I don't know what's gotten into Sony Online Entertainment recently, but they seem to be having rather a good time of it right now. Planetside 2 was a brilliant game and one they should be proud of, and now with the recent announcement of EverQuest Next, S.O.E. are poised to become one of the ultimate online gaming companies. Almost makes up for what they did to Star Wars Galaxies, doesn’t it? (Almost.) At GamesCom 2013, we caught up with them to find out more of their recently announced MMO, and also get an update on Planetside 2.
EverQuest Next & EverQuest Next Landmark
Considering the The Witcher 3 it was good to see it with my own eyes. If EverQuest Next promises even half of what it’s supposed to deliver, then the MMO genre could finally get the kick it’s sorely needed.debut was only a couple of weeks ago, it's not surprise that there wasn't much new to show. Still, as with
The feature that hooked us was the fact that there’s not going to be a central quest-line that everyone follows. This in itself has huge ramifications for the make-up of the game – because there’s no central ‘pole’ that threads through the MMO structure, SOE now has a lot more flexibility. Every now and then there will be ‘Rallying Calls’ which is essentially a Lore-driving quest line that will advance the ‘canon’ of the world, and that everyone can get involved in. These only last for a set amount of time though, and once it’s done it’s done. SOE fully intend the very face of the world to change over time, so that the experience new players will have will be nothing like what the original players experienced – which oddly enough makes a remarkable case for early adoption.
And there’s the AI work that they’re planning on doing. At the beginning of the server, they’ll spawn a certain number of mobs, and then those mobs will go and find somewhere to live that meets their coded likes and dislikes. Depending then on what the players do (or don’t do), they’ll set up camp, and then start raiding the local area from there. If too many players end up going to their camp and killing them, they’ll up sticks and move somewhere else. If not, they’ll become a big problem for the locals. We’re not sure how this will tie into side-quests and the like, but it’ll probably be dynamically generated.
The tech is certainly impressive – the team started with the ForgeLight engine that was used in Planetside 2, and then just modified the crap out of it, making it voxel-based in the process. Graphically, it looks fairly similar to Planetside 2, although when you change the setting to ‘fantasy’ then everything takes on a whole new feel anyway. This Voxel tech is what allows them and the players to modify the world – whilst in the most part a lot of player destruction will ‘regen’ after a time, in certain instances the changes will be permanent. It’s also allowed them to be creative with the design of the world of EverQuest. For example, there are hollow points on the world’s surface that, if they’re damaged too much, the ground will collapse and you’ll find yourself in one of EverQuest's many underground tiers, which are also filled with content.
What was brand new for GamesCom though was some of the information regarding EverQuest Next - Landmark. Simply put, if you imagine if Minecraft had been made 'seriously', that is with a budget and a heavy-duty graphics engine, then it'd have probably looked a lot like Landmark. This going to be a companion 'game' (it's more like software, to be honest, but SOE are adding 'gamey' elements to it to keep it fun) that will release ahead of EverQuest Next. Essentially, SOE are going to generate a lot of worlds, give players the creation tools they use to make the game, and let them go nuts.
Players will be able to purchase plots of land, and build them up to do whatever they please – they can even sell it on whenever their done. The content they create can be anything they like, fantasy to sci-fi, cyberpunk to naturalist, and all of the created content will be ‘tagged’ so that other players can find it easy, if they feel like looking around. Every now and then, SOE will reserve some space in the world so that they can hold competitions. For example, if they need an Orc Castle for EverQuest Next, then the player who builds the best one wins. Thought of in its worst light, it’s an excellent way of getting the creative elements of the player base to design the game for them, but on the other hand players can earn real-world cash on their creations.
It's easy to get excited about EverQuest Next, but it all it is right now is a vision. Granted, it's a vision backed up by some extremely impressive tech - no one can argue that the engine isn't anything short of fantastic, but whether or not the 'game' itself emerges to be anything special is another thing entirely. I've seen so many 'visions' fall flat on their faces, I'm viewing EQN & Landmark with more than a pinch of salt at the moment. Still, definitely a project to keep an eye on over the coming months.
Even though the game's already out, I thought I'd catch up with the team to see how they were and what they were working on for upcoming updates. Planetside 2 may have some flaws as far as the meta-game is concerned, but overall it's a fantastic online experience, and one that all shooter fans should be involved in. The massive maps, the battles... watch any half-decent Planetside 2 video, and I dare you to not be inspired.
The main focus for team at the moment is to roll out their new continent – Hossin. It’s a land of swamp and wet, so as a Brit I suppose I’ll feel right at home. The trees tower over the battlefield, making air combat and air support tricky. This is an infantry-friendly map in the sense that there’s less overall space than the other maps, but Hossin has been designed so that Vehicles can be comfortable access. Most of the time. This new continent, along with the three Battle Islands, is going to form a new ‘Lattice’ where instead of each continent having three warp gates, there will be one warpgate per continent, which will mean factions have ‘home’ continents, with the fourth one being up for grabs. They will design a transport system that means you’ll be able to transfer from one to the other without needing to go to the menus.
Other things that the team are working on are – Improved recruitment criteria for Outfits, Player generated missions with XP rewards, and they are also now going to start to look at refreshing existing elements of the game. The Infiltrator class is going to be the first class to get a refresh, and their also going to be looking at the resources, and the ESF as well. The Player Studio, which is where players can create and upload their own skins and decals for sale, is going to be launching only in the US to begin with for legal reasons, but SOE hope to roll that out to Europe soon. Saying that, anyone in Europe can buy and equip any content created by the US players, they just can’t create their own content until SOE sort out whatever it is they’re trying to sort out. What’s great about the Player Studio though is that players can earn real-world money from their creations, with SOE taking a 40% cut. If you’re upset about that, don’t ever get a real job – the Government can take just as much.
Those are the most immediate things coming to Planetside 2, but you only need to look at their ‘Roadmap’ online to see what else is on the horizon. If you’re a lapsed player like me, now is as good a time as any to get involved!