EverQuest Next: SOE's next-generation, fully destructible, persistent MMO

By Andrew Yoon, Aug 02, 2013 12:00pm PDT

It's been three long years since Sony Online Entertainment announced EverQuest Next. From a behind-closed-doors presentation here at SOE Live 2013, it's clear why they called it Next and not, simply 3. It is an entirely different game from its predecessors--a project so ambitious that the term "reboot" doesn't seem sufficient enough.

Running on a "heavily modified" ForgeLight engine--the same engine that powers Planetside 2--it's an unquestionably impressive game from the moment you first lay eyes on it. But it's not pretty graphics that makes EverQuest Next so impressive. Instead, it's SOE's vision to make a world where everything is destructible, and every action is permanent and persistent.

According to SOE, "anything and everything" can be destroyed in EverQuest Next, as the entire world is made out of voxels. That lets you mend the world to how you see fit. For example, if you're being chased by an ogre, you could run across a bridge, and then cast Upheaval to destroy it, sending the villain plummeting to its doom.

Destruction promises not only to give combat an added sense of oomph, but it's central to the game's design. EverQuest Next encourages you to destroy the world around--and specifically, beneath--you, as there are multiple layers underneath the crust to explore. In a nod to Minecraft, you can break into the ground and explore the "thousands of years of archaeological lore" that SOE has developed for the world beneath the surface. You'll fall into caves, abandoned mines, and even lava-filled caverns--all offering dynamic quest opportunities, and most importantly, loot. And the world will be ever-changing: "we can occasionally have earthquakes that collapse caverns."

Systems will ensure the world is ever-changing, adapting to player actions. EverQuest Next aims not to have specific enemy spawn points. Whereas in previous MMOs, players could simply go to a specific place to encounter a specific enemy type, "emergent AI" will make enemy behavior more dynamic. For example, orcs don't like cities and don't like guards, so they will try to stay "in a place that makes sense." They will look for a place where they can ambush lone adventurers. However, should players start regularly patrolling that area in groups, it will "no longer make sense" for the orcs to stay there, and they will move on to find a more suitable place to live.

"Rallying calls" are big set piece opportunities to affect change in the world. For example, a city may be under siege from an orc attack. You could, if you're a crafter, participate by helping build a wall to protect the city. Or, you could help gather resources by digging beneath the city, setting up a mine to gather materials.

The wall you help build may cause the orcs to partner up with neighboring goblins in a more concentrated attack. Or, the mine that you build might end up becoming a back-door for more monsters to sneak into the town. The ultimate goal of EverQuest Next is to offer an experience where your decisions matter, and have permanent repercussions in the world.

On paper, EverQuest Next is shaping up to be one of the most ambitious MMOs we've ever seen. Even if SOE only executes on a fraction of its promises, it's still quite exciting. Crucially, while the high-level concept is rather staggering, early looks at the gameplay look quite fun as well. EverQuest Next employs a new movement system that lets you parkour through the environment, sliding down hills, running over obstacles. You can also glide through the air and teleport-flash across long distances, making it simply "fun to move from point A to point B."

EverQuest Next also utilizes SOEmote, but unlike in EverQuest 2, it's part of the game's core DNA. This facial tracking system lets you emote and speak in real-time as your avatar, and "really promotes role-playing." Coupled with the impressive new graphics engine, it's likely that a whole new generation of machinima will be birthed from within EverQuest Next.

It's difficult to properly convey the enormity of SOE's next-gen MMO. And while the game isn't set to arrive this year, there will be another way to participate in the Norrath. EverQuest Next Landmark is a spin-off coming this winter that will allow players to explore their own procedurally-generated continent and build objects that can appear in "the proper game." We have more on Landmark here.

For more videos from EverQuest Next, click here.

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