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This Could Change Everything - Dave Georgeson Talks SOEmote and EverQuest Next

Updated Thu, Jun 21, 2012 by B. de la Durantaye

If you haven't heard about Sony Online Entertainment's new SOEmote, you're missing out. This new bit of tech may not be aimed to change the way people play games but it certainly promises to add a fun new dimension to online worlds.

EverQuest franchise Executive Producer demonstrating SOEmote (with a silly face)

What is SOEmote? Partnered with Image Metrics for facial recognition and Vivox for voice fonts, SOEmote is integrated software that scans your face using your PC camera and translates your facial actions to your character in-game. Turning your head, raising your eyebrows, even moving your eyes and speaking in front of your camera animates your game character with the same movements. Best of all: the technology is going to be introduced to EverQuest II within a month and SOE has even bigger plans for SOEmote with later games, including the upcoming 3rd EverQuest game (as of yet unnamed, but codenamed EverQuest 'Next' by the gaming community).

We spoke with EverQuest Executive Producer Dave Georgeson about the science behind the device and how SOE plans to not necessarily change how we play games, but certainly how we experience them. Having come from a roleplaying background himself, it is no surprise Georgeson expressed excitement for video-game roleplayers.

Roleplaying Heaven

"We're starting with just a small portion of what we'll eventually be able to do," Georgeson told us. "Right now the camera can read up to 30 degrees and be able to read movements up to 10 feet away. We will be able to open that to 60 degrees. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. We want to expand this to be able to track hand and body movement. It will be like you have your own private motion capture studio where you can save your own emotes. Roleplaying heaven!" Georgeson also indicated that it's not outside the realm of possibility to use this software to "implant" your own face and features onto your in-game character, bringing a whole new dimension to character creation.

"Body language breaks down walls you didn't know were there," Georgeson continued. "Once you have the ability to convey your body language and facial expressions into a game you open up a whole new level of interaction... Every roleplaying game needs to have this feature... and they will!" he predicted.

The Tech

Adding an extra few degrees of depth to roleplaying and social interaction isn't the only potential application of SOEmote. Georgeson went on to explain that this technology could even be used to monitor a player's pupil dilation. This kind of involuntary feedback could eventually change the very way games are built.

SOEmote uses minimal bandwidth and can be configured with a single click. The software has the ability to scan up to 5000 points on the human face and selectively transmit far fewer for purposes of speed. During the demo even though the entire face was being scanned only the eyebrows, eyes and mouth movements were transferred to the game.

Although SOEmote doesn't require expensive hardware Georgeson did point out that some cameras work better than others. At time of launch SOE will have a list of recommended cameras. And although the camera will scan the face, no likeness of a person is transmitted anywhere--it's simply a stream of data containing facial points, or dots, so the privacy risk is minimal.

EQ Next Concept

Screenshot of EQ 'Next' as seen at SOE Fan Faire 2010

And Onto EverQuest 'Next'

Our minds began to wander as we started thinking about different ways SOEmote could be used. We thought about entire new breeds of machinima and the potential of "virtual celebrities" (those who excelled at acting via proxy), and then onto how motion capture could be used to even cast spells if applied.

"Wait until you see spellweaving in the next EverQuest," Georgeson teased. "I've said too much but you've never played a game like it. I can promise you that.

"We have two EverQuest games we can already use as testbeds for what we plan on with the next one. While we're doing that we're putting a huge focus on storytelling over the next year. We want characters to become memorable parts of the story arcs. We want to bring back the world to virtual worlds. This is a re-imagined Norrath. Think of the EverQuest games as three separate universes--a multiverse."

As of yet relatively little is known about the next EverQuest, but now that we knew SOE is planning on integrating SOEmote and focusing their energies on making the new game a breathing world as opposed to the standard online games we see in many of today's MMOs we asked Georgeson when they were planning on revealing more.

"We need to finish up with the Destiny of Velious stuff in EverQuest II first," he responded. "We have a very specific plan for the reveal and until the vision can be realized we won't reveal much more about it. We have four pillars to overcome. We've just gotten over one and a half now. But expect more next year. " Georgeson then smiled mischievously and laughed, pulling back a bit. "I just can't wait to show you guys."

The first taste of SOEmote will be introduced to EverQuest II by July. EverQuest III, or EQ 'Next' will have to wait. In the meantime, grab a camera and get ready to put your game face on... or 'in' as the case may be.

This is pretty damn cool

2 corrections for you B. de la Durantaye.

1. The gaming community did not codename it Everquest Next, SOE did, it is how they announced it.

2. The screenshot is from 2010 fan Faire not 2011. in 2011 they premiered forgelight and the red faced man screenshot, they also sped past 3 newer screenshots that the one posted was not included in.

I only posted this here because i saw no way to contact you.

Ah, you are right! 2010 was the Fan Faire. Thanks for the tip; I have made the correction.

In regards to the codename, Rich Waters had first used the term "EverQuest 'Next'" when he was referring to the future of the IP in the 10th Anniversary book. This hadn't, at the time, been intended as a code name but as it was the first anyone had heard about it, it caught on.

So I guess it's really a point of view thing. But we can also consider game developers as part of the gaming community (and a rather important one at that) so I went with that.

Thanks for the feedback!

It's a shame that most Euor players will not touch EQ next. I was looking forward to EQ Next, but myself and many others will never touch another SOE game again after they have sold us off. Just beware ever buy one of their games, you have been warned.

Warned of what? They did what exactly to the so called Euro?

pretty sure that froglok SS is EQII btw

pretty sure that froglok SS is EQII btw

It is a eq2 SS. It wasn't being represented as anything else.

You lost that immersion feel because you're playing WoW.

100% agreed ^

EQ was an amazing experience on all fronts. I have enjoyed many other MMO's but nothing compares to my original EQ experience.

I miss my Iksar Monk--- Chaot Bekloppt (Valon Zek)

you know the games free right? just go back

its the only game that shows any promise of going back to the immersion exploration era that was EQ and DAoC not to mention they have a combat system noones ever seen and dont tell me its like TES cuz you have hp stamina and magicka those are just resources lots of games had stamina SWG DAoC EQ to name a few and its REAL TIME thats dope

they also have intelligent AI

If it's anything like EQ1 was in the early days it will be epic. If they take too much from EQ2 it will fail.

I was a huge fan of EQ1 and that is where i broke into the MMO scene at. It was intense difficult and mean to you all at the same time but you always went back and played it for hours. Now i went one a 7 year break from any MMO and then a buddy try to get me to play WOW so i did and this is what i found a game that catered to casual players and basically anyone in the world can make it to the end game. Well i was alright until i made it to the end game then i was purely bored with myself. Waiting for instances to be unlocked to run them again and having nothing to do in the meantime bc the games has no depth unless you wanted to run around working on nerd points which gets you nothing. So i went back and thought well lets give EQ2 a shot i went played and i have went a little ways into it and the thing i have found is that there is more depth to the game than WOW has due to the AA system and just how the character class makeups are. EQ still to me has some of that if you play casually it will take you a long time to get anywhere and if you are a hardcore gamer you will still have some difficulty also where as what i found out with WOW was you will just be able to waltz around and blast everything bc god forbid something being difficult. That is just my opinion of how my outlook is on the games. As for EQ next the emotes are a great idea to incorporate but i feel a focus needs to be made on game play and how intense and immense the game will be. I will be sad if it turns out to be Just Another MMO.

All this effort, technology, and manpower.... just to make your frog smile.

Really?

When are gamers going to stop being suckers for trite bs like this, seriously!?

When is SOE going to stop throwing more and more dook on their franchises and and try to recapture what made EQ1 succesful to begin with instead of masking crap productivity with bells and whistles?

So stupid...

Work on the game! Not a stupid smile ffs!

How are the two mutually exclusive. There are so many working parts to MMO development. The team that works on facial animations is different from the team that works on weapon animations and the team that works on questing ect.

It's very easy to throw vitriol around decrying things like this, but it in no means hampers the development of any other part of the game.

As G.I. Joe would say; Knowing is half the battle.

Most people can chew gum and walk at the same time.

It would be cooler if this facial recognition software doubled as a biometric layer to authenticating the player's credentials. I would certainly find that a great deal more useful than this role-playing gimmick. However, despite my pessimism I can see the effort and skill required to develop this software. I will be the first to say it is very thoughtful of SOE's developers to find new and interesting ways to bring us joy in our MMO play.

Personally I am not excited about any new MMO titles anymore. I highly doubt that any company can bring back the nostalgia of EQ 1 for the few that did actually play it. I've played EQ 1, 2, WoW, Rift, and SWTOR to date. Each game offered it's own versions of a new experience, but none of them will ever offer the nostalgia of EQ 1. Elder Scrolls online or the third installment of the Everquest franchise will likely bring new ideas and innovations to the MMO market. Beyond the first six months for these titles, I wouldn't expect veteran MMO players to stick around too long after the content runs out.

Let's Hope that SOE will be gladly think of the Mac OS market.

I'm an old EQ 1 player. I've been playing from 1999 to 2003, it was an excellent time since I don't regret all the fun I had there.

But now I'm not on Windows anymore. Some great games have been running on Mac OS, I won't name them. But I've been playing EverQuest on Mac also and what I'd regret is not being able to play EverQuest Next on Mac OS if the game's going to be nice.

I so hope they make it mac compatible , and not wait years after to make a crappy port, hope they make it like what bliz did, mac/windows and not a Mac server etc like what they did..

PLEASE MAKE IS MAC compatible!

the problem with all mmo's since eq1 are you lvl way to fast. one thing i liked about eq1 was lets says you bought or got a nice weapon that dropped and since it took so long to lvl a\you actully got to use it for more than one hour. i remember having some weapons for many weeks, and reaching lvl 20 was a big deal cause you then were able to get a surname that had to be ok'd by a gm. people and kids of today want everything now fast and easy as in a Microwave Game.. i dont wanna be out of content and at top lvl in 3 weeks. in eq1 you could travel to many other player cities and hunt many areas and dungeons. in games now your lvl just for saying high to the guy with a ? above his head and you outy lvl most other starting areas and mid lvl areas without ever leaving your races area.

Someone hire this dude immediately for the next big MMO. I want my old-school leveling where its actually an accomplishment to even hit level 20 (hell, I could say the same thing almost for DAoC, just not as slow nowadays).

It also lets players customize their voices with a filter called Voice Font. All this was meant to make the game more immersive, but even if it doesn’t, it sure sounds like plenty of fun to mess around with, as you can see .

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