With next week looming large in many MMO players’ minds, and with Sony Online Entertainment team finally ready to take the wraps off of EverQuest Next, I began to think about the things that most of us would like to hear and/or see about the next best thing in the genre. I know two of my cohorts have seen the game already, but they're sworn to secrecy, and so I'm left to ponder what it is I'll discover next week in Las Vegas. And since Sony’s been so cagey about the game so far, here is just a small sampling of of things I'd like to see when the curtain is drawn back next Friday. Think they’ll listen?
5. Make MMOs HARD Again
That’s right. Most of us have had it up to here with the casualization of the MMO genre as a whole. Whether you are an old-school fan of vanilla-WoW or a hardcore Ultima Online fan, you know that those games have something that most of today’s game don’t: Difficulty. Players are led by the nose from one quest hub to another and even have markers on the world and zone maps to indicate where they need to go. In some cases, they are literally dragged to the necessary area for completing a quest. Players need to think, to learn, to grow with the game instead of constantly having tutorials and tooltips at their beck and call. “Figure it out” may take on a whole new meaning.
4. Give Us Connections to EverQuest and EverQuest 2
Sony has been pretty up front about the fact that EverQuest Next will take place in an “alternate dimension” of Norrath as opposed to sharing the same space. Of course, like Abrams’ version of Star Trek, this gives developers the ability to change and alter lore and history to suit the story they want to tell in EQN. That’s fine in a way, as long as there are familiar places and people from the “good old days” for players to make those connections to the past games. In addition, it’s important that SOE recognizes the loyal fans who have played the two predecessors diligently over the years and to give them something to think about on their new journey.
3. Make Crafting and Active Game, Not Just an Ingredients Checklist
In a way, this hearkens back to the “make it hard again” premise that crafting in many games has either become so ridiculous in its execution as to be boring or it’s so amazingly easy that it becomes boring. Crafting needs to require effort but also improvements need to be made so that players who gain in skills and talents can make multiples of an item and that the process itself becomes something of a mini-game. In addition, by making crafting an integral and interesting part of the game, the player-based economy only becomes better. Give players a reason to want to craft. Let them make better stuff than can be found or even earned in the game. Give buyers a reason to check the auction house and a gold sink to spend their hard-earned cash on. It’s win-win all the way ‘round.
2. Give a Nod to the Good Old Days
Remember the days when you weren’t simply handed a mount or a skill simply for completing a quest? Players had to go out and earn their just rewards. I remember grinding for days and months to gain the unique skills that had to be stolen from area bosses in the original Guild Wars. Make it that way again. Make earning things mean something again. Make us earn additional classes, skills, mounts, and of course gear. Don't just hand it all out on a platter. Sure it’s not very “casual friendly” but we’ve got enough of those types of games these days. What we need now is a reason to go out and explore and learn the game and a reason to proudly stick out our chest to say “Yeah! I did it!”
1. Create World Events that Actually Change the World
Most MMO players are charged with being the game’s hero, the one that is ultimately saving the universe from certain doom. But, then again, so is that guy. And that one. Oh and her too. Deathwing is dead…for this hour and until the next raid group thunders through to bring him down. In essence, the world never changes in most MMOs, old and new alike. A lot of games promise such things, but none have successfully delivered so far. What we want is a world boss that, when defeated, stays defeated. Sure, maybe his twin brother shows up elsewhere, but he’ll have his own story and his own death and world-altering effect. By allowing players to literally affect change in the game, they will, as with earning great gear etc., feel a sense of accomplishment that is missing these days.
This time next week, we’ll all know a lot more about EverQuest Next. We’ll know whether or not the promise of a brilliant sandbox title are going to be realized and we’ll know how closely the development team has been listening to the cries of the MMO community as a whole.
What about you? What things do you hope to see included in EverQuest Next? Let us know in the comments.
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com.