Editorials & Opinion / PC Gaming

I Dream of Everquest Next

I’ve spent a lot of time lately collecting and listening to older videogame music from my youth. Most notably, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of the first Everquest game. While I didn’t write anything about the recent SOE Live event (though I did watch a lot of it, including the truly dreadful costume contest), I have written more than enough articles on the nostalgic draw I have to the classic game. Listening to the music only strengthens that draw. But after having heard a few more tantalizing details on how Everquest’s next installment might play, I can’t help but look to the past and the future, and be hopeful of something altogether more deserving of the EQ mantle than Everquest II. Here are a few things that I hope EQN does right:

I want less emergency and more emergence …

I think it is safe to say that Guild Wars 2 successfully created its own unique version of a typical MMO level grind that fun to play.  Unlike the more static affairs of games like World of Warcraft, the usage of events really gave GW2’s world a frenzied, kinetic vibe that promoted individuals to band together without any hesitation and to aid nearby allies when things got rough.

I want the end product of Everquest Next to have a definite and necessary cooperative aspect to it.  I want to be able to help players and not feel like we are all grinding down our own rail of checklists and scavenger hunts.  However, unlike Guild Wars 2, I don’t want to be constantly in motion.  Every event in GW2 feels immediate and necessary and requiring your attention.

The first Everquest game would be too relaxed for the modern MMO player, but I would love to bring back some of its pacing.  In a game like GW2, it may feel seemless and easy and necessary to coop with others for an event, but in Everquest I actually had time to meet those people and form friendships.  We can argue if its just padding or not, but MMOs shouldn’t set the player on fire the entire time.

Maybe I don’t need quests and events constantly in my face after all …

I think events and questing in general would benefit from not being constantly in your face with the exact duration and measurement of their scope.  When it comes to making an emergent game, I think this is especially the case.  I mean, it is self-evident enough that the nearby town hunts game in their nearby forest, and that anything that threatens that game (such as monsters or supernatural creatures) would be public enemy number one.  I don’t really need giant exclamation points, exact numbers of things to kill, or a ticking clock counting down how quickly I have to kill them.

A game like Guild Wars 2 did a good job of rewarding you for your exploration, for the most part, but often that exploration still felt intended.  Rarely did I encounter a place that had not been hand designed with a specific intent relating to an event that had already passed through the area.  Compare that to something like the Chessboard from Everquest where it looked cool, was tucked away in the corner of the map, and you never quite knew how powerful a mob would spawn.

Please, don’t give me a thousand different buttons to click …

If you have played Everquest II, you know what I mean.  In that game, every class has a real need for at least 5 or 6 different hotbars to maximize their effectiveness in the games raiding.  While I hate to hold WoW up as some sort of beacon of diserability, the game definitely does a better job of balancing the number of skills you might want (though WoW classes might could use a few more overall, if I am being completely honest).  I don’t really need ten different kinds of heals, especially when you could do three different levels of healing with one spell (depending on how long you hold the button down ala Champions Online charge abilities).

While we are at it, I don’t want to play an action game either …

I may be alone here, but I don’t really want dedicated dodge or blocking buttons like recent MMO entries Guild Wars 2 and DCUO.  I would be fine enough with breaking up the monotony of caster classes being required to stand still while they cast.  I don’t really need any other heavy action elements creeping into what I expect to be a much more evenly paced game of strategically employing your resources, cooldowns, and position.  Anything else just makes it feel too messy for my tastes.


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