Yesterday's EQ2 Producer's Letter announced the departure of Producer Bruce Ferguson from the game. Explaining the move, Ferguson says only, "I'm moving on within SOE to another position".
Meanwhile, Tipa's daily blogroll documents another SOE personnel shuffle; if I'm following things correctly, EQ1's producer left for a mystery project, EQ1 then appropriated Vanguard's producer, and Vanguard players found out that they no longer had a producer from reading the EQ forums (oops).
All of this seems to mirror moves Blizzard is making as work on Mystery Project 4 ramps up in Irvine. As I said at the time, your best people need to be on board well ahead of launch if they're really going to have the opportunity to improve the game. Apparently the timing was right for SOE's mystery project as well.
Tipa is pulling for EQ3, but I'm not convinced. If they call the game EQ3 (or set it in Norrath without calling it EQ3), there are going to be the following camps of people:
A) May or may not have ever played any EQ games, but associate the brand with mandatory grouping, harsh death penalities, and mob grind-fests of old-school EQ1, and won't play the new game as a result.
B) Liked those aspects of EQ1 and sign up to play the new game, only to leave in disgust when it turns out not to be a flashback to 1999.
C) Like one or both of the current games and show up primarily on the strength of the brand name, but cancel their current subscriptions in the process (fragmenting the EQ playerbase between a total of three games).
D) Show up for the EQ brand name but with no preconceived notions and without cannibalizing the existing games' subscriptions.
Unless SOE can be certain that group D substantially outweighs the other three groups combined, they're better off leaving the name EQ3 in the wine cellar to age a few more years and going with a new IP. At least, that's my guess. We'll see what happens when they're ready to pop the cork on whatever it is they're brewing up in San Diego.