This is the cartoon that launched a thousand posts. Well, maybe not a thousand, but it created tension on the forums and resulted in a temporary ban for popular community figure Morgan Feldon. With this week's news about the ProSiebenSat.1/Alaplaya deal, SOE fans were up in arms, and EverQuest II was at the epicenter of the protest. There were concerns ranging from account security to quality of player support, but the biggest concern was the fact that there would be a barrier between U.S. and European players going forward.
I've written before about how tight-knit the community is in EQII, and that's probably why you saw some of the strongest protests originate on the EQII forums. That closeness extends to the EQII development team as well. I've been to a couple of Fan Faires and was surprised at how accessible the team always made itself. Combine that with a core community of longstanding, loyal players, and you basically have one big family. So when fans were hit with the second big news story of the week, the departure of Associate Producer Emily "Domino" Taylor, players reacted as if a friend or family member had moved out of the home. What do these two news stories have in common, and what can they tell us about EverQuest II?
Trouble in paradise
EQII has always had its fair share of controversy. From the unpopular Cleric update early and the addition of LiveGamer and the Exchange server to a scandal involving the apparent transfer of an entire guild from Test to a live server, longtime fans have seen all sorts of turmoil. This time, though, it was different because it involved not in-game changes but game bonds and friendships that players had made and were afraid to lose. EQII has always had those little pockets of expatriates who chose to play on servers that were really meant for players across the pond from them. I've played with Europeans who chose to play on Guk, and I've sympathized with their struggles in trying to find out how to purchase expansions or even Station Cash overseas.
In theory, the ProSiebenSat.1 deal could make it much easier for overseas players when it comes to distribution, but right now, there are too many unanswered questions about other aspects of this new relationship (summed up nicely by Morgan on EQ2Wire). What makes this announcement even more difficult is that it comes on the heels of EQII's finally breaking down the wall that had divided the free-to-play server with the subscription-based ones. As soon as one wall is broken, another one is being constructed, and this time it's based on geography.
There's reason to be hopeful
When players first began posting their concerns on the official forums, there was an unsettling silence on the part of the EQII team. Usually when there's an unpopular announcement, a thread is made to let players discuss it, and you'd usually at least see a few replies from the red names expressing understanding or at least acknowledging that they're reading the replies. So it was a relief to see a post by Director of Global Community Relations Linda "Brasse" Carlson saying that they are working with ProSiebenSat.1 to keep the communities together.
Normally, that might be met with jaded skepticism, but there are plenty of recent examples to show that SOE means it when it says that it is listening and wants to do what it can to keep the playerbase happy. When EverQuest II first went free-to-play across all servers and returning players were unhappy with having some of their characters locked out because they were gold races or classes, SOE decided to grandfather in all characters that were made before Age of Discovery's launch, and it refunded any Station Cash that was used to unlock them. More recently, SOE President John Smedley responded to calls to save EQMac and announced that the company would indeed keep the game running. There's a pretty good precedent lately for SOE trying to work with and respond to its playerbase. Let's hope that we'll soon hear news about a reworked arrangement that ends up being satisfactory to fans overseas.
The timing of Taylor's announcement, on the heels of the ProSiebenSat.1 FAQ, led some to speculate that the two were related. But it's more likely that it had to do with the recent announcement of Holly "Windstalker" Longdale's taking over as Executive Producer. Taylor had been Associate Producer under Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson for the better part of a year, so when Longdale was given the Executive Producer title, one had to wonder why Taylor hadn't been tapped for the job instead. She was always popular with EQII players, particularly with crafters and decorators. EQII launched with the idea that crafting could stand on its own as a separate sphere of gameplay, but when Taylor took on the job, she helped make that a reality. She helped flesh out tradeskilling with epics, special faction quests, and an infinite number of eye-catching items and gear that players could make.
So far, there haven't been many details about why Taylor left, and chances are we won't know details. But with her departure, it's worth noting the subtle change over the past year or so to tradeskills and items. When Age of Discovery launched, there seemed to be a lighter than usual amount of content for tradeskillers, other than crafting AAs and the tradeskill apprentices. And with the growing number of Marketplace promotions on the official site, one has to wonder whether there's more attention on creating cool-looking items for sale rather than for tradeskilling. In any event, hopefully Taylor is moving on to a job in which she can continue to use her talents that made her so popular with EQII fans. It's certainly been a busy week if you're an EQII fan, and these two bombshell announcements have left players concerned and frustrated. But the week ended with a glimmer of hope for European players, and there's plenty of reason to believe that SOE is doing what it can to make the ProSiebenSat.1 deal workable for all.
From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to firstname.lastname@example.org.