Yesterday's announcement that Scott Hartsman was leaving for unspecified pastures new would have fulfilled most quotas for Trion Story Of The Week, but it wilts in the heat of today's press release quoted in full over at Massively: Trion is going to publish ArcheAge in the West, handily definied for us as "North America, Europe, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand".
When they will publish it they aren't saying, yet, but ArcheAge launched in South Korea just last week after a much-hyped six-year development cycle and what seems like several lifetimes in beta. I haven't mentioned it much here because there was no obvious prospect of being able to play it any time in the foreseeable future. Now there is.
A stream of stunning videos released over the last year or two (all available to watch on YouTube, I'm sure, if anyone hasn't already drooled over them) show a graphically beautiful game that also appears to have the potential for deep, complex sandbox-style gameplay. In common with most sandboxes there is a strong PvP element but as far as I can gather much of this is optional, in that there are several very large continents and some of them are "safe", or at least as safe as monster-ridden wildernesses can be. They'll still kill you but at least they won't dance on your corpse and steal all your stuff. Probably.
Anyway, so that could be the true AAA quality sandbox/sandpark that will give our lives the true meaning they so surely and sorely lack. But wait, what's this? Can it be?
Yes it can. Riding into view on his unfeasibly articulated, slack-backed catamount it's none other than John "Smed" Smedley, fresh from his Damascene conversion to player-driven-content with a bombshell he'd like to drop. In an otherwise unexceptional interview with Gamasutra, talking about EQNext he throws this in right at the end:
"Players will get their hands on an actual release version of what we're doing late [this] year - and I don't mean a beta".
Pardon me? EQNext, you say? In my hands? THIS YEAR??? That'll be the game that, as I said recently, I am most excited about and which I wasn't expecting to see even in beta until late 2014 at the very earliest and realistically a lot later than that.
It's an odd phrasing, though, isn't it? What's with that indefinite article? Is there going to be more than one "actual release version"? Is this some kind of Kingdoms of Amalur/Copernicus deal? Oh, who cares? Whatever the heck it means, it sounds like my Christmas present's sorted.
So, two supposed AAA sandbox/sandpark MMOs could launch in the same year, although we have no idea how long it will take Trion to translate, localize and launch ArcheAge and we don't even know what EQNext actually is. Green Armadillo could still be on safe ground with his prediction that "we're likely to get at least 8-9 months into 2013 without a major event launch" but prospects for the year as a whole just got a lot more interesting.