From the very outset, it was clear that SOE is looking to do something altogether different than what’s been seen in traditional MMOGs with EverQuest Next. As we’ve seen over the course of the past year, SOE has also proven that it isn’t afraid to look outside of the MMO box for inspiration when it comes to making a truly next generation game.
One needs look no further than the world building influences on Landmark, or the zombie-themed survival horror influences on H1Z1 to see working models of this approach in action.
Apart from the ongoing lore series and a handful of concept art reveals, EverQuest Next has essentially been black boxed since its world reveal at SOE Live 2013. At this year’s E3 the title was nowhere to be seen; a sharp contrast to the previous year when we were among a select few media outlets given an early preview of the game.
Of the many topics addressed during SOE Live last year, it was noted that SOE would be handling the concept of character classes quite differently with Next. While a number of EverQuest originals and staples are slated to be among the mix, it was announced that EQNext would feature over 40 distinct classes.
Rampant Speculation on Monetization
Classes in EQNext will be more finite than what we’re used to in other games. While it’s been said that you will be able to play something like a pure necromancer, for example, the idea is that players will want to collect numerous classes. Each of these classes will essentially expand your available options to allow for multi-classing instead of having to role a number of alts should you desire a change of pace or want to try out different roles in combat.
Before I proceed, please note that what follows is purely speculation on my part. It is entirely possible that my theorycrafting is the polar opposite of what we’ll see implemented in the live game for EverQuest Next. For that matter, I may be proven wrong as soon as next week during SOE Live 2014, though nearly a full year of silence does tend to breed speculation in the meantime.
At the start of this article, I noted two examples of titles currently in development by SOE that display clear signs of being influenced by non-MMOGs. I believe the same will hold true of the class system in EverQuest Next, with the main influencer being an altogether different genre of social online gaming: MOBAs (or, to a lesser degree, action RPGs).
League of Legends (LoL) and Marvel Heroes (MH) represent an interesting avenue of monetization in online gaming. By monetizing their games on a distinct character or class-based level, Riot and Gazillion have proven that gamers are more than willing to pay real cash for this type of unlock.
While I’m not much of a LoL player, I have spent a sizable chunk of time playing Marvel Heroes. In that game I’ve unlocked the vast majority of playable heroes through a combination of in-game unlock mechanics and direct purchases. While I don’t necessarily have the time to fully level and spec out every single character I’ve unlocked to date, I do enjoy having so many options at my disposal.
With that in mind, I won’t be terribly surprised if a certain number of playable classes in EverQuest Next are unlocked in a similar fashion. As with both of the above examples, players will likely gain immediate access to a certain number of classes. From there, we are likely to see something closer to the MH model where there is that combination of in-game unlocks, and cash purchases for new classes.
Pros and Cons of Monetizing Classes
There are, of course, various pros and cons to this approach should SOE be considering monetization of character classes in EverQuest Next.
In the case of LoL and similar MOBAs, injecting new characters on a frequent basis can be a good means of circumventing the ongoing need to balance a finite list of classes like we see in most MMOGs. The meta is constantly shifting so players need to adapt to changing conditional factors rather than spend too much time stressing over DPS algorithms. Mind you, they still do that too, but that’s just the nature of competitive-minded gamers.
With Marvel Heroes, the addition of new heroes is – among other things – a means of keeping the game vital, and broadening the appeal for gamers interested in playing specific favorites from the massive Marvel roster. It’s also worth mentioning that each max level character you have in MH makes successive leveling curves faster so that it takes less and less time to level up when you unlock or purchase a new hero.
Mind you, in both of the above cases each character or hero is a self-contained unit. While MH contains features that carry over between individual heroes, each hero levels up independently, and has its own skill trees and itemization.
Heroes are one of the many items regularly on sale in Marvel Heroes, as seen in the recent "Galactic Blowout" tie-in with Guardians of the Galaxy shown above.
Purchasable character class unlocks in EverQuest Next would be fundamentally different due to the ability to multi-class. Should SOE go this route, it will no doubt have a large mountain to climb in terms of assuring gamers that buying a class unlock is not equivalent to buying power. Chances are, purchased classes would be treated as “sidegrades” similar to the systems seen in PlanetSide 2.
Horizontal progression is indeed becoming more of a staple in online gaming, as more developers are finally tuning into why it has worked so well for both Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 for so long. While GW2 may not factor in full classes into this schema, it has had new skills and traits added post-launch. While on a much smaller scale, these additions also help prove the point that introducing new combat options helps keep gameplay vital without being tethered to item-based progression grinds.
Speculation Achievement Unlocked?
While we don’t know what will be discussed about EverQuest Next during SOE Live 2014, we do know that the extended silence surrounding the game will be broken to an as-of-yet unknown degree. While classes aren’t specifically listed as a focus topic during any of the panels on the official event schedule, we’ll do our best to work the class system in EverQuest Next into any interviews we’re able to arrange for the game.
In the meantime, be sure to share your thoughts on the subject below. Would you be in favor of purchasable classes in EverQuest Next, or would you prefer that SOE avoids classes as a vehicle for monetization at all costs? Let us know in the handily placed comments!