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SOE Live 2013: The lore of EverQuest Next

SOE Live 2013  The lore of EverQuest Next
In the lead up to the big reveal for EverQuest Next, one note that gave a number of fans pause was that the world will be re-imagined for this iteration of the EverQuest franchise. The next Norrath will be familiar, but definitely not the same. But just how different is different? That question was on the lips of lore enthusiasts (who can most likely recite the entire history of the pantheon) and casual players (who've grown comfortable with their surroundings) alike. Thanks to SOE Live, we now have a partial answer to that very query.

During a dedicated lore panel, attendees were treated to a Norrathian History 101 class. Those in attendance heard the philosophy behind the lore design of EQ Next as well as a sketch of the history leading up to the start of the game. And now you can benefit from the class notes!

After the attendees took their seats, Creative Director Jeff Butler started things off by referring to another famous franchise reboot, Star Trek, for an example of what players will see. He added, "Expect a retelling and re-imagining of the EverQuest story, drawing on nostalgia for the franchise and in homage to all the EverQuests that have preceded [EQN]." He also mentioned how many people on the team were actually a part of the original EverQuest's lore development, so the depth of understanding and body of knowledge of the franchise lore is immense.

SOE Live 2013  The lore of EverQuest Next
The philosophy of lore

So why even remake the lore? Looking at it logically, I think it makes sense that a completely new vision -- from new ways for denizens to interact to new land mechanics -- needs a history that fits. The devs illustrated this by pointing out that a deep, rich, cohesive history full of robust stories is necessary for an authentic experience when digging down and uncovering ancient ruins. Think of how much more immersive is it to have congruency in the stories you uncover!

But that's not all. Butler explained that more than just supporting transmedia, (e.g., the official short stories), the reboot is meant as a way to involve others in as many avenues as possible, and like EQ Next Landmark, incorporate player creativity. He said, "We want our players to have multiple points of entry to our intellectual property; we want them to have multiple points of entry to our game."

Not only that, but a complete and deep lore gives SOE the opportunity to branch out beyond just EQN; devs discussed that this setup allows for future opportunities to create other stories or even games based on other eras in the timeline. The idea is that the lore is all inclusive, not just for those who physically play. Basically, EverQuest just got its own expanded universe!

It's all in the details

So the question is: What familiar things will players find in this Norrath, and what exactly has been tweaked? Players will find familiarity in the names they bump into and some places they visit even as they encounter new twists on them. For instance, a new character belonging to the Thex family will be introduced; although this particular character is all new, his story is steeped in well-known history. Another example is the elves: What are familiar names for different elven races in the previous games only designate different social sets of elves in EQ Next.

Another example is the gods of Norrath. In EQ Next, the gods sport some familiar names, but the entire religion system is set up differently and the deities roles are altered. The religion is split up into four different belief systems, broken down along cultural styles. The Seraphs, a fresh take on many familiar gods, are worshiped by most of the Combine. The Four is a more archaic type of religion, originating before the Dal era, that's focused on the elements. Veeshan is worshiped by the Dragons (and a few fringe humans). And No'ri is the world spirit of Norrath, which is the favored deity of the Kerran.

Unlike the lore in previous games, in this version of the lore, no one currently alive has ever seen one of the gods. (So no, there are no god avatar raid targets!) That, however, does not stop the gods from having very tangible influences in the world.

SOE Live 2013  The lore of EverQuest Next
A history lesson

Let's take a look at the events that lead up to the beginning of EQ Next. The timeline pictured above represents 20,000 years of Norrath, with each era named for the society that had the most influence during that time. We'll start at the Dal Era. Those who watched the sand art performance at the reveal actually watched the whole story unfold before their eyes.

Previous to the Dal era in history (veteran players may recognize that term), there wasn't much society to speak of, and evil creatures ran rampant. In the first age of the Dal Era, Age of Ascension, the Elves developed technology, gained in power, started founding cities, and eventually formed kingdoms.

The Age of Allies began when the Elves learned how to use the spires, which took them to different realms where they formed allies with many races. A golden age of advancement, this one came to a screeching halt when the Shissar betrayed the Elves and almost conquered Norrath, forcing the Elves to call upon their allies to combine and help drive the Shissar back to their homeland.

Then the Takish Age then dawned, a time when the Elves became paranoid that they'd be betrayed again. Soon the alliances became very strained; the Koada'Dal, a group of noble Elves, became convinced of their superiority and started subjugating other races, establishing an oppressive regime. Wary of the Elves, the Dragons went back to their own realm. This era would have continued indefinitely if it weren't for the Sundering (name is subject to change); a spire exploded and leveled the capital of the Elves and high magic stopped working. With no reason to fear the Elves any longer, Dragons returned to exact revenge by laying waste to the lands. The Feir'Dal, a faction of Elves welcoming to other races, brought the allies together again, ushering in a long and costly war. Unfortunately, their strength was not enough, and the elite forces (the Teir'Dal, led by a Thex) make a heroic last stand at the fortress of Bastion so the Combine forces can flee.

(Note: As players can see, the Teir'Dal with their horns no longer look like the other Elves. During an interview, Franchise Director Dave Georgeson spoke of how these Elves now had Dragon blood in them. Now we see how that stage was set!)

SOE Live 2013  The lore of EverQuest Next
Next comes the Combine Era, composed of the Age of Exile and the Age of Heroes. In the Age of Exile, the Combine left their homeland and head to Kunark to flee the Dragons. Unfortunately, they found the Shissar were already there, and now the Combine races are enslaved alongside the native Iksar. After 500 years of slavery, the Combine and the Iksar joined forces and rose up against the Shissar, driving their taskmasters out. But to the Combine's dismay, the Iksar tried to revert back to a master/slave society, this time using the Combine as the slaves. Some Iksar were sympathetic to the Combine, and the Combine managed to flee back to the homeland they left so long ago. (Note: Although nothing was specifically said, I believe this scenario perfectly paves the way for Iksar to be a playable race!)

Finally comes the Age of Heroes, and that's right where EQ Next starts. The Combine have founded Qeynos, a ragged frontier town, and the people are trying to rebuild. What happens next in the story? That all depends on the players!

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.