In fall of 1998 I loaded up my first MMO addiction, Everquest. It's been 15 years since that late autumn day and SOE has brought us a product that has me salivating, Everquest Next. Last week they dropped the bomb of information on us from their SOE Live event and I'm still feeling the shock waves. Everquest Next appears to be the answer to what is next in the MMO gaming space, not just because it's what a console might call next-gen but because of the intelligence built into the product. I'll share with you what I mean by that.
Generally speaking MMOs are static theme parks, you give them your ticket and go for a ride. Some rides let you hit things, some let you interact in other ways but in the end the ride is the same for almost every other person in the park. It was the answer to the call of confusion that earlier MMOs had caused, something to make them more accessible. In the process of building this there was a sacrifice of immersion and innovation. The hardware powering these worlds has continued to get beefier and the level of coding behind them has grown giving way to new abilities like procedural generation. Variables are plugged into an algorithm and out comes a world, early versions of this would lack feature and be random. Now Everquest Next is claiming they can generate engaging content and worlds for their players. This means those strategy guides of past would be almost impossible to create in the same way, there would be no static walk-throughs because the content would continue to shift and grow, giving it a faux life.
Emergent AI is a growing trend in gaming and allows games to react to the players instead of just having players react to games. For example goblins have over populated and are causing havoc in the nearby woods. Players are sent out to manage the menace. In a traditional MMO this would be a quest series that would never change but in a world with emergent AI things change. Players can continue to defeat the goblins of the woods to the point where they actually leave or worse the goblin king decides to send war bands of goblins back out to attack nearby areas. No long are we looking at static spawns to camp.
Another example given was related to orcs. They don't like to be near towns or guards but they do like gold. So they would use the AI in the system to find lonely roads that adventurers like to travel to wait and waylay them. Now adventurers could react by attacking them. They could also tell the guards of a nearby city to patrol the road or even just stop using that road. All these would then cause the orcs to uproot and find a new area to wait for passerby.
This leads into the rally calls, almost like a public quest. Once a rally call goes out everyone on the server can participate. These calls would help change the face of Norrath. Each call is said to last about 2-3 months with various stages that are not always the same per server. It all reacts to how you participate. They gave examples of multiple ways to participate, from helping to construct the a city to clearing out the monsters near the borders.
Everquest Next includes destructible terrain, meaning anywhere and almost anything can be destroyed by player or monster. With an entire world built from voxels the options are almost limitless. This brings concerns of player-trolls going around causing havoc so I am curious to see how that is handled. Worlds do heal though over time, so even if you dig a tunnel to find a cave eventually it will collapse in on itself. This is also a huge thing for me personally. The last time we saw something on this level of change in an MMO was the phase technology World of Warcraft put in place. Now I can actually go dig for that lost temple instead of waiting for players to complete enough quests till that area is revealed, that is amazing to me.
In the game you will start with 8 classes, which seems about standard these days. While playing through the game you will happen upon new classes that you can swap out to or even multi-class into new combinations. This would give many options for play style as each class has its own sets of weapons and each weapon has its own sets of related skills.
Beyond all these SOE is launching Everquest Next Landmark this winter. The best way I can compare it is Minecraft with more detailed control. It's a construction tool turned game and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Each world will be procedurally generated with only one continent being locked to the Norrath art style. This is where SOE will hold contests to build content for Everquest Next, effectively allowing players to contribute to the game yet to be released. Players will also be able to list their creations on Player Studio to sell for real money to other players to use. If someone buys it and then uses it in their recreation they can then list their new creation and the original creator will also get royalties from the sale. It's an interesting concept.
There is a lot more to Everquest Next and Everquest Next Landmark and a good place to start is below where I've placed the videos for the press conference. A lot of my wish lists for a future MMO are being answered here and I can't wait to get my hands on them.