Apart 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.