EQ2 Announces Late April Fools Joke

I almost spat my coffee out when I saw this video over at Rock, Paper Shotgun this morning. I still can’t quite figure out if this ‘SOEmote’ feature for Everquest 2 is all just an elaborate hoax or not. Indeed, if it had been announced two months ago, I don’t think any of us would be having any doubt that it’s just an April Fool’s joke gone awry on the part of SOE. Even the presenter, David Georgeson, is so incredibly enthusiastic that it’s verging on the sarcastic. I was half expecting him to turn and wink to the camera at the end.

But alas, it does seem to be the real deal and I can’t say that I get it. Voice fonts, whilst a nice ideal ‘n all, really just aren’t at the stage where they can actually be effective and I was practically cringing when ol’ David there gave us a sample of what they would sound like in-game. Call me strange but I really don’t want to be having conversations with people who either sound like the serial killer from Scream or one of Alvin’s long lost chimpunk brothers. After a few minutes of utter hilarity, it’s going to get very old, very quickly. Personally, until a MMO can make me sound like Brian Blessed, I think I’ll just pass on the whole thing.

The facial expression emulation does look pretty nifty, I’ll give SOE that, but again I’m left scratching my head wondering what the real use of it is considering it’s very hard to see that level of detail in other character’s faces when actually playing a MMO. Was all the time and effort required to implement such a feature worth it? I can’t help but think SOE could’ve found some better use of their time and resources. Plus, I’m half expecting the developers to announce it as a prank and release a web site in a few months of gullible gamers gurning into their web cams.

I think I’m definitely developing some sort of weird love/hate relationship with Everquest 2. I played it religiously from 2004 to 2008 and still say it was the finest MMO of it’s time. It pushed boundaries, it fought tremendously hard to pick itself up from a rather lackluster launch and, perhaps more than anything, it was innovative and ambitious. Whilst WoW was just playing it safe and very slowly refining mechanics, EQ2 was speeding ahead, producing excellent content and in-game features, and becoming an incredible game.

And then it went lost direction and went all kind of gimicky, for some reason becoming more obsessed with silly, superfluous features than proper content or games mechanics. I also don’t think this it’s a coincidence that this started to happen around the time when Scott Hartsman and Steve Danuser departed to work on RIFT and Copernicus respectively.

Some folks feel more positively about the direction Everquest 2 is taking though and after reading Bhagpuss’ take on it, I am almost tempted to log into EQ2 just so I can have some utterly bizarre in-game avatar roleplaying conversation with him. That is if the idea of having a voice-modulated conversation with a lip-syncing Ratonga didn’t creep me out so much.

I think I’ll just wait for Everquest Next.

-Gordon

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7 Comments

  1. Scott M. says:

    +1 for sounding like Brian Blessed.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    My first reaction was about the same as yours, Gordon. My original draft had a line about about having to check the calendar to be sure it was the first of June not the first of April. Once the shock had worn off, though, I began to see the possibilities.

    Gina’s comment confirms what I suspected; roleplayers, or some of them at least, will be really excited about this. I’m more interested in the amusement value I can get out of it within my little guild. We have four or five “character” players, including myself, who stay broadly in racial stereotype in guild chat and groups and this could add a lot of laughs to that. I particularly fancy addressing the guild in a little pop-up window – at least until they all turn me off.

    I also played EQ2 from 2004 and I really like the direction it’s taken in the last year or two. It was dry as dust when it began and later it became very top-heavy with end-game content. If it can find a niche as a quirky, humorous MMO with a lot of things to do that don’t involve fighting, that would work for me.

  3. Wolfshead says:

    I know that some jaded veteran MMO gamers (the FOH forums in particular) seem to be mocking this but I for one am glad there is still a MMO company like SOE that is trying to push the genre forward. Just take a look at the horrifically primitive caveman-like human male models for WoW that have been around since 2004 and then come back and tell me what SOE is doing is wrong.

    Why can’t our avatars have facial expressions?

    Why can’t our avatars reflect our current mood?

    Why does anyone (except Blizzard) who tries anything different always punished by the MMO Luddites?

    I’m sure if Blizzard announced this feature there would be dancing in the streets. It seems no matter what silly features Blizzard introduces (pandas, Pokemon pets) the brainwashed MMO masses show up like hungry pigs at a trough at a new Harry Potter book release.

    Heck it’s time to start supporting SOE more. They have kept the EverQuest franchise alive and hopefully with EQ Next we have more good things in store. At least they can create, launch and run a successful MMO unlike other companies like 38 Studios that failed even to release a name for their MMO.

    • Gordon says:

      I’ve always appreciated SOE’s innovative nature but I just don’t think they’ve been channelling their energies in the right direction lately. I’m still hopeful for Everquest Next though.

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