Everquest Next is entirely voxel based and it's awesome

Michael Dunaway
By Michael Dunaway, News Editor August 2, 2013
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I've just returned from a rather extensive first look at SOE's sandbox MMO Everquest Next. As I rode up the elevator to my hotel room, I mulled over what I had seen and found it hard to narrow down exactly what wowed me the most.

With each passing minute during the presentation, SOE showed us feature after feature which completely blew away my expectations of what MMOs were capable of. As you can already tell by the title of this article, the first thing and indeed perhaps the most important feature, is the fact that EQ Next is entirely voxel based. Voxels may immediately remind players of Minecraft, but to be honest this goes way beyond the capabilities of Minecraft.

Everything in EQ Next is affected by the fact that the world is built with voxels, for the simple reason that everything in EQ Next is destructible. See that building? Smash a hole in it. See that bridge? Smash a hole in it. See that tree? Well you get the idea...

And it's not just the fact that everything is destructible. We've seen destruction in other MMOs before, but in EQ Next destruction is completely free-form. The extent of the destruction is dependent on the angle of attack and the driving force behind it. Smashing a hammer into the ground may leave a small crater, but use an ability with a little more explosive force and you may find yourself (and your enemies) falling through a chasm into a whole new level. Which brings me to my next talking point. Tiers.

Everquest Next does not function on a singular plane. It is in fact a collection of planes stacked on top of each other which can change based on procedural generation and through player actions. Each of these planes offers new enemies to fight, resources to collect, and areas to explore. Underground areas are nothing new to MMOs, but the way we've explored them has always been the same. Zones typically have fixed entrances and exits, but by giving players the ability to make their own paths, zones no longer need any fixed entry points. Players can simply grab a shovel and start digging.

These tiered planes aren't statically separate from one another either. By opening up a pathway to another plane, players may unintentionally awake ancient evils which can then emerge from the newly created pathways and cause havoc for those above.

For those of you worried the world will be left in ashes a few hours after launch, don't be. While world destruction does allow for new gameplay interactions and experiences, the damage will heal over time. Buildings however, are a different story. SOE did make it clear some cities would be impervious to player attempts at griefing, but that may not always be the case. SOE says that while some areas are off limits to player destruction, dynamic world events can occur which will destroy some cities permanently.

But how does it play? After-all, what good is a destructible environment if the combat is lackluster? Thankfully, SOE appears to be at least somewhat on the right track. I say somewhat because there was no UI featured in the presentation, which means we only got to see how combat looked versus how it functioned mechanically. From the look of things, the combat appears to be action-based with some telegraphed attacks and an emphasis on player movement. Don't expect to stand in one spot simply whacking away at the enemy.

Two of the 8 base classes were featured during the presentation, the mage and warrior. Both very traditional classes in their own right, each can choose to wield a handful of weapons which affect what abilities a player has access to. The weapons themselves can even be altered to change what they do. But these are just the base classes and as players explore they will encounter opportunities to gain new classes. Just how many? Try over 40.

Not only can players accrue new classes, but at any time a player can mix and match classes to create their own style of play. The more you find the more you can customize.

To give you an idea of what kind of abilities players can utilize, a mage for example can use her Vortex ability to suck all surrounding enemies into a tightly compacted ball while simultaneously teleporting her backwards and then exploding said ball of enemies. Warriors can whirlwind to send enemies flying while destroying bits of the environment around him as he spins.

All of the abilities shown had physics effects tied to them and nearly all of them had some sort of destructive element which damaged the environment.

A big complaint concerning most MMOs today is in regards to players having a permanent effect on the world. Kill a group of mobs and complete a public quest in any other MMO and a few minutes later the area is once more in peril. According to SOE this is not the case with EQ Next.

Unlike traditional MMOs where enemies spawn in fixed locations at certain times, EQ Next features "Emergent AI". Instead of populating the world with respawning groups of enemies, SOE has given mobs the choice to move where they want to move. The way this works is through tags.

Everything in the world of Everquest Next is tagged. Mobs have particular sets of interests which cause them to seek out tagged areas which fit those interests. An Orc for example, doesn't like to be around cities due to the patrolling guards, but they do like money. So a released group of Orcs may decide to settle down near a lonely stretch of road, away from the guards and in an area where they can easily gank players who may have purses of gold. Something the Orcs desire very much.

By alerting the city guards to patrol these paths or by simply choosing not to traverse them, Orcs will suddenly find the area unsuitable and will move to find a new home.

This reactive AI doesn't just affect where players will fight enemies. It will also effect what they can do in the surrounding areas. While not exclusive, a good example of this can be seen in Everquest Next Rallying Call system which brings all the elements mentioned above together.

The Rallying Call represents a worldwide objective for players to complete. Think public quest but on crack. The Rallying Call is a random event which takes place somewhere in the game world and can take up to 2 or 3 months to complete in real time. While the Calls do have multiple stages, players won't know which stage they are on or what will cause the next stage to begin.

SOE gave an example where players were called to build a city in a previously unoccupied area. The city starts out small with players building log walls for early defenses and roaming the nearby country to dispatch of any lingering enemies, in this case some goblins. However, the act of driving goblins from the surrounding area can piss off the local goblin king who may send his troops in to burn down the wooden buildings and fortifications. If players manage to drive back the invaders, the villagers will begin building stone walls which require them to dig down in order to collect more resources. Players can choose to help build the walls, mine the resources, or defend the miners against enemies which emerge from the quarry.

Eventually, the Goblin king may return with a siege army necessitating a huge number of players to defend the city. If players are succesful, a new Rallying Call will begin, somewhere else in the world or maybe even there. The city at this point becomes a permanent fixture, filled with NPCs that can open up new opportunities for players. However SOE mentioned that while the city is permanent, something like say, a dragon, may come along and burn it to the ground at a future date.

These Calls aren't meant to be simple repeatable encounters, but world shaping events which have lasting effects and actually serve to further the history in-game.

The game is of course, still a long ways from release, which was apparent due to the large amounts of concept art and the small tech demo shown in the presentation. Still, Everquest Next shows SOE is serious about bringing something brand new to the table. We knew to expect something different out of Everquest Next. This was apparent after SOE decided to throw out two different iterations of the MMO. But I don't think anyone could have expected such a fundamental shift in what is expected from a fantasy based MMO. Certainly not one based on an MMO built 14 years ago.

Expect more details to come over the next few days including class info, interviews and a breakdown of Everquest Next's sister title, Everquest Next: Landmark.

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About the Author

Michael Dunaway
Michael Dunaway, News Editor
Michael Dunaway has been part of the MMOBomb team for years and has covered practically every major Free-to-Play title since 2009.

Discussion (59)

Garland 7 years ago
You are so interesting! I don't think I've read
through a single thing like this before. So wonderful to discover someone with unique thoughts on this subject
matter. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This
web site is one thing that's needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

OneInAMillion 8 years ago
Im on a "MMORPGCRISIS" i need something awesome to play, and this, this looks awesome, this will totally be popular as hell, looks awesome

Razer 8 years ago
I'm not normally into MMORPGs but anything that tries to break the mold in this stagnant, homogenized genre deserves a look.

jellopy 8 years ago
SERIOUSLY, don't. There is no excuse for poor voice acting, look at falskaar for skyrim, all grade a voice actors and they didn't make a penny for it. HIRE THEM.

jellopy 8 years ago
Of course even if the voice overs are a crime against humanity the game can still be decent, but please soe do not make this another Neverwinter in that respect. Hire people who don't sound emotionless and bored when they start speaking, for the love of god.

jellopy 8 years ago
I've been looking forward to this for some time. I loved EQ back before I tried wow, eq2 was rather disappointing so I'm glad to see they are putting everything into EQ Next. It does look amazing so far and it looks to have a massive immersive environment following a similar structure to guild wars 2's living world design. I really hope they don't butcher it with shoddy story telling, lore and voice overs like they did with dragons prophet.

Cryght 8 years ago
I hope SOE doesnt turn this game into a heavy Cash shop dependent thing.... I hated Everquest 1 and 2 because of the "you need to subscrip" to be able to have access to all the game.

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jonathon82 8 years ago
cut spunk some slack. He's giving us free previews, free looks and free keys to a free site with no ads. I'm cool. Let him have his opinion. He's excited. I'd be too if I got an upclose of this one

Archinoz 8 years ago
from what i read, i think the game world will start as a continent, events shape the continent until the devs decided to release a new continent thru calls, and the shaping will start all over. if it is like this then most likely the game will need to be patched heavily and regularly, expect a daily patch

dirtyzerg 8 years ago
Should prob clarify what I mean before someone QQ's all over it..

The game looks decent from whats been released..my type of action fighting style..

However, the track record with SoE and F2P..or even B2P/P2Ps..is horrid.

If its B2P: will be a lot of "unlockables" for money, giving clear advantages..
If its F2P: Restrictions for everyone unless subber..even "Premium" accounts not worth playing..like DCUO
If its P2P: A pop up like on EQ for PS2..."Oh look at this amazing item we gave you! Only 4.99$ to unlock and use it!"

yeah..no thanks

dirtyzerg 8 years ago
I was interested until I realized it's an SoE game

ZaneLear 8 years ago
I have never had the chance to play EQ when I was young, I remember the first time seeing it was on a TV show called Portal ages ago, I think on Tech TV or something like that, there use to be a "Wanderer" or some character they would have travel inbetween MMO's.

Tho at the time I never knew what an MMO was since I was young and had no computer or internet, even if so it was a monthly sub game, so yeah...

I am sure it went F2P or something, I should look into it, tho hearing you can destroy buildings, the ground and etc to get to other places, I think this game if done right will take WoW, bend it over and well you know... chop it's head right off executioner style, this might make things tough for ESO well maybe.

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mitchzje 8 years ago
Looks intense lol

Bic Boi 8 years ago
I'd advise reserving judgement until you can get real solid hands-on time with it. High expectations are almost always left to falter just as hype is nearly always greater than the product's worth.

extasist 8 years ago
i wonder how they will manage 1000 mages or more in one place destroying everything.

IahEden 8 years ago
Sounds like my dream MMO...But, I'll probably have to save up some cash and upgrade my computer in order to play it. For some reason (*sigh*) I doubt this will run on my laptop. It's been something I've been meaning to do for a while,now,though; my system specs lock my out of a lot of really good games. I can't seriously play very much of anything on this computer without downgrading the graphics so much they make an otherwise pretty game look terrible.

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EmperorRpG 8 years ago
does anyone know when we can expect an open beta?? this has been in development since 2009 so hoping its soon :P

Amicushia 8 years ago
I love this, thanks for the article Spunkify :)

removalmitt 8 years ago
You used the example 'mage can use HER' - wouldn't have thought there would be gender class locks going forward but checking as I find this really annoying.

Sounds really promising, hope they can deliver what they propose. Like the idea of the mob AI 'tags', also the real environment destruction (which stays for a bit) - games in the past have talked the talk like this but when the game came out it was just pretend hype.

If they can push hard to rival ESO release I may not bother even trying that (unless ftp).

Just add in some large server vs server arena / map and I'll be happy -- I mean some big numbers, more than 100 vs 100 should do it --- Spunkify mentioned Eve Online 4k lag battle then turned it on it's head with 2.2k no lag -- envy, I wish I could be part of something so epic (will only go to btp at most) -- sad as it is the most epic battles I've done were in RF online on a private server approx 1.5k CW - that was laggy

Castrial 8 years ago
Looks like there's gonna be a competition with this and wildstar.

Okofire 8 years ago
Lets hope there will not be so many same monsters like in TERA.

chefmadness 8 years ago
Multiclassing I'm there! So tired of the damn cookie cutter classes. Hope the multiclassing is better than DDO & as far as i am concerned DDO has the best multiclassing system out there! & the rest is just icing on the cake.

Buzzcut 8 years ago
Sounds cool. I wonder if my laptop can run it. Also, it would be cool if it wasn't level based. I like the idea of mmorpgs, but I don't have time to max a character.

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wow 8 years ago
Lol more running to town from a giant mob on the road nearby, players would get angry.
Mob blows up smithy*
Grefox29:Dude wtf! Who THE HELL BROUGHT THT HUGE THING HERE!!??

ZombieMarkTwain 8 years ago
I'll admit this is awesome....but there is a bit catch. If they do a release like Aion with a Truly ftp model it will be epic. If they want to nickel and dime me to death for classes and races....well they can keep the game. I enjoy the idea of being able to pay when I want to. Not having to pay for content like quests and world areas. Still looks nice and I'm excited for more news! ^_^

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Jowns 8 years ago
I'll believe it when I see it

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Kirito0524 8 years ago
Is this going to be multiplayer?

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zariarn 8 years ago
Not going to lie....It seems awfully toony. I was expecting something with a little more realism, especially in the character models. The shiny combat system looks like something from perfect world or TERA.

I'm not blown away by any means. We'll see how it pans out as the development continues.

just my two cents

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Truth 8 years ago
This is so amazing. I'll play this for sure!

DinoLove 8 years ago
Yea, Buying a new computer soloy for this.... This is my dream MMO.

extasist 8 years ago
most of the things will be distractible and whats the side effect of that? because i read that this game is build on nvidia physx i have nothing against nvidia, but now im using AMD tried hawken with physx stuff on, game is unplayable, im interested how they will balance this between the gaming cards amd and nvidia, or amd users will be left out.

I'llReadItElsewhere 8 years ago
Wow...get somebody to proof your work first man. This was tough to read in places and there are things wrong in the headline and first sentence even. Appreciate the attempt but maybe you should leave the real writing to Jason Winter.

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Mr.Heartless 8 years ago
This....sounds...absolutely amazing! If they manage to pull off these concepts and annex it to a fully functional combat system, I'd be already sold.

hopeful 8 years ago
Very hopeful

asdfaSD 8 years ago
cant try it, would rather leave blown out of proportion reviews out

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