Well, after all my weeks of bugging those in charge through forums and twitter, and by that I mean giving up after one tweet, it seems the NDA on EQN Landmark has now been lifted. I always thought it was an odd Idea that Landmark, even in an alpha stage had an NDA. When you’ve bought you’re way in you kind of also want to talk about, what’s the use in flashing cash after all if you can’t brag about it after?
The industry has changed a lot over the last few years, especially so when it comes to the prevalence and accessibility of gamers towards unfinished products. This used to be the domain of developers and maybe friends and family as the outside just wasn’t used to a game experience so raw. Missing features and bugs aren’t the exception and you have to worry about players losing all interest in the game prior to release.
Of course keeping these things closed was a way of mitigating any sort of negative media but these days most gamers understand what such a thing means and how it reflects on the product. Beta is Beta. That still might be a naive view as there are some who still judge based on these very early experiences as thanks to many companies, the Beta tag has becoming more of a marketing tool and something that denotes a more finished product. It blurs the boundaries a little with the definitions but thanks to the indie scenes incessant need on selling early access it’s something that has gained more approval.
As much as I’ve become a little overloaded on early access titles, having a glut waiting on steam and other places, it’s something I’m glad exists. Even though you’re at times, more of an unpaid QA it still lets you gain a greater insight into the development of a game you’re interested in. And then there is the allure that you might even have some sort of effect on its development.
The other thing these beta experiences do is help smaller products, and even bigger ones gain more exposure. It seems in recent times that people are getting a little sick with cgi trailers that bear little resemblance to the game itself, a lot of people have been burned by this. News articles are good too but it gets to a stage where you no longer what to know about the next concept art piece they are releasing, or a discussion on various mechanics that have already been decided. People want something tangible and these alpha/ Beta reveals tend to satisfy.
I also think when these experiences are open to discussion that they create more reasonable expectation. I believe a lot of the bigger companies have been taking their reputations for granted for… well, a very long time now. I can see the damage caused from years of closed development, from hyping products to be far more than what they could ever satisfy and disappointing leagues of fans. It’s a practice that no longer belongs in this age of instant information, of hours of youtube vids and written ramblings as information travels fast and the internet doesn’t forget… or forgive.
I think some still believe that opening up in these earlier times would hurt sales, and it might but there are far worse things than a few lost sales. Bigger companies and these smaller growing ones are a brand, and having these sorts of open style development acts as a buffer for your brand, as a way of mitigating any damage in advance that could have been caused by unmet expectations.
I’m glad SOE and Everquest Next have seen this and will let players, writers and other content producer to share their interest and inspiration about this new product. It will no doubt improve knowledge and interest in this new idea forming in front of us as well as maybe selling a few more supporter packs. It might also help garner a greater following for EQN next year.
#ArmchairDeveloper #BetaisBeta #EQNL