Yes, Virginia, EverQuest Next could be the MMO to move the genre forward
2013 was going to be an exciting year for MMOs. We got our first chance to play The Elder Scrolls Online and were primed to see what Blizzard has in store for us with Titan. But ESO, despite the franchise’s impressive history, has failed to truly spark our imaginations. Titan has been rebooted and retooled, making a 2013 unveiling unlikely.
So instead, we turn to a familiar, yet unexpected, face to spark some life into the genre: EverQuest.
Specifically, EverQuest Next, a game many were shrugging off. Until Director of Development David Georgeson said enough was enough. It’s time to change the MMO genre, and he thinks EverQuest Next is the game to do it. I think he’s on to something.
MMOs have recently attempted to bring change by addressing a particular issue of the genre and tackling it heads on. For TERA, this was combat. For Star Wars: The Old Republic, this was narrative. In Guild Wars 2, it was group questing. In World of Warcraft expansions, it was adding more things to do. But each of these games only addressed one problem with the genre. TERA’s questing was pretty vanilla. SWTOR’s gameplay was all too familiar. Guild Wars 2 felt like more of the same old same old. World of Warcraft’s age continues to show.
Instead of just focusing on one or two things, Sony Online Entertainment has gone back to the drawing board, rebooting EverQuest Next a year and a half ago. They came back with ways to move the entire genre forward. That’s right; not just the game, but the genre. Georgeson mentioned that enough is enough. They’ve played D&D for the past 35 years, which has translated them to playing the same MMO for the past decade. So it’s time for change. Let’s take a look together at how this change is coming.
First you have the game’s classes. Honestly, this isn’t necessarily anything to write home about. Multi-classing isn’t particularly new or revolutionary, but the way it’s described is definitely interesting. You’ll have the eight base classes of the game and 40 classes to discover out in the world. Once discovered, you can mix and match classes to your heart’s desire, creating the distinct possibility of incredibly diverse characters in the game. It's an effort to enforce “bring the player, not the class,” and the player will be brought because of the unique strengths of his custom class and skill level.
Then there’s the feature everyone’s talking about: a fully destructible world. You’ll be able to tell where epic battles took place. You can use the environment to your advantage against enemies. There are a lot of possibilities here, such as that MMO pipedream of blowing up a bridge and sending enemies to their death below. It’s a feature that signifies the next generation of gaming more than anything, to be honest, but one that’s quite welcome and helps to bring in a new spice to the game’s combat.
But it’s the third and fourth pillars that can help EverQuest Next stand out above the rest of the genre.
Stop me if this sounds familiar. You’re a level one character and you’re assigned to stop a troll threat from destroying your village. So you go to the enemy base, camp static spawn points, and complete the quest. Threat eliminated, but that static spawn point still remains.
This won’t happen with EverQuest Next due to an improved AI. Let’s say a bunch of orcs want to create some mayhem. Instead of waiting at a static spawn point, they’ll roam the world until they find a suitable place to set up camp and ambush unsuspecting players. Once players wisen up to these antics, they’ll undoubtedly take appropriate measures to stop this. In response, the orcs will move their camp to a smarter location. This is the change MMOs need in order to stay fresh; it helps create a living world that changes on a regular basis. Just because that path was safe yesterday doesn’t mean it will stay safe tomorrow.
The fourth and final pillar is just as exciting. Rallying Calls are EverQuest Next’s version of public quests, only they help shape the future of the world.
Suppose you’re tasked with setting up a village. You find a location and start building, but goblins start attacking. What do you do? You could dig and build stone walls, but after starting that digging, you find that you’re lazy and would rather just kill the invading goblins. After satisfying your thirst for blood, you put your feet up, relax, and -- oh wait, the Goblin King has sent in reinforcements. And there are monsters coming in from the quarry you were digging. Mayhem has been unleashed and you’re completely boned. It’s too bad, because your friends on a different server have set up walls and have helped this humble village grow into a major city. This didn't happen for you because you’re a blood-hungry maniac. You monster.
This is one of the many examples about how you’ll be changing the world.
It’s also how Sony Online Entertainment is changing MMOs.
And I haven't even talked about EverQuest Landmark, the toolkit that allows players to build their own content.