The Tattered Notebook: A closer look at Player Studio with SOE's Joe Shoopack and Rick Reynolds

The Tattered Notebook  A closer look at Player Studio with SOE's Joe Shoopack and Rick Reynolds
Just a few days ago, SOE launched the first wave of items submitted by players through Player Studio. EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Free Realms all have player-made items for sale in the Marketplace; the players who created the items receive 40% of the revenue. EverQuest launched its first player-made weapon, the Stormlord's Bludgeon; EverQuest II featured the Heroic Salesman's Chest and Cloak of the North Star; and Free Realms revealed the Swirly Railed Gazebo and Happy Heart T-Shirt.

We had a chance to talk to Rick Reynolds, Senior Manager of SOE's E-Commerce team, and Joe Shoopack, Director of Artistic Development, both of whom have played key roles in the successful launch of Player Studio. They shared insight into what goes on behind the scenes after a player submits an item, and they hinted at future plans for the system. Read on!

First off, the pair gave some background on what's been happening since the launch of Player Studio. While SOE only launched a few items this week, it actually has 63 items ready to be revealed on the Marketplace. They'll roll out little by little each week. In addition, SOE has received hundreds of submissions and is continuing to go through them and prepare more items once they're approved. Both Reynolds and Shoopack said they were impressed with the quality of the items and the enthusiasm from the players who are sending in ideas. They explained that some items were easier to implement than others. A 2-D t-shirt or cloak, for example, is much easier for players to design than a 3-D house item, so those types tend to meet the requirements more often and are not coincidentally easier to put into the game.

Shoopack described the process of taking a player submission and turning it into an item. Players who are creating an item have to consult the guidelines on the Player Studio site, as there are many technical parameters that they need to meet. When the team members are evaluating an item, they have to assess both the technical element as well as the creativity behind the item. If there's an item that could pose technical issues, the devsy often give guidance on how the player can meet requirements so it can be made into an in-game item. If it's approved, the team consults the player on what the name of the item should be as well as its description and even how it might fit into the narrative of the game. And while players don't have access to the effects tools, they can offer suggestions on desired special effects, such as a glow effect for a fireplace.

The Tattered Notebook  A closer look at Player Studio with SOE's Joe Shoopack and Rick Reynolds
Reynolds told us that players have the ability to suggest a price when they submit the item, but it's up to the team to make the final call on how much it will sell for on the Marketplace. Once it's available for Station Cash, there are a number of factors that determine how long it remains available. If it's a holiday item, for example, it might stay up for sale through the holiday but then be taken down until next year. If it's a normal item, its longevity will depend on how successful it is sale-wise as well as how crowded the Marketplace is. If it's something that is relatively unique and fills a desired niche, chances are it will not only be more successful but stick around longer.

We asked the SOE duo whether they've seen any common mistakes among items that weren't approved, and they explained that most mistakes revolve around a technical issue, such as over-sculpting, and in those situations, the team will simply offer advice on how to fix it and ask the player to submit it again. Reynolds added that one recurring problem he's seen is that players design house items like dressers and cabinets believing that they will be placed against a wall, so they forget to design the back of the item. Reynolds and Shoopack offered two overall pieces of advice for those designing submissions: If it's a 3-D item, make sure you design all sides of the item, and make sure that your items fit the look and feel of the game.

Of course, there are many international players who aren't currently able to participate but who are eager to get involved. Reynolds said SOE is continuing to work on it but doesn't have a timetable yet because of the complications of reporting revenue sharing income with particular countries. Cue research and consultations with attorneys, tax experts, and security experts, all to get a trinket into a video game. Meanwhile, U.S. players who submit an item have to fill out a W-9 as part of the process, and SOE will report the earnings as required by law, so players will have to pay taxes on any revenue earned (the earnings checks are prepared and sent out after the end of every fiscal quarter).

The Tattered Notebook  A closer look at Player Studio with SOE's Joe Shoopack and Rick Reynolds
As for future plans for Player Studio, Shoopack acknowledged the enthusiasm from players who hope to be able to design more types of items in each game. He told us that right now, the next thing in the works is the player deed system, which allows players to design a house or lot and then package it up and sell or trade it to other players. Beyond that, he added that SOE is working on implementing a mechanism to create weapons and hairstyles in the game. The team is working on setting up the parameters and providing files to the player-creators to establish technical guidelines. And the devs do want to expand the types of items players can make in EverQuest and Free Realms as well.

If you're wondering about whether other SOE titles will feature Player Studio, this next bit will grab you: Reynolds said that the Vanguard team is planning around it and looking through models to determine what players will be able to create. PlanetSide 2 is still focused on the launch and making the player experience the best it can be, but Player Studio could be part of an update next year. Shoopack stressed that Player Studio is very much a part of all SOE titles going forward. The community is incredibly important in each of these games, he told us, and extending the opportunity to create assets and even immortalize their characters is something that SOE says it wants to provide.

If you're interested in checking out the new player-made items, they're available in EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Free Realms. And if you're thinking of trying your hand at designing an item, you can get all the details on the SOE Player Studio site.

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to karen@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.