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General Articles: Fan Faire Blog, Part Two

By Jon Wood on April 08, 2006

Fan Faire Blog, Part Two

SOE Fan Faire Blog - Part Two

News Editor Jon Wood files another report from Atlanta

Hello all,

Well, day two here at the Sony Community Summit has come and gone, and today’s experience was quite a bit different from yesterday’s. Beyond the fact that I thankfully didn’t have to do the dreaded air travel thing today, the atmosphere seemed to go through a bit of a change. Last night, it was all about socializing, and meeting people. Today, it was down to business. Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that it was a painful experience, or that it wasn’t fun and relaxed. Fact is, there is a reason that SOE holds a Community Summit. They are looking to talk to the game’s players, and find out what they have to say.

Today, my schedule was packed-full, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that I had a number of different seminars to attend, but I wasn’t sure who would be there, or what they would be about. Would it just be members of the press that were invited to listen to the developers? Would it be a free-for all? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I was there to sit in on the EverQuest II sessions, and that was what I was going to do.

The first session that I went to really answered some of my questions. First of all, yes, there were members of the press there, but we certainly weren’t the majority. Most of the people in the room were players of the game, fans of the game and from what I could tell, either members or leaders of some of the game’s many guilds.

The sessions themselves, which I had expected to be more give than take for Sony, were more of a free-form discussion than anything else, where those gathered shared ideas with the developers and each other, as well as asking questions. For example, one of the ideas that was kicked around was the perception that the new content that was being developed was only being developed for the high level players, that there was nothing new for the lower levels. The developers answered that by saying that they have, in fact, tended to err on the side of the higher levels, and the reason for that is actually fairly logical, even if it doesn’t seem so to players with characters who are at lower levels. Simply put, it was described as an investment. This means that higher level content can be enjoyed by players who have already surpassed the lower levels, and it is immediate for them. The same content that was developed and immediately accessible to those players will, in time, be accessible by others as their characters progress. Throughout the day, it was stressed just how much of a time (and money) it investment is to develop these expansions. Basically, they want to make the largest number of people happy as possible and provide the most entertainment to the most people possible.

It was also stressed that EverQuest II’s subscription numbers are on the rise, while no firm numbers were actually given, this seemed to be backed up by most of those in attendance.

One of the issues that players have seemed to see as a problem was the 6 month development cycle for expansion packs. This had resulted in things not being as polished as might have been liked. This sentiment was echoed by the developers on the panel, and we were told that that would no longer be the practice, that the new expansion would be given more time to develop, and more time in beta, in order to facilitate a more polished product when it finally hit the market.

Another of the sessions, titled “The Future of EverQuest II”, in that particular session, one of the questions that was asked addressed the current issue that they have in the game with Bots. This provided my favorite line from the Community Summit so far, as one of the developers stated that there were a “metric crap-ton” of bots. Now, I use the metric system every day, and I don’t remember learning about a metric crap-ton, but I think his point was fairly clear. It is an issue that the developers are more than aware of, and there are plans in effect to help with the issue. We were told that their current goal was to 1 bot ring every day. It was bounced around that there is a perception that Sony (and most other companies as well) don’t really care about the bots in the game, as “it’s all a subscription fee”. The developers were quick to give us their philosophy on that situation:

“Happy players are the number 1 way of getting new players”, we were told. The logic of this is fairly sound. In MMORPGs, community reigns. Friends tell friends, and a game grows. They say that it is worth it to them to get rid of a bunch of bots to keep even one player happy, because that player is likely to bring more, and, if you tell two friends, and they tell two friends… You can see where I’m going with this.

I should also note that today marked the opening of the actual Fan Faire part of this whole experience. This far in, we had basically just been eating and attending seminars. Today, more and more people started arriving, and somehow, in the time that we were in the summits a convention floor was set up, complete with vendors, registration areas, and of course, lots of computers. I suspect tomorrow will be insane and full of people.

The evening was another hit. Those of us who were involved in the Community Summit were treated to a delicious and conversation-filled dinner, and afterwards I ended up going out with a number of press members and developers, we had a great time all getting to know each other. I had considered not going, after all, everyone else here seems to be with someone they know, but after spending about 20 minutes in there, I had made my own small group of friends and ended up having a great time.

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