Sony Online Entertainment lays off staff

Everquest Next creator confirms cuts, says development on anticipated MMO and Landmark side project unaffected

John Smedley

Sony Online Entertainment laid off an unspecified number of employees today. In posts on the company’s game-specific forums, one of the developer’s community managers posted a statement confirming “a reduction in our workforce.”

“As a company, our goal is to focus on our core expertise of MMO games and as part of these efforts, we had to make the difficult decision to eliminate positions to help reduce costs, streamline our employee base and strategically align resources towards our current portfolio of games and upcoming slate of MMOs, including EverQuest Next Landmark and EverQuest Next,” the statement read.

SOE president John Smedley addressed the news on Twitter, saying that the company will continue working on all its games, whether they are operational, in development, or entirely unannounced.

In a company-wide email obtained by Polygon, Smedley said the layoffs were necessary to bring expenses in line with revenue. He added that it was something that probably should have been done a year ago, but the company spent that time doing what it could to avoid the cuts.

“I know most of the people we’re laying off today. Some of them have been with us here since the beginning. None of them deserved this,” he said. “Our goal as a company needs to be to make incredible games and grow again so we can bring our friends back.”

Everquest Next

Smedley stressed that this would not slow down development on Everquest Next, and that if anything, the company planned to ramp up efforts on that title.



WoW: Mists of Pandaria ‘Siege of Orgrimmar’ trailer

A four-minute cinematic sets the scene for new Patch 5.4 raid

Blizzard has released a new cinematic trailer for World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria’s Siege of Orgrimmar raid coming in Patch 5.4.

“Siege of Orgrimmar is a 3-wing, 14-boss raid for max-level players, which will call you to take down Warchief Garrosh Hellscream at the head of a host of Azeroth’s finest,” explains Blizzard.

The update also adds new Proving Grounds and Connected Realms features, new zones and a list of other tweaks.

Here’s are the highlights of the update:

New Raid: The Siege of Orgrimmar
– The Siege of Orgrimmar is a 3-wing, 14-boss raid for max-level players, which will call you to take down Warchief Garrosh Hellscream at the head of a host of Azeroth’s finest.

New Raid Mode: Flexible
– Raid with a group of friends and guild mates regardless of server, and with any group size from 10 to 25, and the difficulty will automatically adjust to provide an appropriately challenging experience.

New Feature: Proving Grounds
– Undertake solo trials to practice or learn a new class role (Tank, Healer, or Damage). Each trial is available in multiple difficulties — Bronze through Gold and the challenging ‘Endless’ mode.

New Zone: The Timeless Isle
– Giant outdoor zone promoting open-world adventuring with tons of hidden treasures, giant creatures to defeat, five world bosses, a pet battle tournament, and much more!

Legendary Quest: Judgment of the Black Prince
– The epic conclusion to the Legendary quest line will see players rewarded with unique cloaks imbued with powerful new abilities.

New Feature: Connected Realms
– Lower population realms will be permanently and seamlessly “linked.” Players on the same Connected Realm will be able to trade, send and receive mail, join the same guilds, access a single Auction House, run the same Raids and Dungeons, and join other adventurers to complete quests.

PvP: Redesigned Arena System
– Arenas are no longer tied to specific Battlegroups, and players no longer need to create or join an Arena team to compete. Similar to the Rated Battleground system, players in a party of the appropriate size can queue.

The patch, which is available for testing on the Public Test Realms now, is detailed in full in a huge list of patch notes on the official site.



EverQuest Next is Real, and it’s Amazing!

The next-gen MMORPG offers a destructible world, intelligent monsters, and a whole lot more.


EverQuest Next will feature destructible environments, procedurally-generated quests that stem from independent monster behavior, and a revamped crafting system. If the team at SOE actually pulls off what they want to do with the next-generation MMORPG, then it could truly be the long-awaited next step for what has become a largely stagnant genre.

Lately, MMORPGs have existed on something of a linear continuum. On the one end, you have your strictly enforced amusement parks like World of Warcraft. On the other, your free-for-all sandboxes like EVE Online. However, Sony Online Entertainment Director of Design David Georgeson doesn’t think EverQuest Next fits on that continuum.

“EverQuest is another point in the triangle,” he says. “We’re creating a triangle; it’s not just a line anymore.”

It’s a sort of massively multiplayer Minecraft with elves, crafting, monsters, and all of the other trappings of a fantasy RPG.

It sounds like a bit of a cop-out. After all, what game wants to be directly compared to the competition, unless it’s the in the most positive light possible? But there’s some truth to that statement as well. EverQuest Next definitely isn’t as linear as World of Warcraft, but it’s not quite like EVE Online either. In essence, it’s a game where players shape the world together, a sort of massively multiplayer Minecraft with elves, crafting, monsters, and all of the other trappings of a fantasy RPG.

As the name suggests, EverQuest Next is meant to represent an evolutionary leap for the venerable series. It’s not a traditional MMO, Georgeson says. The original concept behind EverQuest, which was fresh back in 1998, has been done to death. It’s time for something new.

“What we need to deliver with EverQuest Next is something really original, so what we did was tear it down to the bedrock,” Georgeson says. “We pick what we liked, what we didn’t like, and we came up with a list of holy grails that we as designers had always wanted to do, but never had the time or the intestinal fortitude to try before.”


Georgeson, obviously, is confident. He points to the experience of his team, which averages about 10 years. Most of the leads have four or five MMORPG under their belt. Georgeson himself was the force behind the original Planetside and Tribes 2, both of which are highly-regarded today. That experience has allowed them to iron out most of the technical issues early.

“It’s intimidating, but we’ve been breaking these things down into categories and attacking them one at a time, so that we can polish up what needs polishing before moving on,” he said. “We’ve also prioritized all of our heaviest risks at the earliest stage to prove that we can get them done. Now we’re past all of the R&D hurtles, and we’re at the point where we’re doing what we know how to do, which is build an MMORPG.”


Of all the new features that EverQuest Next brings to the table, the ability to alter the world is the most intriguing, since it fulfills a promise that was seemingly made way back in the early days of the genre. When we hear, “Massively multiplayer player-controlled world,” we tend to think of a world where players can do whatever they want. That hasn’t really been the case though, what with all the careful moderation and linear quests. Sure, we’ve seen player-created cities in Star Wars Galaxies, and EVE Online has long given complete control of the galaxy over to its players. But by and large, online worlds remain static until the development team comes along with the next batch of content.

Every player can work together to build a permanent settlement.

In EverQuest Next, a rallying call with periodically go out across an entire server; and for the next two months, every player can work together to build a permanent settlement. Along the way, there may be subquests or monster attacks, and construction may be delayed. But when it’s all finished, it’s very much permanent.

This degree of control extends to the world itself. Teleport away from an attack, and you’ll leave a little dent in the ground. If you’re an Earth Wizard, it’s possible to raise barriers out of any part of the ground, or create sinkholes to trap monsters. If a large party of enemies happens to be crossing a bridge, then a spell can knock out the bridge and send them plunging to their doom. Of course, the bridge will be gone as well, which opens up a new set of challenges.


This is all accomplished with voxels – the fundamental building block of EverQuest Next – which allow for more convincing destruction. Players will occasionally be prevented from destroying things, Georgeson says, because otherwise “player cities would become player parking lots.” Monsters, however, can and will show up to wreak havoc, and left unchecked, they can do plenty of damage to player settlements. A dragon, for instance, may come in and knock a castle wall down, necessitating repairs.

Jump to another server, and a city may be where a field is supposed to be, or it might not exist at all.

Over time, individual servers in EverQuest Next are meant to become their own worlds. Jump to another server, and a city may be where a field is supposed to be, or it might not exist at all. It will be possible to dig deep into the ground and make all kinds of interesting archaeological discoveries. And to keep things fresh, SOE will occasionally use an earthquake to shake things up and open up new areas.

Rather than a static playground, EverQuest Next is meant to be a living breathing world. Many of the quests will be dynamic, and monsters will have likes, dislikes, and general motivations for their behavior. Orcs, for example, love gold, and will go anywhere they can get it, which can result in a battle for territory as players fight to establish a city. Exterminating one group of monsters can rile up another group, prompting them to attack; or it may result in them picking up and moving on to another location.


On a micro level, Georgeson hopes that all of these actions, reactions, and dynamic quests will allow players to build up individual histories; to allow them to say, in effect, “Oh yeah, I was there when the southern regions were hit by the Great Goblin Invasion of 2014.”

“We want people to develop a long, detailed history of their character,” Georgeson says, “so that when they tell others that story, they actually care, as opposed to, ‘Yeah, yeah, I did that quest.'”

For EverQuest lifers, of course, many of the elements that have defined the series over the years will still be in place. Crafting will be a huge part of the EverQuest Next experience (“Crafting is us. We love crafting,” Georgeson says), especially with the battle system being revamped so that hotbar actions are innate to weapons. Many of the familiar locations from the past games will also be present, albeit with much better graphics. SOE is also encouraging players to help build up the world of EverQuest Next by releasing their internal toolset to the public. Fans can build landmarks; and if the developers like them enough, they will be put in the game.

A human wizard and a Kerran warrior break through a cavern floor into a magma chamber.

Having been in development for more than four years now, EverQuest Next has been something of a mystery to fans, to the point that it’s been regarded by some as vaporware. Now that SOE has taken off the wraps, it’s clear that they have some very interesting ideas for the MMORPG space. With World of Warcraft on the decline and no clear successor ready to take its place as the dominant MMO of the generation, the time is ripe for a new MMORPG to rise up. It’s still early, but EverQuest Next has at least established itself as a strong contender for that position; a worthy comeback for one of the genre’s founders.

[Note: Sony told IGN, “We’re not releasing that information right now” when asked if EverQuest Next would, like several other SOE MMOs, also be released on PlayStation 4.]



EverQuest Next to kick off “Emergent Era” of MMOs

SOE president John Smedley says “our players can actually make better stuff than us,” entire company moving toward emergent content.Everquest Next


Four years after development on EverQuest Next began, Sony Online Entertainment finally showed it off today at its SOE Live fan fest event in Las Vegas. With an emphasis on player-created content and an open-ended gameplay experience, SOE president John Smedley sees the game as the launching point for a new “Emergent Era” in MMO games.

“We’re not just making the next MMO,” Smedley told GamesIndustry International. “We’re really inventing an entirely new genre within online gaming and we’re moving our entire company toward the concept of emergent content. Everquest Next is sort of the culmination of this concept of emergent gameplay where players are basically playing a large simulation, a large sandbox, and they’re making content themselves. And they’re part of this content ecosystem where players can sell or buy from one another, or from us. We’re basically taking the game and we’re stretching it in completely new ways with this emergent gameplay idea.”

On the content creation front, SOE will launch the free-to-play EverQuest Next Landmark this winter. A building tool with an MMO’s social functionality, Landmark will let players work together to create their own structures (and sometime post-launch, other types of content as well) using resources collected from persistent worlds. Those creations will then be considered for inclusion in the full version of EverQuest Next, and SOE developers will give users guidance on what structures they most need during development. Ultimately, Landmark is expected to help address the problem of MMO game users consuming content faster than developers can actually create it.

John Smedley

“You’re not going to Disneyland. The equivalent is we drove you to Africa in the middle of the biggest wild animal preserve there is and handed you a jeep and a gun, and said have fun.”

John Smedley

Smedley acknowledged the idea for user-created content originally came from Valve, but SOE is looking to build on the idea by being the first company to bring it to MMOs in a smooth-working manner, making it easy for players to be a part of the creation community. SOE has already dabbled in user-made content with its Player Studio program, which lets gamers create in-game items for titles like EverQuest, and receive a share of 40 percent of revenues it brings in if it’s included in the SOE Marketplace.

“We’ve learned that great content really does sell, and our players can actually make better stuff than us,” Smedley said of the Player Studio program. “So our goal here is to set it up so our players can make money just like we can with this ecosystem we want to build. What we’ve learned is that it really does work.”

Beyond involving players in building the EverQuest Next world, SOE’s sandbox approach to the game experience should also sidestep the common MMO pitfall of players racing through scripted content too quickly. Smedley said the established MMO formula amounts to a guided theme park experience, but SOE is aiming at something very different with EverQuest Next.

“You’re not going to Disneyland,” Smedley said. “The equivalent is we drove you to Africa in the middle of the biggest wild animal preserve there is and handed you a jeep and a gun, and said have fun. That’s the difference, Disneyland versus that. We’re making that.”

SOE has no announced release window for EverQuest Next.