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Last weekend Sony Online Entertainment may have changed the way people make MMOs when they unveiled their new iteration of the Everquest franchise, Everquest Next. To say they’re “changing the game” doesn’t quite cover it; they’re changing the entire approach to the MMO. While many specific details are sparse at the moment here’s the breakdown of what I know is coming thus far. Forgive me if my information is off or misinterpreted as it’s all very fresh and I’m trying to wrap my head around it.

Leveling is gone. Yes you heard me. No Levels. Poof, gone, bye-bye. This is a first for me as I’ve tried many MMOs and their offshoots and one thing they all seem to have is a leveling system. They say this will be replaced by hard to accomplish ‘tiers’ for each class. You can’t grind them out and can only rank them up by say, completing a major task like finishing an armor set. Sounds fun and more like it appeals to the idea of a true adventure or exploration, rather than “kill 8 boars, here’s some gloves and a few copper”. Little was said about actual questing, so that may still persist, but I still think this is a step in the right direction!. This leads into their four major concepts they’re building the game on, which they’re referring to as “Holy Grails”.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh_0neHhR0k]

Multiclassing has become a thing. Games have done it before. Guild Wars 2 kind of does it. The Secret World sort of does it too. However this version seems to me to be true to the name version of “multiclassing”. With over 40 (yeah they said 40) classes to find and learn in the world total, and mix and matching class abilities this could be one of the better class systems we’ve ever seen. Not a lot of details on how this will be balanced yet though so stay tuned.

Have you ever wanted to just break down a wall in a game that’s right in front of you? Maybe dig down to see whats below that ruin? With EQN you can, as destructibility will be another huge part of how the game operates. The short and sweet of it is the whole world is made out of voxels and can be torn apart by player characters to reveal all sorts of things. It’s kind of overwhelming to be honest. For those who can’t grasp this concept just think Minecraft, but pretty. This also ties into the other game but more on that further down.

The third grail they’re calling “A Life of Consequence or Emergent AI”. To best explain this I’ll have to defer to their example, cause I’ve honestly never heard of anything like it. We’re all used to ‘spawn areas’ for mobs. With EQ Next, mobs will be spawned in intervals but then go find their own places. The example used was Orcs. Orcs like gold so after their initial spawn they’d go off and find a somewhat decently traveled road, but not too populated or too close to a town — cause that’d be too much attention — and setup camp. From there they’d attack people as long as it ‘proved profitable’ based on who came by. But also they could be scared off by too many adventurers coming to beat up on them, or guards from a nearby city being told to patrol it. From there they’d set off again to look for a new place that fits the description based on their AI programming. I think it’s pretty neat and don’t feel like I’m doing it justice in print. Definitely looking forward to seeing how it works out in practice.

[pullquote]Surprise! Free to Play voxel based sandbox MMO coming this winter![/pullquote]The final, or fourth grail remains: Permanent Change. What is this? Well it revolves around the idea of massive long-lasting public quests, similar to the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj of World of Warcraft, but with more visible results. A basic idea they could put out what they call a ‘Rallying Call’ to players and ask them to embark on a questline to build a city. Depending on the players actions this could be successful or not, and based on that a city would become part of the landscape and exist. By the same token 6 months later there could be another Rallying Call to defend the city and if it were to fail the city could be destroyed and no longer exist in-game. It’s a lofty goal but one that’s very much-needed.

EverQuest Next was not the only game unveiled. Much to everyone’s surprise they also debuted EverQuest Next: Landmark. Honestly the best way to describe it is Minecrafton steroids. It’s voxel based just like base EQN and you build with blocks. However you’ll have far more power, and beauty, than Minecraft has ever given you. The ability to size the blocks up and down, as well as bevel and smooth edges are some key features. It’s also still supposed to be a full-blown MMO in its own right, but how far that actually will go has not been established to us yet. Oh, and it’ll be out before the end of this year. Surprise! Free to Play voxel based sandbox MMO coming this winter!

All said I know that myself and many of my MMO friends are looking forward to this game and what it can do for the genre. I can’t say for sure this will pull me away from Warcraft but I’m definitely going to be playing this one! Beta sign ups are also available, though they’re not giving any out as of yet. They’re also starting out strong with community involvement with their roundtable discussion and voting, which everyone should look into if they’re interested in EQN.

For more information, and a mostly informed discussion, check out the most recent episode of Constantly Calibrating!

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