Can the presence of just one person really send prospective players into a tizzy of anticipation? Yes, it can. I watched as a number of EQII players, once ambivalent or on the fence about EQN, not only look twice at the upcoming sandbox but hop right on over into the newest Norrath's camp. More eyes than ever are watching the development of this game (even though there is scant little to watch at the moment). And this is why.
Taylor's return to the SOE fold portends good news all around, for many aspects of EQN. Perhaps the most obvious is the shot in the arm it gives those who prefer alternate styles of play to just the standard adventuring. In fact, her presence alone lends credence to the idea that EverQuest Next will be a a diverse game that goes beyond mob slaughter.
You see, Taylor is best-known (and possibly best-loved) for her dedication and devotion to expanding the crafting system in EverQuest II from a grindy side note to a full-blown gaming experience. As the tradeskill dev, she took that system and made it more robust, adding in quest lines, rewards, and even lore. No longer was crafting just something to do on the side -- it became a viable way to play the game in and of itself. And oh, how that made the crafters rejoice!
With such attention to giving folks alternatives for play in a themepark, imagine what that would translate to in a sandbox? I believe Taylor will put that same devotion into making gameplay styles other than adventuring viable and rewarding and robust in EQ Next. And that seriously makes my mouth water for the game! There are certainly more possibilities with a sandbox; could there be farming, animal husbandry, or deep sea fishing available for players to devote their in-game lives to? What about cartography? If only she'd let slip some of the tools or features she's contemplating...
Now that's just looking at things in general -- what about zeroing in on crafting in particular? There is definitely a chunk of EQII's population that lives (and thrives) in the world of tradeskills. Even before accounts were free, I knew players with multiple accounts to host scores of crafters! Some might craft if they have to, but most who really delve into the system have a passion for creation within the game. Having Taylor back on the team gives me hope that crafting in EQN will be worthwhile. I have no doubt that it will at least get some much deserved attention.
This, of course, is awesome because a sandbox needs a vibrant player-run economy, and that economy is fueled by the crafting professions. Perhaps my dream of an economic empire or smuggling operation can finally be realized in a setting I already adore. To really make this happen, hopefully EQN adopts and implements a few ideas. Take notes, Taylor!
Make crafting have meaning! I personally hope and pray that EQ Next gets rid of the standardization of crafting that came with the major crafting revamp in EQII (in which I am still disappointed). Back in the day, you really had to work at making a name for yourself by providing high-quality goods. There wasn't this pass or fail to crafting , where every craft attempt came out exactly the same. Instead, gear had multiple quality levels depending on how well the crafter did his or her job. Experimentation took a step back in the right direction, forcing players to really pay attention and put effort back into creating worthwhile quality pieces.
Make crafting interdependent! An economy depends on folks having to rely on each other for things. If everyone were self-sufficient, there would be no need for interaction or trade. So do away with this notion of self-sufficiency and bring back sub-components and the like for EQN. Don't let us hole up by ourselves.
Make crafting a risk! I know I am not the only one who misses death by stove or forge. Really, I swear it! Why should only adventurers get the exhilaration of facing risk and living through it? Make crafting a blood-pumping experience, not one I can sleep through.
I've heard rumblings that some die-hard fans may have felt betrayed when Taylor left SOE to go work on a different project. (It turns out, she ended up at Trion working on the shooter Defiance.) Some were definitely saddened to see her go, especially those crafters! But I have to tell you, I actually think that turn of events is a benefit to EQ Next.
Remember that while the newest incarnation of Norrath will be familiar to anyone who has played either EverQuest or EverQuest II, this next version will be something decidedly different. That mean using new ideas and looking at things from a different perspective. And you have to admit, Defiance definitely affords a different perspective.
To be quite honest, I am pleased that Taylor had the opportunity to see expand her horizons. She was able to stock up on new experiences and see things in a whole new way. This gives her a broader vision to bring to the table.
In the trenches
Another facet worth mentioning is that as Domino, Taylor was very involved with the community. She didn't just wall herself away and work on things; she jumped into the pool of fans and interacted with folks. Quite a number have remarked on how hands-on she was, some even saying that she was the most hands-on dev EQII had.
You can't learn to care about your fans, and you can't fake genuinely wanting to help create the best experience possible for players. Taylor demonstrated these traits during her time with EQII. And because of them, she is absolutely an asset to EQN.
So welcome back to Norrath, Domino/Pentapod! We are eagerly awaiting news of your work on this much anticipated title. And feel free to share some here. No, seriously... tell us anything you want! We won't tell Smedley you said anything, promise. Pretty please?
We'll be here waiting with baited breath. And while we are waiting, we may have to wonder: With all that are returning to SOE, who's next for EverQuest Next?
EverQuest II is so big sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every other Saturday, The Tattered Notebook is your resource for all things EQII and EQNext -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!