E3 2006: SOE Talks Shop
05.12.06 - 12:52 PM

We had a chance to sit down with Sony Online Entertainment to chat about several of their upcoming games and expansions. SOE was showing off a couple of their in-house projects, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom for the PS3, and EverQuest II: Echoes of Faydwer. On the publishing side of the coin, Perpetual Entertainment's Gods and Heroes and Sigil Entertainment's Vanguard: Saga of Heroes were introduced.

SOE was showing off one of the first titles announced and shown for the PlayStation 3, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom. Featuring three classes, Warrior, Mage, and Scout, Dark Kingdom returns to the fairly familiar gameplay of Untold Legends for the PSP. SOE promises more complex combat for the PS3 iteration of Untold Legends, on top of online co-op and versus play. Dark Kingdom takes advantage of the Havok system of physics to create puzzles and gameplay elements to great effect. As with previous Untold Legends games, items are a major focus in Dark Kingdom, and will not only effect statistics, but the look of the character. Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom will launch with the PlayStation 3 this November.

The other in-house project is the newest expansion to EverQuest II, Echoes of Faydwer. Echoes of Faydwer introduces a new race, the winged Fae, as well as a new floating continent, Faydwer. Echoes of Faydwer expands on the quests and loot in the game on top of adding the brand new zones in Faydwer.

Vanguard: Saga of Heroes seems kind of odd in SOE's booth. Sigil was formed four years ago by Brad McQuaid, the lead designer of the original EverQuest to take his games through his own vision. Four years later, he's found that SOE is the best publisher for what he's got. Vanguard returns to the focus on communities and character identities and away from the constant grinding and instancing of other MMOs. There will be 19 races and the game will be launching with at least 15 classes. Characters are presented with a huge range of options on creation with one of the most robust creation engines we've ever seen. Every race is built on the same general skeleton, as well, which while it sounds bad at first, is actually awesome for the rendering of people as well as the capability to scale armor to different races with ease.

Vanguard wants to focus on the community aspect of the game not only with player-driven economies, but with a complete lack of instancing in the game. While this might hearken back to the days of UO, people won't run into the issue of camping because of the inclusion of encounter routes. Encounter routes lock in certain mobs to groups, and while other players won't be able to engage the mobs, they will be able to buff and heal the players in the battle. Sigil hopes that this will provide an experience that allows players to talk about each other as they do things, and there can be an audience for all fights. To keep there from being space issues, dungeons in the game are absolutely huge - three times the size of dungeons in current games at the least. Players will be able to take plots anywhere in the world for housing, buy ships and horses, and run their own shops.

Player housing will structure somewhat how the game's cities are set up. Because players are free to set up where they would like, a house outside a popular dungeon may be set up as a shop for certain hours of the day. Players will be able to set lists of whom may access their house and when. So if you want to run a shop between 8AM and 4PM, you can set everyone to enter, but other than that, only your guild members may enter. The player-controlled world ties in with the fact that the game is totally seamless, you won't ever see a loading screen beyond the first one in Vanguard. Anything that you can see in Vanguard, you can get to, and it provides for there to be an incredibly living world.

Combat in Vanguard is oriented around position-specific combat as well as combat triggers. Players will have abilities that may work well with another player's ability to trigger a second or players may be able to combine spells to create a new effect. Players are also able to have two simultaneous targets, one offensive target - the guy that you're attacking - and one defensive target - the guy that you're healing or buffing. Sigil has said that they'd like to keep PvE and PvP servers different for class balance. They noted that in many games, Class X will trump Class Y in PvP, but will function differently against a mob. They wish to focus on classes functioning differently on the different servers.

Spec-wise, Sigil couldn't give us any specifics, but they mused that if you could play The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you'd be able to run Vanguard. Vanguard has been created with future machines in mind, and it will be upscalable for cards that don't yet exist. Vanguard: Saga of Heroes has not yet received a release date.

The last new RPG at SOE's booth was Perpetual's Gods and Heroes. Perpetual is a brand new company with Gods and Heroes as their first game. The big thing about Perpetual's newest game is that it is the first MMO to feature squad-based combat. Players will be able to control up to eight NPC minions. This means that in a standard group, there will be forty-five active members in your party. This isn't including raid content, which will be completely wild. Perpetual is looking to both expand single-player gameplay and enrich the group-based gameplay with these NPCs. Perpetual is orienting the style of the game around the Roman gods, and players will be able to align themselves with one of 12 mobs. Combat in Gods and Heroes is very action-oriented and looks, at the surface, like a console action game, not an MMORPG. Gods and Heroes does not yet have a release date.


John McCarroll