SOE was at E3 this year in a big way. The darling of the show floor was obviously Planetside 2, but the company’s veteran games also made a splash with the SOEmote feature for Everquest 2 leading the pack in a new and clearly cut direction. Using the help of your average webcam, SOEmote will allow a player to take total control of their EQ2 character’s face, moving its mouth, eyes, tilting and turning its head in a believable fashion with the ability to add in voices to their avatar as well. In short, of all games and features unveiled at E3, SOEmote just may be the one that’s doing the most to enhance the RPG part of MMORPG.
I stepped up to the EQ2 kiosk to be greeted by the game’s director, Dave Georgeson. One of the first things he told me is that people remember how to play when they pick up SOEmote, and that’s no joke. Watch our shakycam video here (filmed by Dave himself on my iPhone) and you’ll see just how easy it is for me to let go of inhibitions and goof off with the froglok my face was puppeteering.
Dave told me that eventually SOEmote will be what you see on the party UI instead of static portraits, allowing unprecedented communication between teammates. Of course, if someone doesn’t want to partake they won’t have to and the portrait will remain static. Dave mentioned how a raid or party leader could control the amount of talking going on during fights to make sure he or she was heard and able to give our guidance. But similarly, during more relaxed sessions the entire team could just goof off and have fun.
I asked him if they believed SOEmote might make its way into other games and he merely nodded and said, “That’s been the plan all along. EQ2 first, and then everything.” He went on to state how cool it will be to have squad commanders dishing out intel and orders in Planetside 2, and even told me that it’s already being built into EQ Next as well. Editor's Note: These are things that SOEmote -can- be used for but aren't necessarily in the plannings stages of at this time.
I couldn’t just let him go after teasing that little nugget of info, since everyone was expecting EQ Next to be revealed this year. Dave told me that it’s coming along quite well, and that if all goes well, we’ll find out just what SOE has in store for the next installment of the venerable franchise by the end of this year. They really want to make sure it’s ready to show off, and while they know we’re all eagerly awaiting it, they won’t tell us more until they know it’s ready to impress us.
My short time hogging the froglok and pestering Dave about the team’s plans for the new feature was at an end, but Dave didn’t let me go before mentioning that soon full upper-body control would be in SOEmote, hands and arms included. You’ll be able to fully control and customize your avatars in a way that no one ever really imagined before too long. I’m already brushing up on my voices and faces to make sure my Ratonga is believable. You can expect SOEmote to hit EQ2’s servers and revolutionize role-play later this year.