Everquest Next – after watching the full reveal

Today i watched the full reveal presentation of Everquest, so i am able to share some new opinions. Of course, the professional bloggers i linked to yesterday did a very good job of summarizing what’s been shown to their readers. I’d like to take what Dave Georgeson called the four holy grails of EQ Next.

Changing the core game: In this part, Georgeson talked about the EQ Next Multiclass system where every class has different abilities with each weapon (we know that 4 abilities are determined by the weapon you choose) and choice of class skills (the other 4 abilities in your build). It seems they wanted a change from playing Dungeons and Dragons with levelups, skilltrees and so on to a new, broader way of being able to multiclass and finding classes and skills in the world.

There is really not much new to that- we have that, as Bhagpuss wrote on Inventory Full, we have this weapon/multiclass system in TSW, GW2 and Rift to some extent, the skill collection was a part of Guild Wars 1 many players enjoyed. I mean, sure, why not build up on something not-so-new-but-rare and make it work better? Not saying this is a bad thing, i like it actually.

What i don’t like so much is the low counts of usable abilities right now. Four are used by your weapon, another four are free to build. I assume there’ll be passive abilities, as well, and i sure hope they are designed more alike to TSW than to GW2.

Destructibility: The voxel thing. So battles leave their marks on the environment- and the environment “heals” with time. That’s a nice gimmick which makes its way up to a nice feature when combined with the procedurally generated underworld. I like to sway around while playing- just now i only wanted to kill 10 rats, when i pounded one of them through the floor of the basement they dwell in and happened on a underworldy dungeon. That’s a real nice feature for me. Also, the fights feel very much alive.

A life of consequence: Now, that’s cryptic. Here’s talk about the mob AI- that they’re armed with likes and dislikes and might move around under certain circumstances instead of spawning on the same spot every time.

I think that’s a double-edged sword here. First of all, this could be some kind of hyperbole. Like i wrote yesterday, Guild Wars 2 described a quite similar scenario, although they didn’t hide that these movements and changes are part of a scripted experience aka dynamic event. If every mob has these likes & dislikes and moves around, this could lead to some very dynamic events- and this time for real. If SOE is bold enough to make strong mobs move around, we could see the end of level zones (EQ Next doesn’t seem to have levels, but TSW doesn’t have them, either. Try going to Egypt after the tutorial.) and the return of something nice: danger. It would be nice to be surprised by a mob too strong for me and having to run away. The last time that happened to me and caught me by surprise was with Vanguards free-roaming elite mobs.

Permanent Change: What we have here is the public quest/living story thing. So there are these rallying calls where the players have to do something- for example build up a village. There are crafting tasks as well as fighting tasks to be performed. These rallying calls take up to several months of real time to finish by the playerbase and once a rallying call is finished, its results stay in the world.

I like that idea. Yes, it might be only a crossover of public quests and living story, but at least SOE seems to be willing to make the happening event (living story) have something to do with what’s done (public quest) instead of making people grind minigames.

However, i like the look of EQ Next- the stylized graphics look just fine and work better for me than, say, Vanguard’s and EQ2’s style- especially considering their character models.

Now, there’s just one question- where did they hide the sandbox? I’m sure what they presented could be one, but they didn’t make it clear where to find it. The combat looks nice, the world with its day/night cycle as well, and if they incorporate many choices in their permanent change and consequence- parts and really enable players to go where they want and stick to their preferred play-style it could work out well. But they didn’t make it clear, in my opinion. There’s just this one thing…

Everquest Next Landmark. I’ll just go ahead and summarize it as “Minecraft as a MMO” here, as i’m sure you read about it- if you didn’t, there’s a good article over at Massively.

Now, that’s a sandbox. Players are able to build what they want, there’s an added social layer, even guilds and there seems to be some kind of adventuring. But in essence, it seems to be the game for crafters.

All in all, i’m still looking forward to their intentions in regards to crafting and player-driven economy, and i still hold to the assumption that SOE got their hands on something great- but i still feel what we know is a little hollow. If we define “sandbox”- and we could define this term in one thousand ways- with the words “driven by player-to-player interactions”, then we still don’t know much about EQN being the big new shiny sandbox MMO.

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