The Future of SOE: One on One with John Smedley

ZAM sits down with John Smedley to talk about PlanetSide 2, EQ and the future.

There was something different about the keynote address at SOE Live this year. It wasn’t Linda’s resplendent beard or the sense of anticipation in the audience; it was the sense that a new direction was being undertaken.

Of course there was information on the new expansions for both EverQuests, the new DLC 6 with Player Lairs for DCUO -- an interview with Jens Andersen and Larry Liberty coming this week -- the release date for PlanetSide 2 and the explanation of what has happened to EverQuest Next. There was plenty to digest, but it was the air of determination to make the year ahead for SOE something to make the industry take note that stood out that night.

As John Smedley put it, EverQuest had changed the industry 13 years ago and SOE wanted to do it again.

It was with the keynote fresh in my mind that I sat down with SOE’s president and asked him about the plan for the future.

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A surprising element to the keynote was that with EQ, EQII and PS2, Sony Online Entertainment was releasing three large products in the space of two weeks.

I asked what the thinking was behind such a large push in a short window, Smedley responded:

“I’d be lying if I said it was planned. The EQ and EQII expansions have been on a one year cycle for some time, they’re very predictable…it’s a routine part of our job, we have 10 MMOs we’re running on a constant basis, and it’s not a big deal for us. In the case of PlanetSide 2, it evolved to the point where we could launch it. Our original targeted date was earlier, but we had been taking player feedback and fixing it, we had a lot of bugs to fix and optimizing to do but we finally figured out, scheduling wise, when we could do that to our satisfaction.”

Having already spoken to Tramell Ray Isaac and Matt Higby about PlanetSide 2 – those interviews coming later this week – it was mentioned how very intent Smedley had personally been on making PS2 run as well as possible on a large a range of rigs:

“What we’re trying to do in PlanetSide 2, letting about 2,000 players on a continent play in a fight, it’s about as hard a technical problem as you’re going to get. It’s been very challenging getting it running and we still have a lot of work to do on that.

We’ve got 10 people on the team out of a hundred who are doing nothing but performance and they’re going to keep doing that, even post launch, so our goal is to get this running well on older machines, i5 Dual Core is probably our low end at this point in time. It’s a game that is CPU dependent; it’s not GPU dependent, which is the really interesting thing. Our average framerate with everything populated right now runs between 35 and 40 no matter what the res is. It’s a big focus and it’s going to get a lot better before launch - and a lot better after launch.”

I asked what his personal ambitions were for the future of PlanetSide 2 in particular, having spoken to Higby and Isaac, the ambition and scope for the game and its engine, Forgelight, was palpable, “I talked about emergent gameplay being the future of SOE, PlanetSide 2 exemplifies that. We wrote out a long term plan for the game from day one, we have the long term vision for it. We see EverQuest with 13 years going on, imagine if you had a long term vision back then and be able to modify it for the players as you go along. With PlanetSide 2 we have that opportunity.

We have all our eggs in the basket of giving players power. Player owned bases is an example of that. We see players evangelizing the game and giving them the ability to invite to outfits and groups is standard; what isn’t standard is being able to take over a base and put your own emblem on it, stuff like that. Our ambition for the game is that it will be running 15 years from now, that it will be current and people will still want to play it. Our ambition is huge.”

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Cautiously optimistic
# Oct 24 2012 at 12:25 PM Rating: Good

I'm hopeful that Smed is finally telling the truth (and not pushing gamer-ized corporate speak). I'll give him credit though, Planetside 2 is freakin' ridiculous. If that's the tip of the iceberg, SOE's in really good hands. The problem is, what he mentions isn't evident in EQ's expansion. Rain of Fear is essentially more of the same, except reusing old assets.

Change is hard, especially for a multinational behemoth corporation like Sony. PS2 is a good first step, but patterns are what prove change is actually underway.
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# Oct 24 2012 at 6:18 AM Rating: Decent
21 posts
I am really excited for EQ Next, it seems like it will be more realistic, in terms of how fanstasy really is. If they can really capture that true sense of Fantasy EQ next might even beat Guild Wars 2.
so
# Oct 24 2012 at 3:31 AM Rating: Decent
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yeah whatever mr smedley
so
# Oct 24 2012 at 3:31 AM Rating: Decent
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yeah whatever mr smedley
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