Welcome to the Crystal Ball, MMOBomb’s new semi-regular column where we pontificate on what we’d like to see in an upcoming free-to-play MMO or what we’d like to see added to an existing one!
Today’s topic is EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment’s next big thing, which John Smedley says will be “the largest sandbox style MMO ever designed” and “unlike anything you’ve ever seen.” Expectations FTW!
Skill > Level
Contrary to what some might believe, I don’t hate sandbox MMOs. What I “hate,” if anything, about most of them, is the notion that if you play longer, you automatically have an insurmountable advantage over someone who doesn’t. Beat me because you’re a better player? I can deal with that. Beat me because you’re level 50 and grinded out full sets of raid gear? Not so much.
Themepark-style MMOs have mostly managed to eliminate this kind of negative play experience, but sandbox devs still seem to think their players only like ganking underpowered noobs. A lot of them probably do, but as MMOs have matured, so has their audience, and I for one would rather be challenged on a slightly more balanced level.
Sony Online Entertainment undoubtedly wants EQN to be a “big” game, and it likely won’t get there by catering too heavily to the ultra-elite, 12-hours-a-day crowd. They’ll have to “soften” things a bit so a new player doesn’t get steamrolled 10 times in his first hour and quit the game forever.
SOE can use PlanetSide 2 as a template, where maxed-out players only have about a 20-25% numerical advantage over beginners. In a fair fight, two smart beginning players are more than a match for a totally certed-up character.
This isn’t to say experienced players won’t be better than noobs. Those players will know the terrain, the intracacies of the game system, and yes, have some numerical advantage. But I’d rather have fights be more dependent on skill – and maybe your allies – than on who’s better at grinding out numbers.
This seems like almost a given. I never played Star Wars: Galaxies, but I’ve heard former players rave about the gathering and crafting. More than probably any other MMO, crafting required enormous skill and dedication, and master crafters were just as sought after as high-end raiders.
I like crafting in MMOs, but, even more than combat systems, they’ve started to all feel pretty much the same. It’ll be refreshing to get a chance to try something totally new – to me, at least – even if it’s just half as good as what the old SWG players have told me.
It sounds kinda generic to say, “I want it to look pretty,” but after spending too much – I mean, some – time in PlanetSide 2, I’m drooling over the possibility of how gorgeous EverQuest Next could be.
As nice as PS2‘s environments are, imagine what SOE’s artists could do with a mist-cloaked swamp brimming with undead or an active volcano or a verdant elven village or other terrain that’s more “fantastical” and less “realistic” than the continents of Auraxis.
Now if I could just figure out a way to import my PlanetSide 2 tank into EverQuest Next…