Can Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth?
During both E3 2013 and the recent SOE Live in Las Vegas gave the EverQuest Next development team a chance to talk about the new interaction with players. The team, it was said, is keen to know what players think on a host of issues that have a direct impact on the way that EQN will be played. To whit, a series of polls has cropped up on the official site to allow players a voice in the game's direction.
But the old adage, "Too many cooks spoil the broth" seems to contain a warning for the EverQuest Next team....or does it?
For those who haven't checked lately, the EQN site is packed with about a dozen polls covering a wide variety of topics. Each of them, even including female dwarven beards, has a chance to have a direct impact on the way the game is played. By answering the polls, players at least gain the impression that they are participating with the dev team to make EverQuest Next the game that everyone wants. Polls include:
- Contested areas - Yay or nay?
- How do you feel about modern concepts like guns and Ninjas in EverQuest Next?
- To what degree should players be able to change the appearance of armor?
- How complex should the Landmark design tools be?
- Should friends lists be account-based or character-based?
- Should all races have access to play all classes?
- Should female dwarves have beards or not?
- Should the Ratonga be in EverQuest Next?
These are the first of many that the team is considering asking for input on as the game heads into its final year of development. But one has to wonder: Can too many voices confuse an issue or will the input be filtered in a purely "democratic" way by virtue that the most votes gained equals the winner?
But it goes beyond simple polling as well. Each poll has its own topic thread on the forums where players can expand on the simple answers contained in the poll if they choose. One only has to take a cursory glance at any thread or any set of poll statistics to see that the range of opinions is wide and the gulf between those opinions deep.
So then one has to wonder how much stock can be put into the polls and the "winning answers". Can a game that is in its later stages of development genuinely satisfy everyone and become all things to all players? If the past is any guide, it would seem not. That's not to say that the team won't give it all it's got in an effort to do just that. Far from it. The danger lies, instead, in the notion that the game becomes gray rather than a vibrant portrait of the developers' vision.
If the developers choose the "majority rules" stance, perhaps this is where Landmark will make the difference from the standpoint that players can create the worlds and options that might not have made it into the game.
There is a general uneasiness to the ostensible transparency in development of Everquest Next. It is not due to the will or desire of the development team, but more from the fact that the potential for making EQN into a colorless world designed to make everyone happy exists. It will remain to be seen how much of an impact players have truly had in the development of EverQuest Next, whether answering polls truly made a difference or not. Ample evidence of players' selections is being recorded and cached on the EQN site that will provide a record with which to compare the final product.
On a slightly related note:
SOE's Community Manager Linda "Brasse" Carlson announced earlier this week that SOE would be undergoing "restructuring" that will ultimately lead to a reduction in the workforce. We are saddened to hear news like this at any given time but after the astounding success of SOE Live earlier in August, the layoffs seem so much more difficult to take.
At this point, we do not know which teams have been affected but we wish all of those who are moving on to new places and opportunities the very best of luck.
What do you think of the EverQuest Next idea of round table discussions? Good idea? Not so hot? Let us know in the commments.
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom.