"Well *I* consider the biggest barrier being it's a 3D WASD game with a movable camera."
Ghostcrawler chimed in to agree, adding that "a lot of data" supports this view, although sadly he declined to detail or link to any of that data.
Yesterday Ultraviolet put up a post about the coming of combat to Landmark. He was understandably puzzled by the implementation. Like just about every other aspect of Landmark's development, what's being promoted (through a PR campaign that includes a video trailer, no less) is in fact nothing more than the very earliest, bare-bones iteration of the underlying system.
Ultraviolet was surprised to find that "Combat" in Landmark currently means player-made arenas only. He clearly doesn't follow Massively's coverage because they have been doing the topic to death of late, with two combat-oriented LiveStreams, an editorial/review and a rundown of the ten best Landmark PvP arenas, all in the space of two weeks.
I haven't logged into Landmark for a long time. It's largely unplayable on my aging PC and development moves at such a glacial pace I've decided it can easily wait until I upgrade my hardware later this year or even next spring.
I don't appear to be alone. Every one of the many bloggers I follow, who were talking about the game earlier this year, has gone silent on the topic. Interest appears to be at an historic low, although Syp's current "What Are You Playing?" poll shows a surprising eleven respondents have logged in at least once during the last couple of weeks.
Just because I'm not playing, however, doesn't mean I've lost interest in the game or its development. It will, after all, provide the bedrock and most of the structure around which EQNext will be built. So, I read Ultraviolet's piece with interest, watched the trailer embedded above and went to visit the forums, where I spent the best part of an hour reading threads on Landmark's combat and how it's going down with those members of the hardcore fanbase willing to put finger to keyboard.
It's a depressing read, largely because the Landmark forums now consist almost entirely of a very small number of deeply committed, highly articulate individuals with fixed ideas about what the game ought to be. Most threads either have single-figure responses or degenerate into lengthy arguments between two or three individuals who've clearly been in the process of scoring points off each other for months.
What does come through very plainly is that Landmark's combat, and thereby, inevitably, EQNext's, will look and play absolutely nothing like any previous Everquest game, nor indeed like any tab-target, stand-and-cast MMO, nor yet even like any GW2-style hybrid. The comparisons being made are primarily to MOBAs although the more optimistic of the nervous brigade hold onto the hope that they might end up with combat that looks and feels more like Neverwinter Nights.
Perhaps the oddest thing about this latest round of Landmark/EQNext's eternally odd development process is that it would now appear that the games will have two entirely different control systems, in and out of combat: systems that seem to bear no resemblance to each other at all. Maybe we'll end up with two separate cultures living side by side in the same imaginary world, the keyboard clickers doing all the crafting and the mouse-shooters doing all the killing. At this point I'd believe almost anything.
In the comments on my first ArcheAge open beta post Netherlands said "The news that the combat is from what I understand mercifuly not 'action combat' ... does make me more interested in ArcheAge". Yes, it made me more interested too. Indeed, it's one of the key reasons I can imagine playing AA in the future.
My feeling is that we are increasingly unlikely to see very many big-budget new games or virtual worlds using the traditional 3D MMORPG controls that we became familiar with from Meridian 59 and Everquest onwards. Those systems, which appeared to serve us very well for almost two decades, will be discarded without hesitation by the large corporations who fund development of these lengthy, expensive projects if doing so leads to, or is believed to lead to, significantly greater market penetration. If WASD movement and a moving camera really are the biggest inhibitor on take-up for what is often claimed to be the most successful MMORPG so far, and if there's now an established, highly-successful alternative, to do otherwise would be fiscally irresponsible.
Chances are, then, that by moving to adopt the control and combat tropes of other genres the decline in audience interest in MMOs can be halted and reversed. All well and good for the companies and developers who make them but what does it mean for "traditional" MMORPG enthusiasts?
Many MMO players already play other types of video games and are familiar and comfortable with FPS or MOBA fixed viewpoint, action-oriented control systems. Those players may or may not welcome the transition but they at least won't be frightened away. Many more MMO players will be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to learn the new systems, either willingly or grudgingly, provided they are sufficiently interested in a specific game. I count myself among that group.
That will leave a significant number of traditional MMORPG players who currently pretty much only play MMORPGs. For many MMOs that demographic will include both the most casual and the most committed - the grans and the fans. For fans wishing to stick with tab-target and a moving camera the options will almost certainly be reduced to older MMOs or niche offerings. The big, new AAA releases will simply become irrelevant for them, of no more interest than the launch of a new World War 2 shooter or sports sim. For grans only interested in sharing an interest with and having the chance to chat to their grandchildren there are now so many better ways of doing that it should hardly matter.
When EQNext launches (I want to say if EQNext launches but let's be positive!) it won't be pretty. If it's a runaway success there will be a disgruntled rump of elder gamers, who won't adapt. Left behind in EQs one and two they'll feel bitter, rejected and also increasingly threatened and fearful as their more flexible game-mates make the decision to jump ship for the new shiny. SOE Live won't be a comfortable place for devs that year. Contrarily, if EQNext bombs, there will be a deafening chorus of "I told you so"s from the old guard that should last just about as long as it takes them to realize that EQNext's failure may have closed the door on any future development of Norrath for good and all.
However all this plays out one thing's for certain. No matter how many "build our game" alphas and "you are the dev" initiatives we sign up for, no matter how often or how loudly we speak out in Round Tables or Ask Me Anythings, change will come and it's unlikely to be the change some of us would choose. Adapt to the future or retire to the past - for as long as the past can last.
And I haven't even mentioned VR.