No date for release, but it has been confirmed for the PS4.
Here's what is known so far (summarized by Massively.com)
- Free to Play
- Terrain Deformation
- Emergent Gameplay
- Huge Player Interaction With The World
What is EverQuest Next? While we can't see the whole picture, here are the (public!) pieces of the EQN puzzle that we have so far.
At SOE Live 2012, the upcoming game was revealed to be a sandbox by none other than SOE CEO John Smedley himself. Since then, he's talked about the how the game has tools for players to shape the living, breathing world around them. While this news isn't exactly detailed, it does lay the foundation for what players can expect.
Do tools to shape this world include crafting? Yes. At PAX East, Franchise Director Dave Georgeson described his pet theory that crafters are the glue of MMOs. He told us, "You can pretty much assume that there will be a strong backbone in EQ Next for those players." And bringing Emily "Domino" Taylor (known for her work expanding the crafting system in EverQuest II) on board as producer for EQ Next helped cement that idea that crafting would be integral.
What about the living, breathing world part? Smedley noted, "We're changing what AI is in these games to a degree that we're going to bring life to the world. That to us is the essence of the change that we're making." Earlier this year, we learned that the team behind Storybricks, a developing game with revolutionary AI that responds to individual players, is collaborating on EQN.
What else do we know? In that same PAX East interview, Georgeson said he felt that SOE was already tipping its hand somewhat with what has been added to EQ and EverQuest II. He elaborated by noting that features like Player Studio and SOEmote will be a part of the sandbox. We also have the confirmation that the sandbox will follow the rest of SOE's portfolio and be free-to-play.
Visually, we've also been treated to two bits of art to give us a glimpse of the game: the first, a texture-less and colorless character model, and the second, the official concept painting. Calm your shock about the size of the shoulderpads and such on the armor and remember that the concept paintings for the other two games were also just that -- concepts. In-game art is likely to vary just as it did for the other games.
And finally, we know that this year players will get more than just a peek at a demo at SOE Live; as Smedley has hinted, "Players will get their hands on an actual release version of what we're doing late [this] year -- and I don't mean a beta."
What EverQuest Next Isn’t:
- EverQuest 2
- MMO that you remember from years ago (nostalgia)
Although it's third in line in the EQ franchise, EverQuest Next is not a sequel. Both Smedley and Georgeson have spoken on multiple occasions about how the EQN versions that were originally turning out more like EQ 2.5 or EQ III were scrapped. Even the title itself, EverQuest Next, draws focus away from the game's being just a rehash of its predecessors. In the aforementioned PAX East interview, Georgeson teased us with the line that EverQuest Next is "an MMO you've never played before" -- that it's "a completely different critter."
In that light, will this next version sound the death knell for EQ and EQII? Even before EQN's big screenshot-blowing-up reveal at the convention, Georgeson addressed this concern by assuring that "EQN is not being designed to replace those games." And when I talked with him at SOE Live 2012, he reaffirmed that stance, pointing out that the newest sibling to the franchise is such a different game and fans are so loyal to their respective games that there is little worry of a mass migration.
One exciting feature that has been suggested is how alive the NPC's and quests will seem because of the integration of StoryBrick technology. Read about it in this article:
Sadly, the news is pretty much summed up right there in that one sentence; we don't have any more details to revel in and no time frame for getting more (well, other than SOE Live, of course!). But when has a lack of specifics derailed fan excitement about an upcoming game? Well we may not have definitive details, but using what we know about Storybricks, we can certainly speculate on what the relationship between the two means for Norrath's next incarnation.
And if there was ever a relationship I was happy to see, it's Storybricks and EverQuest Next's.
At the end of last year, I was the lucky one who nabbed the chance to reveal Storybricks' dev diary regarding bringing NPCs to life. I remember well the words resonating with me as I read through it. Starting off as a tabletop payer before I was introduced to (and fell madly in love with) MMORPGs, I could totally related to ideas espoused in it. I thought longingly how it would be awesome if a game managed to incorporate those ideas. And now, those ideas might be coming to EverQuest Next? Be still my heart!
Now you might be thinking, what's the big deal? Well, let me tell you why: Exciting innovation is not yet dead in MMO development!
If you're suddenly envisioning Frankenstein's monster rising from the table, an animated being instead of an inanimate object, then you're on the right track to understand what the big deal is about Storybricks. In a nutshell, Storybricks devs expressed their intent to create the illusion of life in MMORPGs by putting the intelligence in Artificial Intelligence. In the dev blog, Brian Green and Stéphane Bura detailed the ideas of bringing NPCs to life in such a way that players could experience roleplay with them just as they could with GM-controlled NPCs in tabletop games.
Imagine coming across an NPC who doesn't just stand there and blandly roll through the same text player after player after player. Instead, the NPC interacts with folks on an individual basis, adapting to the choices and needs -- and even emotions -- of the one currently standing there. Now add in a memory; yes, the NPC remembers past experiences with the individual player and draws on past interactions to guide current ones. Pretty innovative, right? But it doesn't end there.
Not only does your relationship as a player affect your exchange with the NPC, but the NPC's personal life does as well. Wait, what?! Yes, my friends; Storybricks proposed that AI should have a genuine life outside the confines of PC interaction. Here's how devs put it:
Just think of interacting on a personal level with some of your favorite personalities in Norrath when they actually have a personality!
What's my line?
If there is anything the EverQuest franchise is known for, it's for the quests. Lots of quests. So even if an EQ sequel were morphed into a sandbox, you'd expect there to be quests, right? I mean, it's in the name, for Luclin's sake! But questing is a decidedly non-sandboxy endeavor. So how do you reconcile the seemingly diametrically opposed ideals of sandbox and questing? Storybricks' answer is first to bring the NPCs to life, then allow players to interact naturally with them.
The idea is that just as your relationship with the NPC is unique, so, too, is your dialogue. Forget canned responses where players select a pre-scripted line that might best suit their needs; in fact, just throw scripts out the window completely. Instead, convey your wants and needs by actually communicating, and then NPCs respond in like manner. Questing takes on sandbox elements when it ditches the script and becomes improv instead.
Let's hear it for the RP!
Another thing that has me personally very excited hinges on a single line at the beginning of that dev diary, the one introducing the "why we do what we do" part: "Storybricks was founded to bring the core of the roleplaying experience to MMOs." The Storybricks crew's reason for existence was to put the RPG back into MMORPGs.
As a roleplayer, I can't not be stoked to hear a company place RP at the forefront of design. For many games, roleplay features are an afterthought -- if they're included at all! And now this company is partnering with EQ Next. I am hopeful that the design philosophy carries over. After all, partners in a relationship do influence one another.
Last EverQuest is best
Now, take all of that from Storybricks and insert it into Norrath. Can you just imagine how this would seriously bring that already lore-filled virtual world to life? If so, then you can see why the sight of Storybricks and EQ Next holding hands elicits squeals of delight! It would most certainly make for a more deeply engaging sandbox experience than can be found in any other MMO out there.
Think about it. With the elements that Storybricks espouses, EverQuest Next would be a world where your choices truly do matter, where action has consequences. Even how you talk to an NPC will influence what is available to you as you live your Norrathian life. A slip of the tongue could literally derail your plans, but perfectly placed words could reward you greatly. Just think of the possibilities.
Emergent gameplay. Innovative. Those words are some of the few we've ever heard regarding EQ Next. But if the game can incorporate these Storybricks elements, it will certainly fit that bill. And if EQ Next also includes some of the greatest elements from its predecessors like housing and player-created books, then the latest installment in the EverQuest franchise will certainly be the greatest.
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Anyways, first images are out:
Here is a good article summarizing a lot of the play mechanics:
It might have been just as risky for SOE not to change anything, but I’m happy that this is such an interesting risk. After the reveal at SOE Live in Las Vegas today, I met with Lead Designer Darrin McPherson and Creative Director Jeff Butler to get some insight on how everything will work.
PC Gamer: A lot of the questions being asked by the community are related to standard MMO stuff. For example, are there levels?
Darrin McPherson, Lead Designer: So our progression system is not based on levels, it’s based on tiers. There’s a shallow tier pool, because one of our focuses is on horizontal gameplay. We definitely have vertical gameplay, where a player increases in power in a particular class, but remember, there’s 40 classes. There’s a lot of classes out there to gain, and each one of these is advanced individually.
It’s based on player accomplishments. It’s not skill based, so you don’t have to use your mace over and over again to level your mace skill up. But your tier three warrior, in order to advance to tier four, has to collect a full suit of tier three armor. You have to have spent enough points in that class. You have to have accomplished a certain amount of things in the game in order to have advanced.
It’s not grinding XP. It’s not completing a thousand quests or whatever it is. That’s just not how it is. And we reward you with advancement in lots and lots of different ways. Whether it be participating in a Rallying Call, or doing quests, or engaging in any emergent AI that happens to be near you.
Are there base stats that characters start with?
McPherson: Yeah, we call those attributes. The attribute system is completely different in this game. So, instead of all of your equipment giving you attributes, attributes aren’t found on equipment. Attributes are very rare things that you can work tremendously hard to modify.
Giving yourself a point of strength means that maybe you jump higher, or really significantly cool things…and that’s one of the things you can progress and earn in the game.
Jeff Butler, Creative Director: They affect your gameplay. For everyone. So, strength can be important for even a wizard.
So it’s not a matter of increasing DPS?
Butler: Not merely a matter of increasing DPS.
McPherson: Not merely. It will, and those things help, but intelligence doesn’t just increase the DPS for a wizard. Intelligence might be really good because it lets you swing wider with your weapons, or something like that.
Butler: Intelligence might not be useless for a warrior.
McPherson: Absolutely, it won’t be. So that was one of our goals, that attributes are useful to everybody.
So how do you discover new classes in the world? Read a tome?
McPherson: In any number of ways. It could be that you need to go and help a hermit, who happens to be a high level wizard. He has issues, you need to help him, and he may have a storyline we have created for him, but the emergent AI in the surrounding area influences the majority of that, so it’s never the same content you have to go through.
Butler: There could be a class that’s unlocked by unlocking a combination of classes.
McPherson: Right, the assassin trainer won’t give you the class until you’re a really high level rogue and you’ve done a whole bunch of things. And the paladin for example, [Dave Georgeson, Director of Development] mentioned a life of consequence—if you haven’t been making the good choices and being an upright and justice influenced person, you can’t be a paladin. They won’t let you, because the game knows what you’re doing. So you have to live—in some of these classes, we restrict it to how you’ve been acting in the game.
Are there any really out there classes that you’ve designed or are thinking of?
McPherson: Oh, there’s definitely a lot we’ve been thinking about.
Butler: Out there classes, for sure. So, it’s not just that having a large number of classes gives you the opportunity to do that, but we’re avid game players. We have classes and archetypes from our favorite games in the past that we want to see living—we want to see our analogues of these character classes living in our own world.
McPherson: We’re not talking about a lot of the classes today…there’s obviously, as [David Georgeson] mentioned, the big number 40. There’s a lot of character classes out there.
A lot of people are interested in focusing in crafting. Can you tell us how it will work?
McPherson: So, we’re not ready to discuss the details of crafting, but we’re going to be playing in a very rich, deep world—as [David Georgeson] mentioned, you can take a weapon and make it out of multiple parts. And, the reason you want to make it out of multiple parts is because each character class, and each multiclass build, will have different requirements and different ways that you can augment and fine tune it. Weapons have a huge role in that. Armor has a huge role in that.
Butler: Weapons are actually recognizable, for instance. With acuity and experience in the game, I can look at your weapon and I can tell what its properties are, just by looking at it.
McPherson: I can go, ‘Oh, I see what you’ve done. You’ve made it out of this material.”
Butler: I think the thing that’s additionally, extremely relevant as far as crafting is concerned is that exploring through the world is, in itself, a kind of element of crafting. We’re digging, we’re building. If we want to cross a chasm, build a bridge.
McPherson: I can tell you one of the things you won’t be doing as a crafter, and that’s making the same thing over and over and over again to advance your skill. That’s not how it will work.
Butler: We don’t expect the need to build 10,000 rifle barrels to become a grandmaster.
McPherson: It’s not a skill-based system, it’s very much like the system of advancing your classes. We have multiple tiers. You begin digging, you explore and you find, and those things give you progression and advancement that can be spent on your crafter.
So, to advance your blacksmith, you don’t have to only create many items over and over again. That’s not the way it works.
Butler: Another great example, we could be here in this room right now and want to destroy things. We might be able to destroy the walls with the weapons and materials we have, but not the floor. But there’s probably something that can destroy the floor, and we have to craft it—get better materials, put them together, and then start chewing through the floor to see what’s underneath us.
McPherson: And because of the way our world works, resources—if you’re an MMO player, copper is the newbie metal, it’s the metal you find right outside the starting city and eventually you don’t need it anymore. Because of the way our game works, copper is always useful, because copper has specific qualities. Iron is always useful, mithril is always useful. All of these things are always useful to you, depending on what you want to make.
If you want to make a weapon that does electrical damage, or a weapon that is really good against undead, you need to find the right material to make it out of, and that could be any of the materials you find in the world.
So, to better understand the Rallying Calls, I wasn’t clear on some things with David Georgeson’s example: say you’ve built a big city, and built these stone walls around it, and now an army has come for a siege. Is that something that happens over a couple hours, or a week?
McPherson: That army siege lasts until the players on the server have completed that stage.
Butler: Think about it as if you’re playing the game as if it were a book. So, you’ve started a new chapter. In this chapter, the army has arrived to lay siege to your city. All the elements of the plot that you progress with, as the reader of the book, you’ll be progressing through those as a player in the game. There will be times where you need to be in the right place at the right time, and there will be situations that are drawn out over a longer period of time.
In general, Rallying Calls will be there, like a public quest, we intend for people to participate in them, right? So, simply defeating the enemy at the walls may be something that requires a day, two, may require a week. A siege implies that something would be fairly long lasting. A battle on the other hand [snaps fingers].
With the “emergent AI,” though, how can you maintain something indefinitely? If the army comes to attack, and is defeated outright in an hour or the players just ignore it, what then? Do you keep spawning enemies?
Butler: Until the things that spawn them are destroyed.
So, if orcs are released into the world and wander around looking for areas they like, they’re not coming from some point and spreading outward, they’re spawning from camps they set up?
McPherson: Right, perfect example. So in phase four of this Rallying Call, four large orc warband camps spawn in the hills. Those camps are literally swarming with orcs.
Butler: And they’re unassailable.
McPherson: Until you meet the requirements to move on to that next area and eliminate those. Then you and your army push past them and assault them in their homeland.
Butler: You try to fireball the palisade walls in the orc camps, but the fireball doesn’t take down the walls because you need catapults, because that’s what unlocks the next phase and gives you the ability to assault the camps directly.
So you build catapults. You and Darrin build a catapult, haul it out there and defend it while it’s lobbing rocks at the wall, and then you’ve contributed to your phase of a rallying call.
What happens if players don’t do any of this?
Butler: It’s simple, it doesn’t advance. So just like a chapter of a book, right? You’ve got your personal storyline, you’re playing through the game. Your personal contribution and the story that goes with it goes on at whatever pace you choose to pursue. The server has a storyline as well, expressed with these Rallying Calls. If players choose not to pursue them, the clock just doesn’t advance.
What’s the risk I take by pursuing them? If I’m killed, will I respawn nearby, or have to go collect my items from my corpse like back in the day?
McPherson: So, death penalty is not one of the things we’re ready to talk about yet, but there needs to be some amount of risk. There needs to be some amount of reward for doing hard things, and we’ll release more of that information in the future.
Here’s another from the community [thanks, Kristen]: will there be Frogloks?
Butler: Oh, too soon to say!
And are you talking about player housing yet?
McPherson: So, player housing in EverQuest Next is not something we’re talking about yet, but you can imagine, with Landmark and all the awesome building that will happen, what our player housing will be like in EverQuest Next.
Butler: The tool that we used to create the world is Landmark, right? So you have the same ability to build things that we do.
Los Angeles Lakers - 16 NBA Championships!
Los Angeles Lakers - 16 NBA Championships!
Los Angeles Lakers - 16 NBA Championships!
Buncha savages in this town.... - Clerks
Los Angeles Lakers - 16 NBA Championships!
Los Angeles Lakers - 16 NBA Championships!
Pretty crazy if they can pull it off. Merging a MMO with the ability to build and create ala something like MM's LBP or Minecraft would be a great innovation. Farming and mining to get resources to actual build that city on a hill from the ground up would be pretty epic. All that would be left is custom mission crafting, but I suppose some of the plan of randomness and roaming smart AI fills t
This just remind me of the Elder Scroll Online release, which is kind of the same type.