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SOE Live 2012: Building your business and selling homes with Player Studio

MJ Guthrie

We've all had that moment. In your mind's eye, you see the perfect item; whether you are a decorator or adventurer, you've imagined that one item that would look perfect in your EverQuest II house or on your EverQuest character. But alas, since you aren't on the development team, your awesome idea could not be realized. That was then; this is now. With the new Player Studio announced last month, that idea can not only come to fruition but net you some cold hard cash as well.

So how does one transition from imaginer to bustling entrepreneur? Devs hosted a panel at SOE Live 2012 that discussed the steps of getting an item from your mind's eye out into the Marketplace for others to buy and enjoy. But what if instead of imagining new items, you take existing items and create incredible displays that are the envy of others? Devs announced a feature that will allow decorators to fully furnish a home, bundle it up, and offer it for sale via the Marketplace as well.

After the informative panel, I caught up with Producer Holly Longdale and director of of the EQ franchise Dave Georgeson to uncover even more details about the opportunities available with Player Studio.

SOE Live 2012 picture
After converting many of their its to free-to-play, Sony Online Entertainment adopted the mantra of "play your way." Now, with the introduction of the Player Studio, the company is giving players a way to get paid their way as well! During the panel, developers emphasized that the this new feature is putting a personal business right into players' hands, one that they can build up as much or as little as they want. And while the Player Studio has gone live only in EverQuest and EverQuest II so far, Free Realms is on the way, and the tool is in the works for Vanguard and PlanetSide 2 as well.

Getting your business off the ground

The first thing a player needs to do is get her ideas out of her head and into a more easily submittable form (brain matter does not transmit via email). That can be done via programs like Blender and Gimp. To the relief of many, devs emphasized that using the Player Studio does not require advanced 3-D modeling and design skills, stating "We've tried to keep that bar of entry low enough so that you can do great things and we handle the rest." So you can participate even if you haven't done anything like this before. However, a basic understanding of the programs and terminology will be needed and can be gleaned from tutorials.

"We want to open the games up really, really wide so you can be participating in creating them with us." - Dave Georgeson

Players need deliver only very basic design files, and the devs will do the work of plugging them into the game. Those who do have advanced skills, take heart: Georgeson said that the studio fully expects to be able to offer more advanced opportunities in the future. He stated, "We want to open the games up really, really wide so you can be participating in creating them with us." SOE is already looking into tools like a player-side composer window that will allow creators to see what their items will actually render in-game and make final adjustments.

SOE offers a very concise list of instructions for players to follow when starting the process, including specific styles for each game. One point that was made and reiterated was that submissions need to fit within the appropriate world, so players need to take care that they submit their work to the appropriate game. For instance, clown shoes could be fine and dandy, but be sure to send that to Free Realms, not EQ.

SOE Live 2012  picture
Starting small

While some folks are already thinking ahead to custom dances, pets, and Dungeon Maker avatars, those things are not possible currently. Devs explained that for things like animations, there is a lot of back end code connecting various races, so even race-specific things would require major work. When asked about the possibility of making Dungeon Maker avatars, Longdale answered:
"The Player studio is just art, and anything related to art. It's just assets. At least at this point, we are not taking suggestions for design specific things -- certainly not abilities for avatars. But we'd certainly take those suggestions as a design team. Player studio just is not the avenue for that."
To start off, the Player Studio is only open for designing certain item for the different games. This is on purpose, using easier items -- such as cloaks that need only Photoshop -- that allow for everyone to get in and try his hand at it. Longdale noted that at some point, everything might open up, but the feature is a long way from that now. So what is currently available for players to design? Submissions are being accepted for armor and housing items in EQ and housing items and cloaks in EQII. And if you think you can a better hairstyle for these two games than the devs, now's your chance to prove it! Free Realms (which hasn't gone up yet) will do posters, T-shirts, and housing items.

"If you think you can create a better hairstyle for these two games than the devs, now's your chance to prove it!"

After getting your idea in electronic form, you have to submit (one item at a time) according to the instructions on the site. After that, your item is evaluated electronically and sent to the appropriate game's dev team. If accepted at that stage, it will be sent to the experts of that item type. If a submission is rejected, you can get a comment from the dev team with feedback or an explanation. For added support, SOE will also be offering a forum for creators to solicit feedback for their ideas.

If it is your first accepted item, development is on hold until you fill out paperwork as required by your country for tax purposes. Currently, not all countries can submit items for sale due to tax laws, but everyone can buy Player Studio items. Player-made items will have their own separate category in the Marketplace.

The final step of this Player Studio business plan is sitting back and waiting for the moolah to roll in. Profits made from your item will be sent to you quarterly, and the more items you have available, the more likely your profits will grow. To those who worry about the value of Station Cash given the number of double and triple cash promotions, the devs say that the profits are based on the fixed revenue value of an item, not the relative station cash value.

EverQuest II screenshot
Becoming a real estate mogul

The next exciting change that is packaged with the Player Studio is the ability to sell fully decorated housing deeds. Although homes do not need to go through any dev approval process, they will be listed on the Marketplace in their own housing section. Decorators no longer need to wait for a client to commission a house, and buyers no longer need to worry about giving trustee access to folks. It truly gives more freedom to both the decorators and the home owners.

Georgeson offered some more details on this new feature. Players can basically get any house (including Prestige houses), take the time to fully decorate it in any style they want, and then sell it as a package on the Marketplace. Prospective buyers will be able to visit the special housing tab and tour all available properties, much as when players visit homes on the the housing leaderboards. Players can then decide whether they want the house or not.

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, at least where SOE Live is concerned! Massively sent intrepid reporters MJ Guthrie and Karen Bryan to this year's SOE Live, from which they'll be transmitting all the best fan news on PlanetSide 2, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and the other MMOs on SOE's roster.

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