I'll make no bones about it, EverQuest is my favourite MMORPG and, quite possibly game, of all time. From those opening moments witnessed as a dorky 9 year old, to the absolute thrill of hearing the word "Qeynos" uttered out loud, I'm an unashamed Norrath fanboy. In the next few days, Sony Online Entertainment will be unveiling more about their MMO sequel. I begged our Managing Overlord, Bill Murphy for any and all information on the game, but he’s decidedly mum about the thing. Instead he tasked me with this article. Before the parade of information from SOE Live starts to bombastically march into town, here are the five things I don’t want to see in EverQuest Next:
5). Zoning and Instancing
The first EQ game was restrained by technology and the second by a lack of foresight. Zoning throughout Norrath was a pain in the iron rations. Creating a seamless world should be on SOE's list of "things to do today" as making an uninterrupted, rolling landscape would take adventuring through Antonica and beyond into that next level of "OMGAMAZEBALLSTOTES" - as I believe the kids would say.
And on a side note, here's to hoping that marine bells and instant teleportation are kicked into the wings while boats make a reappearance. While the original game has infuriating wait times for travelling, it also made it feel real and immersive. Adding in teleports instantly decreases the size of the world.
4). Small World Map
On that similar theme, I like my Norrath land masses like I like my ass...*cough* meal portions: large. One of my biggest bugbears with vanilla EQ2 was the scant world map featuring only a number of zones, with the developers slowly piecing original islands back together over time.
The zone of Antonica was one of my favourite in MMORPG history. The rolling hills, the woodlands, the details, and of course the aqueduct. Double it, triple it, quadruple it in size. Take the design philosophy of the first game but place in the finery and features of the second. Give me areas that will take hours to navigate.
And DO take tips from the designers of the earlier games: throw in surprises and elements that make the world feel that much more natural. Add a giant to a newbie zone. Toss in a werewolf to a sleepy rural town. Make the skeletones maraud on halloween. Be cruel to create immersion.
3.) Limited Scope and Linearity
While EQ was technically a linear game (you headed for the cap ultimately) the amount of choice that came along with the adventure has yet to be fully challenged. From dozens of classes, to individual starting areas for almost every race, EverQuest felt, and was, ambitious.
EverQuest Next should fulfil that early promise by sculpting many paths and choices. Instead of two clear paths of progression, throw in a handful of zones that allow alts variety in their slog to the top. I want to believe the world, and quest hubs and monorail progression won't cut it for my vision of Norrath.
2.) No Fae!
My own individual foible, but man, did I ever hate the Fae. These butterfly people took me out of my immersive world of natural geekery, and held it somewhere closer to My Little Pony. If I'm exploring the varied climates of SOE's imagination, let's replace these living children's toys with something less purple, and maybe something with sharp, sharp, teeth.
What about a dragon person? Dragons are cool.
1.) Story on Rails
Personally, I don't care much for MMORPG stories. They put a cap on character freedom and ultimately, they make me feel less engaged. I wandered around the original EQ creating my own motives, my own adventures. I carved out tales that I still tell to this day, whether it was running amuck in Blackburrow, or tracking down a pair of magical earrings over the course of a month in Qeynos Hills. The magic is in the detail and not the exclamation marks above the head.
It's my wish that SOE, even if they add in story elements, reign it back. Don't make me special. I don't want to be the chosen one. I don't want to be the savior. I want the choice to be ordinary. To be a farmer. A blacksmith. A warrior of note. Maybe even an absolute coward. These are the choices that MMORPGs bestow amongst players, and these are the choices that, I feel, the original EQ came bundled with.
SOE, please don't make me special: make me like everyone else, able to create my own legend, for good or bad.
Adam Tingle / Adam Tingle is a columnist and general man-about-town for MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and FPSGuru.com. He enjoys toilet humour, EverQuest-themed nostalgia, and pointing out he's British: bother him at @adamtingle