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.
I am completely blown away by this. After how stiff and wooden EQ2 turned out, I am delighted to see them poor so much style into the characters this time around. It is evident that they are putting some serious thought into how to evolve the MMO genre. The minute Landmark hits I'm going to loose a good chunk of my (lack of) free time building content that will hopefully make it into the full game.
I started playing EQ back in Beta Phase 1, and I still have all of the beta CD's from back then. I remember first playing it, the scary boat rides, the giants in oasis, the griffins in west commons. It was my first MMO, and really the first one that immersive. When I saw the initial first few posts about EQN, I was intrigued. Then I watched those two videos from the debut and I was beyond impressed. I remember talking with Mavlock and Arturis about concepts like what Sony is implementing in EQN back when WoW came out and saying that it couldn't be done with current technology. Well now that tech is here. The amount of change that can be done in the world, both from combat and from working on Rallying Calls is insane compared to what we have been able to do in past games. The only one that I can think of that was anything remotely similar was Shadowbane, but it pales in comparison to what Sony is going to be doing with this. The amount of customization that will be available to your characters via the multi-classing and gear combinations is amazing, then throw on that the whole world can be changed through player action or in-action is just mind blowing compared to current games. I will most definitely have characters on different servers just to be able to see how the two different worlds evolve.
I agree Art, this is a huge turn around. I can't wait to lose more time to this game.
Kesh, I remember those days debating these features with you. Course I recall it wasn't a tech thing for you, just that you said it was impossible. Period. It wasn't till much debate later that you said tech was holding it back. :P
I fondly still recall those old EQ days, being scared of the new bronze armor Kesh gave me because I might lose it. Ah the memories, I'll be at the druid ring asking for a port to nostalgia.
I actually want to go into an MMO [seriously this time ~_^] and this one looks amazing. EQ was my first venture into an MMO [thanks to all of you guys], and I have fond memories of it just because of the sheer vastness and being able to just explore it.
Now I want to enjoy the game and PLAY!! No elf chasing...I promise! ~_^
EQN looks fantastic. It's a shame that it seems like only the writers who cover it appreciate it. I swear people on the Internet try to find what's wrong... Every forum... I'm pretty analytical and I'd still probably lose brain cells trying to find the bad in EQN it's all them darn angry, disgruntled, drunken? Gamers faultsss!
annyyways.... Hawt stuff Martin!
I am going to guess people are complaining because it isn't like the original EQ. It doesn't make sense just to remake the original, innovation is key, and personally I love what they are doing. People will complain just for the sake of complaining.
I like how they are "rebooting" the lore. It still has what is needed for it to be recognizably EQ, but more cohesive etc and lets them tell a new story without doing the ol jump 5000 years in the future/past.
Agreed, I'm a fan of canon but all that lore can hold you back. It's best to take what works, cut what doesn't and give things a fresh start.
Looks seriously amazing. Style is really nice! Can't say the same about the ponytail.
What can I say about the EQ franchse. So many great memories and I can honestly say this looks to be one heck of an up-grade for the series. If they can pull this off, this will be my next MMO. After watching the videos for EQN, i had to install the original EQ and go around and visit some of the places I remember.
I have not played the Everquest games, but I must say if this works how they claim it will, I am exceptionally excited about this concept. Particularly EQN Landmark. As a student going to learn how to make games, I am possibly more interested in the development aspect than I am the game itself, but the gameplay does look really nice. I like the emergent AI and the break from the accepted template character gameplay build. That should really help to keep the game continually interesting a fresh. My only concern would be how much follow up they will implement. Looking forward to needing to choose between this and ESO. Love to play them both, but I know for a fact I won't have the time.