Last Friday, at the SOE Live event, Sony Online Entertainment revealed EverQuest Next, the newest entry in the series that helped launch the modern MMORPG genre. In keeping with that tradition, SOE is positioning the game as an innovative type of MMO. It hopes to create a game that, unlike most current MMOs, is built upon player-created content and emergent gameplay. To that end it is implementing many new gameplay mechanics and technologies.
The world of EverQuest Next is going to be one of its most unusual features. The entire world will be made using voxel technology, which means that almost every terrain features will be completely destructible, including the ground itself. This terrain will restore itself with time, but in the meantime players will be able to shatter bridges, knock down walls, or even dig deep tunnels. The playable game area will extend far below the surface and will include vast procedurally-generated subterranean caves and lava pockets. Many parts of this vast world will be player-created, though not from inside the game itself.
This year, well in advance of the launch of EQ Next, SOE will be launching a game called EverQuest Next Landmark. Similar to games such as Minecraft, Landmark is a sandbox creation tool that gives players access to many of the same tools used by SOE staff to make assets for EQ Next. Players will be able to stake claims in vast areas, excavate resources, and use those resources to build towns, dungeons, and castles. These creations will then be given a chance to be put into the game world of EverQuest Next, and SOE will also open a marketplace for players to sell their creations to each other.
A major goal of EverQuest Next is to give players a great amount of freedom to change the world, and a large part of that is going to be seen in the AI and the game's approach to quests. SOE claims that the game's AI will be revolutionary and incredibly responsive, allowing players to force Orcs to leave one area and move into another or befriend or anger individual NPCs, altering the available quests in the process. Major game events will take the form of Rallying Calls, a large-scale public quest that will take many players months to complete. The outcomes of Rallying Calls will be variable, and will permanently change the game world.
SOE also provided some information on the player characters in EQ Next. The game uses a colorful, cartoonish art style, and characters tend to have an exaggerated appearance. The world is set in an alternate universe version of the original EverQuest world, so many classic EQ races are coming back in an altered form. The game does not use a level system, but instead features a complex multiclassing system in which players will need to unlock abilities for forty different classes. The combat SOE has shown so far has been very flashy, with giant spinning attacks, powerful blows that shatter the landscape, and quickly-cast lightning bolts that hit wide areas.
EQ Next is still quite far from release, and has no release date. A lot of the information revealed at the SOE Live event has been provided in the form of concept art and carefully worded ambitions and promises rather than functional code, so it is unknown how well these goals will be realized in the final product. In the meantime, curious fans can get more information from the game's official website.