In a perfect world, we’d have the mana of EverQuest Next news raining down from the sky, enough to satiate our hunger for information about the game we’ve long looked forward to. Instead, to many of us, including me, it feels more like we’re wandering lost in the desert for 40 years while trying to squeeze water from a stone.
We know that Landmark news has always been EQN news, but I can certainly understand players wanting to see more concrete EQN-specific things; I want to see more concrete things! I’ve been asking for a little more show and tell for quite a while. Sadly, that just isn’t happening. I was momentarily excited when in June, devs announced that the Landmark team was shifting the bulk of its focus from Landmark to EverQuest Next. Oh that was music to fans’ ears! But what have we learned about the game since then? We’ve seen one screenshot of Qeynos and had a couple workshops, but there’s been very little concrete news. For now, we must assume that the previously revealed information is still valid. Here’s a recap of key points we know so far.
Let’s get this one out of the way. Although it could be dev speak just to cover their behinds just in case, I’d be sure to hedge any bets on EQN coming out anytime this year. Senior Producer Terry Michaels flat out said, “I want to clarify that although we are shifting our primary focus to EverQuest Next, this does not mean the game will be coming out this year.” It also doesn’t mean that it won’t come out this year, but I no longer am feeling very optimistic that it will. Bummer.
Launch isn’t the only thing up in the air; we no longer even know the proposed payment model. While the game was initially hyped as free-to-play along with the rest of SOE’s stable of games, after the change to Daybreak we learned that neither Landmark nor EQ Next is guaranteed to be “F2P your way”. That means whether or not these two titles will be a part of the All-Access membership come launch is likewise up in the air.
How do I look?
One area we do have more information on is the aesthetics. We’ve seen character models — and not just the artwork, but moving characters. Because of EQN’s ties to Landmark (which is not to say they are the same), we have a good idea how the human character model looks and acts in the game. But unlike Landmark, EQ Next has a ton of races. On top of human, we’ve seen the Kerran and the Dark Elf animated in clips during the last two SOE Lives, the former during the big reveal and the latter just last year. Other races have been shown conceptually. Ogres and Dwarves were also announced early on (though those poor Dwarves have lost repeated votes to be featured in a building competition), and you certainly can’t have Dark Elves without their counterpart, Elves. The most recent Workshop Show also introduced Halasians, known previously as Barbarians.
I’ve got class(es)
Another core feature of EQN is the fact that players will have the opportunity to learn a variety of classes and not be locked into just one. More than 40 classes were promised to be available at launch, though we know only a handful so far. SOE Live 2014 showed off the Cleric, Elementalist, and Tempest classes. We also knew about the Warrior, Wizard, Rogue, Necromancer, Beast Lord and Blademaster. That certainly leaves a ton more to learn about, so how about some more info Daybreak? Pretty please?
The lay of the land
If you want to get an idea of what the game will look like architecturally, you need only log into Landmark and stroll the Foundation Museum island. Both the Dark Elf and the Qeynos competition winners can be accessed via the main portal spire on every island. There is no promise that these specific buildings will be present in EverQuest Next, but we do know that they give the devs definite ideas. Just check out the in-game screenshot of Qeynos above that Michaels shared and compare it to the museum.
We also know there will be housing, including guild homes and towns in EQN. Sadly, we don’t really know more than that yet, such as how it will be implemented. We know only that guild housing will be really special and hard to get. Again, I see a great opportunity to divulge a bit more here.
Life of AI
One worry many players have is what will happen to the impressive AI system that has been billed as one of the most innovative features in EQN now that Storybricks — the company that was developing the technology — is no longer a part of the equation. According the devs, there’s no reason to worry: In that same announcement. Michaels made it clear that the work Storybricks was doing was not lost. Yes, the development was moved in-house (did you know that was the original path they were pursing before Storybricks was brought in?), but the AI plans still include adding actual intelligence to the artificial intelligence. This is a very good thing. I personally saw how player actions could affect the development of the world, and it was pretty awesome. And the idea that the NPCs change as their lives develops (including wearing better clothing as a merchant gets wealthier), well, that’s just freaking awesome. I’d be the first to be massively disappointed in this feature were scrapped.
Norrath has been around a long time and has a very deep, rich history in both launched iterations of the land. So folks certainly want to know if EQN will follow in that tradition. The truth is lore and history is not where information is lacking; there’s plenty out there to immerse the players in the world even before it opens up. To introduce this new Norrath and its own special history, three different authors have penned 13 e-books to immerse players in the world long before they can log in.
The e-books currently available are Prison of Fire, Rise of the King, The Enemy of My Enemy, The Razor’s Edge, The Mage of the Teir’Dal, The Stars of Home, The Arch Mage (part one and part two), Fall off Bastion, The Last Stand of the Teir’Dal, From Ash Comes Fire, No Poetry in Death, and the latest, Dreaming in Shadow. Even if that list seems daunting, it’s not that huge an undertaking if you haven’t started yet; some of the pieces rank closer to a short story in length (Prison of Fire is only 26 pages including the cover, introduction, and author pages), and others are short stories (The Stars of Home is under 20 pages of text). Others, however, are novellas and can be upwards of 100 pages. Even so, taken one book at a time, the lore can be digested in a reasonable length of time, though it may be worth drawing it out as we wait for more official news! For those who don’t have time yet to delve into all of the e-books, you can peruse a handy CliffsNotes version of the history to get a feel for how this Norrath was shaped.
As for familiar names and faces that are beloved to franchise fans, many of those are promised — albeit possibly with different lives due to different life choices. Fippy Darkpaw will be in attendance, as will Ambassador D’Vinn.
Obviously, I couldn’t cover every single scrap of information that has been presented previously here. Nor am I completely confident that all the older scraps are still completely accurate after this year’s massive shakeup at SOE/Daybreak. Without evidence to the contrary, I am one to err on the side of optimism, but with so many changes and so much silence, it’s no wonder fans are losing hope and confidence. I’ve said it much more than once and I’ll say it again: Daybreak needs to release more concrete news about EverQuest Next. Show us more than just one screenshot! For now, it feels as if we are stuck on hold, and we don’t even have some cool music to listen to while we wait!