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The Tattered Notebook: Speculation's last stand for EverQuest Next

MJ Guthrie

I found myself in an interesting predicament this week. Today's Tattered Notebook was slated to be my last big speculation about EverQuest Next before I learned the real scoop at SOE Live 2013. However, as many of you know, I actually got the goods in a special preview a couple of weeks back! So until I can talk about what I know, my speculation days are done... at least on the features front, that is. What I can still ruminate on is the hype surrounding the game. After all, who needs concrete information when hype is involved?

Hype is a powerful tool, able to work people into quite a frenzy. As often as we've been burned by unfulfilled promises, you'd think we we'd skip the hype boat, but that's not the case; we often book a ticket and hop on anyway. We just can't help but feel our heart strings pulled and hope renewed when a new title comes out flashing our favorite buzzwords. And EQ Next has offered a few: emergent gameplay, sandbox, innovation. From there, every little morsel of news -- no matter how few and far between -- has been like a drop of fuel to the fire, elevating our hopes and building expectations.

Is the hype justified? We'll all have a better idea of that soon, though not soon enough. Until then, here's a recap of what we do know to chew on until the main course is served in two weeks. Then you can let your speculation run wild, even if I can't!

Gabor Sziksai's artwork
What EQN is

What is EverQuest Next? While we can't see the whole picture, here are the (public!) pieces of the EQN puzzle that we have so far.

At SOE Live 2012, the upcoming game was revealed to be a sandbox by none other than SOE CEO John Smedley himself. Since then, he's talked about the how the game has tools for players to shape the living, breathing world around them. While this news isn't exactly detailed, it does lay the foundation for what players can expect.

Do tools to shape this world include crafting? Yes. In our interview at PAX East, Franchise Director Dave Georgeson described his pet theory that crafters are the glue of MMOs. He told us, "You can pretty much assume that there will be a strong backbone in EQ Next for those players." And bringing Emily "Domino" Taylor (known for her work expanding the crafting system in EverQuest II) on board as producer for EQ Next helped cement that idea that crafting would be integral.

Lookin' sharp, Orc!What about the living, breathing world part? In our very own interview at last year's convention, Smedley also noted, "We're changing what AI is in these games to a degree that we're going to bring life to the world. That to us is the essence of the change that we're making." Earlier this year, we learned that the team behind Storybricks, a developing game with revolutionary AI that responds to individual players, is collaborating on EQN. Promising? Certainly!

What else do we know? In that same PAX East interview, Georgeson said he felt that SOE was already tipping its hand somewhat with what has been added to EQ and EverQuest II. He elaborated by noting that features like Player Studio and SOEmote will be a part of the sandbox. We also have the confirmation that the sandbox will follow the rest of SOE's portfolio and be free-to-play.

Visually, we've also been treated to two bits of art to give us a glimpse of the game: the first, a texture-less and colorless character model, and the second, the official concept painting. Calm your shock about the size of the shoulderpads and such on the armor and remember that the concept paintings for the other two games were also just that -- concepts. In-game art is likely to vary just as it did for the other games.

And finally, we know that this year players will get more than just a peek at a demo at SOE Live; as Smedley has hinted, "Players will get their hands on an actual release version of what we're doing late [this] year -- and I don't mean a beta."

And we wait, and wait, and wait...
What EQN is not

Although it's third in line in the EQ franchise, EverQuest Next is not a sequel. Both Smedley and Georgeson have spoken on multiple occasions about how the EQN versions that were originally turning out more like EQ 2.5 or EQ III were scrapped. Even the title itself, EverQuest Next, draws focus away from the game's being just a rehash of its predecessors. In the aforementioned PAX East interview, Georgeson teased us with the line that EverQuest Next is "an MMO you've never played before" -- that it's "a completely different critter."

In that light, will this next version sound the death knell for EQ and EQII? Even before EQN's big shreenshot-blowing-up reveal at the convention, Georgeson addressed this concern by assuring that "EQN is not being designed to replace those games." And when I talked with him at SOE Live 2012, he reaffirmed that stance, pointing out that the newest sibling to the franchise is such a different game and fans are so loyal to their respective games that there is little worry of a mass migration. That certainly makes sense: If you've been a player of EverQuest for the almost 15 years or EverQuest II for nearly nine, would you seriously just drop everything and switch? It's not as likely. Besides, it stands to reason that SOE wouldn't want to cannibalize its other games for customers and instead will look at reaching out and grabbing new ones.

And finally, what it's not is here yet! It's going to be a long two weeks until we can all hear and see what's coming. So until then, let's let your speculations fly!

Place your bets!

With this information at your fingertips, what do you think you will see when EQN is unveiled at SOE Live? I can't tell you my thoughts (I am not going to jeopardize my slot at SOE Live that easily!), but I want to hear yours. Share your final predictions in the comments below, and then we'll be able to see who comes closest to the truth after the final reveal.

EverQuest II is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie get's lost in it all! Join her as she explores Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every Saturday, The Tattered Notebook is your resource for all things EQII and EQNext -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!

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