Call it what you want--revolutionary, evolutionary, a game changer--but EverQuest Next established itself as The Game to Watch when Sony Online Entertainment revealed it on Friday, August 2nd at SOE Live. Our community site for all things EverQuest, EQHammer, has already published mountains of coverage from the event with more incoming. I thought IÂd kickstart your EQN addiction by telling you a bunch of stuff you need to know. Knowledge is a gateway drug, so read on and get hooked.
#1 - This is not EverQuest 3.
ThereÂs a reason that EverQuest Next is not named EverQuest 3 -- it was specifically designed to use EverQuestÂs rich lore, classes and history in an entirely new way. SOE didnÂt just put a different spin on the tired mechanics weÂve seen in MMORPGs for the past 15 years, it got rid of some entirely, tossed the rest in a blender with some completely fresh ingredients, and whipped up a radically different and delicious MMO margarita. WeÂre going to be drinking this stuff for years to come. Drink responsibly, people; this is the EverCrack for the new paradigm.
For some classic EQ and EQ2 players, the response to EQ Next might be less, ÂShut up and take my moneyÂ and more ÂShove it where it ainÂt sunny,Â but you canÂt please everyone. And IÂm betting on the likelihood of all but the most curmudgeonly of the curmudgeons being won over eventually.
#2 - Two games are better than one!
One new game is awesome, but two new games? ThatÂs mind blowing. And thatÂs what youÂll be getting next from the EverQuest franchise. A few months back, SOE president John Smedley teased EQ fans by saying that theyÂd get to see what the team was working on Âlater this year, and I donÂt mean beta.Â What he was referring to was EverQuest Next Landmark. Although we donÂt have a definite launch date yet, we know that SOE plans to launch Landmark this winter.
What is Landmark? EQHammer has a detailed article. Basically, think Minecraft on meth. (Have I made too many drug analogies? I swear to the gods that I barely even drink.) SOE decided to take the suite of tools that theyÂre using in-house to terraform EQNext and put them in the hands of players. WhatÂs cool is that the tools are incredibly powerful without the mind-bending complexity that normally comes with 3D modeling. Players will be able to create a character, go out into the world, explore the landscape, discover materials and crafting recipes, stake a claim and then start building. SOE plans to have certain areas where they will strictly enforce the art direction and invite players to actually participate in the building of Norrath by creating and submitting their designs. Take a look at the power of Landmark's toolset in action.
On top of all this, through SOEÂs Player Studio feature, builders can create assets to sell to other players on the marketplace for real cash. You might create an awesome tower, for instance, that you package up for the Player Studio marketplace. Imagine that someone else purchases your tower (you get some cash for that), and then uses it to create an awesome castle that he, in turn, puts up on the marketplace. Every time someone purchases his castle, youÂll get some royalties. Cha-ching!
#3 - Say goodbye to static classes and hello to multi-classing.
EverQuest Next will launch with 8 starting classes, and each class will have a couple of weapons from which players can choose, along with a handful of character abilities. Through exploration and adventuring, youÂll come across opportunities to pick up new classes. There are more than 40 classes out in Norrath for you to find. In an interview with Ten Ton HammerÂs Sardu, Creative Director Jeff Butler said that players should look at EQNextÂs class advancement system Âmore from a collectible standpointÂ than the EQ franchiseÂs previous class advancement system, where you played a static class and customized it with Alternate Advancement. He pointed out that if a player wanted to play a pure class, and not get involved in multi-classing at all, they could do that and fully enjoy the experience. He described multi-classing as optional, but never required. We have lots more questions about classes, so keep an eye peeled on EQHammer for more interviews from SOE Live coming soon.
#4 - There are no levels.
EQNext is a great big sandbox with multi-classing and abilities and weapons galore, but no little blue (or gold) bubbles serving as dangling carrots. Presumably, there are other more tasty carrots to be discovered. WeÂll let you know when we know more about progression.
#5 - Your weapons matter.
Similar to Guild Wars 2, your characterÂs abilities will change depending on what weapon youÂre holding. ÂTheyÂre one of the class-defining things in the game,Â said EQ franchise Director of Development, Dave Georgeson, during the EverQuest Next world debut. So, not only are there 40-plus classes to mix and match from, but each class will have a couple of weapons that allow players to change up their characterÂs play style.
#6 - You can blow shit up.
ÂWe wanted you to be able to blow up anything, anytime, anywhere,Â said Georgeson. The world is made out of tiny bits called voxels (the same bits youÂll be manipulating when youÂre building with Landmark.) And what can be built... can also be destroyed. This plays out in some cool ways in game. Not only can players dig for building and crafting materials or knock down walls, they can destroy objects strategically in combat. Are there dozens of kobolds charging toward you across a bridge? No problem; destroy that sucker and watch them plummet to their doom. But donÂt worry, the world eventually heals after youÂve torn it apart, and only some changes (namely the ones SOE wants to happen) are permanent. Here's a glimpse of the destructibility in action.
#7 - Norrath is like an onion -- it has layers.
What you see on the surface of Norrath is just the beginning. There are layers of depth for players to uncover and explore, thanks to the destructible world. ÂYou donÂt have to wait for us to reveal [the world] to you,Â says Georgeson, ÂYou can just grab a pick and start making a tunnel.Â As you explore through these layers, youÂll trigger events or quest opportunities and even, occasionally, earthquakes. What is destroyed can be recreated in new ways, so that the world is constantly changing and players are constantly finding new content, not waiting on some expansion pack to open up a new area. Underground caverns, magma chambers... itÂs all there waiting to be discovered.
#8 - The AI is watching you.
EverQuest Next has what SOE is calling Âemergent AI.Â Thanks to their collaboration with Storybricks, NPCs in EQNext will react to your behavior in game, as well as the behaviors of other players.
ÂAs you play this game, youÂre going to be making decisions,Â says Georgeson. ÂAnd those decisions will have consequences. What that means is the game is remembering everything you did, and itÂs reacting. The different NPCs, what quest opportunities are available, all those things are reacting to you based on what you have done.Â
Imagine the Crushbone orcs. TheyÂre mean, greedy, and they dislike cities where theyÂre likely to get their asses handed to them by guards and groups of adventurers. They do like lonely stretches of road where they can jump a lone traveler, beat him up, and steal his stuff. Instead of setting up a static spawn camp that will burp out a new group of orcs a few minutes after the last group was killed, EverQuest Next will drop orcs into the world at large and let them do their thing based on their wants and needs. Perhaps the orcs will search out that lonely stretch of road and set up camp. But should that road become less hospitable -- should players alert the guards or begin harassing the orcs -- they might pull up stakes and move on. This means that the world is constantly changing, even in relatively small ways, as a result of player activity.
#9 - You can change the world. Permanently.
Through a mechanism called Rallying Calls, EQNext players can actually affect much larger, permanent change on the world of Norrath. HereÂs an example:
LetÂs say adventurers have been given a directive from the Combine Accord asking them to go out into the world and rebuild the city of Halas. (Yep, certain beloved cities wonÂt exist in EQNext until you band with other adventurers to raise them up.) The Rallying Call invites everyone in the game to join in the process (although you can ignore it at your whim if thatÂs how you roll), and it can take up to a couple of months of real time for the task to be accomplished. But players wonÂt know what events will trigger the story to move forward; theyÂll need to discover them on their own. This means that progress on any Rallying Call will look different on every server.
During a Rallying Call, players might find themselves doing things like gathering resource materials, or venturing out to explore the nearby areas and pacify any threats. LetÂs say that, during your attempts to tamp down the local goblin threat, you piss off the goblins and they begin burning down your outlying villages. (Whoops!) The next stage of the event might have you building stone walls to keep those pyromaniac bastards from incinerating your town. And you may also have raised the ire of the goblin king, who might go out and make some allies and raise an army to siege your keep, the final stage in the Rallying Call. This will open up even more new quest opportunities such as defending the walls, destroying catapults, or thwarting saboteurs. Eventually, the player community will defeat the threat, and a new Rallying Call will roll out somewhere else in the world. Halas will have become a permanent structure... unless SOE should see fit to destroy it again sometime in the future.
The world will be changing so much as you play that it will be virtually impossible to recreate your gameplay experiences should you roll a new alt. When friends join you on your server months after launch, youÂll be able to say things like, ÂBack in my day, Halas didnÂt even exist!Â
#10 - SOE is serious about an Âopen development process.Â
Through a program theyÂre calling Round Table, SOE intends to engage the community and involve them in the process of building EverQuest Next. They absolutely want to hear what players want from the game, and theyÂre listening to ideas and criticisms. Rather than keeping their development process top secret, theyÂll be asking for your input, so go participate.
According to the official EverQuest Next site, "Landmark is scheduled to launch this winter and EverQuest Next is still in the early stages of development with no announcement date set." Although youÂll be applying for beta in both games, weÂre going to go ahead and assume that folks will be getting into Landmark first. And, since itÂs scheduled to release this winter, that beta should be happening soonish. So, go ahead and apply for the EverQuest Next beta, then cross your fingers and wait for that invite.