Everquest Next and John Smedley

everquestnext_32518_screenOriginal article by Cheyanna

Sony has announced the creation of the next MMO in the Everquest series tentatively titled “Everquest Next”.  It will be EQ, but with new graphics and an alternate timeline. While it looks promising, I have nothing but the highest confidence in John Smedley’s ability to take a good game and turn it into shit.

Smedley is, single handedly, the destroyer of any good gaming concept.

Smedley “confessed” years ago to absolutely loving WoW, and since then and done everything in his power to make the three SoE games (EQ, EQ2 and Vanguard) of that genre into clones of it. While I’m willing to concede that there’s a population out there that loves WoW, from a purely business/marketing (my area of expertise before I got seduced by the dark side and got involved in politics) standpoint it was beyond stupid to have 3 different product lines in the same genre and push all 3 in the same direction.

EQ1 peaked during Velious, once Verant sold EQ to SoE (during the Luclin expansion)it started going downhill and has continued that way since. It’s still alive largely because those still playing played it “back in the day” and hold a nostalgic affection for the game akin to one’s first love, it’s simply hard to let go no matter how old and ugly he gets.

EQ2 showed a lot of promise early on. Released at the same time as WoW, it’s graphics were far superior to WoW, characters and class development were more compelling, quests more interesting and challenging, and UI was overall much better. But like WoW it was buggy as all hell on release. Major fix just prior to the release of the Desert of Flames (the first expansion) addressed a lot of the bugs, but also allowed Smed to engage in his favorite pastime: screwing up classes and dumbing down the game to WoW standards. Since then all EQ2 expansions have had the following similarities: beautiful graphics, cookie cutter dungeons (usually 3 or 4 basic designs with only the most minimal variation to differentiate), cookie cutter raids (figure out which raid mob from the prior expansion this one is emulating and you’ve got it made), and further screwing with classes resulting in ever increasing class imbalance that is typically made worse by the blunt force trauma use of the nerf bat. Add in the developer favoritism toward classes they play and toward guilds (world class raiding guilds) in which they are active members (Aeralik is/was the best example of this–look up on EQ2flames.com if you want to read 100 pages or so of drama surrounding his abuse of powers) and consistent use their developer God powers to advance the goals of their guilds and their favored classes and you have a highly adverse playing environment for other players.

Vanguard was probably the most tragic of SoE’s destructive tendencies. It, in particular, had huge potential to fill a niche market for the people who liked a more challenging MMO (people who were maturing out of EQ1, DAOC, etc). Brad, his drug problem and lack of executive management skills (and all the fan grousing about it’s problems) aside, had a great game in the making. 6 months of serious development overseen by someone lacking in addiction issues and possessing some management skill would have taken care of most of Vanguard’s problems. The graphics were amazing, character and class development innovative and engaging, changing from “zones” to “chunks” was an excellent concept, quests were detailed and compelling, leveling was a challenge, crafting and harvesting also innovative and fun… Vanguard’s biggest problem was that SoE was Brad’s unfortunate alternative as a partner after Microsoft backed out, and SoE subsequently forced Sigil to release the game 6 months too soon–and right AFTER Christmas and the release of major expansion in both EQ2 and WoW. Imo it was a deliberate effort to sabotage the game’s success and force Sigil into selling out to SoE (who only wanted the game for it’s customer database so SoE could try to migrate most of the customer base back to EQ2, which is exactly what they tried to do. Stupid, yes, but we’re talking about SoE here)

SWG: enough said. Probably one of the best PvP games ever released, and without too many flaws. Unfortunately, it died a slow painful death thanks to our pal Smed ordering or approving tinkering that did far more damage than good.


Important side note: Smed is not a fan of the PvP, his normal operating procedure is to offer some form or PvP (or promise it) and then destroy it by consolidating all PvP servers to a singer FFA server. Death of PvP occurs shortly after. EQ1 in 2005 did a major revamp of PvP, resulting in some of the best, most balanced PvP integrated to a PvE game ever seen–it was nearly seamless between the PvE and PvP and class balance was amazing…for about 3 months, then Smed ordered the closure of 4 PvP servers and the consolidation to one FFA PvP server. The merge rekindled interest in PvP for about a month then the subs nosedived as most players found FFA PvP in the PvEvP environment to be boring and pointless gankage that got old fast.

I’ll probably check it (the new EQnext) out if enough of my friends do, but I fully expect it to be ultimately disappointing like every other promising SoE product ever put on the market. God help the gaming world is SoE ever cans this twit and gets someone on board who has half a clue. They create (or acquire) great games, they just ruin them as it is now.

Article by Cheyanna