Sunday, August 4, 2013

Age of Heroes? Are You Sure About That? : EQNext

After the reveal comes the detail, that place wherein the devil resides. Over the next few days I plan to sift through the various panels to see what drops out. For no better reason than it was the first one I happened upon, this morning I watched the Lore panel.

Part 1

Part 2

As a visual spectacle it leaves something to be desired but as background to EQ2 with the sound dialed down it's decent entertainment. Jeff Butler in particular is dry enough to desiccate coconut. More to the point it's packed with interesting information.

They begin with a discussion on storytelling that I thought said a lot about where SOE is going with EQNext. Transmedia came up right at the start. If you want to know what's going on, don't expect to find it all in game. This is very much the current paradigm for MMOs: more of GW2's Living Story happens on the company website than in Tyria, Defiance is on television, The Secret World broadcasts directly into your skull through a neural implant. (You didn't know that? Did you not read the EULA?).

I've moved house on this. Once I was all "oh if it isn't in the game it's not canon" but that's so 20th century. Multiple points of entry into the story and lore delivered independently of the game add to the experience, give depth, nuance, complexity, all those good abstract nouns. If done well, of course. Always need to add that caveat. Given adequate quality control I welcome Norrath onto my bookshelf, browser, tablet or wherever else it may turn up.

The term "Intellectual Property" crops up early and often. Someone at SOE seems finally to have woken up to the fact that the Everquest franchise is their primary home-grown, wholly-owned asset. Not before time. One throwaway comment mentioned the possibility of making several games set in the EQNext world. Let's hope so. My appetite for all things Norrathian takes some sating, I can tell you. I bet I can eat it faster than you can bake it.

They're hot on "Show Don't Tell", which is another of those unexamined universal goods. Most of us don't read quest text (although as quickly becomes apparent a Lore panel is probably not the place to make that claim, not if you want to get out alive) so visual storytelling is in. The environment itself will reflect the current stage of the story and apparently this a New Thing to EQNext. I struggle to remember the last time I strolled into a town that had been invaded by orcs and didn't notice, but still it's nice to be reassured on that point.

It's certainly a hell of an improvement on WildStar's Twitter-inspired 140 character quest text for the short of attention-span. The panel had some comfort for readers, too. There will be a ton of written lore to find in the game for those who like that sort of thing (/em raises hand). Libraries were mentioned. Player-written books weren't but I hope they remember those from EQ2. That's a true sandbox feature if ever there was one.

The experience of reading was offered as a more pertinent analog for the gameplay experience itself, in a way I haven't previously heard claimed for an MMORPG. This would appear to be the StoryBricks influence once again, with major or significant NPCs interposing themselves in the player's story without warning, taking on the coloration and texture of novelistic characters. If they pull that off it really will be a game-changer, in more sense than one.

I'm not entirely sure I want to have a nemesis or arch-enemy that really does appear at inopportune moments and so confound my plans that I actually want to kill him. Imagine if you'd just spent an hour fighting through a dungeon in a group and were on the final boss when the tank's nemesis appeared from behind a curtain, twirled his mustaches and tossed a handful of ball-bearings under his steel-clad feet, sending him sprawling and wiping the group. Oh, I dunno though...

Finally there's archeology. That got a brief mention in the Big Reveal when Snagglepuss and Gurnface were falling through the crust. It doesn't get much more than a mention here but it sounds very intriguing. Fragments of lore from all the previous eras buried in the destructible voxel layers beneath our feet. I'm betting it actually turns out to be EQNext's version of Collects (shinies, if you prefer) but even if it's no more than that it'll be most welcome. I love a Collect, me.

After the mini-seminar on storytelling it was on to a concise, comprehensible and, to me at least, fascinating history lesson. I love Everquest lore. Spinks recently said that it's something only grognards care about but I don't think that's fair. I think a lot of players care about it but only the grognards claim to understand it. For the rest of us it's much like World History. We know the names of a few battles, the odd king or general; we might, at a push, come up with a very broad-brush picture of a handful of historical periods, though we'd struggle to put them in the correct chronological order. It's all pretty much a blur.

For EQNext they appear to have pruned everything back and tidied it up. With the help of Powerpoint even I could follow it. I did struggle with two millennia of elven rule being described as a "Golden Age" but at least now I understand who The Shissar are and what happened to Takish`Hiz. Looks like a solid foundation.

The pantheon takes a much-needed haircut, too. Norrath has long suffered from Godcreep so it was very good to see the headcount drop to a mere fourteen rather than the four dozen or so on this list(and that's three years old so it's almost certainly passed fifty by now). It was very interesting in the Q&A at the end to hear the audience focus on this aspect of the presentation above all else. Choosing a god of their very own is very important to some people it seems. Well, they're going to be disappointed because in EQNext it's what you do that defines your character, not which Deity you picked at character creation, something you can do in your head only from now on. (Karana. Just sayin').

So there we have it. Other than the lapse of judgment that lumbered us with the "Age of Heroes" tag, it all sounds very clear, well laid out, rational and coherent. Just wait 'til we get our hands on it.


  1. Remember you said I need start a blog?

    I really don't need it.

    SOE is making a better job shaking the MMO bloggers than any post I can write will do.

    SOE intend make a game, EQNext, that will advance both the sandbox and the themepark: a minecraft sandbox and more fluid and organic dynamic events/public quests.

    SOE is showing with EQNext what the pink colored glasses that nostalgia make bloggers say about games from old like EQ and UO are only a illusion. EQNext is shattering the hopes form people that want return to old EQ and UO because EQNext is moving foward to the furture and not backward to a past taht is dead and dead will s tay forever and ever dead.

    EQNext is not an WoW-clone, it is more a GW2 AND minecraft clone. WoW-clone and WoW era is dead, but for WoW we will need wait that game go F2P.

    Remeber what a lot of blogs said about temporally content in GW2? How they will cope with the fact that EQNext have ONLY temporally content? If you are not fighting the goblin king when he attacks the city, you will lose it forever!

    I will certainly play EQNext Landmark next december. I agree withe verything the devs said about EQNext.

    I know it is impossible to fullfill all promises, the plans never survive to implementation, that EQNext will not be everything they said will be.


    1. There's no collective of "MMO Bloggers". It's not the bloody Masons! There are as many tastes and opinions as there are blogs. It seems to me that your main beef is with a certain few of them and I struggle to understand why you come here and rant at me instead of going to their blogs and ranting at them.

      The whole "either/or" thing between sandboxes and theme parks is nonsense, too, as is the "future vs past" argument. We're talking about computer games here, not some kind of religion. If there's either a commercial market or a sufficiently-motivated fanbase for Holy Trinity games, Holy Trinity games will get made. No-one is asking you to play them. If you don't like them, just ignore them.

      Personally I hope a whole variety of MMOs continue to be made so that everyone has a choice. I can't see what business it is of anyone to attack games they don't play and aren't even considering playing.

    2. @Bahgpuss, the best answer I can give for you is show that both syncaine and belghast are making a tauntrum.

      You can see that both are AGAINST the idea of MMO diversity.

      For syncaine, only pvp full loot sandbox MMO need exist, all toehr kind of MMO will be a disaster. He never will be happy with people saying to him :but you have Darkafall", because he want everything be Darkafall.

      Belghast is being honest with his post "Out of Pasture": "[...] but I want there to be a 'Tanky' role in whatever it is". So, for Belghast, diversity too is an anathema.

      Without diversity, there are no evolution. There are a huge problem with MMO genre now: if the genre don't evolve, it will go extinct.

      I normally say that WoW model is dead. The EQN dev give us a better explanation: all MMO are copying D&D for the last 20 years and that needs change.

  2. Read as much summaries on EQNext as I could, and in a sense it seems too good to be true as it basically sums up pretty much everything I've been looking for in a MMORPG.

    That's one tripidation I have.

    Others I have are more down to earth, like

    - will the game have enough short races like Gnomes and Froglocs;

    - how will the controls/ui be (whatever else can be said about the title, I do think WoW's are close to perfect, while eg EQ2 is rather annoying to click at things and I hate more 'console/direct action' controls) ;

    - will European current-Sony customers be spared from ProSieben, or will I have to move to a company I don't really want to take product from, as the Beta-SignUp seems to suggest, and, if so, what will that mean for my stash of SonyCash?

    Those caveats aside, EQNext does hold a lot of promise.

    And you just know 'Titan' may very well be a more 'casual', more polished version of it, and hence has been postponed ;P


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