EverQuest Next Could Fix Everything Wrong With MMORPGs

EverQuest Next Could Fix Everything Wrong With MMORPGs

I've played every major massively multiplayer role-playing game released since 1998, yet it feels like I've spent the past 15 years playing the same game over and over again. That's a problem. EverQuest Next is the solution.

The original EverQuest established the basic layout that nearly ever subsequent MMORPG has followed. Players create a character and embark on a journey through increasingly dangerous settings, earning experience points in order to reach some sort of arbitrary level cap.

Once the cap is reached, players can either engage in endgame content — raids, player-versus-player, and other systems specifically designed to keep them from becoming bored between expansion packs — or they can create a new character, experiencing the same basic content all over again.

It's a trap that almost every MMORPG player falls into, a cycle that can only end in boredom. Now and then a developer will revamp the starting experience, as Blizzard did with its Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcaft, but that fresh content quickly became the new old. For all their claims of creating living, breathing worlds, most major MMORPG games have grown accustomed to holding their breath for a long, long time.

It's a problem of content — players devour it faster than it can be produced. Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet recently switched to an ambitious (and likely gruelling) two-week new content cycle to address the problem.

Before I got my first look at EverQuest Next in the "Black Room" of SOE's San Diego studios last month, my excitement level for new MMORPG games was at an all-time low. The Elder Scrolls Online is interesting, but that interest stems from the series' rich history, not from the game itself. NCsoft's WildStar shows promise, but nothing I've seen so far indicates that I wouldn't fall into the same cycle of content consumption.

But as franchise director of development David Georgeson explained how EverQuest Next's world worked, my excitement level spiked.

An Ever-Changing World

He called them Rallying Calls — you may have read about them in Stephen's piece on the two EverQuest Next games. A call goes out to players to form a tent city in the woods. That tent city has to be protected from the goblins inhabiting those woods. Players drive them off — no really, the goblins are gone now, it's not just basic kill x number of y quests — and that tent city begins to thrive.

At least until the goblin king, angered at the treatment of his minions, starts sending war bands to harass the settlement. Or maybe he doesn't. Maybe the show of force from the players is enough to keep him at bay. Maybe he'll bide his time, amassing his forces until the day that tent city evolves into Qeynos — one of the capitals of the first two EverQuest games — and finds itself besieged by an entire goblin army.

EverQuest Next Could Fix Everything Wrong With MMORPGs

These Rallying Calls aren't special instances that come and go. They are major events that shape the face of this new Norrath. The game world changes over weeks, months and years. There is no "create a new character, fight through the same old crap." It's "create a new character and have an entirely different experience."

Never-Ending Exploration

The sweetest moments in any MMORPG come when the world is fresh and new. Taking those first steps into Norrath or Azeroth or Rubi-Ka, when every single step is towards something fresh and new. With EverQuest Next, that feeling never has to fully fade away.

It's more than just the Rallying Calls. It's also the fully-destructible terrain. Imagine wandering onto the scene of a recent battle, the ground pockmarked with the impact of powerful spells, dotted with magically-raised barriers. They'll fade over time, but not so fast that epic skirmishes are quickly forgotten.

Or picture your party wandering through the swamps of Feerrott when they're attacked by a massive elemental. The creature blasts the ground below your feet, opening a chasm that swallows you whole. Now you're deep within EverQuest Next's procedurally-generated underground, facing off against a Void Goliath.

Better yet, don't imagine. Watch.

I'm sure some MMORPG veterans look at these random occurrences and see annoyances, disrupting carefully laid plans. That's exactly what they are, and they are wonderful. This is a true living, breathing world, and it's anything but predictable.

Maybe Not New, But Certainly Refined

Not all of EverQuest Next's ideas are new — I get that.

Multi-classing has appeared in various games in some shape or form, from Final Fantasy XI to The Secret World's completely class-less system. Skills derived from weapons is a Guild Wars 2 thing, as is the idea of exploring the world through physical movement — gotta love jumping puzzles.

But EverQuest Next takes these ideas to new heights.

Instead of simply jumping, there's a full-on parkour system, which should give players a sense that they're running through a world instead of just walking on top of it to get to the next monster to kill. The multi-classing system allows players to mix-and-match abilities from more than 40 distinct professions, giving them freedom to play the game the way they want to play.

Other games have involved player-created content, but many of those contained that content to special instanced areas. With EverQuest Next Landmark, the MMORPG building environment launching later this year, crafty players can actually create buildings and items that make it into the game proper, for all the world to see.

EverQuest Next Could Fix Everything Wrong With MMORPGs

And sure, EverQuest Next is borrowing some ideas from other MMORPG games, but considering the original EverQuest started the craze and inspired everything that came after, I'd say it's entitled.

EverQuest Next Could Fix Everything Wrong With MMORPGs

Addressing the Real Problem

Boredom is the enemy of the MMORPG, plain and simple. Now matter how gorgeous the world, or how animated the player base or how compelling the game itself, eventually all of that content the developers spent years creating is going to grow stale.

That's the real problem here. MMORPGs have traditionally been developed much like single-player games. There's a beginning, a middle and an end. They can be padded with downloadable content, but they're still single-player games with other people crammed in there to keep us from realising that we're playing the same thing over and over again.

Maintaining a strong community helps, but its not enough. To really solve the core problem, you've got to create what so many games before have promised — a living, breathing, ever-changing world.

EverQuest Next sounds like the solution to me.


Comments

    Up until this morning, I had no interest in EverQuest and didn't know EverQuest Next was even a thing yesterday, but now I NEED A RELEASE DATE! This looks incredible, the breath of fresh air the MMO genre needs! Nothing has ever filled the World of Warcraft gap for me, I really hope this is it.

    Last edited 03/08/13 2:20 pm

    I want to hear about how the f2p stuff is going to work and what level of microtransactions the game will have. It would be terrible, if for example you're out questing, a monster smashes a hole in the ground, you fall through it, and a pop-up window appears telling you to pay $10 to access the ruins you've fallen into, else you're teleported back out of the hole. And with 40 classes, it's almost guaranteed that some of them will require the player to buy them. Hopefully the game includes a subscription model that gives you access to the whole game.

      Yeah I'l happily pay a $15 subscription if it means absolutely everything is available to me and I never see a cash store pop up.

        This so much. I'll happily pay a subscription for a game that's worth paying a subscription for.

    At first you had my curiosity, now you have my attention.

    Ive got about another 2-3 years of WoW left in me, then ill likely be shopping around for a new mmo. Ill add this to my shortlist.

    With EverQuest Next Landmark, the MMORPG building environment launching later this year, crafty players can actually create buildings and items that make it into the game proper, for all the world to see.
    And then the picture underneath is just nicely juxtaposed demonstrating somebody at work on their wang citadel

    You had my attention at destructible terrain and making buildings. But tbh I'm already too emotionally attached to RuneScape atm, I wanna see where it goes over the next year. But I'll add this to my backlog of mmos with ESO and FFXIV.

    I'll believe all the claims made here, when its on my hard drive and running on my screen. Sorry, but sounds too much like the hype train(tm) and nothing else at this point. Honestly, how many times have you heard an upcoming MMO is going to "change the genre forever."

    Not trying to sound like what they are aiming for isn't a good thing, just tempered by past MMO's making similar claims.

    Every single MMORPG claims to be 'different' and 'innovative' and i always end up getting really excited then get let down... SWTOR, LOTRO, Warhammer Online, Guild Wars 2, AOC have failed me, no doubt this will aswel. The only game i think that will break the repetitive cycle is Blizzard with there new MMO 'Titan'. My reasoning for this is that most people who invst in games only invest in a model they know has worked before and is working, BlizzAct has so much money though there allowed to be creative.... Its very sad how money governs creativity in games nowadays

    See i still think the biggest issue with MMO's these days is the lack of community, WOW was great until just after BC came out.

    The server community, that feeling of knowing the people you play with, thats what we are missing from all MMO's, these days its all about instant gratification, LFG systems and Auction houses, there's no need to interact with anyone, join a party you know you're role, you DPS or tank or heal, every now and again throw out a OOM or ADDS.....

    World of Warcraft were not innovative or different as such. They took from games that went before and improved the less user friendly aspects. All of the basic elements of WoW were already in games like Everquest that came before, they just found a way to do it better. As for breaking the cycle, it doesn't require money to break the cycle, it requires a community to show an interest in the cycle being broken. I think we may just see some exciting changes to the MMO genre in the near future, as people are demonstrating with the mass exodus from WoW over the last 12 months that the current format of the genre is stale.

    I love what Everquest Next plans to do. About 5 years ago, my best mate and I were working on a concept and design that included alot of the features that Everquest Next is putting in place (I'll sue them for theft of intellectual property later...) such as the evolving world that players work to change, destructible and changable environment along with alot of other interesting features. But in order for those features to be worth releasing in a game, it has to be shown that the current innovation is dying to the point that a change will make sufficient money for the company to ensure the future of the game.

    My problem (and fear) is that Sony started out with a great game - EverQuest 2 - and continually kept dumbing down the game over and over until it resembled WoW.
    And then they changed all the spell effects so that it LOOKED like WoW.

    EQ Next's art looks very similar to WoW and that's a bit off-putting, but if they can do what they're saying and not end up removing half the game mechanics later on because they're "too complicated" then it looks like I'll be playing this.

    But, I'll be wary. I spent more than 7 years in EverQuest 2's world, and the last 2 years of that was when they got rid of most of the things veteran players liked so that they could get all the casual crowd in.
    Getting new players in is good, but at the expense of the majority of your veterans? Not so good.

    "But EverQuest Next takes these ideas to new heights.

    Instead of simply jumping, there’s a full-on parkour system, which should give players a sense that they’re running through a world instead of just walking on top of it to get to the next monster to kill. The multi-classing system allows players to mix-and-match abilities from more than 40 distinct professions, giving them freedom to play the game the way they want to play."

    So basically exactly what Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn does with their cross-Class system (minus 32 Classes. FFXIV only has Gladiator, Pugilist, Archer, Lancer, Thaumaturge, Conjurer, Marauder and Arcanist(?) as the currently available Classes. As well as 9 Jobs, though those are different).

      plus the trade skills that act like classes as well

        Yeah, I was going to mention that, but I couldn't remember what it was called (Additional Skills in the menu, I think).

    Trials of Ascencion will still be much better...

    Everquest Next will be an even bigger anticipated dud than D3. Mark my words. The gaming model will attempt to satisfy the wants of too many different gamers instead of sticking to their original hardcore gamer appeal and end up with a WOW 2.0, repackaged and rehashed with a few differences that WOW will incorporate after EQ release. If you're showcasing a god damned Kerran, then game over.

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