The Tattered Notebook: Breaking Up the Family

Written by Feldon on . Posted in International (Pro7Sat1)

From Karen Bryan at Massively:

With this week’s news about the ProSiebenSat.1/Alaplaya deal, SOE fans were up in arms, and EverQuest II was at the epicenter of the protest. There were concerns ranging from account security to quality of player support, but the biggest concern was the fact that there would be a barrier between U.S. and European players going forward.

I’ve written before about how tight-knit the community is in EQII, and that’s probably why you saw some of the strongest protests originate on the EQII forums. That closeness extends to the EQII development team as well. I’ve been to a couple of Fan Faires and was surprised at how accessible the team always made itself. Combine that with a core community of longstanding, loyal players, and you basically have one big family.

So when fans were hit with the second big news story of the week, the departure of Associate Producer Emily “Domino” Taylor, players reacted as if a friend or family member had moved out of the home. What do these two news stories have in common, and what can they tell us about EverQuest II?

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Comments (22)

  • Frank

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    I think she gives Brasse too much credit. Hiding behind a locked thread is hardly what would be expected of a community manager. Trolling is just text, after all, and directing the discussion instead of letting panic and misinformation run wild is ridiculous.
    The only apparent response was the moderators stomping on all discussion on all other threads at one point. In the end, SOE just looks like a bunch of amateurs instead of a well-seasoned game publisher of AAA titles.

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  • bhagpuss

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    I think that’s an overly-positive take on the week’s events.

    I do agree that once the shock has receded and the dust settles, we’ll probably end up with a deal that most can tolerate. I also agree that SoE had been gaining some PR ground over the last few months with some of the decisions they’ve taken. It’s always two steps forward, one step back at best, though.

    I just don’t understand why SoE can’t anticipate reaction better and handle communication and PR more professionally. They’ve been in this business longer than almost anyone and yet every single time an issue arises they behave like the gauchest, newest indie studio.

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  • Lakoda

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    That’s what I think enrages the player base so much, that SOE really SHOULD be able to guess (better) at how the community will react.

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  • Seffrid

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    “I do agree that once the shock has receded and the dust settles, we’ll probably end up with a deal that most can tolerate.”

    I don’t think that’s the case at all. However things end up, they are likely to be based around European players being forced against their will to create accounts with a company that is (a) not the one they have been with for years and which is responsible for the game they are playing, and (b) a grossly inferior outfit unsuited to run this type of game and with whom the players are simply unwilling to trust their personal data.

    Moreover, people have left now rather than waiting on the outcome of the negotiations because they have finally called a halt to the endless suffering at the hands of SOE’s incompetence. For very many veteran players this is the straw that has broken the camel’s back.

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  • Frank

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    My statement was exactly backwards from my intent. Awesome.

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  • Wanda_Clamshucker

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    “Moreover, people have left now rather than waiting on the outcome of the negotiations because they have finally called a halt to the endless suffering at the hands of SOE’s incompetence. For very many veteran players this is the straw that has broken the camel’s back.”

    Speaking for myself, this event was the equivalent of an explosive bowel movement after many burbling, spastic days of intestinal discomfort. Although it was nasty, man does it feel great to have it behind me.

    I’ve watched EQ2′s mismanagement of so many issues time and time again. Often it was the cause for me to take ragequit vacations, but the game and community drew me back. It was a cycle that I was caught up in, always with the hope for better times, and always with a sense of excitement and anticipation whenever I’d resub. Eventually those durations of playing became less frequent and my times away became longer. However, I would always tune in to the forums and keep in touch.

    Since Dave’s inglorious ascendance, this last year and a bit has just been sooo painful for the game. A shift had occurred, and it was not good at all. You could just..feel it. While there was always grumbling on the forums, you could also see many fun, vibrant posts. In the last few months there was almost always a strongly negative undercurrent to all the threads, mostly revolving around content, game direction, and neglect.

    The recent chain of events has been pretty much Apocalyptic. One crappy thing after another, people moving and leaving, and then this craptastic perversion of a deal between PSS1 and SOE that no one seems to want to give solid answers about. I mean, wtf is up with all the stonewalling by EQ2′s management towards their customers? Put the puppet away (Piestro) and let’s have one of the Big Boys come out and do their job to address the people they are screwing over. I swear, someone could do a Master’s thesis based on this as a case study for an MBA.

    An unprecedented level of bafflement, rage and sadness for loss has reverberated these last few days through all of us. Well, maybe not sadness on my part, but an aching hollowness that sort of feels like there was a death of sorts. It really seems like this is it, the one and final titanic act of stupidity from SOE that finally allows me to walk away and never look back.

    This was the final insult, as well as the last deplorably bungled CS event I will go through with SOE.

    Its liberating, really.

    Reply

  • badcat

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    Well that article was gave way to much credit to soe, and saving this deal. I will only say this once the deal is done, right now soe/alaplaya folks are trying to pick up the pieces.

    A glimmer of hope, really? I see lots of dark days ahead due to the fact that soe seams to be going though with this deal despite the fact that most folks don’t want to deal with alaplaya. I still not heard from Mike B over at mmorpg, I don’t know if its because they cant get a reply out of soe and are waiting for something more solid to post.

    One thing is for sure the eq2 community will never be the same, the damage is done, can soe salvage what is left, who knows.

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  • Kwill

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    It was Alaplaya, not really the SOE staff, that came through with communication and more specific information.

    It’s nice that Massively has faith that SOE means what it says.

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  • Starlakay

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    Sony has always put out good games but their upper management has aways found a way to mess it up. Sony could very easy have become number one. But people have lost faith in their upper management. Sony and their games have and will be something of the past. As for myself and my friends; it is time to move on and find another game. It does seem like a divorce after six years, but with Sony it has always been one sided, they keep forgetting that we the players even exist.

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  • milliebii

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    I predict Everquest II will have no more than 8 US servers by the end of calender year 2012, and ProSiebensat will either have abandoned the game or be down to one.

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  • skippydippy

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    @Kwill i really do disagree with this notion that Alalplaya “have come out with information?”i see nothing really that hadnt already been said and if you go back to the original thread their bloke had already said much of what he repeated this week,sorry he seemed a bit clueless to me saying what he thought we wanted to hear.

    Thats not information that is someone chatting on a forum nothing more,harsh i may be thats all i saw there on their forums,in fact if anything by the end of it i was preferring SOE’s take on events (i.e shutting up and saying nothing).

    They on the Alaplay forums came across like a puppy overt eager to please.

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  • Murfalad

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    Another good article and its nice to see EQ2 being covered thoughtfully by the mainstream MMO press even if its about bad news.

    This is because I’d rather see a u-turn made and SOE seen to fulfil the fans wishes then just blindly carry on through with this deal, just like CCP did with Eve when they had massive drama a year ago over the microtransactions.

    But unfortunately with SOE’s ossified management I don’t think they are capable of making the best business decisions here now, instead I see it more likely that the lower ranks will hold their tongues while everyone works on the #1 priority, saving face for whoever in senior management made this decision.

    I believe that because if they truly thought that region locking, account security, cross region gameplay etc were all important they could have come out within 2 hours of the announcement and told us they were reworking at the deal to implement these things. It might have taken some time to do so, but it could be done, unfortunately its clear that these issues were not their #1 priority, and whatever that priority is it must not be jeopardised.

    They have bad press elsewhere too, I see RadarX is posting on the Planetside universe forums to placate hoped to be players there of PS2, he’s already contradicted Prosieben claiming that only SOE will have control over all content that goes into the game. Prosieben have previously stated that they will have their own distinct store and that US players will be envious of not being able to play there.

    Curiously I cannot now find those comments, I really do think now that both parties failed to communicate properly at the start here and just interpretted whatever they wanted from it. Prosieben would have just used the knowledge they have gained from what running their pay to win game, which is fair enough as it would be a safe assumption normally that the other party had done their homework on the other company before inking the deal.

    Again I lay the fault at SOE’s door.

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  • Arkenor

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    It had the slight whiff of a press release about it. Meanwhile, Zams is not really reporting on the player discontent at all.

    Thank goodness there’s still one major EQ2 site willing to stick up for the players. Good job, Feldon.

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  • Kwill

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    The info I gleaned from the Alaplaya boards and the admittedly vague chat room session on Friday was that the Alaplaya guys will not be doing any content development or changing items in any substantial way, but rather marketing the game and running their own events with the staff they hire for their servers. For instance, they suggested an “Oktoberfest” event — not sure what that would entail, but it’s not putting in content, I assume. Protagonist and Coldar have said they have no ability to design items or put items in the game. Now, whether they can add exisiting items to the SC store is another issue altogether — it seems they can do that, but the promise is it won’t be “power items.” How much access to the dev code Alaplaya staff will have is an interesting question!

    They seem more interested in filling up the servers with EU customers versus redesigning the game (thus all the dreaming about new events, etc.). That doesn’t excuse the idea that the entire game is fractured into regional customers, which didn’t seem to bother anyone at SOE or Alaplaya until the poo hit the fan.

    As has been said before, video games are a business proposition, not a labor of love, and thus subject to being bought and sold, customers and all. Still, the real threat of losing A LOT of revenue seems to have lit a fire under Alaplaya, at least. I hope that next week things do work out where the servers are not regionalized. As to dealing with Alaplaya’s track record of security, that’s another story. Not sure how they can convince people it will be better than past performance.

    It’s funny, I didn’t think I would be affected by this, but my DH pointed out that half the time, due to how things are set up at my house, I have a Canadian IP…which just goes to show that theoretically IP blocking can get more complicated that it might seem.

    EQ2 is the best MMO out there, still … I wish they could see the value in preserving it as an international community. Regionalizing will really be a blow to the economies on all the servers as well as the community ties — less raiding, fewer groups (cross-server DF will become imperative!) less server population, less people to buy things from the broker, less items on the broker … for want of a nail, as they say.

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  • Wanda_Clamshucker

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    “That doesn’t excuse the idea that the entire game is fractured into regional customers, which didn’t seem to bother anyone at SOE or Alaplaya until the poo hit the fan.”

    That’s the kicker. The community didn’t mean anything to them when they made the deal, and it still doesn’t. Don’t confuse them “taking notes and listening” and “discussing” with an abrupt change of view. It has always been about numbers, and it still remains a numbers game for them.

    Rather than having them care about the community, they care about financials. Piestro is trying to calm the masses with impotent messages that some people will buy, but really they are hollow sentiments. He’s there to try to staunch the flow of bleeding customers. Why him? He’s new (to the EQ2 community), and no one hates him. If SJ came onto the forums it would have been like someone threw gasoline onto the fire.

    All this meaningless, placating and sometimes condescending (that its “just a publishing deal” and we simply are “misunderstanding”) commentary we’re hearing is designed to distract and lull those that are fence-sitting, and the plebs. Its a tactic to mitigate loss of revenue.

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  • badcat

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    @kwill oktoberfest is essentially braille day, lots of partying, drinking, cooking, dancing going on. To ad those guys at Alaplaya have no idea of what all eq2 has to offer currently or they would already know we have that in game. Just goes to show you they want access to something they know absolutely nothing about. So when I read their statements saying we got lots of eq players on staff, I am like yea right. But them maybe I am misread what they mean, as in lost in translation, due to their very broken English. Then you to wonder about the UK players are going to do after this goes down.

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  • Kwill

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    Badcat, I took the Oktoberfest comment to mean they wanted more German or European type cutural events in game, as opposed to an American emphasis, but my problem with that is it’s supposed to be an international fantasy world game.

    As you said, I think they have minimal or no idea what EQ2 is all about — for goodness sake, he said he had a “wizarad.” I think even with English issues you could spell your class name correctly if you actually played it.

    I think SOE and PSS1 will learn the community IS the financials. However, the storm that leads up to that realization will be devastating.

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  • NightEye

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    Don’t know if this had been mentionned before : i’m on Storms (french server) and my guild was thinking about moving on a US server.

    SOE made the decision for us : it is no longer possible to buy tokens for server transfer…

    Reply

  • Feldon

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    You’d be surprised at the e-mails Karen gets for being “too negative”. She strikes a balance and tries to stay optimistic. ;)

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  • Murfalad

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    @Bob Please step out the room if your crit mit is less then 310 =D

    And I would describe Karen as being optimistic there, they can salvage things out of this mess, but knowing SOE I don’t think they are able to say sorry and do a u-turn like CCP does, which is ironic as Sony’s top people are able to say sorry…

    Thinking all about it I do actually think that Alaplaya have one thing they can bring to this deal that is positive, they simply cannot do a worse job of advertising and marketting EQ2 and SOE games in general then SOE currently does in Europe.

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  • milliebii

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    hmmmm …. are you sure that they are not doing this deal to acquire a “mailing list” to sell there other games to as much as any money they make off SOE product?

    Reply

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