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.