This might sound like revisionist history here, but I seem to recall sending an email to the crew that said, “Hey guys. I think we should check out SOE. They said they’re going to be talking about their future F2P plans and their strategy for the PlayStation 4!” Instead, we were dazzled by the announcements of TitanFall, the debut of the gameplay of Destiny, and a whole bunch of other titles that seemed to just occupy our mindshare. We didn’t even hear of anything from SOE coming out of E3. I thought we got away scott-free.
That is, until today. Apparently, a couple of MMO-centric outlets out there saw something from the show and finally, today, SOE was ready to lift the veil off of their newest game, EverQuest Next and its companion game, EverQuest Next Landmark. SOE’s president John Smedley had this to say:
“With EverQuest Next, we’re going back to our roots — a space we defined with the EverQuest legacy — and ushering in a new era of MMOs: The Emergent Era.
Today, many MMOs fail because players consume content faster than developers can create it. With EverQuest Next, we’re creating a living world that players are part of and empowering them to produce new content alongside the development team. What does the future hold for EverQuest Next and Sony Online Entertainment? It’s in the players’ hands, and we like it that way.”
Unlike most MMOs, EverQuest Next hopes to empower the creation of the world with its players. The team developing the title sought to break the mold, after realizing early in the game’s development that they were just doing the same things everyone else is doing. “We wanted to build a game that we haven’t built before,” said Dave Georgeson, the EverQuest franchise’s director of development. The team then set to create some goals when rethinking the franchise’s future.
An Ambitious Future
One of the biggest things that they announced was that the game was going to be Free to Play. Like many recent SOE titles and other MMOs, this may not come as a surprise for a lot of people, but having one of the genre’s oldest franchises announce this is somewhat of an admission that subscription based MMOs are a thing of the past.
Another change that SOE announced is that there will be no level progression in EverQuest Next. Instead, SOE looked to multi-classing as its model and have created over 40 professions that will be available at the game’s launch, all of which have tiered abilities and weapon related skills that can be unlocked.
On top of that, SOE claims that everything in EverQuest Next is fully destructible. In fact, many of the professions in EverQuest Next will allow for deformation of the environment, from wizards raising stone walls to golems completely decimating forts. SOE claims that some of the change can even be permanent, but for the most part the team stated that players could even allow for players to dig deep within the land and explore downward into the Earth.
While other MMOs have public events where people can participate to enact change in an environment, there wasn’t truly a sense of permanence with what was going on. In fact, many MMOs’ public events run in a cycle and you never truly feel that you as the player have any bearing on the story of the world. EverQuest Next will change all that with the introduction of Rally Calls, public events that happen once… and only once… and never to be experienced again. These public events raze towns and castles and cause large scale conflicts and wars: These aren’t your typical public events. “When you come into the game as a new player, you can no longer do that sort of quest,” Georgeson added. The team hopes that these events and players’ involvement in it, empowers players to feel that they affected the world moreso than any other MMO before. In fact, the game boasts player choices that will be remembered and used to determine what content to deliver to them.
SOE also mentioned the use of emergent AI to deliver a richer, more realistic world to EverQuest Next‘s players. While the team resisted to mention any specific influences, the way the team described your experience with EverQuest Next‘s NPCs bears much similarity to Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls games: AI that’s driven by motivation, reaction, with each having specific programmed behavior, that are definitely far from the MMO norm of static quest giver in the middle of town.
But the most interesting announcement came in the form of how EverQuest Next will empower players to be more of a creator of their world in addition to being participants. In other words, the player can be as much of a creator of the environment, as and alongside the developers. This is when the team unveiled EverQuest Next Landmark: A game so similar to Minecraft, that it might as well be… except not as blocky. Like Minecraft, Landmark will feature the gamification of resources, meaning that players can set down their stake in a vast world and whatever they build is theirs to have. In fact, SOE says that players can even sell their creations to other players for use in either or both games for an “appropriate fee.” The biggest thing here is that players can create things in Landmark and can be ported over to EverQuest Next, though no specific details were outlined. EverQuest Landmark, SOE announced, will be launching this winter.
A Bold Direction
Being someone who has been told of scary tales of how time consuming EverQuest was and, to a degree, is, looking at SOE’s offerings today made me feel that what they’re offering is vastly different from what most MMO developers are offering. The idea of empowering players by providing them with creation tools, in addition to creating an entirely different product around it, tells us that SOE is betting more than just an EverQuest game for their future.
Of course, whether or not these promises are met remain to be seen. But finally, after seeing many MMOs treading the same ground, it’s refreshing to see the name EverQuest in an innovative capacity. And while I may not be the right guy to have covered this massive event, having sworn that I’ll never play a MMO anymore, color me curious, and excited.
A Plethora of Videos
EverQuest Next: Characters and Environment
EverQuest Next: Large Scale Destruction
EverQuest Next: Full Destructible Environments
EverQuest Next: Permanent Change
EverQuest Next: Combat
EverQuest Next: Combat Void – Goliath
EverQuest Next: An Early Sketch of EverQuest Next‘s Main Theme by Jeremy Soule