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Pouring One Out for Everquest Next

Sad news from my old employer – well, sorta. Long story. Anyways, Daybreak Games has officially cancelled development of Everquest Next, which sought to be the next installment not just of the venerable Everquest franchise, but also the next iteration of what MMOs could be. It was going to feature smarter AI than any current MMO offering, a destroyable world built around the same tech that powers Landmark, and a spiffy new art style.

I am quite sad that this game won’t be coming out, but I’m also not terribly shocked. The behind-the-scenes chicanery involving the relationship between Landmark and Next was always a bit convoluted, even for SOE (as Daybreak was known back then). Developers were being shipped to and fro between projects with regularity, and for awhile there I think everyone was just trying to get Landmark to work – both technically and culturally.

On a high, conceptual level, the loss of Everquest Next is not just a blow to the portfolio of Daybreak, but a blow to the future of the MMO niche. It truly was setting out to revolutionize the industry, and it actually had more than a couple of the building blocks necessary to get that done. I was also a huge fan of the artistic direction they were taking with the new EQ properties – I’m very sad I won’t be questing with a big lion dude anytime soon.

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On a pragmatic level, though, EQN was not unique in this regard. Take, for instance, Landmark – it’s cousin. Landmark promised to up the ante laid out by Minecraft – a fully customizable environment with something close to actual art assets and tools. It was literally going to be Minecraft, but with next-gen graphics. And in a lot of ways, it sort of is. Only, it isn’t. The timing was slightly off for the launch of such a product; the toolsets available were just technical enough to push away idiots like myself who don’t have a visually creative bone in their body; and the game itself took quite a rig to run. Compared to Minecraft, it was about as opposite a game as you could get.

Or take H1Z1. Now, H1Z1 is undeniably successful – but not on the level that we all kind of thought it might be. It promised to scratch that same survival itch that DayZ introduced to us, with server-authoritative infrastructure (promising a greatly reduced incidence of hackers and crappy admins), much larger scale (same engine as Planetside 2, which gets up around 1000 players to a world with ease), and buildable structures. And it did all those things. But, again, the timing was slightly off for such a product; the hackers were reduced but nowhere near eliminated; missteps and miscommunications were made regarding monetization; and most recently, the game was split into two different games to accommodate the emergence of Battle Royale as something everyone really wanted.

This is becoming something of a pattern – great ideas, decent enough execution, but just slightly off the mark. And slightly off the mark makes for an underwhelming experience in these days. Imperfect but awesome games can’t walk down a street without getting booed by at least a few people, so an imperfect but decent game? Not a chance in hell.
And so, in this way, I’m somewhat relieved to hear that EQN is no more. I’m concerned, of course, for what this may mean for the people working on the game over at Daybreak – hopefully they are just being given tasks on other projects, rather than let go. I’m saddened at the loss of a potentially groundbreaking game. But, if I’m honest, it probably would’ve turned out good rather than great. And I’ve already got a hundred and one good games to play.

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