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Daybreak Games (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) has announced a significant shift in the EverQuest team's focus. Landmark, Daybreak's EverQuest sandbox, has been the priority for months. Moving forward, the team is turning its attention to EverQuest Next.
Landmark will continue to feed into EverQuest Next's development, as the team explores ways to bring user creations into the game. What this also means is that features that are exclusive to Landmark are going to take a back seat now that the team has completed a major character and land claim wipe.
"As the team has wrapped up the various pieces related to the wipe and the bugs associated with it, we have been shifting our focus and resources over to work on the highest priority tasks and systems that will be used in EverQuest Next," writes senior producer Terry Michaels. "While we do this, we’re working in areas with high amounts of creative risk. This means that while we know what we want to do, we know it will take an unknown amount of iteration, tweaking and sometimes drastic direction changes to get these in game and working the way they need to. Because of this, we simply cannot commit to any dates, because until we get much closer, even our best estimates are educated (but still fairly wild) guesses."
Updates and hotfixes to Landmark will still take place, but not as frequently as they have been. While Daybreak's EverQuest team is repositioning its resources, Michaels is clear that it should not be interpretted as a commitment for release of EverQuest Next in this calendar year.
[Source: Daybreak Games]
It feels like EverQuest Next has taken a backseat to the sandbox tools players have been using in Landmark. While there are sure to be major connections between the two as was the original vision, it has been some time since EverQuest Next was in the news.
Especially now that it seems a 2015 release is in question (and, in fact, unlikely given Michaels' statements), this refocusing seems important. Daybreak doesn't have Sony backing anymore, which frees the studio to explore multi-platform deals, but also likely applies more financial pressure to produce.
Following a recent forecast that predicts Sony’s mobile division will lose up to 30 percent of its sales by next Spring, the electronics giant has opted to increase its focus on the perennially successful PlayStation brand.
According to a Reuters re…
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To say NBA Live 14 had a rough debut is an understatement. With sluggish transitions, almost no off-ball movement, and a troubled shooting system that saw some A.I players take shots with their backs to the basket, the play resembled the Washington Generals more than a true NBA team. The developers at EA Tiburon owned up to the game's shortcomings, and rather than sulking immediately went to work on getting the Live gameplay to a competent level. Part of that effort includes bringing on longtime NBA Live and NCAA Basketball vet Connor Dougan back into the fold as a producer.
Dougan and the rest of the Live team set out with a four-part plan. First, they wanted to improve the responsiveness of every action taken on the court, from dribbling and passing to shooting and driving. To do so, they replaced every transitional animation to give players instantaneous changes of direction and the feeling that actions happen at the push of a button. The pass reception system was also overhauled to ensure that players square up to the basket and get into proper position to shoot or drive.
Secondly, EA Tiburon wanted to make the game more accessible. A long time has passed since Live has been on equal footing with rival NBA 2K, and an entire generation of gamers have grown up with 2K controls. To get these types of players on board with Live more quickly, EA Tiburon designed a new tutorial system to teach players the basics of dribbling, passing, and shooting before jumping into a game. Guided by cover athlete Damian Lillard, players learn all the basics in an easy-to-follow series of drills on a practice court. Other changes to improve accessibility include moving alley oops to a face button and bringing over the quick action system from NCAA basketball. Tapping L1 at any time on the court will enact a series of ad hoc screens and cuts to try and free up an offensive option. If you tap it while carrying the ball up the court, it also serves to initiate early offense with high screens.
The third major endeavor pertains to upping the animation quality. The team aggressively overhauled its approach, making changes to locomotion, off-ball movement, guarding, passes, catches, and shooting. More than 600 new dunking and lay-up animations were added to Live 15, and the new jump-shooting footwork evens out inconsistencies present last year where timing could be different whether you were moving left or right with a signature shot.
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Last but not least, EA wanted to hone the physics in the paint to not only even up the matchup against 2K, but in some cases beat it. Anyone who plays basketball games knows animations get messy when players come into content under the hoop, causing arms, legs, and sometimes even the ball to warp through bodies. To improve these entanglements, Tiburon is applying true physics to both the shooter and defenders while a player is attacking the rim. For the entirety of the shot, rag doll physics are applied, which means you'll see true contact and realistic-looking animations. In several instances we saw defenders jockeying with each other for space on the court while trying to block a lay-up.
I checked out these improvements first-hand in two exhibition games. The game definitely plays faster than last year's sluggish effort. Stringing together dribbling moves and penetrating looks much more natural, and the drive, hop step, shoot strategy isn't 100-percent successful anymore. The closer camera angle gives you a chance to check out some of the improved player animations – the body models and glistening, sweaty skin in particular look fantastic. Players react naturally with emotion when celebrating blocks or slamming a dunk home.
I was always a fan of the quick action button in NCAA basketball, as it gives you on-the-fly options when you don't feel like calling a proper play. This translates well to Live 15, which helps keep players from idling listlessly on the court. Last year movement would come to a standstill if you didn't initiate a play, but the players in Live 15 move with urgency and purpose as much as they would on a real court.
The gameplay may still have some rough edges – I noticed in particular that players reacted slowly to loose balls, and some contact animations in the paint resulted in defenders being driven aggressively backward. But if the majority of these alterations prove themselves out over extended play sessions, the Live series may finally have a foundation from which to build a true competitor to NBA 2K.
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Over the past fiscal year, Square Enix has promised to move away from global publishing in favor of a more regional focus. That doesn’t mean that the company is abandoning global titles, especially in the wake of being surprised by Western sales of a traditional RPG.
Bravely Default released in Europe and North America earlier this year, surpassing 200,000 copies sold in the United States in the first three weeks. According to an interview with Nikkei (translated by Siliconera), Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda says his company won’t completely abandon global titles, despite stumbles in the past.
“In the past, when we developed console games with a worldwide premise, we lost our focus,” Matsuda says, offering that recent Bravely Default taught the company a valuable lesson. “Due to having split [the development mindset] according to regions around the world, we weren’t able to see this clearly up until now, but fans of JRPGs are really spread around the world,” Matsuda says. In response, Square Enix will be developing more core JRPGs.
Oddly, he goes on to attribute the problems faced by Hitman: Absolution, which sold 3.6 million units in its first four months and was still deemed to be underperforming, to an attempt to serve a global audience. Io Interactive’s most recent Hitman title was well received, but was a departure not because of geography. Rather, its attempts to appeal to a new audience alienated some longtime franchise fans.
The good news for those that have followed Agent 47’s career with great interest? “So, as for the AAA titles we’re currently developing for series, we basically want to go back to their roots and focus on the core audience, while working hard on content that can have fans say things like, ‘This is the Hitman, we know,'” Matsuda says. “I believe that is the best way for our development studios to display their strengths.”
The recognition that games can succeed on a global scale shouldn’t be a surprise to Square Enix, especially with regard to Bravely Default (a game that is more Final Fantasy than many recent entries in that series). To equate those challenges (and a need to serve that market) with the problems that faced Hitman: Absolution (reminder: a well-received, strong seller) is folly. Every time I think Square Enix management is taking a step on the path toward organizational realignment, comments like this make me wonder exactly what’s going wrong at headquarters in Japan.