Sony Online Entertainment's next big MMO has been unveiled. Introducing Everquest Next, a reinvention of the popular MMO franchise based on several very creative, very interesting pillars. Technically Everquest Next is still the same universe as its predecessors, but it's more of an alternate reality rather than a prequel or continuation. Consider it a, "fundamental reimagining of the characters, lore and environments of the EverQuest universe."
President of Sony Online Entertainment John Smedley made the following
"With EverQuest Next, we're going back to our roots -- a space we defined with the EverQuest legacy -- and ushering in a new era of MMOs: The Emergent Era. Today, many MMOs fail because players consume content faster than developers can create it. With EverQuest Next, we're creating a living world that players are part of and empowering them to produce new content alongside the development team."
As should be clear, Everquest Next is on paper creating an MMO vastly different than any other created up to this point in gaming history. On paper. To help guide their way through design, SOE is focusing on several pillars of gameplay -- a typical marketing message with MMOs. Basically, what main features will gamers read or see to make them say, "Hey, I need to play that game."
Here are the five pillars Sony Online Entertainment presented as they first unveiled Everquest Next:
- Multi-Classing - EQN will offer players the ability to explore and interact with the world according to their individual style of play. There are no levels in EQN, but there will be more than 40 distinct classes (or professions) at launch, with multi-tiered abilities and specialized weapon skills to collect and master. Players will even mix and match abilities from each class, creating truly custom characters that feel distinct and powerful.
- Destructible Environments - No modern MMO has successfully implemented destructible environments that stretch across an entire seamless game world -- this changes forever with EQN. Every piece of the world is fully destructible and players will have the ability to manipulate almost all of it. They will interact with and explore the world in amazing ways; venturing down into the deep bedrock beneath the surface and using powerful combat abilities to blow gaping holes into the ground. The EQN world will extend far into the heavens and deep into the procedurally-generated earth through 10,000 years of known lore and history.
- Permanent Change - Players will also have the ability to cause the world to change around them, permanently, in dramatic ways. Through the concerted effort of the world's inhabitants, including players, creatures, and non-player characters (NPCs), city walls will be built and destroyed, large-scale wars will be fought and won, and epic stories will unfold over months and years.
- Emergent AI - In EQN, NPCs will have specific motivations and preferences that direct behavior in nuanced and unpredictable ways. Players will find themselves in a world where NPC decisions are based on core values, not dictated by static spawn points. For example, Orcs may attack opportunistically because they want an adventurer's gold, not simply because a careless hero wanders into an attack radius.
- A Life of Consequence - Finally, each character in EQN will have a unique story; they will not follow a predetermined path. Instead, they will seek out adventure, fame and fortune in a constantly changing sandbox world. The game will remember every choice and action that players make and will organically deliver increasing opportunities to do more of the things players like to do ... from crafting armor and exploring the wilderness to purging goblins from the forests.
Beyond the pillars themselves, Sony Online Entertainment also announced something ... else. Something perhaps just as exciting as EverQuest Next itself. Introducing Everquest Next Landmark, a free-to-play building tool that allows players to create structures that SOE may place into the game themselves. Expect another story with more details on Landmark. Its launch will precede the MMO itself and become available this winter.
The combination of the above pillars of design and the opportunities that Landscape provides in terms of collaboration between Sony Online Entertainment and the players themselves? It's very, very interesting. I'm not sure if it's exciting, because it's still just on paper and to be fair Sony Online Entertainment really bears the burden of proving they can pull this off. I'll say this though -- they've got my attention.
No formal release windows has been announced for Everquest Next. When it's done, I suppose. Until then, check out these two videos showcasing some of the basic design, including destructable environments, to be found in the game.