Storybricks CEO shares early EverQuest Next proposal documents

It has been a while since the dust settled on late, lamentable EverQuest Next, and even longer since the sandbox MMORPG acquired and then ditched Storybricks for one of its core game systems. Recently, Storybricks CEO Rodolfo Rosini rediscovered a couple of early documents of his company’s work on EverQuest Next, and as these were produced in 2012 before an NDA was signed, he decided that they were fair game to share with the internet at large.

“The first document is the initial pitch after we were told the scope of the game that is now public and it wasn’t clear how many features we would have to develop for the final product,” Rosini said. “As you can see magic was a huge influence on the prototyping stage. The second document was our proposal for a demo of the AI combat system, and that was what helped us advance the discussion for our involvement in EQN.”

It’s certainly interesting to get a glimpse into the fabled MMORPG’s development from Storybricks’ perspective and to once again tantalize our minds with the thought of “what if it had happened this way.” The documents talk about Storybricks creating the “illusion of life” with its flexible scripting program, especially in combat, and how it would be used to adapt and counter players’ fighting styles.

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41 Comments on "Storybricks CEO shares early EverQuest Next proposal documents"

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Dystopiq

This hurts. What hurt more was reading testimonies from people who worked on EQN and many blamed Georgeson for his insistence on wasting time and resources on Landmark and the leadership allowing it instead of focusing on one thing.

Reader
Utakata

…and then Daybroke it. /sigh

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Kickstarter Donor
Tandor

My immediate reaction to reading this was to wonder why Justin wrote it, then I realised that MJ was doubtless fanning herself in a darkened room while ruminating on what might have been…

MJ Guthrie
Staff
MJ Guthrie

MJ isn’t really doing news this month — streams and PAX is where it’s at! (And I may be plotting, but nor fanning =D)

Reader
Arktouros

The EQN thing was a huge disappointment to me. Was really looking forward to the Dynamic Content they talked about with NPCs taking over territory and really creating an actual living world where things changed. I remember that video they showed with the Elf zone and it was like “Finally…”

Reader
FreecczLaw

I loved the ability/class system they seemed to have planned. It looked so fun and cool. It just seemed like the perfect mix of restrictions on classes and flexibility combined with exploration and adventure with the horizontal progression to get the things you wanted. Man……

Morgan Feldon
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Morgan Feldon

What if… anything that was presented on stage in Las Vegas had actually been tested. Most of what was announced was “we would LIKE to do X.” They didn’t finish that sentence with “if we can figure out how”.

It was kind of like announcing a car, showing a mockup, and then going back to the studio and then seeing if it can actually be engineered and built. Not surprisingly, they found that much of what had been shown was technically impossible.

It did not help that Georgeson decided that EQNext wasn’t necessary and that Landmark (a dev tool released to players) should be expanded and extended into an actual game. When you build a dev tool, you take a LOT of programming shortcuts. Modularity is ignored. Many things are rapidly prototyped and hard-coded. When you build a finished product, you have (or should have) a completely different approach where you plan ahead, think about each feature, and try to make the code maintainable and pluggable.

It took 30 programmers 18 months to figure out collision avoidance for EQNext, and it took 6GB of collision data per continent to make it work. And because of all the hard coding, they could not integrate any of the rapid improvements that were happening upstream in VoxelFarm. That team solved flowing water, but Landmark couldn’t adopt it.

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Rodolfo Rosini

“As you can see magic was a huge influence” I meant Magic the Gathering!

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Kickstarter Donor
squidgod2000

It’s usually magic mushrooms that are the huge influence in the early stages.

Reader
drgreenhoe

Only time will tell…

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Melissa McDonald

I could be wrong but I feel like the MMO / game community would crowdfund a new EverQuest game if the option actually existed.

Hell, if someone said “we bought Landmark from DBG and we are going to hammer it into the EQN game you were promised” I’d paypal them some cash like, right now.

kjempff
Reader
kjempff

EQN is part of the EQ ip, so I assume you can’t buy EQN seperately but need the entire EQ ip ?
But hell yes if EQN or someone with the same ideas made a kickstarter now I would say “Take my money, take all of it”.
I do not believe it was impossible technically, it was just bad decisions and denial so those kept stacking.
On paper EQN was true evolution of the mmo genre.

Reader
Rodolfo Rosini

– I tried, and had investors approach Sony but they wouldn’t sell without resorting to some extremely creative accounting. Later they got desperate and offered a different a deal to the current owner.
– The main issue is that just the codebase is not enough. You need the same people that ran their department because they know what is where. So when studios/games fail you have a very small window of opportunity to swoop in and buy. After that it’s actually cheaper to rebuild everything from scratch with newer tech. I wish there were more standardization in the industry so you could repurpose old games with new gameplay but it’s not the case.
– Making MMOs is a shockingly expensive venture, both in terms of times and money. And at this point it’s obvious that these are bets that do not pay off very often. I doubt that we will see more until the tech pipeline to make them improves dramatically and can be attempted by a small team.

Reader
wratts

Any insight into why Sony offered CN a different deal without giving you guys a chance to meet the same terms? It’s been pretty obvious that as DBG they have no idea what to do to advance the EQ IP, and aside from this I think CN’s only gaming experience was a turnaround for Rock Band no?

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Rodolfo Rosini

Sony was under pressure to divest underperforming units and SOE was getting worse. Initially they were looking at one type of deal and when every single investor walked they changed the terms and essentially gave it away for free + liabilities + (presumably) maintaining headcount. The owners of CN have extracurricular experience such using a private army and corruption to take over Siberian oil fields. This one of the reasons why once we learnt that the SOE/CN deal was done we decided to part ways as soon as we could given that I did not want to work for some Russian organized crime syndicate (convicted in a court of law so this is not an unproven allegation or hearsay).

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Viktor Budusov

> The owners of CN have extracurricular experience such using a private army and corruption to take over Siberian oil fields.

Links please.

>convicted in a court of law so this is not an unproven allegation or hearsay

Right, as ‘russian hackers’ are?

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Rodolfo Rosini

Spending five minutes on Google would have showed you all the links in the world. These guys have not been exactly shy in their activities. But specifically the oil field in question was owned by ZAO Yugraneft. You might also want to check the lawsuit filed in NY “Norex Petroleum Ltd. v. Blavatnik” (I think that was thrown out on technicalities but the documents they filed were pretty unequivocal). And just to be clear I am sure there are two sides to every story but I had seen enough to know that I did not want to be involved. You can read more about these guys if you wish http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/trump-commerce-pick-wilbur-ross-financial-ties-russians/ (Columbus Nova is owned by Renova)

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Viktor Budusov

What a racist bullshit. ‘Obviously’ everything Russian is corruption, organized crime, inherently evil and whatever propaganda they brainwash you.

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Rodolfo Rosini

However the guys running CN (not its owners) are fund managers and they fired the right people at DBG, created the right positions, reduced headcount and done all the things that were long overdue at that company. The fact that they don’t have experience of making games is unnecessary IMO as long as you hire those who do. For example on the board of Bethesda sits Trump’s brother.

Estranged
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Kickstarter Donor
Estranged

Right, it is so difficult to go behind a former programmer and continue their work.

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Sally Bowls

Every single coder I know prefers to rewrite instead of maintaining. It must be constantly resisted by management but it is sometimes correct.

Some programmers don’t quite buy into the “document the code well so it is easy to replace you” concept.

Documentation and especially process and procedures are frequently lacking in real companies run by adults. I have not seen much process from gaming companies.

When a company is struggling/failing like SOE; when there is a question about whether the endeavour will continue, there is far more focus on the very short term as opposed to documenting for the future and implementing good processes.

Reader
Rodolfo Rosini

Not just programmers. Artists, animations, all the assets etc. For games the size of MMOs it’s next to impossible to parachute in an entirely new team without handover

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Kickstarter Donor
John Bagnoli

That’s too bad. I was very excited when I heard of Storybricks and what they were trying to accomplish. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, I think all of us would have benefited.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

Sony gave me pretty much the same run-around when I tried to use a movie quote in a song I was making. They first just said “no”. Then they sent me a dozen documents and said the conversation starts at $5000.00
So… no.

I would very happily embrace a new EQN with Black Desert Online-quality graphics, though :)

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Tandor

I’d very happily embrace EQ3, being a proper state-of-the-art follow-up PC-based MMORPG to EQ and EQ2, but not a voxel-based EQN or “Landmark with a game built in”.

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Melissa McDonald

I would have loved EQN as planned. Landmark was a wonderful game – it simply was incomplete without races, quests, and dev-created content. Digging into the sand on the beach and seeing the water seep into the hole you’d dug was kind of magical. And they had the most gorgeous ocean I’ve seen in a video game.

Reader
Slaasher

Yeah Landmark was an incredible building game. You could make things in that game you cant even dream of anywhere else. This whole conversation just makes me depressed about gaming. I was a SOE fanboi since 2000 but this latest EQN/Landmark fiasco they created just made me uninstall all of their games from my system a year ago. It would take a miracle to get me back to their products now

Reader
Loyal Patron
Rottenrotny

Some of the really cool things I read in there:

“The biggest sandbox ever made” – Smed

Tactical use of terrain transforming abilities.

Intelligent enemies with high warfare values will ignore the threat the tank is putting out and attack high value targets such as healers.

Man, the mob AI presented by Story Bricks sounds pretty next level.
Pity EQn had such a sad end.

Begs the question: Why hasn’t anyone else picked up Story bricks for MMO AI?

Blinkenn
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Blinkenn

As far as I remember, the Storybricks AI never got past a tech demo, so all their talk of “it was going to do this or that” is about as believable as all of EQN’s promised features.

Reader
Rodolfo Rosini

We actually built the combat demo and it was working. This is what convinced SOE to work with us. Happy to post more if they lift the NDA. The biggest block towards the end was that we didn’t have pathfinding on destructible terrain and engineering resources were scarce to work on that problem (just to be clear it’s really a big issue to solve).

Reader
Melissa McDonald

That’s one of those things the lay person doesn’t consider… pathing on destructible /alterable terrain. I can see why that would be a problem.

Reader
Sally Bowls

As a salty player of pet classes, let me just say that pathing on indestructible terrain is not always successfully considered by devs.

MJ Guthrie
Staff
MJ Guthrie

I remember watching the war simulation demo at SOE Live. Was pretty cool!

Reader
Rodolfo Rosini

The original AI combat demo was ever made public AFAIK, even at SOE I don’t think anyone saw it outside the core EQN team. It was built outside EQN with minimal assets.

Solaris
Reader
Solaris

For awhile, I thought some of the Storybricks team might be involved in Ashes of Creation. Some of their ideas for a dynamic world sounds very familiar.

MJ Guthrie
Staff
MJ Guthrie

That whole overview of the the tide of war over time is what I meant. It was shown during a panel. I still have pictures of it. I can go find the article…
http://web.archive.org/web/20150127171317/http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/08/21/soe-live-2014-the-revolutionary-intelligence-of-storybricks-ai

Reader
Rodolfo Rosini

That was much later, when finally we were allowed to do stuff beyond combat and add AI as an overlay to the world. It was Stéphane Bura (SB) and Steve Danuser (who is now working on Warcraft) who were on it. The design of all that is under NDA.

Reader
Sally Bowls

For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’. – John Greenleaf Whittier

Reader
Armsbend

Here is a pick-me-up. If Daybreak had made this game it would have been legend awful. Better to have never been than been the massive disappointment it was destined to be under their leadership.

Reader
Utakata

That’s a good point. o.O

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Melissa McDonald

you win the internets for today. /wipes away a tear

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