David Milazzo
EverQuest Next Detailed at SOE Live; Learns from Minecraft
Also revealed is EverQuest Next Landmark.
08.06.13 - 10:57 AM

Sony revealed the next game in the EverQuest series, appropriately titled EverQuest Next. The free-to-play game stands to be a radical departure for the series, as well as MMOs in general. A big part of that was the concurrent reveal of EverQuest Next Landmark. Similarly free-to-play, it draws inspiration from Minecraft, allowing players to use developer tools to build pieces of Next's world and profit from it.

In revealing the game, director of development Dave Georgeson explained that they followed a set of five "holy grails."

The first was to break away from Dungeons and Dragons, a common core model that RPG mechanics are based on. In doing so, the idea of traditional levels was scrapped. In its place, more than 40 "professions" were created that have their own specialized abilities and weapons. The abilities are able to be mix-and-matched, and two weapons for each class are available. There was also an emphasis placed on weapons not only having varying degrees of damage, but also different styles of gameplay.

The second was making the environments destructible. The goal was to make everything destructible, and able to be manipulated. Georgeson explains:

"An Earth Wizard can raise a stone wall and monsters have to path around it, or you can make a hole and pepper them with fire," he said. "Lots of characters' abilities do different types of deformation. Catapults can chew away at terrain."

Destruction will not be permanent, however. The solution they formulated was for the land to heal, though how quickly the process will take place is yet to be determined.

While destruction won't be permanent, there will be events called "Rally Calls" that will affect the world forever, which was their third tenet. The Rally Calls act as public quests. As an example, if an NPC requests that a town with a wall be built with a player's help, that town will become a part of the world unless it's destroyed. Developers hope this will lead to cities being developed and destroyed, epic battles waged on a large scale, and more meaningful stories due to each event being unique to every player. They want the world to have a real history to it, as a result of these events being non-repeatable.

Georgeson contends that because of the way the world can be changed, in some ways permanently, that a smarter AI was needed, called "Emergent AI." As the fourth defining pillar of Next, they gave NPCs behavioral qualities rather than a script. Instead of only doing a specific action, they'll react to likes and dislikes in a way that feels more natural. This could potentially affect Rally Calls as well. If a wall is built in response to an enemy, and the enemy chooses to attack the wall with more vigor, that could lead to a large battle - one that would happen organically, and not from a designer's script. Also noted was that Emergent AI will have enemies learn tendencies of a player's attack, spread this information to surrounding enemies, and combat the player more effectively based on this information.

The final doctrine the developers followed was to make the game a living world; one with real virtual lives and consequence. Similar to enemies learning a player's attack, the world will learn from the player's actions, tailoring the experience to each player. Senior VP of Global Sales and Marketing Laura Naviaux gave a prepared statement that reflects this stance:

"We believe that the bold choices the team is making with EQN will result in a product that provides players with an absolutely new kind of game experience. However, there is something even more important to us. As an organization, we are dedicated to partnering with our community to give them a voice in the games we create. With EQN, we are taking this idea even further and offering our players to the opportunity to actively build EQN with us."

Sony also revealed a companion game of sorts, called EverQuest Next Landmark. This is where they drew from Minecraft as inspiration, basing the game on creation as opposed to story. There will be a variety of worlds generated, each able to sustain thousands of players. Each person will need to claim a section of land on the generated world, making it free to build on without interference. Additionally, friends are able to be invited to help build on the player's share of land.

Materials will need to be gathered, similar to Minecraft, and pre-built items will be available to be gathered. Crafting tables will also be present for players with blueprints, and these will be located only in certain hubs within the world. No restrictions on what can and cannot be created will be placed.

As an incentive for players, their handiwork can be sold for real money in either game to both players and Sony, for a fee. Sony will also hold contests challenging players to build specific items for use in Next.

Everquest Next and Everquest Next Landmark are slated for release in 2014 for PC.