Everquest's Online Trading Card Game Unveiled

lono.JPGI had a chance, last month, to meet with Sony Online Entertainment's Denver studio and check out their now-announced online trading card game: Legends of Norath: Oathbound.

The Legends of Norrath game is based on the worlds of Everquest and Everquest II and, in an interesting twist, will be playing inside both of the massively multiplayer online games at in-world taverns and such.

Oathbound, the first set in the Legends of Noorath game, has more than 350 virtual cards in it and comes in both 60-card starter decks and 15-card booster packs. The Oathbound set was designed to tell the story of the servants of the Tribunal that rules the Plane of Justice. These masked and hooded servants swear an oath to Justice and must help preserve the balance between Order and Chaos.

The SOE Denver team did several things to try and distil the essence of Everquest into a viable online trading card game. Chiefly they went with the Everquest II model of using archetypes rather than classes. The first set has four.

In the game you control an Avatar which can summon up creatures, use items and cast spells. Another of the game's unique twists is that as you play your avatar gains experience. As you gain experience the actual attributes and text of the avatar changes. Of course you can always play several different avatars, working to level each up.

The game has two ways of winning. You can either take out your opponents avatar out in the tradition card game way, or you can complete your four quests. At the beginning of each round, the players place one of their quests on the table. As soon as you complete any four of your or their quests you win.

As you play through a match you can either choose to take the path of good or evil, based on the sorts of cards you play. As you continue to use one type of card or another, your half of the playing field starts to change and you get bonuses playing cards that match your field's alignment.

On top of what appeared to me to be a rather sophisticated and interesting take on online trading card games, The Legends of Norath will also come with a single-player campaign. As you play through this campaign you can build up your avatar and earn reward cards for use in play later on.

While the thing that initially most interested me was the idea of playing an Everquest Online Tradiing Card game inside of Everquest, what ended up really captivating me was the look of the cards the SOE team showed me.

The art is very reminiscent of the sort of art used to convey the Everquest games, but not the kind found in the game. In other words, it's not computer graphics, its quite beautiful art.

When I last spoke with SOE, they idea was to launch the game today with the announcement at Fan Faire. The game will be free for Everquest gamers but booster packs will sell for $US3, while starter packs will likely run for $US9-10. And with 70 unit cards alone, there's going to be plenty to buy.

The devs also tell me that the game will include loot drops, loot that will sometimes be cards but will other times be actual items used in either Everquest or Everquest II.

Most interesting is the fact that the game engine, designed from the ground up by SOE Denver, has the potential to support many other types of in-game, MMO-themed card games in the future. So expect to see a lot more of this if things work out.

Personally, I kinda like the idea of sitting down in a tavern to play a deep card game with another player. But I am a big nerd.


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