprint to the finish line after all. Whatever happens, I wish the team at Visionary Realms the best of luck, and I look forward to playing their game.