Although the lights of Vegas are fading from memory, the hope for player-generated content burns brighter than before. From keynote addresses to panels to interviews, Sony Online Entertainment's focus on emergent game play and various sandbox features showed a dedication to gaming beyond just the hack-and-slash treadmill grind. Can we hear a hallelujah?
With so much news coming out of the convention, there wasn't time or space to do much more than just report on the facts. Here, I have the opportunity to sum things up and even add my own impressions of the event! I might even toss in an anecdote or two to illustrate what made this such an incredible experience that I am hooked and will return each year.
In the last issue of Some Assembly Required, Jef argued that SOE should lead the charge for sandbox gameplay. After SOE Live, I am convinced the company has already sounded the trumpets. Besides the promise of a emergent game play via EverQuest Next, the convention highlighted a plethora of new features dedicated to life beyond the adventuring grind.
The convention highlighted so many new features for all SOE titles. Free Realms recently introduced parachuting, and players responded by building parachute courses on their housing plots. PlanetSide 2 added in-game streaming so players can tell their own stories, with more features for personalizing the game like player-owned bases planned. And let's not forget DCUO's huge housing announcement!
It doesn't stop there. EverQuest and EQII both have huge expansions coming this month. The former is adding collection quests and building a better player economy, while the latter is adding tons of goodies for crafters like tradeskill prestige. And of course, you can't get more player-generated than items created by players and added to the game! EQ, EQII, and Free Realms are currently accepting submissions for Player Studio, with Vanguard and PS2 soon to join in.
Nothing demonstrated this better than my interviews with EverQuest II producer Holly Longdale and EQ franchise director Dave Georgeson. Both emphasized how much the EverQuest games are focusing on the players' personal stories and building more tools to help facilitate them. From expanding SOEmote to adding to the Dungeon Maker to giving crafters a way to ply their trades without any adventuring, SOE is commited to keeping the game filled with plenty of things for players to create and do beyond adventuring. That's not to say that new content with mobs to fight will not also get attention, but it won't be the only focus.
First up: the breakfast tale. After I was introduced to CEO John Smedley, whose table I joined, conversation turned to my gaming laptop. Smedley remarked that it was huge, and I responded that all of my games were loaded on it. Then I continued, "So if I get bored listening to you, I can log right into EQII and play!" Yes, I really said that, and fortunately, he laughed. At least he knows I am an EQII fan, right?
The second? To make a long story short, the word in the press and PR circle is "Smedley saved my life." Wait, what?! How? Let's just say that a very unexpected allergy-induced asthma attack during the second keynote address led to me procuring the most unique con swag ever! It was Smedley to the rescue.
I also met and got some really cool EQ art from Larry Elmore himself, but you'll have to hear about that another time!
The atmosphere of excitement for the games permeated both groups as well. Karen summed the feeling up well in her Tattered Notebook. She also perfectly captured the moment when all SOE players, regardless of game affiliation, stood and applauded the strength and character of one EverQuest player who overcame astronomical odds to attend. That moment brought tears to many eyes, even the tough FPS crowd. And that moment was one of the most powerful examples of the bonding of our MMO communities that I could hope to witness.
Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!