It was my pleasure to attend the SOE Gamer Day 2007 in New York. Sony started off the presentation with a trailer from the upcoming film, "Surf's Up" (animated penguins surfing. Sure the West Coast gets Spiderman, I get penguins. How's that for being born under a bad sign.), another animated feature with enough hidden laughs for all to enjoy. The animation in the trailer was outstanding, something that carried over into the gaming portion of the presentation.
A montage of animated game scenes, as well as game play sizzle videos, followed the trailer and really captured the crowd's attention. The level of detail in the animation of "Surf's Up", "SpiderMan3" and the gameplay footage really showed Sony's attention to detail. This type commitment falls in line with Sony's upcoming gaming theory.
Road Map to the Future
Russell Shanks, the COO of Sony Online, discussed Sony's "Road Map to the Future", which is following two tracks. Track One consists of player services, while Track Two will focus on the Playstation network. (There seems to be trend leaning towards some PS3 and PC Crossover potential there) The addition of SOGA to the SOE group will consist of many ideas. John Laurence General Manager (SOGA), SOE-Taiwan, was on hand to discuss some developing ideas. SOE-Taiwan will focus on the greater Asia market. One game in the works is being developed with Steven Chow, the director of "Kung Fu Hustle" (a 2004 martial arts film) to develop, of all things, a game based on that movie. The game can be played in either a story mode or combat mode. Story mode will be a retro side-scrolling game. The game is intended to be free online in the US Market. On top of this, we are told that there will be a paid version with more upgrades available.
Sony hopes to make gaming what gaming should be, not what many MMOs have become, which is a second job. Easier learning curves, quick-play games and the upcoming Sony Launcher are all geared toward fostering a more interactive gaming community.
The Sony Launcher is a central product launcher, meant to replace the individual start up methodology of your SOE games. It will keep the player profile for all of your SOE games in one place. Perhaps the most exciting feature of this launcher will be the ability to cross chat with your friends in other SOE games. As things are right now, chatting between products can be done from outside of the games, although there will be an in-game notification available.
Cross-game chatting will be an outstanding tool to help maintain the contacts and friends many of us have made throughout gaming. Additionally, the launcher will streamline downloads, purchases and cut down on the delay upon game entry. Keep an eye out for more information on this exciting new innovation.
Gods & Heroes
The next big game on the horizon for SOE is Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, which is being developed by Perpetual Entertainment. Scheduled for release in the Summer of 2007, Gods and Heroes seems poised to take advantage of both HBO's Rome and the even more recent film version of Frank Miller's 300.
For those who might not be aware, some of the key features for Gods and Heroes are:
As there are at many of this kind of event, there was a demo set up to show off the new game. The most interesting feature of the demo is the ability to train and maintain your own squad. There is currently a 6 person squad cap. This means that each player can train and control up to five of their own NPCs. This type of gameplay allows for more effective gaming, you can roll a healer, have 2 ranged DPS and 2 melee types, and voila, instant group. It's a great change of pace from waiting around looking for a healer or tank before tackling a mob.
Other SOE Stuff
For those fans already loyal to an SOE game or two, there is a ton of new content coming out for all your favorite existing SOE products: Everquest, Everquest II, Star Wars Galaxies, and Vanguard Saga of Heroes have all got something on the horizon. A new expansion and content will also be available for Pirates Constructible Strategy, Star Chamber and the Stargate Online card game (Even if they're not MMOs, we thought you might be interested). We will have more on these games, and their updates, as the material gets closer to launch.
SOE capped off the event by leaving a logo for the upcoming DC Online on-screen at the end of the presentation. The Batman animated series soundtrack was a nice touch as well. It will be interesting to see what happens when SOE's DC Online goes head-to-head with the Cryptic Studios created Marvel Universe Online.