Goodbye Everquest Next
Yesterday the MMORPG industry received a couple of really bad bits of news. Firstly Daybreak Games has officially announced that Everquest Next is no more, and that they would be rushing Landmark into “launched” status this spring. Firstly it really should not come as any surprise that this is happening because in truth we have not had any substantive news about “Next” since SOE Live 2014. So when Storybricks parted company in February 2015 and SOE was sold to the holding company that renamed it to Daybreak… I fully expected we would never see anything further from Next. Storybricks was going to be the guts of this new approach at how to create an MMO and allow it o almost center around procedural interactions with he various factions and NPCs in the game. With that core gone… I could not reason how the game would function, and deliver even half of the lofty promises it had made. The other huge concern was the fact that Daybreak now seemed like a company desperately trying to survive under the yolk of evil overlords. When a company known for grooming technology for sale purchases a game company… it seems like creative freedom and the broad daydreaming that got SOE where it is today would be the firs thing to go.
The concerns I have is that it feels like Landmark is getting foisted upon us, in an unfinished state. It had been a couple of years since I last played the game and I popped in last night to see just how different it is. In truth it still feels like the prototype game that it has always felt like. I roamed around and collected items and then logged back out because I wasn’t really drawn to stay. The thing I love about Landmark is the community, and I am just hoping that through all of this transition they can manage to keep that intact. The problem I have with Landmark is that it is a fun sandbox that lets you build really interesting structures…. but I still wouldn’t really call it a game but instead more of a toybox. Sure you have the trappings of combat now, but while wandering around in the zone the game dumped me in…. there was actually nothing to fight. Maybe I need to dig down to find that, but the only thing I actually encountered that was potentially damaging were some exploding shrooms. I am hoping that in the few months left before the official launch that they can somehow pull together some of the ideas from Next and make Landmark a proper game experience.
The other concerning news from yesterday is that roughly sixty employees were laid off in a “restructuring” within Carbine. This has honestly been a topic among some of my friends for awhile now, but we were dreading some form of action to be taken. Wildstar has not been performing amazingly well… in fact they are performing far worse right now than with City of Heroes was shut down by NC Soft. As a company goes they are notoriously brutal when it comes to closing titles that they deem are not operating as well as they expected. Wildstar is a significantly better game today than it was at launch, and the Free to Play conversion was more than just a payment model change, but an entire reworking and re-tuning of some of the game concepts. The game felt fresh and new and was exciting… for a period of time. The problem is, that Wildstar is just not my game. I have good friends who love it above all others, and for them it hurts a lot to see the company struggling. Every now and then there is just a game that does not for whatever reason “click”, and that was this game for me. On paper it sounds and looks like everything I could have wanted in a game, and I still think it has one of the best implementations of player housing I have ever seen. Unfortunately I just don’t ever have the desire to play it, and always seemed to prioritize playing something else over it.
The scariest statement about the whole press release is this line. “These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title“. That right there seems to be signalling the end of active development on Wildstar and shifting the title into maintenance mode. An MMORPG cannot thrive without fresh dose of new content, and while you can do things like add new quests and script events without a lot of active development…. you can’t do things like roll out new zones and raids. Admittedly the game is getting fresh content with the release of Arcterra, and hopefully this will not effect that. The other worrying statement is that apparently there were statements floating around that the employees were told to expect more layoffs in the future. So much happens when layoffs are announced, and there is an internet dog piling of bad blood towards a game. I have nothing but love for Wildstar and its community and I want it to weather this storm and somehow bounce back stronger. I am clinging to hope because I know a lot of people who really need this game to succeed and thrive. All of that said… the cynic an realist in me still keeps saying that this is not going to end well.