SOE Live 2013  EverQuest Next's mechanics and more

Anyone who attended SOE Live this year heard quite a bit about EverQuest Next. Even if the upcoming sandbox was not the reason you came, you couldn't help but learn a thing or two. And for those who braved the crowds to attend multiple panels focused on the game, chances are you are still trying to sort through all the information and remember everything that was said! That's where we come in.

After attending all the panels and sitting down with multiple devs, we've complied and summarized as much information as we can for you. Today's focus is on various mechanics (such as armor, combat, and classes) as well as a few other odds and ends we tossed in. So why are you still here? All that good stuff is after the break!

A magic wielderMechanics: class

Let's start with the one topic you are familiar with: classes. We already know that there are only eight starting classes for EQ Next (of which Senior Producer Terry Michaels said, "They will be very well-known and easily understandable classes that are from games that we've made in the past). And of those classes, the seven that you don't select upon character creation will become available out in the world with all the others. But how will players obtain these classes? Two examples of methods confirmed by Franchise Director Dave Georgeson are finding an ancient scroll or being taught by a master, but he alluded to there being more.

Some classes will be more universal and easier to get, while other classes will have certain requirements that must be met before they become available to a player. Take, for example, an evil class such as the Shadowknight in EverQuest II (and no, that does not mean this is a class -- though with all times Georgeson and others have mentioned it to me in examples, I highly suspect it is!). Players who are all good and heroic won't qualify to learn that class and must instead do things more befitting a real practitioner of those dark arts. So classes are less about just getting what sounds nice or has the "right" skills, and more about being actually reflective of your character's choices. If an evil player is redeemed, he won't necessarily lose a learned skill, but the ability to interact with the ones necessary to develop that skill will be lost.

Another topic we've covered is that abilities plus items constitute a character build, so let's focus on the items half of that equation. Throughout the world, players will find items that will support and/or enhance different abilities -- meaning individual skills, not just builds. So just as players seek more classes to experiment with the many abilities and make a variety of builds, they'll need to acquire different items in order to better utilize those abilities in assorted combinations. As for switching between the different builds, devs assure us there are systems in place to organize and switch between them quickly.

Armor sets
Mechanics: armor

Speaking of items, let's talk the most obvious item each character will possess: armor. In EQN, a set of armor will consist of only five pieces (a departure from the current games that have many equipment slots). Having less pieces, however, does not make the sets less customizable. In this Norrath, armor sets belong to families, a group of armor with a common theme (Qeynos for instance). If you like the look of the shoulders or belt on one chest-piece, but prefer the main body of another, you can swap them out for a unique look. But doing so can have consequences; as each family group has certain properties, a swap outside the family will affect the stats, whereas a swap within the family will not.

As an armor side note, the devs understand that players are nostalgic, and they want EverQuest and EverQuest II players to feel a sense of homecoming. For that reason they've already planned a number of items that will be reflective of familiar armor pieces from the first two games, often combining elements of the two into one new piece for the new game. One example displayed was the infamous Flowing Black Robe.

Ready for a fight
Mechanics: combat

Anyone present at any of the panels heard at least one variation (and usually many more) of "How can I grief others?" To this, Georgeson replied at one point, "We're not actually building a game so that you can grief." Players can certainly make choices to be the villain -- remember that those choices will affect how the NPCs see the player, not just other players. In other words, a player can definitely become KoS (Kill on Sight) to specific groups, races, or cities.

"As was witnessed in numerous questions from attendees, players kept trying to fit the square peg of EQN in the round hole of their current MMO understandings."

Concerning the holy trinity of grouping: Many players have expressed concern about how the lack of dedicated class roles will lead to anarchy and destroy the social aspect with everyone only looking out for themselves. But the devs have assured us that players who want to play more defensively can do just that, as well as players who want to be supportive can support -- they just won't ever be locked into those roles and the roles will not be required. It was noted specifically that no single role or pair of roles is integral to unlocking the strategy of defeating each encounter. Groups will have to come together and develop strategies to counteract the more intelligent AI that they will face.

The idea emphasized over and over is that all players get to actively engage in the world around them, not just stare at healthbars, threat meters, or refreshing abilities. Additionally, players need to realize that the classic role definitions do not fit into EverQuest Next. Georgeson explained, "One point to make there is that our NPCs aren't stupid enough to attack the same person over and over and over again while the rest of the party is killing them. They will be able to figure out how you are hurting them and they will stop you from doing it." And players will have to watch out for more than just the fists, paws or claws of their foes, as falling rocks and other environmental debris is also planned to cause damage (much like an AoE).

Other known tidbits involving combat include dungeons and raids, even though the devs won't elaborate any further. If you have any doubts about the raids, just re-watch that clip with the massive golem that the lone Kerran Warrior was hightailing it away from! And what about death? How does it work, and what kind of consequences are there? Sadly, the devs responded that this is an easy answer, but not one they were ready to divulge.

Adventurer go down the hole?
Mechanics: questing

Throughout the panels, devs talked about the organic nature of interacting with and progressing through the world. The same goes for questing. Although the base storyline/objective remains the same, meaning the reason you are sent on a task, the path to accomplish it changes depending on the current setting of the world.

Here's an example: A Froglok village needs a special amulet to be returned that is now in a local mine. There's the objective. However, when you get to the mine, who controls the mine currently depends on the actions of recent players. Have the brutish Orcs overrun it, or do archaeologist Gnomes fill the tunnels? The actions you'll need to undertake to retrieve that amulet will be very different depending on who is there and what they want with the item.

As for finding those quests, remember it will be organic: see a need, fill a need. There will be no random punctuation directing you to those who need your help.

Panel goodness
MORE!

That all said, there is obviously a whole lot more involved with this game than we've been let in on. Question after question in the panels was answered by "We're not talking about that yet... but we think you're going to really like it." Several times Georgeson bit his lip to keep from blurting something out. It's all just a matter of time before we learn more.

One thing that I think deserves mentioning is something that a couple of devs mentioned to me -- it's not that they are intentionally withholding information just to be cruel, but they want folks to have time to really wrap their heads around the new concepts and vision before really delving into the nitty-gritty details. Without a solid understanding of the basis, the features won't make much sense. And as was witnessed in numerous questions from attendees, players kept trying to fit the square peg of EQN in the round hole of their current MMO understandings. So let's give our fellow gamers time to acclimate to this new way of thinking.

Oh, and I promised some odds and ends, so here are some random morsels of information that didn't quite fit anywhere else, but are certainly worth mentioning (many courtesy of fellow players' questions in the various Q&A sessions):
  • In-game pets will utilize the same intelligent AI as all of the other NPCs.
  • EU players: Georgeson "got the message" about Prosiebensat.1 concerns; the team will discuss the situation with the partners and will announce a decision when there is one.
  • While it is not decided if EQ Next will be a part of All Access, devs would be surprised if it wasn't in some way.
  • Expect to be able to display your equipment in your house in some fashion.
What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, at least where SOE Live is concerned! Massively sent intrepid reporters MJ Guthrie and Karen Bryan to this year's SOE Live, from which they'll be transmitting all the best fan news on EverQuest Next, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and the other MMOs on SOE's roster.

This article was originally published on Massively.