The Think Tank: Fixing the Landmark-EQ Next perception problem

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The Think Tank: Fixing the Landmark-EQ Next perception problem
Not a Landmark post on Massively goes by without at least one commenter essentially telling SOE to talk about EverQuest Next or shut up. Massively's MJ Guthrie, who writes our EverQuest franchise column, has herself explained until she's blue in the face that Landmark is EQ Next's foundation, and SOE has talked plenty about EQ Next independently too, but for some reason, the explanations aren't sticking with the MMO populace, so the same complaints are voiced in every thread.

So what gives? Has SOE been too confusing with the Landmark/EQ Next co-branding? How can SOE dig itself out of this persistent perception problem? That's what I asked Massively's writers in today's Think Tank.

Anatoli Ingram, Columnist
@ceruleangrey: I don't find it confusing at all. Landmark seems to be the proving grounds for stuff that could eventually make it into EQ Next, and by making it a polished product it can also bring in revenue. I think a lot of the confusion will probably be taken care of when SOE starts talking more about EQN itself.

Bree Royce, Editor-in-Chief
@nbrianna: I don't feel particularly confused either; SOE has been very patient and clear about its plans for Landmark and Next and how the two differ, but then again, I don't think that most gamers are paying attention (or should have to pay attention!) the way an MMO journalist does. I can sympathize with people who just want one game and not the other, I suppose, but if you do care so much about one, why not make some effort to sort out the differences? SOE could probably avert a lot of the confusion by turning its entire front page into a brief FAQ about the two games. Right now, you have to dig a little bit to figure it out. Just removing that barrier to understanding would probably help.

Eliot Lefebvre, Contributing Editor
@Eliot_Lefebvre: Being someone who's only watching the whole thing from a distance with bemused disinterest, I don't think nearly enough has been done to distinguish the games in terms of marketing, perception, or anything. Removing the EQN supertitle in front of Landmark leaves it as sort of an orphaned project in terms of the franchise, a Minecraft game that's always online by design. The developers have stated more than enough time that Landmark is meant as a foundational side of EQN, but saying "it's a foundation" doesn't mean much if you haven't got the vaguest idea about what the finished building is going to look like.

So what can be done? Give a clear picture of EQN (if it exists at all) and show off how the two are meant to tie together, I imagine. As I said, I'm only peripherally watching the whole thing anyway.

Jef Reahard, Managing Editor
@jefreahard: I don't find SOE's message confusing in the slightest. Most of the "EQN or stfu" commentary is just EverQuest franchise fans boggling at the thought of their precious turning into a triple-A Minecraft in the case of Landmark and a triple-A sandbox in the case of EQN. SOE has been very forthcoming since the original announcements. There's nothing difficult to understand about the fact that LM is -- as MJ has repeatedly said -- part of EQN's foundational structure. And it's also clearly a sort of public development environment as well as SOE's entry into the early access zomg-people-will-actually-pay-for-our-rough-drafts sweepstakes.

I don't get the confusion at all. In fact, I'd put LM/EQN just behind Star Citizen in terms of developmental transparency. SOE may not be saying what EQ lifers want to hear, but it's nonetheless been saying quite a lot.

Justin Olivetti, Contributing Editor
@Sypster: Sometimes I get the feeling that SOE's initial plan for Landmark-EQNext was far more like conjoined twins: inseparable and completely intertwined. When Landmark was originally announced, it was presented as some sort of mild EverQuest Next spin-off or prequel, a kind of testing ground for their ideas. But then along the way, I think the lack of EQ Next in people's immediate futures and the popularity of the Landmark alpha convinced SOE to make a stronger case for a more independent product. I'm fine with that, by the way, but the whole process since that shift has appeared at times that SOE is either completely ignoring EverQuest Next in favor of this mishmash sandbox or is trying to extricate Landmark from EQN by a series of delicate surgeries so that it can have its own weird identity.

Anyway, I'm assuming that EverQuest Next is still a ways off, but I would desperately like SOE to stop treating it as an afterthought and start giving us seriously beefy dev diaries (no, these roundtable polls do not count; they are fluffier than most pastries). I'd also like to see SOE's plans for how Landmark is going to feed into EQN to be a lot more clear and how EQN development is also impacting Landmark's various changes.

Larry Everett, Columnist
@Shaddoe: Wait. Landmark and EverQuest Next aren't the same game? They almost seem like the same game to me at this point. I mean, I'm not stoopid. I know they are different, but it's almost like these two games are always mentioned in the same breath. The dark elf designs were made in Landmark. The art direction is exactly the same. The engine is the same. At this point, there is barely any separation between the two games except the name. I'd not be surprised if the combat system were the same as well as everything else. In fact, at this point, the only thing that separates these two games for me is this idea of emergent AI, which as far as I'm aware is just an idea because they've not shown us how it will work.

It's time to really separate these two games, SOE. Show us some real EQN, and quit messing around with this Landmark stuff. As my grandmother would say: "Shit or get off the pot." I love my grandmother.

What do you get when you throw the Massively writers' opinions together in one big pot to stew? You get The Think Tank, a column dedicated to ruminating on the MMO genre. We range from hardcore PvPers to sandbox lovers to the most caring of the carebears, so expect more than a little disagreement! Join Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and the team for a new edition right here every Thursday.
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