ZAM sits down with John Smedley to talk about PlanetSide 2, EQ and the future.
I suggested that the keynote seemed to be planting a flag in the ground, a statement of intent from both Smedley and SOE, that business as usual wasn’t good enough. The EQ Next announcement was the prime example that they didn’t want to make just another game. How did Smedley see EQ Next taking the lead in changing the industry?
“If we’re being honest with ourselves as an industry, all the games are the same, including ours, the combat’s the same though there are a few games that are outliers, like our own DCUO, but it’s basically kill something, get a reward, put it on your body or in your house, rinse and repeat. Kill a bigger thing, get bigger armor.
Actually we threw away two designs, not one, I didn’t mention that in the keynote, the way we did that, we realized the first two [versions of EQ Next] were just the same. I see games like Rift come out and I’m like “Yeah, that’s an evolution, they did a great job with that game, but it’s not enough. Do I want to play this game 10 years from now?” And my honest answer to that is “No I don’t.”
So we’re changing it, and the way we’re doing that is making the world a part of the game. Right now worlds are Hollywood facades, just a place you go to kill the thing. It’s pretty, it helps the mood and the story but it doesn’t take part in the story in a meaningful way and that’s what we’re changing.
You’ll be able to destroy, massive, massive parts of this world, almost all of it. You can light the forest on fire; we have ambition with this thing. We want it to be something where the world you log into, might not be the world you log into in five days. What you saw in WoW’s Cataclysm could take place because someone cast a spell that is powerful enough to do something major. We want it to be meaningful. And that’s what we’re building. It’s actually what we’ve built, because we’ve got this now. It just isn’t quite at the level where we’re OK [to reveal it to the public]. We have a story that we want to tell for the announcement of it, we want it that you’re seeing every aspect of the gameplay, we’re one aspect short of that until we’re ready to show, so we’re close now.”
Smedley made it explicit, that it wasn’t just for the sake of an individual game, but for SOE that change needed to happen. Known for his refreshing honesty regarding not only SOE’s games but for all games in the industry, John spoke of how World of Warcraft became the standard bearer due to its great polish, but many of its core elements were evident in EverQuest, for the future, he is adamant more needs to be done:
“We want it to be different; it’s just too much that’s the same. We can’t keep up with the players, you make an expansion now and the players are through it in a month or less. My son plays World of Warcraft, he finished Mists of Pandaria inside of two weeks. And it’s a great expansion, they did a terrific job and people will still be playing it a year from now. Star Wars: The Old Republic, two months in and people had finished everything in the game. How can we possibly make that work? For our players, for us, it doesn’t work.”