I want to believe in EQ Next

In the jaded MMOsphere, dulled with years of falling subscriptions, shorter and shorter player lifespans (remember when we used to think calling a game a “three monther” was disparaging?) and a slow but certain move away from being virtual worlds to monetised gamification platforms, the announcement of a new PvE sandbox-style game backed by one of the main players in the business is always going to be a wake-up.

Many of the blogs I follow are projecting what they expect to see, or would want to see in the upcoming set of announcements at SOE Live tomorrow (2nd August).

One thing is for sure. EQ Next has the potential to shake up the hobby. The second thing that is for sure is that they won’t do that. Am I jaded? Maybe so. I want to briefly give some ideas for what I think they should do, and then some thoughts about what I think they will do.

How to do a successful PvE sandbox

I think there is a room in the market for a more accessible version of games like Wurm Online and Tale in the Desert. Minecraft shows how much people enjoy building and creating, and the incredible success of games like Sim City and Civ shows how much appetite there is for large simulations. And if the boom in social media shows anything, it is how much people enjoy creating and being part of communities. For a lot of people this could include a roleplaying aspect.

To make this work, EQ Next would need to take lessons from games like Glitch and Ultima Online as much as WoW. Instead of focussing on making a world to adventure in, make a world that people would want to (virtually) live in.

Keep direct PvP to a minimum. People don’t want to live in a warzone. And the ones who do already have games that cater to them, those players aren’t the people you need anyway. You need the settlers of the gaming world (consider this a new category alongside explorers, achievers, etc.) to inhabit your world and bring it to life.

There needs to be gameplay to keep things moving, but it can be based on a more simulation-type model. It needs a proper economic model also. Players enjoy ‘taming’ their local environment and building up their smallholdings but there are surely more interesting gameplay models with which to do this than either Farmville or “spreadsheets in space”. The players this game needs are not necessarily the achievers although there can be quests, instances and adventures for them as well. You don’t even need to encourage ‘grouping’ so much as ‘interacting’ and ‘organising’.

A sandbox needs, more than anything else, space. That means virtual space in the sense of large worlds to explore and exploit. But also space for players to carve out their own niches, explore different playing styles, think up different in-game projects to pursue, and space to step away from the levelling track.

Lore is an important part of building an immersive world, but SOE need to ditch the EQ lore. Or at least reboot it into something more coherent. No one is interested in the existing lore except the grognards, EQ2 was always a chaotic mess lorewise, and when the only thing people know about your main character is that she’s a blonde with big boobs, it’s time to start over.

What I think they will actually do

Given that the reveal is at SOE Live, they will hype up the Everquest/ EQ2 connection, which is probably not of huge interest to anyone who either didn’t play those games or didn’t like them.

I think the game will ultimately fail as a virtual world, under the pressure to monetise and to stick to tried and tested F2P mechanics (yes, they said they plan to stick with a P2P subscription model but I can’t see that happening). Expect to see lots of talk of high impact PvP, frequent world events, “a living world” (hint: the best way to have a living world is fill it with players) and some pretty screenshots.

But for all that, they have been saying a lot of interesting things in interviews about ditching the story. Maybe they will surprise me yet.

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17 thoughts on “I want to believe in EQ Next

  1. I definitely agree with your referencing of Sim City and Civ. I’m positive that a PvE Sandbox MMO where the endgame was a massively multiplayer take on city-building has potential to be a massive success. Bigger than any PvP Sandbox MMO where the endgame is endless war for territory.

  2. When did they say they were going to “stick with a P2P subscription model”? I thought they’d all but confirmed EQNext would use the current SoE F2P model. I would be astonished if they went with a sub, although personally I don’t mind either way.

    • Well Pathfinder – from what the dev’s have stated – should be like eve but set in fantasy. The biggest difference that I can see from dev statements is there won’t be a safe space – instead they expect players to police themselves.

      I expect it will do about as well as shadowbane, which honestly had about everything I’ve seen the dev’s indicate people ‘wanted and needed’ from a sandbox.

  3. Two things I think EQ-next has going for it based on what we know for a fact today:

    1) EQ2 has the *best* house and player creation tools out there today, for an MMO setting

    2) EQ-next is supposed to be using the planetfall2 engine – which is pretty, scalable, and apparently (from what I’ve read alone) supports extremely fast development.

    The fast development time makes sense – honestly out of the ‘western’ MMO’s EQ and EQ2 have shown that they build their tech to allow rapid development of content. And they admit even that isn’t enough. I hope to see a better dungeon creation system (more like Neverwinters maybe) and see the players make content. If they have the right mix of awesome new stuff from the devs with player created stuff to fill the gaps it could truly be a genre shattering game. One other point on #1 – EQ2 to my knowledge is the only system out there right now that has a revenue sharing model with the creators of items, which is rather a big deal – they lead in several areas even if they aren’t ‘the biggest MMO’ and I doubt any of the competitors (who are sane) count them out.

  4. Completely agree. The key to an interesting sandbox is the economy. I’d like to see a game where mithril comes from the mountains where the dwarves live and oak comes from the elven forests and you need both to make a magic axe.

    Sadly the things that make a great sandbox economy are turnoffs to most modern players – inaccessibility and slow travel are requirements, the D3 auction house showed us how a game is ruined by too efficient a trade system.

    Sadly I also agree SOE won’t do this, they’ve never been mean to their players.

  5. As I sit here in Vegas in my room at Planet Hollywood, post pool party night, and with a splitting headache (nobody yell our you get harmtouched), EQNext is going to be evolutionary huge. We were partying with devs and designers they are a great bunch of guys.

    As a wonderful and evil Shadowknight I plan on making a good series of twisted evil building for us bad guys to live in using the tools when they are released so we can have a nice twisted hangout to party in. I will also sell them as pieces that other designers can use in their creations and get a cut when they sell them too. We’ll need it because according to the lead designer, yes, us evil types can totally screw our faction..and be who we are, KOS to goody goods, because in this game you are going to be free to face your own consequences.

    EQ Landmark is releasing this fall/winter which will be our minecraft/tererria game where we can do this, EQNext will launch later, after the community of designers get a chance to generate some content to help setup the world.

    To address Stabs, there is no blanket ‘SoE’, there are three teams, an EQ, EQ2, and EQ Next. At the panel my bro was able to ask that very question about travel. They are going to have horses, flying mounts, and teleportation As their overall goal is ‘anything you had in EQ 1, you can do in EQNext’ So player ports and teles are back as a way to get around. I did notice the strong EQ 1 influence on things like that.

    The game will be policed! They have a pool of ~250 guides and quite a few CSR’s that will be keeping an eye on things they can draw from (met a tin of those guys and gals too, good times).

    Overall SOE has its shit together, if anything driven by competition which is good for us guys.

    Excuse me I got to get some coffee and asprin ;)

    Darktannan
    AB Server, EQ 2

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  7. I find it interesting that they have chosen matured cell-shaded graphics for Everquest Next. I would have expected them to develop EQ Next with typical 3D graphics. I think I really like this touch, and the game / character mechanics look really fluid and polished. I can’t wait to beta test this game once the registrations are open!

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