Preview: EverQuest Next will change the way you play an MMO
The future of EverQuest, and online gaming in general, is ever-changing environments, emergent AI, and multi-classed characters. This is according to Sony Online Entertainment who today revealed two new EverQuest games: EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next Landmark.
SOE has the grand new vision for the MMO game space, one which provides the answer to many of today's MMO failures: players consuming content faster than developers can create it.
EverQuest Next creates a living world that players are part of, meaning their actions will ultimately impact the world around them. Every piece of the world in EQ Next is destructible. Built using the combination of voxel technology and a heavily modified version of the engine powering PlanetSide 2, players can reshape the very ground they fight on. Spells will blow gaping holes in the floor, sending enemies tumbling into the depths below, while swinging a blade can tear apart crumbling walls. It's not just about changing the environment, though. The design allows for the creation of underground levels layered one beneath the other, where procedurally generated ruins provide new questing opportunities.
While the concept is intriguing, one can't help but wonder how SOE will combat intentional griefers. I can just imagine fighting a really though enemy just to have some punk run by and blow a hole right where I, or the monster, are standing.
Permanent change in the environment isn't strictly limited to destruction. Players, creatures, and NPCS can work together to build city walls which, in turn, can also be destroyed. SOE promises large-scale wars and epic stories which will unfold over months and even years -- all of it changing the world around you.
As for gameplay, EQ Next ditches the traditional class system as well as the dreaded leveling system that results in hours and hours of grinding. Instead, the game offers 40 distinct classes or professions (this is at launch, mind you), with multi-tiered abilities and specialized weapon skills. Although 40 classes are available in the game, you only start off with 8 available; you must discover the rest of them. And when you find them, you don't just pick one skill and stick with that. EQ Next is all about the customization, allowing you to mix and match abilities from each class. As someone tired of the traditional class system in MMOs, this is easily my most anticipated feature.
Customization isn't strictly limited to your class, however. The game will remember your every choice and action and will organically create opportunities and tasks that are focused more on the types of things you like to do. Say, for instance, you like crafting; EQ Next will remember this and offer you more crafting quests.
The (seemingly) last draw of EQ Next is what SOE is calling emergent AI. NPCs have specific motivations and preferences that direct behavior "in nuanced and unpredictable ways." NPCs decisions are based on "core values," meaning Orcs may attack opportunistically -- because they want your gold -- rather than because they were programmed too (or because you walk within a certain distance of them).
EverQuest Next does not yet have a release date, but SOE is following a "multi-phase" release strategy with the game. EverQuest Next Landmark, which you can read more about here, will be available this winter and will serve as a gateway to EQN and "as the collaborative building hub where SOE will guide the development of selected structures and environments for inclusion in EQ Next."