Sony Online Entertainment has finally taken the wraps off its next big MMO, Everquest Next. The suprising thing is Everquest Next is not a single game. The first title, Everquest Next, is an brand-new, free-to-play MMO built from the ground up with a rebooted Norrath, new technology, and a whole new look for the series. The second title is Everquest Next Landmark, a standalone title that can be compared to Minecraft or Second Life: players can claim some space and build to their heart's content.
"We're not just making the next MMO," SOE president John Smedley told GamesIndustry International. "We're really inventing an entirely new genre within online gaming and we're moving our entire company toward the concept of emergent content. Everquest Next is sort of the culmination of this concept of emergent gameplay where players are basically playing a large simulation, a large sandbox, and they're making content themselves. And they're part of this content ecosystem where players can sell or buy from one another, or from us. We're basically taking the game and we're stretching it in completely new ways with this emergent gameplay idea."
Both games have new worlds based on voxels, meaning everything in the world can be destroyed. Tear down a castle, dig a grave, blow up a bridge to make an easy getaway. It's all possible in Everquest Next and it's all permenant, even though Sony Online will be making areas like main hubs undestructable by players. Other the other hand, monsters have no such restrictions.
"Blow up anything, anytime, anywhere," Everquest director of development Dave Georgeson told Polygon. "Every designer in the history of gaming has wanted to make that game. Everything is composed of pieces, so we can destroy anything. An Earth Wizard can raise a stone wall and monsters have to path around it, or you can make a hole and pepper them with fire. Lots of characters' abilities do different types of deformation. Catapults can chew away at terrain."
"Blow up anything, anytime, anywhere. Every designer in the history of gaming has wanted to make that game."
Like Minecraft, Everquest Next is also layered, meaning there's a ton of underground tunnels and dungeons for you to explore and possibly get lost in. These bottom levels are procedually-generated and SOE developers can step in and close up unused areas or build new ones.
Questing in the new Everquest moves away from 'exclamation point" style most MMOs use these days. The world will continue on its own way and if you help or harm an NPC, that's up to you. It's up to players to see what's out in the world and be a part of it. Public Quests also join the Everquest series, though these "Rallying Calls" will span a much longer time than the group events we've become used to. Expect month-long cycles where player choices determine how a certain area ends up: will you let the orcs raid a settlement, or will you defend the townspeople long enough for them to build their settlement into a city?
The world of Everquest Next is powered by the Storybricks system. Storybricks was created by an independent team that was scooped up by Sony Online this past April, after a Kickstarter drive in 2012 that ended in failure. Storybricks gives every NPC its own set of desires and needs, and then sets them out in the world. In addition, NPCs and monsters have memories: let some townspeople die and that town probably won't welcome you back in the future.
The graphics have taken on a new cartoon-esque shine, a far cry from the dryer, more realistic style found in Everquest II. Along with the new graphics, the combat system has been razed to the ground and built anew. Levels are gone, players get four skills and four weapon abilities, and you're not locked to a single class. There are 40 different classes in the game, each with their own abilities and two different weapons to choose from. Mix skills from different classes to create a unique character than fits your playstyle. More likely, get steamrolled and ask a veteran player for help.
While Everquest Next is about giving you freedom to inhabit a world Sony Online has created, Everquest Next Landmarks is about letting you create your own bit of the world. In Landmark, players can pick a plot of land in a world that looks like Everquest Next's Norrath, and then build whatever they want on that land. Search the world for recipes and materials to build objects. Once you've created a masterpiece, you can then sell it on the Player Studio! The best of the best in the Player Studio may even make it into Everquest Next.
"We've learned that great content really does sell, and our players can actually make better stuff than us," Smedley explained to GamesIndustry. "So our goal here is to set it up so our players can make money just like we can with this ecosystem we want to build. What we've learned is that it really does work."
"We've learned that great content really does sell, and our players can actually make better stuff than us."
"We needed a voxel editor to make this game," Georgeson told Polygon. "We wanted to make it intuitive. Then we decided to productize it and make it more into a game itself and give it to the players. If we get one million people playing Landmark and ten percent start making things, and ten percent of those finish and ten percent of that isn't crap, that's still a thousand people making cool stuff. And we don't have 1,000 people on the development team."
Everquest Next Landmark is coming this Winter, and Georgeson said that the tool is "gateway to everything EverQuest Next." Everquest Next does not currently have a release date. Which is sad, because what Sony Online has shown is mighty intriguing. SOE also released six different videos showing off Everquest Next. Some of them are in the article, but since I'm a nice guy, I put the rest below. Enjoy.