EQ Next and the Coming Genre Evolution

I have mixed feelings coming out of the SOE Live 2014 event. On one hand, the event proved to me that SOE has no idea what they have on their hands. On the other, it proved that SOE isn’t afraid to take some risks.

I personally have not played an SOE game except during a brief revisit to EQ2. I found the crafting system engrossing and spent vast sums of time learning various tradeskills, for free mind you, for over 3 months. I purchased SOE points and unlocked different races and classes and had a lot of fun for a game I had written off shortly after its original launch.

Since then, SOE has failed to provide me with any games that interested me. Yet, I can’t specifically fault them. I’ve found myself bumbling between MMO titles for the last 5 years (or so) now after I left WoW. It isn’t just one studio, nor is it one publisher. Its all MMOs.

If you take a few minutes to step back and look at the industry, you see a trend. A new MMO game comes out; its popular, it sells a lot of copies, it wracks up big points in the industry review sites. Then shortly after launch, the game begins to turn into a ghost town. Players flee, subscribers stop subscribing, users complain about a lack of other players in the “massive world”, and before you know it the game goes Free to Play and the whole title is written off as a failure by the community.

Its a cycle that goes back so far its scary. Yet, we as players, keep secumbing to it.

A few of you more veteran gamers might recognize it and many of you have stopped playing writing off the genre and games as a whole because of “real life”. What you’re really saying is the genre has failed you. Lets be honest for a second here, its failed us all.

So. SOE Live 2014. What was shown here thats made me dredge up the awful truth about MMO gaming right now? Its pretty simple. SOE showcased the groundwork for a truly living world. Check out this Story Books segment;

Its a long watch, and unfortunately the audio is pretty terrible. Yet the images show something very very important for those of you, like me, becoming disillusioned with the last ten years of MMO “innovation”. It shows the genre is about to evolve.

EverQuest Next has been advertised as many things, but SOE has failed to educate to the masses why its different. They’ve spent far too much time showing us why its similar to titles we’ve enjoyed to date; World of Warcrafts cartoony graphics, Minecrafts building toolset, Everquests “lore” (LOL!).  They’ve spent little if any time emphasizing what they are doing to the genre thats new.

So let me spell it out for you.

SOE is rewriting how players will engage in content in an MMO but rewriting how the MMO itself creates content. The entire genre for the last 30 years has required developers pushing content to the players. Some have deviated slightly by allowing players to push content to themselves. None have allowed the game itself to push content to the players, effectively eliminating the need for content developers altogether.

In EQ Next we will be introduced to the first truly living world (please do not mistake with this with Guild Wars 2’s “living story” nonsense). Monsters will roam and maraud, pillage and burn, but also gather and create, build and fortify the world. All without direction. All without “fixed positioning” or “spawns”. The world will be populated by an ebb and flow of factions and races competing in the world for resources and territory. More importantly, all of this is designed to be directly impacted by the players.

Players will simply login, probably near a starting “rally call” and form up a group. They’ll pick a direction, perhaps from their journal which shares what’s going on, and head out into the wilderness. Sound familiar? The difference here is what happens next.

In any other game players would KNOW what they are heading into and where they are headed. They’d know what level monsters to expect. They’d know the situation that’s going on in the world around them. They’d probably even know the terrain and how to get exactly where the best loot drops. After all none of these things ever change (except during major content patches!).

In EQ Next players will be exposed to a world that’s potentially different every time they login. It might even be radically different one server from another.  One day you login, the Dark Elves might be advancing on the capital. The next, they could be pushed back and on the brink of defeat. The next a different faction could be altering the world. The point being that no one could know what to expect.

That freshness and the ability for a player like me to experience a truly unique and individual encounter is mind blowing. I might be the only player to ever fight my way to the Dark Elf queens lair in the mountains, ending the Dark Elf threat to the cities below the mountains forever. Defeated, that experience might never again occur in quite the same way for another player.

More to the point, if EQ Next actually requires grouping, it could bring a very PVE-centric reason to login each night. Every night the experience would be different for my group of friends. Even better, because their is no traditional leveling system (EQ Next is doing a horizontal progression system), every night I COULD group with my friends because they haven’t outleveled me.

This system, more than any other system any MMO has ever introduced, is the first time in a long while that I’ve felt like the genre was moving forward. Now we just need to hope its fun!

#eqnext #soelive #evolution