Last year at SOE Live the team here at MMORPG.com got wind that Sony was working on another black box project that they were not willing to talk about yet in addition to EverQuest Next, and Landmark. Earlier today the internet got confirmation just what that project is. It was announced during an episode of Game Talk Live featuring SOE President John Smedley, their new MMO is H1Z1.
H1Z1 is a survival horror MMO set in a post apocalyptic United States. Making use of a modified Forgelight Engine, the same one that powers Planetside 2 and EverQuest Next, H1Z1 will focus on survival (surprise surprise) and fortress building. It looks like SOE breeded PS2 with EQN: Landmark and added zombies instead of the Terran Republic and they gave birth to H1Z1.
One of the high points I picked up from the unveiling is that Zombies will have their own individual AI and while we hear that enemy NPCs will have intelligent AI a lot lately, ESO characters are supposed to adapt and synergize, it will be interesting to see if players will be able to actually tell the difference between zombies of the same “type.” During the demo there was only 1 zombie type available but Smedley promised that there are more to come soon.
The persistent fortress building they talked about in this game could become a novel way to help drive the community to work together as opposed to constantly ganking each other for food and ammo which is prevalent in other survival horror games. H1Z1 will also feature a day night cycle, vehicles, and the ability to destroy the environment by burning things down. Some of those things you might want to set fire to are the zombies.
There will be a lot of comparisons over the next few days of H1Z1 to DayZ. Rightfully so. With the protracted development of the standalone version of that game (it is still technically in an early access Alpha on Steam) Bohemia Interactive has left themselves open to this type of competition. While a number of smaller studios have created games in this genre it was only a matter of time before one of the bigger AAA studios took a stab at it too.
Even before Game Talk, a number of people had received confirmation of what H1Z1 was going to be centered around. Members of the SOE staff had been talking about it all day on their personal social media. Even Polygon ran an early article on the game spilling the beans about what we would see in the reel that had not aired yet. When I first read about the game I was not impressed. I hoped once I got to see the game actually run it would help change my opinion. If anything it further galvanized it. I cannot get excited about this game.
H1Z1 seems more like a "me too" attempt from SOE to cash in on the zombie apocalypse craze, as opposed to the spiritual successor to Star Wars Galaxies that Smedley promised everyone on Twitter. While SWG was a groundbreaking sandbox MMORPG based upon the Star Wars IP this feels like an attempted knock off of an MMO based not so loosely on the Walking Dead. With the recent success and innovation involved with EverQuest Next: Landmark H1Z1 feels like a giant leap backwards for the studio.
I’ll continue to watch the development of this game with a measure of skepticism. Maybe SOE can make a winner out of H1Z1 and create a long term survival MMO that players stick with as opposed to all the others in this increasingly overpopulated genre that turn out to be a flash in the pan. Either way I fail to see how this resembles SWG and hope that SOE opens the information flow on this game so we can find out what they meant for ourselves by drawing the comparison. Otherwise it just seems like SOE name-dropped SWG in an attempt to capitalize on the nostalgia that players have for the game. Maybe I’m alone in my opinion though and what MMO players need is another survival horror MMO. Let me know how you feel in the comments below.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can find him spending his free time checking out the latest games and technology. Feel free to hunt him down on twitter @Grakulen
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