WAR Next?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 September 2013, 3:58 am
Yesterday I wrote about WAR, how it had lots of promise and new ideas, and then miserably failed to execute them. Now I wonder whether history is repeating itself. Have a look at the various blog posts about Everquest Next, a game in which many people have put their hope as the next big thing, the savior of the MMORPG genre, and the "return" of the sandbox MMO. And as others have pointed out, SOE may well fail in the execution of those ideas.

Most ideas sound great in isolation. You can make a very good case stating that EQ Next should have forced grouping. But to do that, you need to argue that case in isolation, and forgot about over a decade of experience of the disadvantages of forced grouping. Forced grouping requires long play session and offers the players little flexibility, because they need to make a lot of compromises between what they actually want to do, and what they can find a group for. That very much limits the possible number of your customers. And times have changed: If you launched a game today that was exactly as successful as the original Everquest in terms of player numbers, it would be considered an utter failure (WAR had three times the number of players at its peak than EQ at peak).

All the possibly good ideas of Everquest Next, like having a sandbox game, or having a Minecraft-like system of players being able to modify the world, all come with disadvantages. Just like WAR's idea of public quests sounded great, until people discovered the downsides of the idea in practice, there is a high probability that the great ideas of EQ Next will reveal their downsides in play. And many of those downsides are already known in the industry: Developers talk of "time to penis" in games that allow player-created content. And we know that a large number of people will just feel lost if tossed into a sandbox without instructions on what to do.

Ultimately the success of EQ Next will not be based on the strength of its ideas, but on the brilliance of the execution of those ideas. And it isn't unreasonable to be sceptical about that.
Tobold's Blog



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