Unfortunately, it seems all too fashionable lately for folks to tear something down instead of build it up. So often when I'm following the discussions about EQ Next and Landmark, I hear plenty of reasons why folks don't like the games, and the reasons frequently have nothing to do with the games themselves. Detractors are going on about longstanding gripes and grudges instead of judging the games on their own merits (a practice that the whole world could certainly do without). Amid all the scathing comments I've heard directed at SOE for slights real and imagined, one recently gave me pause and made me reflect on the reasons that supporting these two MMO endeavors is worthwhile.
In all honesty, I really could have made this category complete the entire list by listing out the individuals on the team because this team is exceptional in the genre. From Franchise Director Dave Georgeson, Senior Producer Terry Michaels, Creative Director Jeff Butler, Lead Programmer Steve Klug, Producer Emily Taylor, Senior Art Director Rosie Rappaport, Lead Game Designer Darrin McPherson, and the rest of the roster, I have seen a dedication to this franchise that is praiseworthy. If you haven't had the chance to meet these people in person, you are missing out because their passion for the games is as infectious as it is genuine. If you don't believe me, try attending an SOE Live or watching either of the game's official livestreams to see for yourself. In an era when many MMO developers are jaded or burned out, the EQ franchise folks are neither.
See, these devs don't just make the games; they play them. And I don't mean that they dabble; some of them wade is as deeply or more so than fans. Just watch their personal streams or visit their claims in-game to see it for yourself. Obviously the devs do want to get paid, and revenue will keep development coming, but their palpable love for playing the game means that they are going to keep developing things that are fun, not just what's going to make a quick buck.
From a different angle, someone I know has decided to withhold any future financial patronage of SOE games based on the words and opinions of one member of the company. Granted, the offending person is the head honcho himself, but doing so is doing the industry a great disservice. SOE as a company is more than one man, and I want to see the company as the sum of its employees, games, and players succeed. Sure, some of my financial backing does go to that man's paycheck, but I look at it as throwing my support behind all these amazing guys and gals who are the ones busting their butts to make these two new games and change the industry.
And changing the industry they are -- or at least they are trying to. Instead of sitting back and rehashing the same old, same old for Landmark and EQN (do we really need EverQuest itself rebooted with shinier graphics when the original is still there full of dedicated players?), this dev team is exploring new territory and trying new things. And that's exactly what players have been whining for: change. We want new! We want different! The funny thing is, if no one supports when innovation actually happens, then no one else in the industry is going to bother taking risks to innovate. Doing things differently is a gamble; stretching limits is taking a risk. So when those same players who have been clamoring for change reject it, the industry notices and acts accordingly. We need more thinking outside the box, not less.
Storybricks gets its own mention on the list because we're finally getting something we've been asking for and needing for a long, long time: intelligence in our artificial intelligence. And we need to show appreciation for it! How many times have playeys lamented stagnant MMO worlds? How many times have we said wistfully, "Wouldn't it be so great it NPCs could react to us individually?" I have -- plenty. Now's our chance. I was all for supporting StoryBricks when it was on its own. I am sure as heck not going to stop supporting it now.
4. A part of the development process
I know folks have given SOE grief for the whole pay-for-testing Founders Packs, and they don't like or want to support this trend. Honestly, I think people totally missed the mark on what the alpha and beta (misleading terms I still wish weren't used by SOE) process are for Landmark; while it is testing, it is also developing the game along with the devs. That is not the same as just throwing out unfinished stuff and raking in the cash, which I totally admit does happen in far too many other areas of the industry. That's not what's going on here. The fact is there is real development collaboration going on, and that's something I find worth supporting. The team isn't just leaving player preferences to chance; they are getting and incorporating input throughout the development cycle.
5. Try before you buy
All the people who complain about the price barrier to experiencing the above aren't paying attention. There isn't one: Anyone can pop in and check Landmark out for free. The alpha lasted less than two months, and there's now ample opportunity to get in the game and check it out without paying a penny. There are so many keys available for a seven-day pass from a number of places (heck, we've got oodles as well) that you have to work at not getting access if you really want it.
If you check it out now and don't feel it is finished enough for you, come back later with another key. And in the meantime, you've seen and experienced something and can offer some input. Your constructive comments are welcome; the forums are open for all registered users to contribute, whether or not they've paid a penny into the game.
While your wallet does speak loudly, it is vital to that we offer support via our words as well. So you don't even have to purchase anything to be a supporter. People who aren't argumentative or beset with technical problems tend to be quieter on forums than those who are spewing vitriol. This needs to change. Without the positive voices, the devs get bombarded with only negative, nasty feedback. And what a disgusting mire that negativity can be.
You may not like the art style. You may end up hating the combat. The games may turn out not to be for you. But giving support to EQN and Landmark is throwing your support behind moving the MMO industry in a new direction. And move it must -- this industry has been stagnant too long.
The EverQuest realm is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores the franchise's nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running biweekly on Thursdays, the Norrathian Notebook is your resource for all things EverQuest Next and EverQuest II. And keep an eye out for MJ's Massively TV adventures!