Your Next: New Scope

Games with smaller scope are often the most interesting and fun. Brace for optimism!

After a masterful marketing push, Crowfall met its Kickstarter target in about three days. The ideas look fresh and solid, and there’s some seriously hefty industry talent backing it up, so best of luck to them and check it out if you haven’t already. The goal of 800k was relatively modest, and I’ve got my hopes pinned on the $1.3M stretch goal.

All the attention on Crowfall has actually turned a few new people onto Camelot Unchained, and while I expect the games will play very differently, it looks like they’ll be fishing from the same pool. Camelot Unchained is aiming for an alpha launch some time in the next month, so expect to hear a bit about that as well.

As someone looking forward to both of these games, it’s an exciting time for me (hooray for me!), and with a few recent gems like Darkest Dungeon, LISA, Sunless Sea and Hand of Fate being Kickstarted, I’m feeling as optimistic as ever.

One thing that all of these projects have in common is that they are narrow in scope. That isn’t intended to be a value judgement; many of the best games have limited scope. These games can’t afford the luxury of AAA excess, so you lose a little flash, but you still get the core of the experience. This seems a pretty sweet deal for an MMO as a live service, especially for games that wouldn’t be made otherwise.

So, if you worked out where this is going, give yourself a point.

After the recent restructuring and layoffs at Daybreak, EverQuest Next and Landmark have fewer resources behind them, so we can expect the scope of the games to be reduced. The question is how will they go about it? EverQuest Next is early enough in its development for the team to make some serious changes, but I imagine the core of the game will remained relatively unscathed.

If we consider the foundational principles of the game, the Four Pillars as they are known, what is in there that is no longer achievable?

One of those pillars was a fully destructible/constructible world, and that already exists as part of the foundation they’ve been laying with Landmark. We’ll still be able to interact with a fully 3D world in ways we’ve never been able to before in an MMO. That’s a good start, if you ask me.

Another principle was the use of emergent AI which, despite Storybricks no longer being involved, is still the goal.

One area that I imagine the scope will need to be reduced most significantly is in permanent change and the Rallying Call system. The examples we’ve been given have been very specific, and this kind of limited use hand-hewn content is a big investment for not much return. I hope that the system can be scaled back in a way that still feels satisfying. What I also hope is that they manage to avoid is the feeling that areas are swinging back and forth forever. There would have to be limits on this, in a ‘bend but don’t break’ kind of way, to keep the game playable. But if a certain situation can only bend a small amount in one direction before springing back to a default position, it’ll be a big disappointment.

If the game can’t rely so much on this kind of content, we could see more of a focus on sandbox elements or ‘evergreen’ content such as PvP. We know some aspects of the game are being designed to be procedural; perhaps this is a feature that will be brought into the spotlight?

There must be some unconscious bias happening here, because those suggestions all sound great to me. While you may not agree with one or all of them (before you write that post about why you don’t like PvP), the reality is that the situation has changed. If the team doesn’t adapt, we could end up with a dud.

That being said, those reasons we were excited for EQN are still there. The foundations are being put into place right now, and while the blueprints are being altered to be a little less grand, reshaped to be more utilitarian, the core is still strong.

At the other end of the scale we can all list a few MMOs, and more than a few games, that seemed to have budgets in ten digits that turned out to not be worth the bandwidth they took up.

So when I feel disillusioned or despondent about EverQuest Next, I think of the games that I love and the other games I am excited about. I try to remember it’s the core that makes these games what they are.

I had a cheesy line about players being the thing that really makes a game come to life, but I’ll save it for a more appropriate time.

Live Long and Prosper


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