The 2013 SOE Live has come and gone and we finally know what EverQuest Next is going to look like. In addition we had a chance to take a look at a number of expansions for current EverQuest games. Sony also showed off updates for PlanetSide 2, Dragon’s Prophet, and a new DLC for DCUO.
One game that we have been highly critical of late which had a good showing at SOE Live is Dragon’s Prophet. MMORPG.com is unwilling to allow games to charge players money in an open beta state and operate without being officially reviewed. A number of issues that were brought up in the review have been addressed. The three biggest changes that should have a positive impact on Dragon’s Prophet now official September 18th, 2013 release are reducing the amount of experience needed from level 1 to 30, the addition of more in game tutorials explaining the game systems, and putting in the Dragon Altar. The Dragon Altar is a new feature that allows guilds to sacrifice items they collect in the wild to summon dragons and tame or kill for loot. While Dragon’s Prophet may not have initially lived up to it’s SuperMetal tagline at open beta release, hopefully it will still prove that everything is according to it’s new catch phrase: Better with Dragons. SOE also provided everyone that attended SOE Live an in game Nagafen for their dragon collection. A nice little EverQuest/Dragon’s Prophet crossover.
Creative Director for PlanetSide 2 Matt Higby, and Senior Art Director Tramell Isaac were on hand to talk about the two new additions to PS2. The continent of Hossin and the battle Island Nexus. You can read more in depth about the addition of Hossin in our recent preview. The most important of the two is Nexus. These battle islands serve two roles. The first is to provide a new way to fight in PS2. These battle islands will only have two warpgates and connect two continents. This will limit combat on the Nexus to two empires instead of the standard three on a continent. Once Hossin is added into the game and the remaining two battle islands are plugged in the developers will be able to implement a lattice system on a continental scale. These battle islands are also scaled down from the standard 64 square km on a continent to a 4 square km area. The islands are more linear in their approach and are optimally designed to be defended from one side and attacked from the other. These second important part about the battle islands is they are designed to support the 48 v 48 squad format SOE has come up with in conjunction with their MLG initiative announced back in January.
SOE is at its core the house that EverQuest built. This venerable MMO was present at a number of panels and held a place of prominence in the opening keynote address. We learned that EQ will ship their 20th expansion this year, The Call of the Forsaken. EQ has spent the last three years following a storyline involving the House of Thule that begun with 2010’s expansion of the same name. The Call of the Forsaken will wrap up any loose ends from these stories and bring players back to Norrath proper. SOE will also continue the trend they started with Rain of Fear and aim for quarterly content updates instead of only giving players updates with expansions.
EverQuest II also announced they will have an expansion this year, The Tears of Veeshan. One of the more interesting additions to this expansion is the inclusion of a new class. The Channeler is a leather wearing priest that wields a bow. The players will also travel to the Eternal Broodlands. This is a new zone in the game that is home to dead dragons, whether it is heaven or hell remains to be seen.
The biggest announcement of the show was EverQuest Next. Dave Georgeson, Creative Director for the EQ Franchise, laid out four objectives that he labeled as “holy grails” in MMO development. These are things that he has always wanted to change, or add, but for limitations outside of his control has not been able to. The first grail is to change the core game. The second he called destructibility. The third grail is a life of consequence or emergent artificial intelligence. The fourth grail, and probably the most defining of all, was the fact the world will have permanent changes.
In regards to changing the core game Dave said that we have been playing D&D for a really long time. With EQN SOE plans to change the way the game is played by allowing players to multi-class. In the beginning you will be able to choose between 8 classes that have four distinct core abilities. As you adventure throughout the world you will be able to learn up to 40 other classes. You can then take the abilities that you learn from these classes and mix and match them to suit your desires. Weapons also have their own unique abilities. As you collect weapons and classes you will be able to further individualize the way that you play the game.
The second grail is adding in destructibility allowing the player to leave their mark on the world. Norrath in EQN is procedurally generated with voxels. You can destroy terrain, smash walls, blow up bridges, dig a hole in the ground that opens up into a cavern system that turns into a dungeon. This destruction will regenerate over time and certain areas will be immune to destruction to prevent griefing.
The third grail is a life of consequence. EQN is setting out to finally make sure that players are not the only intelligent beings in the game. Why would a band of Orcs constantly try and attack caravans on a road that is protected by guards? They would not.. The AI set up for EQN will help NPCs learn about their environment and help dictate what they should do. If an area has become inhospitable to a band of Orcs they will pack up their belongings and find a place that is more suited for them.
The final grail that Dave talked about is the world will change. This is also what I believe will be the differentiator for the game. EQN will have what will be referred to as Rallying Calls. These are giant public quests that can take upwards of two to three months to complete. There will be steps to complete in the story arc in shorter intervals but the overall arc will take months. One of the earliest examples will be to build a city. As a crafter you can help gather materials and create items that the city would need to grow. As an adventurer you can explore the surroundings and make sure the area is free of hostile wildlife. The city could eventually require a quarry to be built so the walls could be upgraded to stone from wooden palisades. While the city is digging deeper in the quarry it could uncover a hidden lair of monsters. These monsters could then gather an army to support them launching a counter offensive on the city. The players would then be required to help squash this offensive. Once the enemy army was subdued and the city was final the Rallying Call would come to an end. Events like this will shape the face of Norrath.
DC UNIVERSE ONLINE
DC Universe Online unveiled their plans for DLC 8, Sons of Trigon. I assume since we have already been introduced to Raven they did not feel the need to call it the Sons and Daughter of Trigon. This DLC is geared more towards solo and duo play. The majority of the demo we saw took place in a Gotham City that appeared to have been pulled part way into hell. The streets were also overrun with gangs controlled by one son or another of Trigon. Each son represents a sin. The gang members were designed to visually represent the sins of the gang they belong to. This DLC will also bring new characters to the fight such as Donna Troy and Cheetah.
There were also a number of panels on other SOE MMOs. Vanguard, Free Realms, Star Wars the Clone Wars, Pox Nora, and even Legends of Norrath the online Trading Card Game had its own panel. The only game that did not have a panel dedicated to it was Wizardry Online. Since SOE is only the publisher on this game and with Wizardry Online’s lack of critical success, I am not really surprised by this move.
Overall SOE 2013 would have to be labeled as a success. They had a record number of over 2000 attendees. This was not a pumped up sporting event attendance number where they tell you it is a sell out and you can look in the crowd and find rows of empty seats. This event was a packed house for every speech and ever panel. Even the 2013 SOE Live Player Got Talent contest was worth watching. The winner Orennex brought the house down. The video is worth a watch. It will be interesting to see how the next 12 months shape up for SOE. They are poised to have another good year especially with EverQuest Next Landmark due out this winter. I imagine the biggest announcement we can expect to hear next year is the official 2015 launch date of EQN. If they plan on announcing any other new games they will have big shoes to fill in order to live up to the announcement of EverQuest Next.
Robert Lashley / Robert Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen