Backwards Yet, Maybe, Forwards

Of late I’ve been spending a bit of very casual time in EverQuest. As long-time readers will know, I missed out of EQ in its heyday and have made only a few abortive attempts to get into it in recent years. This time around, having skipped the upappealing tutorial zone and diving directly into what appears to be the only remaining starter zone, it’s working a little better for me. I’m a bit out of my depth, but presumably time can fix that, if I keep playing.

I’m also futzing with the open beta of Firefall. I like it, although it’s occupying the same slot in my head that Planetside 2 does. I intend to keep fooling with it, although my current interest level (which is not extraordinarily high) inclines me to wait for launch rather than deal with the vicissitudes of beta.

Looking forward, there are two MMOish titles on the horizon that I’m exited about: Star Citizen and EverQuest Next. The former may not be officially an MMO, but a lot of the talk coming out of the Star Citizen group is pretty exciting, and as far as I can see today it’s close enough. I’m particularly interested in how the game is supposed to interact with player activity vis a vis the economy, as discussed in the linked video.

EQNext might be a full-throated return to the sandbox for SOE. We actually know a lot less about it than we do Star Citizen at this point, but hopefully that will change with the game’s formal reveal at SOELive in early August. In a typical stroke of luck, I will be camping at that time, but I’ll catch up when I get back a few days later.

Either or both could disappoint, of course. But they do stand a chance of pushing virtual worlds forward for the first time in years. The “MMORPG” term has basically outlived its usefulness as terminology, and as a category it has ceased evolving in any direction of its own, rather moving closer to other, safer styles of game.

Back From Break While I’m On Break

Over the last several weeks the stress has been grinding on me to the point where I’ve been incredibly on edge and have not held it together 100% of the time. There are about a dozen sources of this stress that I won’t go into, but one of the big ones — the mounting pressure as finals loom — is now over with, and I have a couple of weeks of only full time plus work in which to unwind. It’ll feel like a vacation in Hawaii.

That’s more or less the reason there’s been so little in this space for the last two months; I have gotten a little writing done but almost no gaming, and thus just haven’t had much to talk about on what is still predominantly a blog about MMOs.

Traditionally my main game during any extended break has been EverQuest II. This time around I’ve been fooling with Guild Wars 2 and Vanguard, plus I may hit the Age of Wushu Beta that opens up to basically everybody on the 20th. And more Planetside 2 is always a possibility.

I was tempted by the shocking news that Turbine has resurrected Asheron’s Call 2 on a single server, but trying that would be subbing to AC1, and watching a couple of videos of the revived game cured me of the impulse. It’s an interesting artifact and I wish it well (and wonder about Turbine’s motives) but I can do without it.

So yeah, I’m back for the time being.

EQNext, Not Next Year

Massively reports, and Wilhelm remarks, that we shan’t be seeing any information on EverQuest Next any time soon. The relevant SmokeJumper quote courtesy of EQ2Wire:

EQ Next is still being built within a black box. The *earliest* we are currently considering that we *might* reveal info is late this year. We’re being very particular about what needs to be in the game before revealing it to folks, so until that stuff is ready, we won’t be showing anything. (Screens you saw from a couple years ago are completely obsolete now and are not pertinent to the current game at all.)

SOE is actually pretty good at trickling information out to the public, if you are paying very close attention. Naturally some individuals took the mention of the project as a sign that release was imminent, leading to the idea in some quarters by 2012 that it was vaporware. Of course, I don’t have to tell my readers these things take a long time to develop and that SOE isn’t the biggest or the richest development house out there. It’s gonna take a while. If we assume that serious discussions started happening in 2009 (as seems reasonable) then given a typical five-year development cycle we should expect to see a launch in 2014.

When SOE said that a new chapter in the EverQuest franchise was being planned back in 2009, it was clearly only in the thinking stages at the time, and when they started to talk about it at FanFaire in 2010, it was still obviously very early in development. So not hearing any details soon is not a surprise. 2013 is clearly going to be the year of Planetside 2 for SOE. They are mounting a big push for it and it’s drawing a lot of very positive buzz. My guess would be that we will not, in fact, see anything substantial on EQNext this year, as Creative Director Dave Georgeson implies is possible in the quote above. By the end of the year, of course, the narrative in certain quarters will be that more info was in fact promised, and that SOE is again the House of Lies. But you can’t unlearn stupid.

We may hear something at FanFaire… er, SOELive this year, or possibly afterward. Maybe even a screenshot or two. But I think we won’t start to see serious information until 2013, and possibly not before SOELive 2013. As for release, I think 2014 is possible, but I’m not holding my breath. I’d say 2015, possibly even 2016 are more likely.

Vanguard F2P Gets a Trailer

After years of neglect, it was a surprise to many, including myself that Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was presented at this year’s E3 as part of SOE’s stable of games. You’d have thought it would be, of course, but this was a big year for SOE at E3 with the overwhelming focus on showing off Planetside 2, and even at SOE’s own FanFaire event (now called SOE Live) there has been a grand total of zilch for the last couple of years.

Vanguard’s upcoming transition to f2p is a big, big deal for a game seen as struggling by the public at large, and with good reason. Comments by SOE chief John Smedley about wanting Vanguard to get a proper relaunch were encouraging. Vanguard getting a place at the table at an E3 where SOE was a major draw was more so — it shows that SOE is actually serious. Now Massively has broken the news that SOE showed off a trailer for the free to play Vanguard at E3… and it’s pretty strong.

I’d embed it, but the embed code for whatever video hosting Digital Trends is using makes WordPress unhappy, so head over to Massively for a look.

EDIT: Now embedded, courtesy of kaozz, who’s been chronicling her adventures in Vanguard as well. Head on over there and have a great read.

First Look at ForgeLight

This video from the Planetside 2 alpha is a few days old now but I hadn’t seen it until this point. Go ahead and give it a watch.

This is SOE’s new ForgeLight engine in action. Bearing in mind that it’s alpha footage and is sure to get better in any number of ways, I’m struck by how terrific the lighting and environmental effects are. It’s made me more interested in Planetside 2 than I was, and more excited about this very same engine, only tested and matured by its use in the preceding game, used to power EverQuest Next.