There was a time not too long ago when I was a card carrying member of the anti-SoE society. I won’t bother listing all of the reasons why I disliked SoE; those who dislike SoE have their own reasons, and those who don’t are likely to think that nothing I would say was important enough to be worth worrying about. The whys of my past hostility aren’t really the point – ostensibly I’m here writing about the Landmark Roadmap, but what I’m actually finding myself discussing is open development.
Let me state for the record that I no longer hate SoE; in fact, if Smedley continues to move forward the way he’s been going since Landmark, SoE will top my list of favorite game companies. The Landmark Roadmap is a part of that – what he’s doing is professing a desire for opening a dialogue between players and developers. As he put it in his twitter stream a week ago, either you’ve got the goods or you don’t:
I think we are done with NDAs as a company. maybe in special circumstances but either you’ve got the goods or you don’t.
— John Smedley (@j_smedley) February 8, 2014
There’s quite a bit I could say on the virtues and vices of NDAs (as an author I’ve been under more than a few), but when it comes to games I think that’s a pretty good phrase. Either you’ve got the goods or you don’t. And while I think that they don’t live up to the new mantra of openness as fully as I’d like, I do have to admit that they are doing a pretty good job of putting their money where Smedley’s mouth is. Not only by inviting so many players into the alpha stage to see the game long before all of its features are even partially present, but in terms of communication from the developers. Dave Georgeson, the Director of Development for the EQ franchise, writes posts about every patch that goes into Landmark. The dev team is active on the game forums, reddit, twitter – I’ve even had one of my Landmark screenshots retweeted by Domino, one of the Landmark producers. They’re out there, they talk to players, they respond, and they are definitely being rather open about the work in progress for Landmark.
And last week, they even started moving toward addressing why I’ve said I don’t think they’re as open as I’d like – Dave Georgeson wrote what he calls the Roadmap to Landmark; a vague schedule of what’s in store as the game develops and why certain things are being placed and prioritized as they are. It’s that why that addresses the bulk of my dissatisfaction – I want to know why things are or aren’t happening. I don’t care if something is delayed, or can’t be done yet, if I know why. Perhaps I’m alone in that, but the whys are more important to me than the whats. I’d rather be told that the timing for X thing can’t be estimated yet because Y needs to be done first and they don’t know how long that will take, than just be told that they don’t have the timing worked out yet for X.
But now they’ve given me something of that! Many great things are coming to Landmark! Everything from underground exploration, additional methods of travel, social and grouping systems, achievements, PvP, dynamic water… I simply cannot wait for the cavern system to make its appearance! The Roadmap is well worth a read!
I’m hopeful that the “new SoE” continues along the path Smedley is painting, if done well it really will revolutionize MMO gaming as we know it. I’m excited for Landmark, Everquest Next, the as yet unnamed new game Smedley has been teasing about, and I am definitely excited to see how this new openness and player driven content will develop.