Friday, August 15, 2014

Jam Today : SOE Live

Anyone following SOE Live in the hope of hearing something substantive about EQNext might be looking in the wrong place. Azuriel, reporting from a panel at GenCon, quotes EQN lore writer Maxwell Drake as estimating development has another two years to run.

I think we all got overexcited this time last year, what with supposed gameplay footage and "something playable" just around the corner. A 2016 launch would bring things back on track with my own original guesstimate. If that's confirmed at SOE Live then we can all officially forget about Next for the time being until we start getting excited all over again when the alpha packs go on sale sometime in 2015.

We should be getting the hang of this new, hyper-extended, "open" development cycle after Landmark, which looks precious little nearer any form of "launch" than it was six months ago.  Massively has an interview with Terry Michaels and Dave "Smokejumper" Georgeson, in advance of any panels, in which they out August 27th as the day combat comes to the not-yet-a-game game.

It's an instructive read, stating as plainly as I've yet seen it laid out that Landmark is not going to be "just a building game". As Smokejumper says, "The reason Landmark right now revolves around the building tools is because we had to have the building tools or we couldn't build anything." What he doesn't emphasize is that combat systems are another massive chunk of development time. If we're seeing the initial alpha implementation in late August then any kind of official launch of a "finished" game surely can't be expected this year.

Nothing yet on H1Z1 that I've seen. Maybe that'll be the new SOE game that bucks the trend and finds a launch window sometime this year. Sod's law says it is since it's the one that doesn't really interest me.

Much, much better news comes from the Keynotes and follow-ups for the games SOE actually has up and running. The forthcoming EQ2 expansion, Altar of Malice, looks like an absolute corker. Not counting the "Features" expansion, Age of Discord, which I personally loved but about which most EQ2 fans were considerably less enthusiastic, the last time I read a contents list that sounded as exciting must have been Rise of Kunark back in 2007.

Dinosaurs! New playable race! Luclin! (ok, a crash-landed chunk of Luclin but it's still Luclin!) Islands! Storylines that I'm interested in! (we might finally get to find out something about why the Far Seas Trading Company closed the Isle of Refuge and even who the heck they actually are). Not to mention the reportedly amazing new graphics that, to quote Feldon from EQ2Wire, "Holy crap. Doesn't even look like EQ2".

The various quality of life and systems improvements due in the pre and post expansion updates sound excellent too. EQ2 Wire has the full details and the panel transcripts but frankly they had me with the return of the Isle of Refuge, which we get back twice, once as a playable area and again as the 10th Anniversary Veteran Reward. I suppose I 'd better go play through Tears of Veeshan before AOM arrives, so conveniently close to my birthday, in November. Now if I can just pry Mrs Bhagpuss away from GW2 for a bit...

The Everquest expansion, The Darkened Sea, sounds pretty spiffy too but frankly level 100-105 content is notional to me. I may well still buy it because it will come with the previous-expansion-but-one rolled in and that's the one that gives access to the Bazaar and the Barter system from anywhere in the game. I've already nearly bought that expansion several times just for that convenience alone.

I'm very curious that the upcoming expansions for the two games share settings, themes and protagonists. I can't recall that happening before. Both take place in the seas off Antonica, both feature dinosaurs and Lanys T'Vyl has her hands in the plot of each. She's a goddess (or a demi-goddess - I forget) so I imagine a mere 500 year time lapse won't offer much of an impediment.

All in all it's been a great news day for longtime EQ and EQ2 players. Not so good for those who've moved on. It may be a long wait until Landmark and Next are real games but this will do me fine until then.


  1. While the news on the EQ's was good (even though the EQ1 news has even less 'impact' on me than the EQ2 news, as while I play EQ2 sporadically - a.o.t. I like the 'Neverwinter Nights' graphics - like I wrote elsewhere I just can't get into the EQ1 controls), for me personally the news on EQN being 'action combat' was a big letdown, even if not too unexpected.

    The Vanguard emulator is shaping up well, from what I understand, so I guess I'll be looking forward to that instead.

    1. Compared to last year, when EQNext dominated the whole event, it was barely visible this year. It was always going to be action combat of some kind. I find that as unattractive a concept as you do but it was inevitable. I don't mind "action" in principle and if it's anything like, say, GW2 that would be fine. It's the idiotic fixed cursor that I can't stand. 2016 seems so far away I can hardly bring myself to care one way or the other though.

      I have a fantasy that the Vanguard emulator may actually improve on the versions of Vanguard we've seen so far but really so long as it runs at all it'll be one heck of an achievement.


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