Well it looks like Everquest Next is another MMO , in an already bloated upcoming schedule that I really want to try. So far though it looks like it is going to be my top choice out of all of them as it appears to be trying something new. New… yes we’ve heard that a lot lately, they have some interesting ideas but who knows at this stage how it will actually work on a live server with thousands of people. Development priorities change as we have seen from GW2, so an interesting ethos isn’t necessarily what we end up getting due to the pressures of industry. Still, the dream is there.
They have definitely marketed this a lot better than the recent MMO titles. I really hate the long drawn out production/marketing cycles that we have been getting as there is just so long between awareness and play, enough that by the time the game is releasing all the hype is practically gone. It’s hard to be enthused for a product as strongly as when you first find out about it. I’m guessing the title is still maybe another year off going by the gameplay and visuals they showed but that Landmark title they are bringing out will be a great way to build an honest connection to the title which will hopefully transfer over. If I can build my house or guild hall in advance that is even better.
Ok enough about my optimistic first impression let’s get into the nitty-gritty
While the world has a nice style to it I’m not overly fond of the Character models, it just seems odd to have these really nice locales that while stylized have a very realistic atmosphere to them then see these Disney models parading around.. do we really want to play Leo the Lion in a game designed for adults? I like stylized characters and it is a way to make a game age better and be less gpu heavy but I really wish they hadn’t gone with that style. Now not everything has to be gritty realism but neither should it be an explosion of colour. The brightness and Hue of the colours used really conflict quite strongly against the earthy tones and muted shades of the environment which is rather unnerving to the senses. Everquest always had a more cartoony style to it based on the limitations of the day but it suited the visuals and environment.. this does not.
It is using the same engine as Planetside 2 and you can see the comparisons are strong. The details and textures seem to be rather minimal like it is in Planetside 2 so I’m either thinking it’s a limitation of the engine or that they are streamlining the character models and environment so that more players can interact.
The combat looks bad. I am aware that this is more a limited tech demo and it’s a long way from the final product but I really dislike the animations. I hate how overboard GW2 is with all its damn particle effects and this seems to take this on while also throwing caution to the wind. Seriously, throughout some of those action sequences I couldn’t even see the character models and if that was in combat where you’re moving around and meant to be dodging the red stuff it will end up more a frustration than a factor in immersion.
They have gone with the modernised combat style with a limited action bar and a focus on movement but I’m not sure yet if it is going to work out that well. Is it going to be a boring system like Neverwinter of spamming one button and having a handful of situational skills or more like GW2 with its constant cycling of skills and interesting strategy surrounding their use. They have said something during a panel about it not having a defined trinity though so really worried now it will end up as a chaotic mess.
The Class system is hardly unique as we’ve been dealing with more diverse customisation options and hybrid classes for – I think a decade now. I like this sort of system very much as it adds a lot of depth to the gameplay but it really is a murder to balance. It seems like a cross between TSW and Rift in many ways. The Secret World in how you have a lot more options to choose from and less restriction but Rift in how you define this build. Finding these classes out in the world will be a very interesting thing and I’m sure it will encourage many people into exploring the world more even if there is a complete guide to their acquisition.
There is no (debatable) levels and they have a focus on horizontal progression (heard it all before) although it seems it might be Gear based as they were talking about raid gear and such. During an impromtu conversation a developer even went so far as to say there were specific gating mechanics on the content, like venturing deep into the earth being based on gear so it could be more like TSW. Although it was stated in another piece that your character attributes like strength and intelligence aren’t altered too much by the gear. You have to work hard to alter and expand these attributes more like the class system, and all attributes may be useful to the classes… they didn’t go into how you gain these though. So you’re gated by gear but gear is not about power, sounds interesting.
Showing off the Sand
Now while I’m not enthused with a number of things they showed I was absolutely sold on the Idea once they started showing off the world. A multi-layered world that is constantly evolving based on player and developer actions sounds extremely appealing. The world looks nice and adding a sense of change to it like they have planned will give it a feel of a living world rather than the static ones we have been getting with events transposed over the top.
The procedurally generated underworld areas sound amazing for an MMO . I wonder how they are going to pull of that feat, it is fine for an indie rogue like to go for procedurally generated world but this is on such a huge scale and in so much more detailed than that. Being underground it will be much easier to change as there won’t be players witnessing it but it still seems like a big step. If done right though it will lead to a consistent sense of exploration and discovery with being able to dig, destroy, and find new exciting areas. I wonder if the NPC’s will be procedurally generated in these areas as well.
Having destruction with all these other things they are claiming is the icing on my sandbox cake. It makes sense that players actions have a cause and effect on the world around them. I realise there will of course be limitations on certain areas, and they have even said that they can limit what is destroyed for both NPC and player actions. But if done right this is what will make the environment feel like a world you experience rather than a prop you witness.
The building system looks interesting. I think I pledged quite a bit of money to Camelot Unchained based on this sort of mechanic alone so having it here is just amazing. I’m guessing there is a transference mechanic from Landmark to Next otherwise what’s the point, they’ve talked about being able to sell your plans on the market so it’s probably a definite feature. The question is whether or not it will be open world housing or instanced, I’m guessing based on there boasting of having such a huge world as well a the claiming mechanic that it will be out in the open. I think they Landmark feature is going to be the gating mechanic so that players don’t get structures into the world that are uncharacteristic of its style… as well as penis monoliths of course.
The event system seems to be the next iteration on the dynamic events system. We went from War to Rift, Rift to GW2 and now this version. I’m intrigued to see where they take it and how it will receive updates. It looks to solve my main complaints about Gw2 in that it is more of an event in the world, it has the ability to make defined meaningful changes to your surroundings, and it has a longer course. Creating a story as a community sounds like a more interesting thing to be a part of rather than grinding out points on a personal scoreboard. In an article at MMORPG they even went so far as to say that each server may have its own unique take on where they are up to in the dynamic story and varying changes based on the choices they made.
Events will be the main way in which people level it seems too as there won’t be any sort of mob exp grinding which should make them a continuously popular choice for players. It could be the better way to tell a narrative, I know I’m sick of the personal hero approach and this way you are telling a story of the world, the server, and as you as a community which will make for some great experiences and discussions. It seems that some of these events will be EQ next’s interpretation on raids, they likened it more to the original Everquest rather than GW2 but I’ve never played Everquest, soooo….
The mechanic that will either make all this awesome or a poor substitute is the AI system being developed by Storybricks. Better AI is a huge deal for an MMO as once we get away from these static mob spawns and events restricted by location is when, I think, MMO’s will start realising their true potential. That is when MMO’s focused around PvE will stop being games and become virtual worlds. I watched the Storybricks Kickstarter a while ago with both apprehension and awe but I never backed it (sorry Mr Psychochild) as it always came off as an interesting mechanic but only that… It wasn’t a game. I’m glad that it finally found it’s place as an integral cog in the Everquest Next machine but it really does rest on them. If events and NPC’s can actually be “dynamic” and evolve based on certain environment stimuli then that really is an evolution for the genre.
They likened it to Star Wars Galaxies crafting but better, sounds a little incredulous to me.. better for who exactly? I know your casual player, your hardcore raider, and your crafting types will all have different interpretations on what would have made SWG crafting better and then there are many different subsections of those groups. Crafting even has a part in the dynamic event system so there will be community projects in order to progress these events.
The best article around I read about crafting was a PC Gamer Interview, they asked a lot of interesting questions and while the major mechanics of the system where left a mystery there were many good points answered. There will be many different resource types and all will be useful in their own way to certain people as specific classes would want these materials over others. Each item you want to craft will have many components that need to be made first and each of these can be altered in order to make them better suited to a particular class or build. Different craftable weapons will also have specific effects on the world be it able to damage specific parts (walls or ground) or be tailored to better kill a certain monster type.
I’m wondering how this will go for a large-scale mmo. Having all materials be useful and valuable sounds perfect for an MMO that aspires to be leveless and more horizontally based as it encourages exploration and use of the entire world rather than just the end portions of it. It actually all sounds similar to the system in Firefall and I’m very happy about that. My big question is whether or not there will be some sort of item loss mechanic because if there isn’t then, really what is the point? Crafting or raiding, it will still make the game have a defined end point and a pointless economy ruled by inflation if there isn’t. Maybe they didn’t say it because there would have been a riot if they had.. ease people into the game first, or maybe they didn’t say anything because it really is going to be another meaningless crafting system within a month after release.
There have confirmations on the apparent awesomeness of PvP but no specifics, they stated something along the lines of there being no 2 defined factions or good and evil distinction so I’m wondering whether this means they are going for multiple factions or a more free system that involves guild formed factions and aliances. I hope the later.
And many many more official announcements. There are also a number of interviews that are popping up with new information, many of which are linked but I’m sure there will be a lot more information coming out over the next week and month.
Some pieces you should check out are –
A few interviews at MMORPG
And a collection of new videos over at EQ Nexus that came out of the app recently… might be even more hidden away. They also have a decent round up of the info that came out of the panels.