Monday Morning Talking Points for EverQuest Next August 5, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
I decided not to rush to post thoughts about EverQuest Next right away. First of all, the initial presentation, while full of spectacle, was shy on details. I walked away full of unfocused enthusiasm. So I decided to see if further panels on the game would bring out more.
And I wanted to see if anybody picked up details I missed and to gauge my enthusiasm to see if my own lens on life was distorting anything way out of shape. The blogesphere mostly obliged, so if you want further reading you can look at:
- Keen and Graev
- Bio Break
- The Cesspit (Twice)
- Avatars of Steel
- Inventory Full (and coverage of the class panel)
- Aardwulf’s Lair (plus a part 1 and part 2 Q&A panel overview)
- MMO Symposium
- Nosy Gamer
- Party Business
- Hardcore Casual
- Heartless_ Gamer
In that group there is a range of responses from excitement, to “meh, sounds like Guild Wars 2“, to predictions of failure. I cannot honestly say I read every one end-to-end… too much to do over the weekend… but there are opinions in there.
In the end, I am not sure if I learned enough by waiting to focus my own enthusiasm. I was able to fill in a few details, but hard data is still pretty scarce on the ground. There is an official EverQuest Next wiki forming. EQNexus is trying to collect data into an information index. Hopefully we will get something that will stay up to date and pool updates as they come out.
I am cautiously optimistic. A lot of what was said sounded like a pretty big change on the fantasy MMORPG front for SOE. They appear to have stuck to a lot of what I divined in the past as “SOE Lessons Learned” and even managed to include a few items from my wish list.
However, what things will actually look like at launch… we’re still a long way from that. Here is what I managed to cull from the data stream. My list of items is after the cut as they go on for a while.
And what came to mind with all that I read and saw?
Got my wish on this one I guess. They cannot de-emphasize levels any more than that. No obsolete content and no gap between players. Veterans can play with noobs. Or such is the promise, along with some vague hand waving about other methods of character progress. Details are scant, but I can hardly complain about the overall idea. At least it isn’t mentoring, where the player that levels down is always overpowered. Now the question is, what alternate progression methods will there be and how will they actually distance an old vet from a new player?
And will there be a “no levels?” backlash? For all I dislike about levels, they remain a simple and tantalizing progression metric, and there is a demographic out there for whom playing to the level cap is winning the game.
Limited Skills Available
I think I am for this. One of my fond memories of EverQuest… and consequently one of my dislikes about EverQuest II… was the simplicity of classes. You only got so many skills and that was that. Even as a caster with many spells to choose from, you were limited to what you had access to at any moment. In EQII you had so many skills… all available pretty much all the time… that hot bars multiplied. Being held down to 8 of your choice sounds good, 4 skills and 4 weapon moves. A constraint that will lead to interesting choices… so long as things are balanced right.
Skills Specific to Weapons
Your 4 weapon moves are dictated by the weapon you are wielding. Sounds like Guild Wars 2, and that is not a bad thing. And, it is sort-of what I asked for, making weapon choices matter. We shall see how much they matter I guess.
Classes and Multi-classing
You can multi-class all you want, and draw you 4 skills from the classes you have. And there will be more than 40 classes to go collect.
This one makes me a bit anxious. You can pick up as many classes as you want and mix and match the skills into your set, advance them all, and change them up at need.
While I never played Ulitma Online, I recall tales of its skill system and the optimum mixes you had to have to survive in its open world PvP environment. I really hope SOE can steer the right course on this so we don’t end up with a “must have” kit with rogue stealth and stun, warrior defenses, and wizard offense.
Human, Dwarf, Ogre, Elf, Dark Elf, and Kerran. That seems like a reasonable starting group. I would rather that SOE keep that number small and focus on other things.
Of course, SOE is being a bit coy about what other races will show up. They had a survey up about whether the ratonga should be a race. I voted “no,” but was clearly swimming against the tide. And the rat race is there in the EQN picture. I expect we’ll see frogs and lizards at some point as well.
This one makes me nervous, mostly due to not enough details. In concept it looks really cool. But what happens when Starfleet Dental shows up and Dear Leader declares than no object in the land should stand taller than him? What happens when the determined clear cut a forest? A “regrowth” time was mentioned, but no word on how long it might take.
And was it just me or did anybody else get the impression that the below ground tiers were going to be accessible by digging down? Will we all be moving to the nether at some point?
The video looks good. I hope the controls are… well… controllable. I did notice that in the movement video a lot of time was spent going down hill. That is nice, though I rarely ever have problems getting down from places. Will we be climbing as well? EQII had a rather stilted climbing mechanic that allowed you to climb at very specific locations. It would be nice to be able to climb more freely. Or will the answer be to just tear down the mountain?
Combat and Roles
There seems to be a great deal of unease over the lack of defined roles in combat. We have been with WoW‘s holy trinity for nearly a decade now, EverQuest titles have had pretty hard and fast roles for classes up to this point, and for many years before that classes often fixed you into a specific role. I did not role up a cleric in AD&D in 1980 with the idea of being a stealthy thief. (Though I could attempt to play him that way, he would lack the skills to be good at it.) And while those fond of Guild Wars 2 will say, “Works for us!” (along with “Happened here first!” no doubt), in my limited experience it also meant that there was no reason to ever make a cohesive, coordinating group. You would cooperate, but it was “Wham, spam, thank you ma’am!” and off to your next venue without a word spoken.
So color me nervous on that front as well. But I come from the age where class choice meant role choice and I am most comfortable with that. That is what drove grouping out in West Karana back in the day.
To balance that anxiety out, there is hope that better mob AI will make playing as a real group more of a requirement. I could live with that. The big quote from Jeff Butler on the topic:
I think one thing that you’ll see from us and we’ll demonstrate this as we get deeper into combat, is that we have a very detailed and intricate plan for moving around and fighting. The NPCs are capable of executing strategy and tactics and you’ll require your own intricate tactics to overcome them. We are saying that no one specific role or pair of roles is required in unlocking the strategy to defeating an encounter. It’s not to say that we are walking away from roles and it’s certainly not to say we are walking away from responsibility, both personal strategic and tactical responsibility….
Effectively we want every single person playing the game to have fun, I refuse to have my guild fall apart because one member doesn’t want to play anymore and he is our primary healer. This is a responsibility that we created as game developer and we are abandoning it, we are not going to put players through that, we have seen the damage it has caused over the past 15 years and we are moving past it with this design.
We shall see.
And then there is actual combat. The combat shown seemed rather Diablo III-esque in nature, with lots of splash and a very visceral nature to it. It is my hope that what we were seeing was on the extreme side of things.
Then again, it might have been the camera angles they chose to demonstrate combat. Once you get the camera off to the side, things feel more like Diablo than an MMO.
Emergent NPC AI
This is the Storybricks magic, the NPC world “remembering” you and your actions and responding accordingly. And it sounds great. But this will be the big test. The logic of, say, kobolds moving away when then get pounded on in one location seems realistic enough. But what happens when the keep getting pounded and keep moving further and further off? Will all enemies end up living in a distant periphery around every collection of players? Or will we just be chasing them around in a circle in a specific area? Or will they give up and disband only to reform fresh and untainted.
I just remember Richard Garriott and others talking about their whole balance of nature ecology plan for Ultima Online and how players never saw it because they slaughtered all the wildlife and scraped all the resources like a plague of locusts. Will we overwhelm the emergent AI?
Being somewhat under the spell of Skyrim at the moment, I appreciated the lack of things on screen. Is that how things will end up looking when the game ships? No idea. Does the UI shown mean that EQN is destined for the PlayStation 4 as well? I wouldn’t bet against it.
The style is stylized. But they said it would be way back when. And I am honestly happier with that than I was with the uncanny-valley baiting pseudo-realistic character models that came with EQII. I suppose the big draw of playing frogs or rats or cats in EQII was that they did not look as painfully awkward at times.
Armor, looking stylized, was immediately comparable to armor in WoW, at least to my mind. Not a bad thing I suppose, but it does come with some emotional baggage at this point.
The world itself looked good. There were a number of “looks like PlanetSide 2” comments after the demo, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. Other sample areas, like Feerrott had their own feel. I don’t think there is a jungle setting in PS2, is there?
Changing the world sounds interesting. No word on how big it will be or how many distinct areas there will be at launch, but it should look good.
Player Studio looks to be on steroids with the EverQuest Next Landmark tools in place. And the part where you can take somebody elses work, add it in to your own, and when you sell they also get a cut seemed to be genius. I expect that there will be people out there making such components to piece together.
As a tool it looks pretty amazing. And the whole it’s a game, no it’s a tool, no it’s a multi-level marketing opportunity aspect of things probably ensures that a lot of people will give it a try. I am not sure I understand the whole thing even after reading the FAQ and a write up on it.
But it is supposed to be available by the end of the year, and there is not much of 2013 left at this point.
World Changing Quests
Giant events will occur in the world that will require people to show up and do things. But there will be no concrete list of things to do. And the rewards will be the memory of being there. Or something.
This sounds like one of those things I will need to see in action. On the plus side it sounds like a way to give players something bigger to focus on in Norrath beyond the next batch of kobolds. Of course, it is in my nature to wonder what is going to go wrong with this sort of thing. Will it pull too much of the world’s population into one small area? Of course, maybe that will let the rest of the world recover.
The “Sandbox” Nature of the Game
EverQuest sandbox? I’m not sure… will there be spreadsheets? Oh, and I need a really crappy UI, I mean like hurt my eyes crappy.
-What it will take to get EVE Online players to switch
Does all of what was said make EQN a sandbox or not? I am not sure. It certainly sounds wide open relative to the WoW model.
And then there are the bits I was looking for that didn’t come up in anything I saw. Did I miss any of these or are they just in the future as of now?
- Server size/population
- Crafting beyond Landmark (a ray of hope on this)
- Player economy
- World size
- Mounts and Travel
- Home towns/Starting areas
- System requirements
- Limitations on “free” players
- SOE All Access access and benefits
- Station Cash Store
And Then What?
And now we wait and see.
We’ve been told some tales, shown some video, and had a few basic questions answered. But a lot of what was said just raised more questions in my mind.
What stood out for you in all of this? And what deal making/breaking questions are still outstanding?