– Gamescom 2013 – We attended an exclusive presentation of the spectacular Everquest Next

During the Gamescom we had the opportunity to attend a closed doors presentation of the two Everquest titles that are currently in production; EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next Landmark, presented by the director of development of SOE Dave Georgeson. Although most of the presentation was pretty much what had been shown in the SOE live, it was interesting to sit and talk with Georgeson, who answered several of our questions.

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The presentation began with an explanation of their idea of how to create a next generation MMORPG or at least to try to redefine a genre that is staking on the same tired ideas. Georgeson said that EverQuest was one of the bases for the current model of MMORPGs, and although it was not the first MMORPG on the market, it is fair to say his statement is not wrong because a lot of MMORPGs followed the footsteps left by EQ. And now they are trying to change up the genre again.

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We took a look at the franchise itself and the EverQuest legacy that has been created. It is a saga, which always had care with its background and with its long and detailed history, from EQ1 to EQ 2 and now EQ Next (and EQ Next Landmarks). With each re-incarnation of a new title the world of Norrath is put into this multi-verse, where each world is independent but shares similarities with his predecessors. This new incarnation means new changes, new environments and playable races including the cat like Kerran but for example has revamped the Ogres who originally were the dumb brutish types, are now more intelligent and militaristic opponents. With these new changes to the world the game is being supported by new novels that will support and explain how Norrath has evolved to this new iteration.

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The appearances of the races, particularly the humanoid ones, have been stylized with larger mouths and eyes so they can express better the emotions when they run emotes. The SOE Emote feature is going to be supported by EverQuest Next, where players can point their webcam at their faces and physically perform a smile, laugh, scowl or threaten; it will be instantly executed by your character in the game.

This means that players can combine the skills and talents of its unlocked classes, which means that you can have a rogue / Mage who is able to stab in the back while he freezes his opponents or a ranger that can teleport himself to safe places. If we combine this with that classes can only use certain weapons, and that to change them, they unlock new skills, get that weapons are more than just a tool for damage.

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One of the fundamental changes that SOE are looking to make is the idea that each player shouldn’t have to build a brand new character each time they want to try out a new class, and so have offered up multi-classing. When the game is released there will be 8 classes available, but there are more that you will discover as you go exploring, doing missions and talking to NPCs. This means that players can combine the skills and talents of its unlocked classes and make things such as a rogue-wizard who is able to stab in the back while he freezes his opponents or a ranger that can teleport! Combined with this is locking specific weapons to certain classes, and by switching between these weapons they unlock new abilities, making a weapon more than are more than just a tool for make damage.

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The world environment has had a complete overall, firstly the use of the new Forgelight Engine as demonstrated in SOEs other title, Planetside 2, and that means that it will provide the game with a high level of atmospheric details; misty swamps, dust motes floating in sun rays or impressive day and night cycles. As well as changing the color of the land depending on whether it is day or night, and visible changes such as stretched out and moving shadows as the sun progresses over time through the sky, the team are planning to tie in game cues to these time changes. Areas that may be perfectly safe during the day will become hotbeds of enemies at night, or certain creatures only appear at dawn or at dusk, while shopkeepers will close their shops at night.

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However, the major environment overhaul that the game will introduce is from the very building blocks of the game itself, using sophisticated “voxels” to make up the game world. These tiny components that make up the objects and assets in the world are completely destructible, with words of the own Georgeson: “everything in the world destructible; anything, anytime, anywhere.” Here they showed us a demonstration of how a Mage controlled by a player is attacked by two enemies, and the Mage invokes a wall of ice, that blocks the enemies from approaching, but they are able to attack the wall until it is destroyed, threatening again the Mage until they reach a bridge that the mage destroys with a powerful fire attack, and sending their enemies to their deaths.

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The use of destructible terrain is primarily a tactical one, because you can use the environment to your advantage, and your enemies will use it against you. Assets destroyed by players will heal slowly over time and return to their original state, but it takes long enough that another player might come into an area and that same bridge still be gone to them. Monster destruction on the other hand does not have to regenerate without the direct influence of players, for example if a dragon destroys a castle, this may stay destroyed until the players to reconstruct it.

Whilst this may seem like it could be demanding on your computer system, Georgeson insists that they are trying to avoid instancing as much as possible and they plan to use it sparingly, saving it more for scenario like encounters that are more scripted to the player.

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At this point they talk about a life of consequences, and how players’ actions can have beneficial reactions and also dire consequences. From as small as treating an NPC badly may result in those other NPCs associated with him treating you with disdain, to much larger effects called “Emergent AI”. An example they gave us was an Orc camp, that where in traditional MMORPGs orcs camps always appear in the same location all the time, in EverQuest Next the same orc camp will be placed in the world, but the orcs will roam free. The Orcs will have their own likes and dislikes, and they will set up camps in areas that are suited to their needs, for example where they can settle near roads to attack travelers and away from cities and guards. But if in the area guards begin to appear or players are constantly attack the camp, they will go to another area. Whilst you may have successfully made that portion of the road safe, the orcs may have moved on and found a nearby unprotected village and begun to attack it, which gives some consequences to your actions.

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This feature is also seen in the “Rallying Calls” system, an event for the whole server that can last for two or three months until it is completed and that gives a mission to all the players on the server. During these campaigns, players will have to take action make all kind of choices and complete side missions for example helping to build a new settlement on the frontier. The players can choose to help build fortifications or push back potential threats. Perhaps moving away threats too far cause a goblin Horde appears because you've disturbed their domains, threatening the settlement, from this action the NPCs then demand a stone wall to be built and so you can help build a quarry… but when you dig too deep there are creatures from beneath the surface not very happy with your intrusion which you now have to fight back. The Rallying Call continues until it is completed, different Calls put out at different times on individual servers with different triggers initiating them. Each "Rallying Call" will be a unique event that only happens once, that will change the face of the game world forever, from the example above creating a new settlement where before there was nothing. What follow these events cannot be predicted, but once they have passed, the only way to know what happened is listen the Veterans tell their stories of the rise of the Goblin Horde or the terror of the Black Dragon!

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