SOE reveals Everquest Next – The future of the MMORPG?

EverQuest Next

When Everquest 2 was announced we all got super-hyped with its fully voiced NPCs and excellent visuals. While it was impressive at the time, it didn’t really capture my imagination and many EQ players were reticent to leave EQ1.

Today SOE was ready to unveil the next phase the the Everquest saga called Everquest Next, and once again SOE wanted to impress with game features. But is this new EQ going to advance the now stale MMORPG genre?

One of the main features SOE were particularly keen to show was EQ Next’s destructible environments (see videos below) which does add an element of excitement to what is usually very stale looking MMO combat and non-evolving static environments. Couple destruction with a new intelligent movement system and the gameplay starts to look like something a little special.

Players of more recent action games (Brink from Splash Damage springs to mind) are getting used the idea of intelligent movement of characters which can really help the gameplay and combat flow. EQ Next aims to utilise  this type of movement and bring it to the MMO genre. Instead of whacking a key to negotiate an obstacle, the character will use that obstacle to move in a parkour type fashion intelligently which also means players are not going to me negotiating the UI continuously to hop over or around objects.

The class players chose will also determine how they use weapons, the same weapon used by one class will function differently on another which will influence the combat. The destructible environment will also play a part in the how players approach combat situations and it’s wise for players to use their surroundings to gain an advantage of possible. By Creating obstacles that can hinder an advance or even finish off an enemy, there’s a whole lot more to think about.

Exploration will also play a key roll with all kinds of unexplored areas being hidden underground. These secretive areas can be revealed by destroying the environment to unearth locations or even dungeons. Some areas will of course regenerate and not all will be destructible.

SOE are also adding in what they describe as the “Rallying Call” which are essentially public events which players can respond to, or ignore completely if they choose. SOE hope that these lengthy quest arcs will help shape the world and give players more goals to aim for to advance the game world  and their characters. As each server will be at a different stage of these events, it means no two servers will have the same game world experience. Want to experience the game a differently? Roll another character on a different server.

One of the more interesting features is the lack of levelling. So often these days MMO players grind their way to max level and don’t enjoy everything the game has to odder. SOE want to change this by rewarding players for exploration and have them actually play their characters and classes to progress. Progression of character will come from interacting with the world,  being taught new skills and exploring.

Based on the information that’s surfaced, SOE are one of the few MMO developers that are actually starting to “get it”. MMO players are fed up of uninteresting quests, NPCs that just stand around, or a game world that respawns the same content over and over. TRION and ArenaNet have made valiant attempts at moving the genre forward but ultimately the core gameplay remains the same.

It feels like early days still, and it may a little too premature to buy into the all the hype surrounding EQ Next but the ideas are solid. With any luck SOE can pull off something rather special and raise the MMORPG bar once again, it’s long overdue.

Now sit back and enjoy the videos and screens.

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