EverQuest Next Details Finally Released!

Friday, August 02, 2013

I just got done watching the live stream event for EverQuest Next. As a huge fan of early EQ1, my hopes were high. Sadly my faith was low due to every MMO since then, including post 2003 EQ1 being a huge disappointment. I've learned not to expect much from MMOs since I was massively disappointed with Vanguard, which was slated to be the spiritual successor to early EQ1. That ended up just being a poor clone of World of Warcraft, as it resembled that far more then EQ1.

Going into this stream, the things I was hoping for the most were the come back of long missed features and elements of EQ1 that have been lacking in MMOs since. Like a almost pure focus on PvE, focus on grouping to level rather then soloing/quest hubbing, elongated gameplay instead of instant gratification, focused classes (I.E. not classes that should be healers or tanks having DPS specs), non-instanced dungeons, class roles beyond Tank/Healer/DPS, like puller, crowd control and buffers/debuffers. Heck even corpse draggers. Long quests that elicit a more rewarding feeling upon completion, ability to lose EXP as well as having to get back to your corpse providing a better sting when dieing to make you avoid it more, dependency on other players for things like ports, buffs, food, etc. No real money for weapon/armor exchange. The list could go on and on. Some people hated some of those back in the day, but me and many others have come to realize over the years how truly wonderful those were for crafting a quality MMO experience. It's fine for other MMOs to diverge on those here and there. There shouldn't be a single MMO that has to appeal to everyone. MMOs should offer different things, and not just be WoW clone after WoW clone like we've had to endure.

Well with that all said about my mindset and desires going into this event, now that its over.... I'm disappointed. I can't completely write off EQN right now. The fact is, despite what seems to be a majority of the people who even cared about this (older EQ1 fans), they mentioned basically nothing that could even so much as elude to what EQ1 elements we miss are coming back in EQN. The presentation focused purely on new features, that I personally care little about. Features that really don't convey what the game will be like relating to the ways that EQ1 veterans would care about.

But that's all I have to go on for now, so I'll have to talk about those features.


First up, the Graphics. I know a lot of whiny trolls will complain about the art style. Calling it to cartoony, like that's a bad thing and a insult. So what? I've learned over the years, the more computer GFX artists try to make things look real, the worse they actually make them. I'm perfectly fine with a more freed artistic style of GFX. While I've had many complaints about WoW,  only one has ever been about it's GFX (It's fugly armor style, featuring stupid looking massive shoulder pads). Honestly, I don't think a realistic GFX style will look good in a MMO until path tracing/ray tracing technology has been perfected and starts getting used. That's still several years out. I can also put things simply:

Gameplay > Graphics.

Day/Night System:

Next, I'll talk about the day and night cycle. It's nice to see such a day/night system. I thought I was going to have to wait till path/ray tracing to see such type of dynamic lighting. The baked lighting of EQ1 wasn't much of a concern for the time, but looking back I know the feel of the game would have been improved if a more dynamic lighting like this was possible. This feature is probably the only feature I'm 100% happy to see.

Character Models:

Next, the character models. As a fan of VN's, I'm happy to see models that allow for more expressive characters. Expressions are a subtle thing most wouldn't even think of with games. But as humans we are designed to be responsive to expressions. For gaming, they can really help make a story more powerful and moving. For PC avatar to avatar interactions, well, I don't know for sure. I'll have to wait and see. Personally I'll lean towards the positive side and think they will help give the game a depth of feel and interaction that many won't have ever realized they missed and sorely needed.

However, one of my big complaints about WoWs design style were the big stupid over exaggerated shoulders, and well, armor in general. Seeing that Kerran with what to me, looks almost exactly like that armor style I hate, is of concern. I might be able to be fine with it if its Tank/plate classes only. But even then, the over exaggeration is stupid. At the least don't let that dumb armor style touch lighter armor classes. At the most, get rid of it altogether.

Multi-Class System:

Next, the multi class system. Sadly, little was revealed about that to form an opinion. It could easily be horrible, but I just have no idea if it will be or not. In theory being able to make your char unique always sounds good. As humans, we like to know we are one of a kind. In games however this rarely works out. WoW is a great example. Early WoW touted its talent system for allowing you to have your character be unique. In reality, cookie cutter builds were developed, and if you didn't use them you were ridiculed as a newb, or just plain sucked. After many revamps of the talent system, Blizzard finally gave up with MoP it seemed. In a MMO, there's always going to be an optimal path, and a large portion of players are going to want to follow that path to be the best they can be.

The multi class system could suffer the same issues. We know Warrior and Wizard will be 2 of the 8 classes. Unconfirmed, but idly mentioned were Monk, Bard, and Ranger. How such classes diverge with a multi-classing system, I have no idea right now. I would think and hope a Wizard can't start learning Warrior abilities and vice versa. So it will probably be something more similar to WoW, where a wizard can specialize more in frost, fire, and arcane. But possibly less fixed like that. You get the spells you want, locking you from getting certain others. And there being a more EQ1 style of variety like with Evocation, Alteration, etc. I'm really guessing here. I have no idea. I just hope we don't see things like DPS Clerics, DPS Warriors, well, all classes having DPS specs period. Thats something that really made WoW suck, and got worse over the years.

Terrain Deformation:

Now, terrain deformation. It's interesting. It isn't something I was asking for at all. It certainly is something games have lacked, but I don't think it was sorely needed. It could certainly add to the feel of the game.

EverQuest Next Landmark:

The whole Landmark creation stuff, well, on the surface sounds silly. It's easy to joke that it's a Minecraft ripoff. Who cares? Judge it on the feature itself and what it truly does for the games experience. That will have to wait till people get their hands on it though. Minecraft is popular for a reason. People like to be creative. With a MMO, this type of feature could be great. I like the idea of designing things and being able to sell them. Though I'm certain in practice that wont be as awesome as one could imagine. I just hope the real money transactions stick to that stuff, and not things like armor and weapons. That would be horrible.

Other Stuff:

Finally, what could be gleaned is a focus on 3rd person view. This is disappointing to me. I was hoping SOE would try sculpting a quality 1st person view experience. I personally don't feel there much of a middle ground. Meaning a games good in first person, but sucks in third or is good in 3rd but sucks in first. The first person view was a big part of the experience in EQ1. You were your character. The 3rd person view sucked. I just couldn't play it, even after playing WoW for a couple years. In WoW the opposite was true. I found it very hard to use the 1st person view for very long. The game was just to designed for 3rd person view and its spacial awareness. As well as its particle effect mess. I was looking forward to a good MMO experience on the Oculus Rift. I'm sure in time there will be support, and I'm certain there will be a 1st person view mode, but I doubt it will feel right as the game will have been designed with 3rd person view in mind. I hope it isn't to late to change this. Or that maybe the 3rd person stuff was just for visuals for the presentation. Like they want to show off their character models, and can do that in 1st person. Again, the lack of details with this presentation sucks.

EDIT: After posting this, the website is no longer worthless. And one of the first things I learned when browsing it is very saddening... EQN will be F2P. That alone tips my my following opinion on things leaning to the positive side, into the negative. The F2P model doesn't belong in a EQ game at all. I don't care for it in any game, but especially something with the EverQuest name.

Final Thoughts:

To wrap things up, as a whole these features lean more on the positive side. But thats just because some features that could be bad had little detail released. And the positive stuff doesn't lean that direction all that strongly. Overall it was a pretty lackluster presentation, not living up to the build up at all. And again I have to chastize them for their utter lack of confirmations about the features that all the EQ veterans that they act like they care about, want to know are making it into the game. It's like establishing a fanbase around say, Shiny Red Apples. And drumming up a bunch of hype saying "For all of our fan who love our Shiny Red Apples, you'll love this! Here's our new food..... Cabbage!". Like there's some direct relation between the 2 that fans of one will necessarily care about the other. Continuing my example, a Green Apple would make sense. Or at least a fruit that in some way compares. We EQ1 veterans need details for comparison. Or else why do you even care about us like you try to act like you do. My example is meant to illustrate the contrast of the expectations versus results of this presentation only, and not to say that people that like Shiny Red Apples wont like Cabbage, or people that like EQ1 won't like EQN. It's more to point out the failure target the presentation towards the people who were made to feel like it was intended for.

I'll be following the project while still keeping my expectations low. I was hoping this presentation would finally let me know if EQN was finally going to be the MMO I've been waiting for or not, so I could give up all hope and move on or not. Sadly, I'm still left waiting...

The images in this post come from everquestnext.com and are included just to reference what I'm talking about where applicable.