Last week, a reader named Chris, who is writing a paper on the MMO industry and revivifying sunsetted games, dropped an intriguing question into my inbox. It’s about bots – but not the sort of bots EVE Online is constantly fighting. The good kind.
“Do you think people would be interested in coming back to ‘closed’ MMO games if they were populated with AI bots instead of real players (to make them feel alive/populated)?” he asked me.
Let’s ponder that for today’s Overthinking. Certainly we’ve seen bots put to work in games like Camelot Unchained, which uses them to test massive numbers of players on the battlefield. Would you want to see them in live play? Would they help the feel of the world in ways that default NPCs simply would not? Is the AI even doable? Could AI bots take our place to make MMORPGs even better – or even to keep them viable and save them from destruction?
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.
Yesterday we covered a tip about a new MMORPG in the making: Ashes of Creation. Apparently we caught wind of this title before it was fully ready for a world reveal, but when Intrepid Studios heard about our story, the team figured this was as good a time as any to talk about its project.
Lead Designer Jeffrey Bard sat down with us for a lengthy interview to introduce the game and its studio. In a nutshell, Ashes of Creation is an ambitious sandbox MMO that’s being crafted by industry veterans, including several from Daybreak, that will empower players to change and mold a game world instead of passively moving through it. The game is still in the early stage of development but has extensive plans laid out for its path forward.
Let’s dig into what Ashes of Creation has in store as it enters the MMORPG scene this month!
This week on the show we have a very special guest: Brian “Psychochild” Green. Green is one of the creators of Meridian 59 and has been involved in the MMORPG industry since, having worked on Storybricks, EverQuest Next, and Camelot Unchained. It’s a no-holds-barred discussion over a snifter of whisky and a crackling fire!
It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.
This week’s Massively Overthinking topic revolves around the EverQuest Next cancellation, of course. MOP Patron Roger sent us 11 (!) questions to pick from. I’m going to break it down to just these core questions:
- Do you believe the “not fun” excuse?
- Could Dave Georgeson or John Smedley have prevented this?
- Are EverQuest and EverQuest II “safe”?
- Will Daybreak ever make another MMORPG?
- And what’s the future of the EverQuest franchise?
I posed them all to the Massively OP writers to ponder this week.
AI developer Dave Mark has weighed in mightily on the EverQuest Next cancellation. Mark worked on the game’s expansive AI system years ago alongside the Storybricks team — in fact, he says, Dave Georgeson’s famous “Orcs by the road” speech was based on his lectures and ideas.
“Please hear me when I say, emergent AI was not born at SOE/Daybreak or born of EverQuest Next,” he writes. “It also did not die with it.”
“All of those things that were promised with the AI were true and deliverable. It was not vaporware. In fact, after leaving the project (something I did not want to do), I ended up going straight to ArenaNet (thanks to my dear friend Mike Lewis) and spent a year implementing much of the same architecture and design. Some of it was used in the Heart of Thorns expansion to GuildWars 2 — the rest was prototyped up for possible use in future ArenaNet titles. (Much of the reason that some things were not used is that they were too much of a departure from the established gameplay of the GuildWars 2 franchise.)”
There are some MMO industry events that, when they occur, spark a wildfire of blog posts across the community. This past week’s announcement by Daybreak that the EverQuest Next project was to be canned and that Landmark to be quietly pushed out the door this spring was one such event. It seems that just about everyone has an opinion or a perspective on what this means, not just for Daybreak, but for MMO gamers and the future of the genre’s development.
We’ve rounded up 17 articles and quotes on the subject to pass along as these writers have come together for an impromptu roundtable of all things EQN. For those dealing with grief, frustration, or bewilderment over the announcement, it might help to hear what they have to say.
A colony founded through a magical nexus, Meridian 59 had it all going on — until, that is, the portal to the colony collapsed and it was left to fend for itself. Monsters swarmed over the land, politics split the community into factions, and adventurers were called to rise up and become the heroes that were desperately needed. And all it took was $10.95 a month and an internet connection.
Welcome to 1996 and one of the very first graphical MMOs to hit the scene. Meridian 59 may not have been one of the biggest games in the genre, but it was arguably one of the most important, the John Adams to World of Warcraft’s Abraham Lincoln.
While bigger titles have toppled and fallen, Meridian 59 defied the odds to continue to operate even today. This week we’re going to look at this fascinating title and how it helped to pioneer the graphical MMO industry back when the world wide web was still a newfangled toy to the public.
When it comes to the EverQuest franchise, looking back at 2015 is a much different experience than looking back at 2014 was. That previous year ended on such a high note of hope and anticipation; players (including me) were excited about what was to come. This year, however, is closing out with an air of melancholy, apprehension, and — for some — resignation.
That’s not to say that everything has been all bad. Despite what some may have you believe, the titles haven’t been careening non-stop down the slippery slope of doom. In fact, EverQuest and EverQuest II might even be ending the year on an upswing thanks to their unexpected expansions. Unfortunately, the two newest children of the family, Landmark, and EverQuest Next, enjoy no such buoyancy in the final quarter. They have sadly faded into the shadows.
How to sum up 2015? Concern, controversy, and content come to mind.
In a perfect world, we’d have the mana of EverQuest Next news raining down from the sky, enough to satiate our hunger for information about the game we’ve long looked forward to. Instead, to many of us, including me, it feels more like we’re wandering lost in the desert for 40 years while trying to squeeze water from a stone.
We know that Landmark news has always been EQN news, but I can certainly understand players wanting to see more concrete EQN-specific things; I want to see more concrete things! I’ve been asking for a little more show and tell for quite a while. Sadly, that just isn’t happening. I was momentarily excited when in June, devs announced that the Landmark team was shifting the bulk of its focus from Landmark to EverQuest Next. Oh that was music to fans’ ears! But what have we learned about the game since then? We’ve seen one screenshot of Qeynos and had a couple workshops, but there’s been very little concrete news. For now, we must assume that the previously revealed information is still valid. Here’s a recap of key points we know so far.
Ascent: The Space Game is one of the MMO genre’s most ambitious titles. Whether it’s the seamless transitions between the vastness of space and the vastness of its planetary environments, or whether it’s the emergent gameplay made possible by Ascent’s NPC AI, this particular PvE sandbox is doing things that other games can’t (or won’t).
MassivelyOP recently interviewed Fluffy Kitten Studios founder James Hicks about that emergent AI and several related topics. Click past the cut to learn how this tiny indie studio is shaming its big-budget counterparts and assembling a feature-rich title on a shoestring budget.
It’s been one doozy of a busy week here at Massively Overpowered, between our Kickstarter campaign conclusion, PAX East, studios closing, games celebrating anniversaries, and a certain alpha revving up. Can we sum it up in a single hour? The podcast fairies will sprinkle their magic dust and make it happen!
It’s been almost a month since Daybreak (formerly SOE) laid off several of its employees following its acquisition by Columbus Nova, but we’re only now starting to see the full scope of the event.
U-T San Diego reports that 140 employees were let go from Daybreak’s San Diego office, although the studio is not talking about how many were affected from the Austin location. Those laid off had an “effective termination date” of April 13th.
To recap the Daybreak saga so far: Investment firm Columbus Nova purchased SOE from Sony on February 2nd and renamed it Daybreak Game Company. On February 11th, the studio laid off a portion of its staff from several teams. Since then, PlanetSide 2’s Matt Higby resigned, EverQuest Next dropped Storybricks (which then closed), and GM support in Daybreak’s games was pared down.
[Source: U-T San Diego