SOE Needs To Find Balance With EverQuest Next
The EverQuest Next dev team's got a tricky tightrope to walk. Along with Ultima Online, EverQuest was the first big MMO (sorry, Meridian 59 fans) and some people are still in love with it, 14 years later.
On the other hand... the game is 14 years old. Even if you could update EQ's graphics to look like a modern-day title, the gameplay would feel old and outdated to first-time, or even returning, players. If you played the game for half of its lifespan – a full seven years – that means you haven't played it since 2006. If you've played other MMOs during that time, jumping back into EQ would be a jarring, and perhaps not altogether pleasing, experience.
EverQuest is like miniskirts in Starfleet – charming for its time, but clearly out of place today.
On the other hand, SOE knows its got a rabid fan base that still loves EverQuest, or that loved it “back in the day.” That crowd might don the proverbial rose-colored glasses a bit too often, but it also has some valid points. Modern MMOs are far more convenient and easier in many ways than they were back then, maybe to a fault. Even more recent converts to the MMO scene often pine for greater challenge than what's offered today.
But it would be foolish to think that EQN will “turn back the clock” all the way back to 1999 and become a game that, a few tweaks aside, plays just like the original. That kind of game simply won't fly today. SOE's clearly pouring a lot of money and development time into this title, and so they won't be happy with a “niche” hit. They might not be shooting for World of Warcraft's numbers, but they're going to want more than the half million or so players that EQ had at its peak.
Of course, change will be met... unenthusiastically... by a certain portion of the player base, even if they're in that group that quit playing EQ several years ago. A commenter on a Reddit thread titled “EQN Haters are the vocal minority, it seems,” sums up this situation quite well:
I think the big problem is when SOE said they were doing a reboot people though they were making Everquest Next as day 1 Everquest 1. I don't think anyone was expecting a complete reboot of the lore. I know i wasn't. I know some people are not going to be able to get over it, and some are going to wine loudly about it. But i think most of the people have gotten over that, and are now looking at the feature and thinking it looks pretty cool.
He probably hits both sides of the issue perfectly. Some people will never “get over it,” especially if they've been with EQ from day one. “I've been loyal for so long and this piece of crap is the thanks I get? WTF SOE???”
If you're one of the people who played EverQuest heavily in the past, or even still play it now, you're probably going to be in for a bit of a shock with EverQuest Next. We've all seen that some things are going to be different, that the game will look great, and hey that voxel stuff looks neat – but OMG they better not change X!
Personally, I can see where both sides are coming from. EQN does need to do something different to stand out, and, in a strange fashion, re-introducing some old concepts will seem “new.” But I expect (and hope) those to be in the form of more intricate crafting systems and open-world exploration, rather than things that simply chew up time and serve little real purpose, like 15-minute boat rides.
And if you're one of the people who fondly remember 15-minute boat ride to get somewhere, ask yourself this: Would you want that added to your current favorite MMO? The first time might be cool and scenic. The second time, third time, OK, that's neat, I didn't see that before. The 38th time? Just get me there, already. Some older ideas are still good today. Others died off for good reason.
What's your take? Beyond the shiny graphics and voxels, do you think EverQuest Next will be more “old school” or “new school”? And which would you prefer?
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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I would love to be proven wrong this game looks so amazing and refreshing, but all that work, creativity and programming has to be paid somehow. And I don't see it being paid with cosmetics only. I feel it's going to be very limiting to f2p players and will probably have some kind of subscription payment method which will make a lot of people (like myself) backing off.
As I said, I hope I'm proven wrong, there is nothing more that I want than this game to be good and fun to play whitout having to use my wallet for it.
But if that is the case and the game will really be p2w, I would rather have the game be buy 2 play instead of advertised as f2p.
What I can say about 1 is that I didn't play it enough, it was too dated for me, but still amazing according to it's hoards of followers.
I did play 2 around the time Desert of Flames was released, and the was a fun experience.
Champions of Norrath was a glitched Diablo 2 for the Play Station, as was it's sequel Return to Arms.
The table top game would have been amazing provided everyone playing had a processing unit to take care of the huge amounts of information you had to keep track of, and the constant updating and erasing to a character sheet.
Which brings me to EQOA Frontiers. The game was Horrible! I played it for Years though! What kept bringing me back to Frontiers was the fact that every painstaking character level, trade level, and class mastery point was worth it. I find that many mmorpgs now do not implement rewarding experiences for the time you spend trying to earn them. Why bother crafting the Phoenix's Headband for your Monk, you need to get a phoenix feather, and golden weave red silk, and have the skill to craft such a thing, when you can just go through the instance for a better piece of equipment at a lower level.
I don't want to sound like an uber-nerd but it would seem that people actually get rewarded in mmorpgs now for having less skill and spending less time on the game. Sure some people never take their hand off the mouse, or have a social life in the real world, but these are the people who's character names get known server wide. In a sense the master armor smith becomes a real life quest, your Paladin wants the best shield in the game, he'll either have to make it himself, get insanely lucky, or seek out Mordim Anvilsoul a real life player on the server.
P.V.P. and P.V.E. that monster/player is two levels higher than you, there is an 80% chance you will die, even if you literally have the best gear available to you at your level. Why bother to craft those low levels, or more, why bother to instance/dungeon run for gear until max level?
No mmorpg will be perfect, but the one ongoing trait I see amongst games, and the biggest design flaw is one simple rule they seem to be following, "Get the player to the highest level possible, as quickly as possible, so they'll have nothing to do and have to buy the expansion."
Believe it or not, I'm not trying to "troll" or "flame", I'm still new to forum etiquette.
I hope they stick to their guns and make the radical change pointed to in the reveal and panels. I know there is a certain type of person that becomes really attached to one social game, so hopefully EQ1&2 servers will be left open to cater for that crowd.
I've really liked nearly every mmo I've played for various reasons, they all have their high points. However, all the ones I have played share that static "mmo" feel. I am incredibly excited -far more than for any other release- that EQN is going to start breaking down that static feel and give us something magic- a real living, breathing, thinking virtual-world.
NS all the way.
That being said, EQ Next will probably be "new school" as you put it, Mr. Winter. Especially concerning are the details of the combat system which sound straight up like Vindictus/Dragon Nest/Continent of the Ninth/Dragon's Prophet/Tera..you get the idea. Action oriented. Being that the largest chunk of any mmorpg's content revolves around questing and fighting enemies, I expect the combat to be the largest obstacle for players to overcome; especially those who are fond of the older Everquest games. It admittedly is a drastic change for a series that was more or less set in its ways.
For every whining nostalgia freak their exists at least one person who would never touch the pile that EQ/EQ2 is (by todays standards) but is genuinely excited by the possibilities of whats been revealed for EQN.
Its easy to see they are trying to bring everquest into that "new School" era.
Cartoony Graphics = New look for Everquest and prolongs longevity (Cartoony graphics age better)
Story Revamp = Gives SoE a chance to rewrite the story adding in things the newer generation can relate to
Voxel based = The new generation is Minecraft. Building & destorying.