Why Im less skeptical about Everquest Next

first_img 1 2 A few weeks ago, I expressed skepticism about Sony Online Entertainment’s upcoming Everquest Next, a game that was revealed to a chorus of almost unbelievable praise. It’s difficult to complain too loudly, since the game makes some undeniably great steps forward. Features like the all-new combat system look like they could make the genre’s traditionally stiff, almost distant moment-to-moment gameplay more immediate, responsive, and fun. As someone who played WoW to an almost unhealthy extent (which is to say, the typical extent) the idea of improving the gameplay of MMORPGs, as opposed to their gameplay systems, sounds absolutely fantastic.Still, it was the systems that got most of the attention, and after my article Everquest Next (EQN) Director of Development Dave Georgeson was kind enough to call and scream at me for failing to fall in line. (Not really, he was very, very nice.) One of the themes of the conversation was frustration over the need to be cryptic. “We’ve shown people half, probably less than half, of the stuff about this game,” he complained. “It gets really hard to talk about it. I wish we could show you more.”However, he and I were able to delve into a few of the game’s biggest marquis features. As with everything involving EQN, however, discussing one feature means discussing pretty much every feature — thus the frustration. “I’d love to tell you,” was probably the most common phrase of the day. “I can’t wait until we can talk about it,” came a close second.One of the features I found the most bewildering, in terms of the praise it’s received, was the idea of destructible terrain as a portal to other areas. In terms of context and role-playing it’s ingenious, a much less jarring way of sealing certain players off from areas or types of areas. It can disguise load times and provide an easy explanation for impediments to progress — you can’t go deeper because you can’t yet burrow through the deepest strata of the world. However, this didn’t seem to really change much about the fundamental logic of moving from place to place.Georgeson explained a bit further. “We’re talking about generated areas. Where you find something one time… [someone else] won’t be able to just go there and find that same thing.” “You asked what the difference is between digging through some terrain and opening a door,” Georgeson said. “That’s the difference. When you open a door, there’s always the same thing on the other side.” Yet when you dig in Everquest Next, you could burst through to just about anything. This make me wary, but only because the algorithms of the past have failed to satisfy with particularly compelling content. With the amount of enthusiasm present in this team, there’s reason to be optimistic that the will be able to give us a worthwhile subterranean world.When it comes to artificial intelligence, we ran up against more fundamental problems. “Our game is so new, it’s almost impossible to explain some of these things without letting you actually sit down and play it.” We discussed the now-tired example of a goblin infestation, and the ability to drive the beasts out of one part of the world, truly changing the face of Norrath. I asked how it will be possible for a world teeming with adventurers to sustain these sorts of changes — what happens when someone else wants to complete that quest? I tried to stop the word “quest” from coming out, but it was too late — I had said the forbidden word. Everquest Next does not have quests, I was told. At least, not as we’ve known them in the past.Next page: “I’m not supposed to even talk about this yet…”last_img read more