SOE's John Smedley: MMO worlds are "nothing more than a movie set"
Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley isn't bashful about voicing his strong support for free-to-play business models, but he's equally passionate about seeing the MMO genre evolve. Speaking to Polygon, Smedley believes modern MMOs suffer from stagnation and content churn that prevents studios from exploring new design directions.
"Our opinion is that today's MMOs, and I'd include ours in that mix, are stagnant and stuck in this model that we frankly helped create with EverQuest, where we put new content in the game, and [the players] go through it at an incredibly fast rate because of database sites like Thottbot and that kind of stuff," Smedley said.
Smedley felt a change of the norm into a more sandbox-style approach—where players dictate the direction of their experiences instead of the game world—is the best solution, saying, "That's the direction we're going we're going in with EverQuest Next; trying to make a world that players create while being a living, breathing world around them. It's not just a prop for them to walk around in, which is really what all of today's MMOs are. Their worlds are nothing more than a movie set."
Smedley used PlanetSide 2 as an example of some of SOE's sandbox ideals, attributing the massive battles and territory tug-of-wars to the efforts of the players themselves. "We gave players the weapons, and the fight's all up to them," he said. "We give them some basic goals, but we want them playing that game in ways we never thought of. And that happens a lot." It's true. Where else would we be able to hang upside down in an attack helicopter and rally our army with demonic power?