Thursday, February 28, 2019

Small Wonder : EQ2, GW2

One of the big MMO news stories of the past week has been the lay-offs at ArenaNet. As well as provoking Chicken Little levels of hysteria on Reddit and the official forums, the swingeing cuts demanded by NCSoft have led to the cancellation of a Livestream announcement about the controversial World vs World Warclaw mount and the postponement of the entire update in which it was due to be introduced.

If reports are to be believed, about a hundred employees have left the company, some voluntarily, others not so much. The unnanounced projects on which they were working have all been scrapped. Probably.

In theory this suggests a retrenchment to the core. From here on ANEt should be focused on their two live properties, Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 and since the older game is in maintenance mode that really means all hands to the GW2 pump.

Except that a number of the names so far confirmed are familiar primarily from their work on GW2 itself. Which seems odd. Particularly the culling of one of the franchise's longest-serving and most recognizeable names, Communications Manager Gaile Gray.

And yet, for all the churn, the sturm and the drang, this still leaves something like three hundred people, all now working on the one game. How many other MMORPGs have that many staffers? And what, as many have been asking for years now, could they possibly all be doing?

I wasn't going to jump in on this until the weekend, if at all. The news happened to land at a particularly inconvenient time for me to respond and I felt that by the time I'd be able to address it at any length the situation would most likley have changed.

That's still the case but an hour ago I saw this.

Not that I want to keep banging the same drum or indeed beating the same horse but as a player of both EverQuest II and GW2 the levels of activity between the two boggles my mind. So far this year in EQ2 we've had an excellent new Public Quest for the already very full-featured Erollisi Day holiday, two new servers have been announced for March, there's another new Public Quest in Testing for the upcoming Heroes Festival and now we have Game Update 109.

GU109 includes a Fabled version of the Runneyeye dungeon, a tradeskill PQ, a new community-based feature called Public Tradeskill Apprentices and a complete new raid in a brand new zone, Castle Mischief. The Fabled dungeon comes in solo, group and raid flavors, the new raid is tuned for Pick Up raids and the PTA looks to be something entirely new in the social arena.

Based on previous updates I expect Fabled Runneyeye to be very enjoyable and rewarding. All the other Fabled dungeons I've tried have been both. I'm also very interested to try all the tradeskill stuff (although I'll have to get on and finish the Chaos Descending tradeskill signature line, a pre-requisite, which I kind of abandoned when I hit 110 on my Weaponsmith). I might even try the raid if I see a PUG (PUR?) forming for it.

I think it's entirely fair to say that this update looks to have more content than any of GW2's Living Story episodes and quite possibly more than a couple added together and it's not remotely as though that's all the new content we'll be getting this spring. There's Brewday coming in March as well as Heroes Festival, with Bristlebane Day (which lasts a couple of weeks) right after and I'm willing to bet that along with the wealth of once-a-year fun those offer they'll each have something new as well.

I don't know how many people work on EQ2 but I can safely say it's not three hundred. I'd be very surprised if it was thirty. What does this say about the individual and collective productivity of the two teams? Or the quality of their management?

NCSoft has, quite deservedly, a terrible reputation for putting the concerns of its shareholders above those of its customers. I feel very sorry for those ANet folks who have been pushed out of the door against their will. I do have to wonder, however, just what ANet as a company has been doing for the past few years to get itself into such a state that NCSoft felt it was time to wave the big stick, even while it looked as though plenty of money was still coming in.

Only time will tell whether this ends up working in favor of the franchise by bringing both resources and focus back to GW2 or whether, as some hyper-anxious players believe, it signals the beginning of the end. Whatever the future, whoever's in charge could do a lot worse than look at the  output of some of their much smaller competitors and maybe figure out just how they're managing to do so much more, so consistently, with so much less.


  1. I was thinking about this yesterday as there's a post floating around on Reddit that compares content releases for ESO, FFXIV, GW2 and WoW for the last few years. My immediate thought on reading through the table of data and discussions was I bet EQ2 compares favourably to all of those despite the reduced resources available. I was intending to write a post to add to that conversation but then I would doubt the accuracy of my understanding of just what updates EQ2 gets. It's naturally a very rough comparison between games and isn't super deep but it is telling that EQ2 (and I guess EQ) are in such good shape despite their age and the trials and tribulations of DBG's other properties. Despite the ever present "doom" rumours for EQ2, I would hope it's future is rosier than ever!

    1. If I'd held off another day before posting I could have added a link to the Chronoportals event (which I think is what I was mis-naming Heroes Festival, which is actually in the Autumn...). It comes with with Fabled versions of the existing instances and runs for the whole of March...


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