Everquest Next will make its debut on Aug 1-4 at SOE Live, and John Smedley promises a playable version will be out sometime this year. But will it be all its cracked up to be? Or will those who loved adventuring in the original Everquest come away disappointed?
Here are three things Everquest Next will need to be successful:
1. Difficulty. World of Warcraft may be the worst thing to ever happen to MMOs. The game itself isn’t bad, but its appeal for casual players combined with huge subscription numbers turned a hardcore genre into easy mode. The MMO market is now full of games that have little-to-no death penalty and extreme hand holding through quests. This is a stark turnaround from the days when it took months upon months for players to solve some of Everquest’s more difficult quests.
2. Sandbox gameplay. This is one of the advertising points of Everquest Next, and it is something they must deliver. Each new generation of MMO seems to get more linear, which kills both freedom of game style and general replayability. There was a certain sense of creating your own adventure that went hand-in-hand with early MMOs like Ultima Online and Everquest that have been acutely missing in recent releases.
3. Recapture the Everquest Magic. If Sony were to simply recreate Everquest with the same races, classes, quests and general sense of difficulty combined with today’s technology to create more expansive and beautiful content, they’d have a hit. Unfortunately, Sony decided to gamble on a new formula. But the challenge for John Smedley and the team working on Everquest Next is to create a game that plays and feels like Everquest, as opposed to one that plays and feels like Everquest 2. While not a horrible game, Everquest 2 fell victim to the idea of “class archetypes”, a game-creating philosophy that plays out more like creating an MMO by following instructions from a book titled “Building an MMO for Dummies”. Or, to put it more bluntly, developers following a ‘class archetypes’ philosophy simply aren’t good enough at their jobs to be developing an MMO.
Unfortunately, I think it is going to be #3 that we see the big failure on when we finally get our hands on Everquest Next. I hope I’m wrong, but sometimes the urge to do something new and different turns into doing something new and different for new and different’s sake. (Wow, that was a mouthful!). Developers can’t forget that the goal is not to be new, the goal is to be fun. There was plenty of fun to be had in the original Everquest system. There’s plenty more fun to be had perfecting that system. Doing something different just to do something different is a good way to set the game up for failure.
Hopefully, what we’ll get is some good, old-fashioned Everquest combined with all the great technology currently at our hands. I know that is what most people hope for when they hear “Everquest Next”.