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E3 2012: Hands-on with SOEmote

Jef Reahard

There's aging gracefully, and then there's EverQuest II. Sony Online Entertainment's eight-year old fantasy flagship is pretty much the benchmark for MMO feature sets and functionality at this point. There's so much to do in the game that it's overwhelming at times, and that was before the introduction of the roleplayer's dream known as SOEmote.

SOEmote is one of those things that you'll either love or hate. In a nutshell, it's facial scanning technology that takes webcam input and outputs it to your avatar. EQII's toons already boasted some of the most visually expressive animations in the genre, complete with a laundry list of /emote commands that's longer than this article.

SOEmote takes that to the next level (and it also adds voice-modulating capabilities, though these weren't exactly listenable due to the din of noise that is the E3 demo floor). The tech is scheduled to hit the game's live servers toward the end of this month, and it'll be met with both huzzahs (from the roleplayers and the immersion enthusiasts) and WTFs (from the raiders and progression fiends).

E3 2012 Handson with SOEmote
I teamed up with EverQuest franchise producer Dave Georgeson on the show floor for a short demo session, and he showed me what was easily one of the slickest new MMO technologies I've seen in years. The presentation was surprisingly polished, and Georgeson says it works on all 20 of EQII's races. It's not just head nods or huge grins, either. Cut your eyes to the left and your avatar will follow suit. Raise your eyebrows and instead of typing /e raises a brow to convey that particular emote to your buddies, your alter-ego will actually do it in real time.

Sticking your tongue out doesn't result in the desired effect, though. "No tongue, please," Georgeson deadpanned as I put a Froglok avatar through its paces.

is quite enthusiastic about the toolset, as was the crowd clustering around behind us to gawk. Georgeson hinted at the fact that SOE and partner Image Metrics are already iterating on hand movements for a future build (which will also work via a basic webcam; you won't need the MMO equivalent of a Wiimote).

He also hinted at the technology's appearance in SOE's long-awaited EverQuest Next title, saying that "we're doing a lot of things with an eye toward the next EQ these days." That being said, current EverQuest II players are reaping the rewards, as SOEmote is yet another nifty feature in the game's expansive toolbox.

Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 4-7, bringing you all the best news from E3 2012. We're covering everything from PlanetSide 2 and SWTOR and ArcheAge to RIFT's and LotRO's upcoming expansions, so stay tuned!

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