SOE Live Day 1 Recap
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Co-written by JamesBl0nde, MMOHuts Content Manager
My head is spinning following a quick trip to my favorite Irish Pub (9 Fine Irishmen at NY NY!). I’m adjusting and tweaking our camera for the perfect shot at the stage. Suddenly a woman dressed in the most extravagant Everquest Dwarf cosplay steps on stage and the crowd explodes as hundreds of hardcore fans of the series embrace her reading of the 10 Commandments of SOE Live. “What is this madness?” I think to myself as the roar and laughter of the crowd threatens to even drown out the speaker.
Then the man of the hour arrived. John Smedley took to the stage bringing that oh so rare electrifying personality that is a mix of deep industry experience combined with a continued love of everything he does. He teased us with news of Everquest Next and promises of a playable version at next year’s show. He reassured the proud fans present that Everquest 1 was alive and well and would continue pumping out new content well into the future, starting with the Rain of Fear expansion and its glorious throw backs to the numerous baddies of old, reinvigorated with the power of the fallen shards. You can always tell a team that loves lore when they both understand the value of an event leading up to an expansion to make the world feel more alive, while simultaneously recognizing what the fans loved in the past and finding new ways to make it relevant again. Of course you can experience the 19th Everquest expansion, Rain of Fear, on November 28th. But for the less patient new audience more addicted to Everquest II, you will only have to wait until the 13th! Alas the panel covering the Chain’s of Eternity Expansion was delayed yesterday so we’ll have to get further coverage of this up at a later time.
Following the big Everquest news, John took a breather while Matt Higby and Tramell Isaac took to the stage with one goal in mind; divide the united audience through Planetside 2 nationalism leading up to the start of the most massive Planetside 2 Tournament to date. And I can be perfectly blunt when I say I’ve seen rap battles with less intensity and excitement than what these two figures on stage created. They taunted us repeatedly with a launch date while showcasing new zones of every elemental type and setting you could expect from a Universe of possibilities. Fans of the original title will be happy to see the return of Searhus, Hossin, and Oshur post-launch. But while these were still merely concept art in the mind of Tramell, the big announcement was the work in progress preview video of Amerish, the third zone that will be included at launch!
Oh and that launch? Yea November 20th. If you truly care about your faction’s dominance I’d suggest grabbing one of those Alpha Squadron packages and shaking off your noobness because war is coming, and it’s barely a month away!
Now earlier this week at an undisclosed location (let’s call it Area 51), I heard rumblings among my fellow press that there was something truly astonishing being announced at SOE Live this year. But prior to this announcement I gained new respect for Sony Online Entertainment and Smedley for his philosophy of the gaming industry. Too many times I had heard these same words coming from podcasts of gaming enthusiasts the world over, yet never reflected in the industry beyond a few rare indie devs.
He spoke about the power of user driven content, using fan-made videos throughout the show, discussing the growing power of Esports, and talking about the glory of fan-made content and mods that can often outshine even the devs working at Sony. But this was beyond basic talk. He went on to reveal plans for Planetside 2 Esports (including the massive on-going tournament this weekend) as well as the Sony Player Studio. This is a new revolutionary system in which fans would be able to create new content for their titles, submit it to their games, and be paid a portion of revenue made for their creations. At this point the Everquest and DC Universe Online fanboys were literally falling over top of themselves with joy at the potential custom weapons and Super Lair creations they could create for themselves and others under this system. I was a bit shocked that a mosh pit hadn’t formed at the base of the stage surrounding Smedley. Likely most were too drunk to stand; another wise decision by Sony.
Smedley also discussed the benefits of their recently adopted F2P business models and announced 150% growth in daily user log-ins for Everquest and 300% growth for Everquest 2 as a result of the switch. He went on to say that their changing focus was a result of not only the inevitable death of the subscription model, but also the tightening of the market as gamers grow more aware of their options and lesser quality F2P titles fall to ashes due to companies pushing what they believe will make the biggest bank for the company rather than what the players want. With the launch of Player Studio if gamers aren’t getting what they want fast enough, they need only build it themselves.
And just when I thought the roar of the crowd couldn’t get any more deafening, John Tang (Programmer and President of Runewaker, the Devs behind Runes of Magic) steps from the shadows and takes the mic. Now all the press including myself were tilting our heads to the sides like confused chickens wondering what Frogster’s flagship game head was doing on stage at the SOE Live Keynote speech. Then the light bulbs began to light up as the dots connected… Runewaker was going to be behind the secret title we had been waiting for all along!
The title is Dragon Prophecy, a heavily action based MMORPG with at least three hundred unique dragons for players to tame and ride. If you were a fan of How to Train Your Dragon, this game is going to be a dream come true. The graphics were exceptional; the combat in the trailer looked smooth, just everything about this game had our heads spinning. And as if the game was designed from the ground up to stay true to Smedley’s philosophy, John Tang happily teased us with one of the most extensive player housing systems to date. And then as a side note mentioned that this was just a tiny part of a Frontier System in which guild leaders would be able to build an entire kingdom, the foundation of true Dragon Empires!
Of course I was dumbfounded when Smedley returned to the stage to reveal that there wasn’t just one new title up their sleeves. No that would be too cliché at an event like. No he also brought out a gameplay trailer for Wizardry Online. And while the game looked impressive to be sure, I couldn’t help question what really differentiated it from Everquest II besides a couple years of more advanced technologies and Smedley’s constant musing that we had better bring our A game to this title as it was going to be challenging (sure Smedley, like we hadn’t heard that a dozen times before). Then the gameplay video ended and in bold bloody red letters under the title there it was… permadeath. Gamers brace yourselves as one of the longest standing publishing teams in the world is going old school and bringing back Permadeath for a new AAA MMORPG. It’s on in 2013 and I would hate to be the Sony’s competition in the industry after witnessing the breathtaking Keynote speech last night. Who knows what else they have up their sleeves? The weekend after all has only begun.