Wish lists are easy: First, I want millions upon millions of pounds and eternal life. Oh yeah, and world peace would be nice too, I suppose. That way no invading army will ever fill me full of bullets or shrapnel thus impairing the quality of my long, long life, nor will they take away my riches.
So that's real life sorted, but when it comes to virtual worlds is that enough for me to want? Depending on how long the servers stay up or how long before I expire, it's already possible that my characters will outlive me, and they already have more platinum than I will ever see in my lifetime, let alone own. So what is there left to wish for? There has been a lot of speculation about Everquest Next (or EQIII as I'll be referring to it here, even though it's certainly not going to be called that). Should the developers ever take leave of their senses and give me carte blanche to add what I please to the next EQ instalment, what would I want?
Here's my wish list:
First, I want the new game to come in a huge box. Remember the old time pc game boxes? Well, I want it bigger than that. How about the special edition boxes for WoW? Nope, no good, I want bigger. I also want it chock full of goodies: Statues, key rings, cloth maps - map? Hell, why not a globe? You get the idea. It might also be an idea to throw in a plush Ratonga or Froglok toy made by Jellycat (Google it, if you've never seen a Jellycat plush toy before). This way I might be able to get my wife to buy a copy and play with me as she loves those things. I have to admit they are quite cute.
Regardless of the whistles and bells that come with it though, it's the game itself that counts. After all, you can't really play the box. So what would the new world be like?
Norrath is steeped in lore. Right from the start you are bombarded with pages of quest text and books to read. If you lack patience or are just too keen to get out there and kill 10 snakes, you are going to miss out on a lot of the story. EQII started with a lot of voice acting for the quest givers, but this has fallen by the wayside. That's something I'd definitely bring back. Not only would I have everything fully voiced, but I'd also make the audio replayable from the quest journal. That way you can skip reading the text, pick up your quest and get started on it while listening to your instructions.
The same would apply to books. There is so much lore that is written down, but only a few take the time to read it. Maybe we should take a tip from Bioshock and have audio diaries. Now I'm not suggesting that Gnomes should invent magnetic tape. But in a magical world, books could be recorded onto crystals or stones. Why not even have the books talk, they wouldn't be the first speaking tomes I've heard of. This way all of us, and not just a dedicated patient few, could enjoy the rich history of the world while grinding.
Which Server? What's the Population Like? Worth coming back? These are familiar topics to anyone who reads the forums of any MMO. The fact is that unless you have millions of subscribers or you are a free to play MMO, eventually your beginner areas are going to become ghost towns. You can combat this by having a small number of capital cities and making them the only locations which cater to certain activities such as repairing you gear, training your tradeskills, selling your items through the broker and so on. This does create a healthy population in these cities, but it still doesn't help a level 10 player who can't find a team to help him take down that trash-talking epic mob or running a low level dungeon.
How to find other players to level up with then? For a start, I'd do away with servers except for one obviously. That's right, one server to rule them all. Other games manage this just fine. Ok, so in a game that demands a lot from your pc, it's going to be impossible to have thousands of players in the same area, but that's why we have instancing. After all each server is really just its own instance anyway. EQII already has a system in place that restricts overpopulation. When a zone becomes full, the game creates a second shard, then a third and so on. New travellers to that zone are added to the less full instance. At the dawn of EQII there were many times I travelled to a land only to find I had the choice of entering version 1 or 2. This way every low level character is available for me to group with. All in different shards? Not a problem, just join up with your party and click on the 'merge' button (or whatever you want to call it) and, hey presto, you are now all in the zone, 'Dungeon of the Time Sinks 3'.
EQII has more floating islands than you can shake a floating island detector at. Some of them are way up high in the sky are huge columns of rock thrust up half a mile. This is due to 'The Shattering', which was when the EQ lands were broken up into their new forms of smaller islands. Each expansion uncovers a new rediscovered land for us to explore. For EQIII I'd like to see a return to the larger continents. I know that 'unshattering' the world doesn't make much sense, but there's a lot going on in any MMO that requires a suspension of disbelief.
I imagine that part of the reason for the shattered land approach is so that if you can see a place on a map, you can travel there, no lands are arbitrarily blocked. However, as an MMO player, I accept that there are areas that I can't travel to until an expansion unlocks them and I don't mind having my access to swathes of land restricted. I like seeing the borders of zones I can't get to. It makes me curious as to what might be there, and when expansions are announced and the lands are due to be open, I get pretty excited (yeah, yeah, I'm a geek, I already knew that).
Larger continents would also give us more room to spread out which would allow us to build our own towns. Give me the tools and the space to build a house or a shop and I'll happily play carpenter all day. This may not be a realistic desire when coupled with everyone playing on one server as we would surely run out of room fast. Player made towns would also remove a fair bit of the population from the capital cities. I may not be a consistent man, but let me dream.
Arts and Crafts
Some people love to craft items, others see it as a time sink too far, in a game that is already a time sink by its nature. I have to confess that I do love to make my own gear. Give me something hand cooked over store bought any day. Some games just ask you to click the recipe you want to make and as long as you have the ingredients, you get what you want. Others make things a little harder, making it possible to fail or generate inferior products. Maybe something could be said for a two tier system. For those without the inclination to treat tradeskills like a second job, you could just one-click your way to the top of your profession. But for those with a little more patience, a more elaborate system would be used, with the risk of failure but also the possibility of crafting a superior version too.
I could easily go on and on about my ideal EQ sequel until even the most die-hard fan had tuned me out. I'll stop there about my plans for Norrath and next time I'll focus on what I'd love for my characters.
See you in Norrath. Whichever version you are in.