EverQuest Next: Initial thoughts

halasApart from the laughable (and MST3K-worthy) sand art demo that preceded the EverQuest Next reveal — seriously, who thought that was a good idea and why wasn’t he or she laughed out of the room?  And why couldn’t they hire a good sand artist? — the announcement was pretty momentous.  Even those of us at Massively who had advanced knowledge of what EQN was about were still glued to the Twitch reveal.

Now did it live up to expectations?  Is this the sandbox to end all sandboxes, the EverQuest to end all EverQuests?  I have no idea, to be honest.  It certainly was the talk of Twitter town yesterday, and probably will be for some time to come.  It really is looking like EQN has joined WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online as one of the major players of the next MMO generation.

It’s certainly a different approach with a lot of lofty promises.  The developers starting off with “we’re tired of how MMOs are now and they need to change and we’re going to be that change!” sounded almost beat-for-beat what ArenaNet said in its Guild Wars 2 manifesto.  I suspect that the end result will be quite successful in some ways but won’t utterly accomplish an MMO revolution the way that some (particularly SOE) hope.

Selling the concept of a big-name sandbox to the current MMO crowd is a tough challenge, but attaching your project to Minecraft is a, excuse me, crafty move.  People understand Minecraft and what it offers.  That’s a good bridge as any to cross the gap.

Here are several other thoughts I have of this reveal in no particular order:

  • Races?  Well, you toted out the big-breasted elf and the big-breasted dark elf, so I guess you guys are covered.  EverQuest’s races have never really fascinated me, and this does not shout “next gen!” so much as “pandering!”
  • The destruction and manipulation of the world’s elements is fascinating, although I’m instantly thinking of how much players can turn this into griefing, obscene monuments, or uglifying the landscape.  One does hope that SOE anticipates and has plans for this.  They claim to, at least.
  • Public quests — cool, but hardly revolutionary at this point.  Again, practically everything they’re saying about them makes me think of Guild Wars 2.
  • I love, love, love the visuals.  This is the first EverQuest game that hasn’t made me wince to behold.  It’s colorful, stylized, and pretty.
  • Better mob AI and mob memories — I’m excited about this.  Storybricks had a good idea there and I’m glad SOE picked them up.
  • Four skills and four weapon moves — It’s funny how several modern MMOs are paring down the hotbar.  It’s a good idea, especially after EQ2′s hotbar madness.
  • No levels, but will there be gear checks?  TSW doesn’t have levels but relies on gear to function in much the same way.
  • Character building and a lack of levels is a big draw.  Continually being able to earn new skills and experiment with new builds is a great part of TSW and RIFT.
  • Lots of immersive details, like day/night cycles, will go a long way to restoring the feeling of an actual virtual world vs. static zones.
  • Free-to-play — Good.  Wouldn’t expect anything else, really.
  • Underground areas — I guess neat, although I instantly worry that I’d fall down somewhere, be unable to get out, or get lost.
  • Another concern is that there will be too much randomness in ratio to organized spaces in this game, making navigation a nightmare and lessening the realism of the world, so to speak.
  • Giving players tools to shape the game via EverQuest Next Landmark and possibly include their creations in the game is a terrific idea, especially for a sandbox.  Master crowdsourcing with gamers and you’ll end up with a world beyond imagination.
  • Seriously, it’s really pretty.  Really pretty.

How do I feel about it?  It’s hard not to get swept up into the promises and potential on display here.  SOE always seems willing to take risks that others don’t, for good AND bad.  It’s going out on a limb but I don’t think it’s a bad move at all.  They already have two EverQuest theme parks.  Why not an EverQuest sandbox?  Keep everyone happy.

I guess I’m cautiously excited.  I’m still anticipating WildStar far more, but if EQN ends up being terrific, why is that a bad thing?  Competition and quality titles are always needed in this genre.

I’ve never really been part of the SOE fold.  I’ve envied the community that the EverQuest games seem to have, however, and would be open to joining that if EQN proves to be not just a game but a game world worth playing.

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14 thoughts on “EverQuest Next: Initial thoughts

  1. I caught part of the live broadcast on Twitch, was looking for something else when I stumbled upon it – so I did not see all of that you mention.

    All the crafting/building stuff sounds pretty neat, although I wonder how much of that will and can be applied to the game world. They have their Norrath and they probably will not allow people do to whatever they want there – there will very likely be restrictions to what can be done in the “proper” EQN world – they also mentioned only certain areas which allowed for Norrath-approvable construction in the Landmark worlds.

    The emergent AI for mobs is good, but need to see how far they will take it. The orc example was rather simplistic, hopefully there will be a bit more than that.

    I agree with the art direction, quite nice.

    Euro players will have to play through ProSiebenSat (according to the FAQ on the site), do not like that part – but not unexpected.

    I am cautiously optimistic, it seems to be a step in the right direction anyway.

  2. I’ve never been terribly interested in EQ games or sandboxes, and I’m not really seeing any strong reasons why EQN should be the exception to either of those rules right now. Mostly, it seems like a lot of marketing speak and not a lot of true innovation.

    With that being said, I do love the art style, and the freeform character progression sounds very appealing. Since it’ll be free to play, I might give it a try at some point.

    On the whole, though, this seems another game that will never live up to its own hype.

  3. I am excited now with the understanding that the actual product may fall far short of my or SOE’s hopes.

    The unanswered question is whether this is can be played well as PvE. EVE, AoW, AA, etc all go for the sandbox is FFA griefing. I hope this game is expensive enough they can not afford to appeal to that niche.

    Combat is why I am looking forward to this more than Wildstar. I.e., I don’t think I will ever like comabt in any upcoming MMO combat as all the modern ones are FPS twitch and roll – “action combat” is becoming obligatory check box for the box, even if every studio defines it differently. So atm it looks like EQN will have more exploring, crafting things to do. Wildstar humor in EQN sandbox would be my preferred mashup.

    I saw a lot of dislike of the art – “I won’t play too cartoony” which I did not understand at all.

  4. I don’t think you need to worry about the underground content. At least, from the sound of it, digging or falling is a huge mechanic in the game, to get to the procedurally generated content, so it sounds as if you will want to fall, in order to play the majority of the game. If getting back out becomes difficult, the game itself is badly planned and executed.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is the underground content is either something to not worry about at all or it’s a sign that there are bigger things wrong, so either way, shouldn’t be a problem. :D

  5. I’m one of the few people that was overwhelmingly positive about the whole thing, it seems. A fully destructible environment has been long in coming to MMOs, even if it does “heal” after a time. I also like that the Rallying Cries have a permanent effect on the game world, and that they’re different for every server. Now moving from one server to another will be a far more dramatic event than just queue size or community maturity changes.

    As for the art style…. totally sold on it. I enjoy the more exaggerated style and what it will mean for roleplaying. Also, “cartoony” styles hold up better as they age, unlike the “realistic” styles that just get uglier as time passes. Remember Star Wars: Galaxies’ graphics? They were heralded as unprecedented realism, but after just a couple years, they just looked…. well, bad. Especially the characters and their faces.

    World of Warcraft, by comparison (human male hairlip notwithstanding), has held up very well, and it’s almost as old as SWG.

    This art direction will let EQN age gracefully.

  6. I’m loving the artwork on this (like you, I didn’t care much for the previous two iterations), and this is the first of the upcoming MMOs that I feel is outright building on the improvements already seen in TSW and GW2, rather than another interpretation of how to implement them that comes from being developed in parallel (which is how I see Wildstar and TESO). Add that we probably won’t see this for another year or so, giving me plenty of time to grow tired of my current MMOs, and that it’ll be free to play out the gate, and I’m really, really excited.

  7. I totally got sucked in. I cant wait to find out more…But…How different is it really? Feels very GW2 ish with the single hotbar and abilities from weapons. It looks beautiful, I like the character models but you can see the WoW influence their with the giant Pauldrons and Gauntlets. I spent Friday listening to several podcasts making predictions almost everyone predicted a throw back to your daddys MMO, EQ1. People wanted the trinity and 20 minute horse rides to get to the other side of the world. I just wonder when hype dies down what will people really think about EQN?

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  9. Quietly excited about this as I’ve not had a sandbox experience since SWG and that still stands out for a lot of its original good points. If this picks up from there I’ll be happy, expecially considering that EQ was the first MMO I properly played, while waiting for SWG funnily enough. .

  10. You sound jaded Mr. Syp. They didn’t even show any elf breasts. :)

    Seriously, public quests that last 3 months and don’t reset are not something we’ve ever seen before.

    and though I’ve seen better, I liked the sand art!!

  11. Chris — But we *have* seen lengthy public quests before. The opening of WoW’s Gates of Ahn’Qiraj comes to mind. That’s not to say that EQN’s version doesn’t sound cool, but it isn’t 100% original either.

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